As I’m sure often happens with travel writers who are on the move, I have, for a few days, neglected this blog and have received plenty of comments, E-mails, and other messages of concern. My only excuse is that I became quite unstable (in regards to my location, not my mental health…), so first, my apologies.
I’m actually very eager to begin telling you about my current situation – living and working in Yulara: a ‘town’ (I don’t know what else to call it…a settlement? A village? A random group of buildings set in one of the most unlikely and uninhabitable places on Earth?) in Australia’s Northern Territory that exists for only one reason: Ayers Rock.
But first: a catchup. There’s a lot to fit in. I’ll try to keep it short.
The last time I wrote, I described the hard life on the coast of Australia. After that grueling weekend, I spent about two weeks in Canberra. Thanks to my lovely network of £10 Poms, I was able to sleep on a surprisingly comfortable Australian swag in my friend Toby’s living room.
My first full day in Canberra also happened to be Australia Day.* After a good day of celebrations, I spent my time learning a bit more about Australian history and listening to some groovy tunes.
I was actually the third £10 Pom to grace Toby’s floor, and a few days after my arrival, another one, Tom, arrived for a one-night visit from Sydney.
After Tom, the Brits kept coming. Chris, Kerri and Kat (who spent just a bit more than £10 to fly Down Under) arrived in their camper van after exploring Melbourne and the Great Ocean Road. I count Chris among my STA connections thanks to Cam and the lovely people at STA Travelbuzz.
During Tom’s visit, and again during the camper van crew’s stay, I visited Canberra’s War Memorial Museum and went to the top of Mount Ainslie. There was also a brief drive-by sighting of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy. The ‘tent’ part of that should be a clue –this embassy is actually a tent city of activists who have been living outside Canberra’s old Parliament building more or less constantly since the early seventies. Not a recognised embassy at all, it is a group campaigning for the rights of Australia’s indigenous population. While they are not, of course, fighting the same issues, it reminded me of the campers that live outside London’s Parliament. I suppose hanging out directly on the path of every politician’s morning commute is a pretty effective reminder.
I was really impressed with the War Museum, which is surprisingly enormous. I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I was more or less oblivious to Australia’s involvement in any wars past or present, despite their participation in just about every major war I’ve learnt about in school, particularly in the 20th and 21st centuries. Their perspective is very interesting; especially when it comes to the First World War. From what I saw at the museum, it seems the central most important event during WWI, to Australians, is the battle at Gallipoli. This was Australia’s first ever serious conflict. Were it not for my dad sending me the film ‘Gallipoli’ starring a very young Mel Gibson a few months ago, I would have walked into that room completely clueless. The battle brings up a few sore points in Australian history and at times I actually felt rather uncomfortable as a British person in the room. Luckily I left my Union Jack at home…
Next was Mount Ainslie for a birds eye view of Canberra. The city was built after Melbourne and Sydney couldn’t agree on which of them should be the nation’s capital, so somebody had the bright idea of building another city in the middle of nowhere. From the mount you can clearly see the perfect triangle that makes up the Parliamentary Triangle, leading down from the Parliament building across the manmade lake to the CBD, past the War Museum, to the Defence precinct and back across the lake to Parliament again.**
After all this guidebook following, I managed to spend one evening enjoying some jerk chicken and cold beer listening to my new Canberra friends DJ at a local café/art space/bar where I also acquired some funky retro heels. Who said backpacking was all about practicality?. Then on my last night in Canberra, Toby, his housemates and I found our way to a conference room at the Rex Hotel to see the launch of a band named Cousin Alice, after Alice – the person whose home I relaxed in during the tough weekend I’ve mentioned before. Alice described the band as ‘kind of a funky jazz and soul band’ so I’ll go with that. All I know is that they performed a very smooth version of Rihanna’s ‘Don’t Stop the Music’ that actually made the lyrics sound good during an evening of the kind of music everyone loves to sway to. Not a bad way to end my time in the ACT.
Phew. There we go. Next stop: the Northern Territory.
*To see my article about Australia Day, head to Go Girl Magazine and check out my post published on February 1.
**Check out Chris’ blog about our day in Canberra for some more good writing.
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