Jul 26, 2011

From Sydney to the Snowies

When we told the kids we were moving, we tempered the news with a "Australia has snow!" So now that we are here, we had to live up to the promise.

Australia has snow, all right, but given the expanse of the country, just driving to the nearest snowy mountain is some 6 hours excluding stops. That might not seem like much to Aussies who are used to the distances. But you can almost drive from one end of Malaysia to the other end in that time.

The good news is, it's a pretty easy drive. It's not particularly attractive along the Hume highway aka Remembrance Drive, but it has its moments. This is at a lookout point, just about half hour short of Canberra. After having driven mostly uphill for 3 hours, we found ourselves at the top of a hill overlooking massive plains. I wished I had a super wide angle lens that could have sucked in the expanse.

Do you see the group of kangaroos at the bottom left?

great dividing range

Here you go, there they are.
kangaroos in the plains

A stop at Canberra cuts the journey neatly into half so that's where we break. Not willing to spend more than a couple of hours stopping over, we headed over to the Parliament House for a quick tour.

I loved it. We took the free tour, facts spewed  out of the guide's mouth at a hundred words per minute and we ended up steeped in symbolism.

You can't go to the Parliament House without going to the rooftop, said the guide. The design is really interesting, because they carted a whole lot of earth off the top of the hill, built the Parliament house on that ground, then put back some of the hill back atop the Parliament House. The idea is that the Parliament is not above the people, the people are above the Parliament. Symbolism!

Giant flag atop Parliament House

There are many interesting facts and works of art all around. Here is a famed Magna Carta 1297, bought for 12,500 pounds in 1952 and worth roughly about $20 million today.
Australian magna carta

In the Great Hall, Hubs and I had an argument about whether this was a painting (he said) or a tapestry (she said). As usual, I was absolutely right - it's a tapestry, the second largest in the world, in fact. He was a little bit right - the tapestry is made in the image of a painting.

australia great hall tapestry

I was swept away by a quote at the entrance to the great hall.

“In Australia alone, is to be found the Grotesque, the Weird, the strange scribblings of nature learning how to write. Some see no beauty in our trees without shade, our flowers without perfume, our birds who cannot fly, and our beasts who have not yet learned to walk on all fours. But the dweller in the wilderness acknowledges the subtle charm of this fantastic land of monstrosities. He becomes familiar with the beauty of the loneliness. Whispered to by the myriad of tongues of the wilderness, he learns the language of the barren and the uncouth, and can read the hieroglyphs of haggard gum trees blown into odd shapes, distorted with fierce hot winds, or cramped with cold nights, when the Southern Cross freezes in a cloudless sky of icy blue. The phantasmagoria of that wild dreamland termed the Bush interprets itself, and the Poet of our deolation begins to comprehend why free Esau loved his heritage of desert better than all the bountiful riches of Egypt.” - Marcus Clarke 1869

How exquisite! I love how great writing can stir the soul, bring you to sweet sorrow and paint a picture so vivid it is seared into your mind's eye. I don't think I will ever look at the tired brown land the same way again.

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