Monday, May 26, 2008

Holiday Snaps

(Did you know that the Australian shield above figures the emu and the kangaroo because neither animal can step backwards, and neither should the country?)

Our week away went like clockwork. We saw most of what we planned, the weather was great, and the four of us got on like a house on fire.

We nick off for a few days each year with two long term pals and each trip has been successful.

Our first day was to Cooma via Cann River and Bombala. Leaving the lush green of West Gippsland, we travelled through the less fertile flats east towards the border. I had always mumbled about the seemingly interminable eucalypt forests from Bruthen through to the NSW border until I rode through them on the Harley. On a bike, it's enormous fun.

Back in the 'family truckster' (Ford wagon), my eyes glazed over once again as thousands of the buggers rushed by, entertained by Jill laughing at my man's recycled jokes. Even Ralphie in the back snoozed contentedly to while away the time.

As you veer off the coast road onto the Monaro Highway towards Bombala, the land changes again, with cosy valleys and pine plantations, then the road begins to climb up towards the highlands. The country becomes rocky and the gum trees get the curly stunted shapes from poor nutrition, lack of water and cold nights. I love this area. The land has a rawness and honesty, and its people have to be more courageous and determined to eke out a living from this unforgiving place.

This beautiful painting by William Delafield Cook inspires me to paint this area. Although this is of Euroa, north of Melbourne, the feeling is the same.

I get really inspired to take lots of photos and have a go at these wonderful craggy hillocks, but having a bunch of reprobates in the car made me put it off yet again.

Onwards and upwards to the treeless plains, brown after yet another dry summer and little autumn rain. The dreaded weed serrated tussock has taken a hold on much of this enormous expanse of marginal grazing land, filling the paddocks with the unpalatable grass that balls up in the bellies of grazing animals and stays there. My man works for the DPI, and this horrific weed is slowly working its way into Gippsland via the fleeces of sheep, hay and machinery. Viewing it at its worst in this magnificent landscape makes it very frightening.

We have ridden these highlands a few times on the bikes, and the fabulous road snaking far into the distance makes your blood rise with excitement. Many a biker has been booked for speeding hooning at 150kph and more, and the cops hang out there all the time.

Most of this land is sheep grazing, but each time we see it, we wonder how they survive. Our sheep are in heaven in comparison.

Showing off to our travel mates, we insisted we stop at Nimmitabel, where there is a delicious bakery with a life size concrete elephant next door. The owners were so passionate about all things Thailand, they bought this huge 'garden ornament', put it into a container and shipped it home. It seems like the strangest thing to have in the courtyard of a remote Australian Cafe, but there it stands for all to marvel at.

My man applied his usual twisted humour foisted on innocent girls behind the bakery counter, and asked for a 'snot block'. The hapless girl's face dropped with confusion, and he, in his best stage manner, explained it was a vanilla slice (custard sandwiched between puff pastry, and vanilla icing on top...... very good!).

We wandered up to the Leather shop to peer at the biker jackets, belts, saddles and assorted leathery thingies. Ralph and I were confused about the fly swatter, which turned out to be a complete cow tail with long tassels of hair.

Our first night was in Cooma at the Sovereign Inn Motel. The owners were the salt of the earth types, friendly and helpful, with a budgie that barked like a dog. The rooms were beautiful and cheap. A celebratory glass of champagne, a very ordinary dinner at the local pub, cooked by a girl that liked to laugh, and we collapsed into bed.


The next morning we decided to get onto the road early and find a cafe for breakfast, rather than challenge the motel's cooking skills for something that might not satisfy. On the bikes, we loved get out and ride, then stop somewhere and have a really good feed.

Mistake! We got back onto the Monaro Highway towards Canberra and passed numerous underpopulated small towns, and nowhere open to supply us with our egg and bacon roll and cappuccinos. I took lots of snaps and short films out the window of the car, and found the views breathtaking. Such sparse countryside, deserted and beautiful.

As we came towards the outskirts of Canberra, the land softened and became more welcoming, the autumn poplars lined the Highway, and we could see the suburbs ahead.


We might have looked like country hicks as we cruised wide-eyed along Canberra Avenue towards the town centre. It is such a beautiful place, with all the ugly shops and industrial areas hidden away from visitors, just wide, tree lined avenues running into wide circles the closer to the centre you get.

Tummies still rumbling with no breakfast, we finally stopped in a posh shopping area, and ordered a heap of food. The sun was out, the trees with bright autumn colours lined the streets, and we couldn't have asked for better.

Appetites sated, we resumed our travels and ended up as you always do in Canberra, at Parliament House. My man and I had visited only a couple of years before, but our companions hadn't for quite a while.

It's not hard to marvel at this beautiful building, completed in 1988 at the cost of AU$1.5 billion. I remember watching it's construction on the TV, with its huge excavations and spectacular design. It is still as stunning to this day. Our Australian hearts always swell when we make our pilgrimage to the capital.

The eighty metre spire soaring over the building

The Entry foyer built out of Italian marble and all Australian timbers. The local marble was apparently too porous for this building which handles many thousands of visitors each year.

One of the beautiful inlaid timber panels depicting Australian wildflowers

Stunning garden view with autumn colours, and I love the checkerboard lawn edges.
I'm still waiting to use that idea somewhere here at home ..........

The House of Representatives, done also in all Australian timbers and leather seats the colour of our gum trees.

We didn't plan it at all, but we arrived in Canberra on the day of our newly elected Government's annual budget presentation. Security was very high, and we watched the lock down from lunchtime on when the press and opposition were able to view the budget in all its glory, but not to release it to the public.

The entire place was abuzz with expectation, and we booked to go into the 2pm's sitting of question time, where the opposition quizzed the government on many points of interest. All members were in town for this sitting, so they could be present for the budget at 7pm that evening, and we really enjoyed watching the theatre that is our parliament at close range.

We were totally fagged out after all this excitement and finally left for our accommodation in nearby Queanbeyan.

After getting lost, which is law in Canberra and surrounds, we located our funny little cabins, pulled the cork out of a bottle of bubbly for Jill and I, and a beer for the boys. We had packed a casserole each so we didn't need to eat out, and collapsed happily with our slug of alcohol and home cooking.


The next morning we planned our day's entertainment with precision. Each person voted on their favourites: the menfolk off to the War Museum, and we gals off to the 'Turner to Monet' exhibition at the National Gallery. We dropped the men at the magnificent War Memorial, and came back and immersed ourselves in culture for a few hours. Lots of landscapes later viewed with a set of earphones describing the key paintings, we were totally 'paintinged' out by lunchtime.

Then we went to see the High Court (see photo above), which was quite fascinating with 3 courts and seven judges who sit to hear matters of the Australian Constitution, and to provide the final court of appeal.Their judgment leaves appellants no further avenue available to them. We watched for about 20 minutes a matter of sexual slavery by a Thai woman importing young girls into prostitution. The seven judges sat facing all the 'silks' and clerks, and delved into the intricacies of law, which was pretty heavy stuff, but it made the weekend papers the next Saturday.

The other two courts were empty as the seven available judges were sitting together, but there was a welcoming guide standing at the doors of each to show us the large rooms and explain the process. Fascinating stuff.

We wandered out and drove around to the Museum, which had great displays of the Australian way of life, its history and collection of artifacts over the past two hundred years. The modern, purpose-built building was quite stunning, built on the banks of the beautiful Lake Burley Griffin.


Our final day in Canberra found the men and Jill visiting the High Court, and me for a wonderful wander through the Australian Art section of the Gallery next door. I had wanted to go to the Portrait Gallery, but that was being replaced into a magnificent building nearby and wouldn't be open until December.

It seemed like heaven to me to be alone and wandering through our country's history via our artists. I came away feeling very inspired, found the others and we took off to see the Old Parliament House which sits neatly in front of the New P.H.

The actual solid gold Ceremonial Sceptre for opening the Parliament

We took a guided tour, but I was disappointed by the ugliness of the building inside, with dark paneled wood everywhere.... an absolutely uninspiring rabbit warren. The guide tried hard to make it interesting, and cracked jokes about the prime ministers, and the Queen visiting.

The brilliant white elegance of the building's outside gave no indication of the drab, seemingly heartless inside.

There were a few good portraits to enjoy and the entry foyer was impressive.

Really glad to be out of there, we visited Australian Screen and Sound Archives. My man's grandfather was Campbell Copelin, who was an actor in the 30s through to TV in the 50s. I have found a lot of photos on the Net, even an original on eBay, and bought 'Tall Timbers' on VHS, where he was a bad guy. He was in about 12 movies all up and a couple of TV Shows.

The librarian was very helpful and my fella enjoyed trawling through the history with her. Wandering through a large display room with lots of movie excerpts, we came upon 'Tall Timber' playing. Bad boy Grandpa Campbell was shot as we watched.


We packed up our cabins early the next morning and bade Canberra farewell, making our way to our next planned destination, Bungendore.

This small town has seized the moment and created a mecca for antiques, artwork, and many other interesting shops. My man and I had visited before, and told Ralph and Jill we had to go there.

They have a wood working gallery there that would blow anyone's mind, with fine furniture and sculpture there that takes wood into a whole new realm. With prices for some tables up around $20,000, it is a bit rich for your average taste, but it's so lovely to look at.

They also have a leather work shop, which is chock full of anything you could imagine in leather. Not one for fussing over handbags, I couldn't resist and bought a gloriously soft calf skin bag, and some headbands for the daughters. Lovely, lovely ....

After an excellent cappuccino each in a nearby cafe, we hot-footed it down to the coast to Bateman's Bay, then on to Bermagui, our next destination. We have done this trip a few times on our bikes, and the steep drop as you leave the highlands can test your riding ability, and has been affectionately called 'Brown Undies' (after Brown Mountain). Riding up is enormous fun, but riding down requires extra care, and we have seen riders fall with the tight corners, constant braking and gear changes.

Bateman's Bay seemed bright blue as we pulled in for a thermos coffee and sandwiches at the bridge. The weather was perfect, as was every day of our holiday, with boats tied to the wharf and the ever present gulls hoping for a snack.

It wasn't long before we reached Bermagui and our pre-booked house for two days. We pulled up at our two story fibro-cement sheet house that didn't look all that exciting, but it was bang on the cliffs looking over towards the township. Stretches of coastline with waves breaking on the shore, a nearby cliff walking path, and heaps of blue sky gave us a surge of excitement.

We found the key and unlocked the house to discover it was a treasure inside with everything we could want.


I really enjoy Bermagui with it's clean beaches and lack of major development. After unpacking, we went downtown for a reconnoiter and discovered that there was a major fishing competition that weekend run by the Canberra Angling Club. This place's tourism runs on large game fishermen with huge expensive cabin cruisers with names like 'Chivas Regal' and 'Gambler'. The boats fairly bristle with aerials and long rods and other strange paraphernalia, all of it shouting 'money'!

Years ago (1990) I had a successful solo exhibition in Brighton, Victoria, based on this place, so I knew it fairly well and really enjoy coming back for another look.

We ate some super-fresh fish and chips on the wharf and wandered up and down watching the preparations for the weekend of competitive fishing. The sun was going down, and we watched a large lone seal dipping and diving around the boats hopefully angling for a free feed.

The next morning we went for a wander along the cliff path which led down to a lovely beach with cliffs that really stirred up my artistic soul.

I am planning some paintings of these glorious shapes and colours.

Later in the day we went back to the wharfs and discovered there had been a drowning accident 14 kms out into the ocean. A small craft had capsized and three went in. One drowned and two were rescued. There was a gloomy pall hanging over the anticipated competition and police and ambulance waited quietly by the water's edge for the body and surviving men to be brought in.

Back on our deck over looking the ocean, we cranked up the barbecue for our final dinner away, remarking on the success of our holiday filled with so many interesting events.


Andrew said...

Sheep are incredibly adaptable to food supply, from lush grazing land to tufts of weeds in barren paddocks. Look forward to so more pictures.

That's So Pants said...

Sounds like Bliss, actually



Ann O'Dyne said...

That's wonderful. is one of my regular playgrounds and they
have 7 photos of your Grandpa.
One is:-

"Marjorie Holt, Minnie Love, Alistair Roberts, Edward Brayshaw, Robert Helpmann, Campbell Copelin and Pamela Greenhall in the J. C. Williamson production of
Nude with Violin, 1958
Description From: Nude With Violin / by Noel Coward.; Part of the collection: J.C. Williamson collection of photographs.; Also available in an electronic version via the Internet at:; Seasons in Australasia recorded in programs and ephemera held in J C Williamson collection, PROMPT Collection: 1958 commencing 21 June Comedy Theatre, Melbourne ; 1958 commencing 23 August Theatre Royal, Sydney ; 1958 commencing. 10 November His Majesty's Theatre, Auckland ; 1958 commencing Dec? Theatre Royal, Christchurch, NZ.
Subject Performing arts -- Australia -- Photographs.

BlissHill said...

Thank You Anne, for that information. I haven't been in there for photos and haven't read mention anywhere of 'Nude With a Violin'. I have loaded Campbell's photo of him in that play on my blog for you to see. We have the original and a copy is framed on our bookshelf.

Sadly I never met him, but he was apparently bit arrogant and spoilt, and lived until he was 91.

Ann O'Dyne said...

4 years later, back at this post because of Dynamic View (isn't it terrific) and drawn by the coat of arms, all of which have become a recent fascination for me and no, I didn't know that about Skippy & Roadrunner not stepping backwards - I guess that's why they aren't used for dressage!

and thanks for 'snot block', now a major contributor to my weight loss program since I will never be able to eat one again.

BlissHill said...

Ha ha! I wish it would work on MY weight loss program!