Monday, January 14, 2008

DAY 101: Day 4 in Canberra

Mon 14th January 2008
21 km
Distance to date 6309 km (3943 miles)
hot & sunny

Got the dual carriageway into the city to myself at 0500!

I was up before 4 this morning as I rode down into the city to join up with the others taking a hot air balloon ride. I have always fancied having a go at this and this seemed a good opportunity - there are 2 companies in Canberra who do this.

8 of us met at the rather grand Hyatt Hotel and we were picked up in a Land Rover towing a trailer with the balloon on. First off we stopped in a nearby park and released a helium balloon to test the wind direction - the object being to launch the balloon upwind and drift back over the city to a suitable landing place. This done we drove a few km east to a field a little bit too near the road for my liking but hey - they know what they're doing having done this for years!

Firstly we stretched out the balloon on the ground, and it is HUGE - 35m tall when inflated. It holds 250,000 cu ft of air.

A large fan driven by a petrol motor then blows cold air in for about 20 minutes - that's me holding the bottom open so the air can get in. Once the balloon is nearly inflated the pilot lights the propane gas burners and the thing really starts to lift. Soon after there's a bit of a scramble to get into the basket (it holds 10 plus the pilot but there were only 8 passengers today. There were a few tense moments when the basket nearly tipped up and dumped us out, caused by a gusty wind, whereupon the pilot got on the phone to the weather bureau, who confirmed it was a bit too gusty to fly unfortunately. We were offered money back of rebook, and as I would be able to try again tomorrow I readily agreed to try again then. Shame, everyone was all psyched up for it, but can't be helped. Apparently it is the landing that can be dodgy in gusty conditions so maybe just as well it was abandoned.

We were taken back to the Hyatt and two ladies and I agreed to have breakfast there. This was very nice - everything you could think of to eat, and there's even a chef in the corner making customised omelettes to order. I ate my fill and then lingered for a while reading the paper, very pleasant and a reminder of what luxury living can be like for a change.

Afterwards I spent a couple of pleasant hours in the National Gallery then headed back to my hosts - feeling quite tired, through lack of sleep I think.

National Gallery Sculpture Garden

Tunnel on main road south to Lindsay and Penny's

This is how cyclists get across an exit off the dual carriageway if carrying straight on - the green is presumably to show up more clearly to exiting motorists.

DAY 100: Day 3 off in Canberra

Sun 13th January 2008
22 km
Distance to date 6288 km (3930 miles)
hot & sunny

My hosts were off early this morning so we said our goodbyes and I headed off into the city again at around 0730. Even at this time there were 100’s of people out around Lake Burley Griffin jogging, power walking, and not least, cycling. I cycled leisurely all around the Lake (there’s a track all around for some 20km), stopping to look at and listen to the Carillon bells for a while. For some reason I didn’t take any photos today - probably because it was so hot I was intent on getting into the next air-conditioned building.
I took a couple of hours to get around and towards the end popped up to the Botanic Gardens again for lunch and a longer look around. I didn’t feel very relaxed though because I had to leave all my stuff in the panniers on the bike; it’s too much to carry around. I think the chance of getting them stolen are slim, but there’s always that nagging doubt in my mind so I have to keep popping back to check.
It was pretty hot again so I tried to keep in the shade has much as possible.
In the afternoon I went up Capitol Hill and had a look at both the old and new Parliaments. I went in to look around the old one - beautiful building - and the National Portrait Gallery is also residing there at present. The bike had to be left in full sunshine as there was no shady spot to park unfortunately, and the bags were red hot when I came out.
Next call was to the library, where there’s an exhibition about the muslim camel drivers that so ably supported early exploration of Australia - their contribution has not really been recognised to date by all accounts, but this exhibition will help - there is some very interesting stuff about the early explorers and examples of the type of equipment they used, and a lot else besides.
I am currently typing this up in the library foyer but will get going soon to find Lindsay’s place, where I will be staying tonight.

DAY 99: Day 2 off in Canberra

Sat 12th January 2008
32 km
Distance to date 6266 km (3916 miles)
Very warm & sunny

Cycled back into the city after breakfast for more sightseeing, and made a better job of finding my way in today. I spent most of the morning in the National Museum just browsing around, and I had an enjoyable lunch in the very nice museum eaterie, including some Rocky Road to die for.
I found my way along the cycle tracks to the Botanic Gardens - nice but not as interesting as Adelaide or Melbourne. I’ll return later and have a better look if it’s not so hot. Today is a day to avoid the sun wherever possible.
I spent some time with Patrick in the evening going over best routes through to Sydney and Brisbane - a lot of options but I’m better informed now. P cooked a great meal tonight - I really have been spoilt here, and it’s been very enjoyable. Patrick and Christine are great hosts, and very knowledgeable about Canberra and Australia, and I’ve learnt a lot about the place.
We had about 5mm of rain in the evening, but it’s not enoungh really.

Lake Burley-Griffin Cycle path
Chinese Embassy - amazing building
Old Parliament House (also houses Portrait Gallery)

OPH again
Captain Cook Memorial by the Lake
The Carillon - a granite structure housing 55 bells, and played by guest artistes. It was playing both days I was around that area - beautiful. It was a gift from the British Government to Canberra.

Carillon again