Canberra to Sydney - 19/02-01/03/15

Panoramic views of Canberra from the 15th floor. Thanks Alison and Rod.

After a couple of days with Simon and family, we moved to a wonderful city centre flat, overlookig the lake and owned by Alison and Rod.  Rod has to work in Canberra for two days nearly every week, so this is his pied-a-terre in the city, and he very kindly lent it to us.  It made a fabulous base for sightseeing, taking panoramic shots of the view, catching up with the washing and returning a little of Simon and Sonya's hospitality.  For anyone planning to visit Canberra, as well as the War Memorial, we would thoroughly recommend the Museum of Australia, Old Parliament House (now the very interesting Museum of Australian Democracy) and, of course, the new Parliament building, which we had toured with Rod on a previous occasion.

It was only a short drive up the road to the little historical town of Gundaroo, the home of another PNG friend, Ros Medaris, her daughter Melissa and two grandsons, Ash and Bowie.  So much water has flowed under our respective bridges since Martin knew Ros and her then husband, Grant, (see below!) in the PNG highlands, but we've all kept in touch and there is so much to talk about - both shared memories and the varied experiences we've all had since those days in the early 1970s.  Ros would make a fine tourist guide for Gundaroo - the town is typical of many in country NSW with buildings dating from the late 19th century is varying states of repair and use. Amongst other claims, Gundaroo has more recently become a gourmet dining destination for Canberra, which is only 40km away, and Sydney too for the week-end.  We ate at the pub! 

This part of the trip is all about people, not so much the places they live in, which is just as well, because our next stop was Blackheath, in the glorious Blue Mountains. Unfortunately, the glory was completely obscured by mist while we were there (luckily we have seen it before), but it didn't matter, as the purpose of the visit was to catch up with Ken and Helen Steadman.  Ken is an old friend of Martin's from schooldays and Helen is one of the nurses he met when he first came to Sydney.  There's quite a story about this group of friends, but we'll tell that one a bit later in the blog, on the occasion of another Grand Reunion. Much talking, little sightseeing!

We left Ken, Helen and Boz the cat en route for Warrimoo, a small town lower down the mountains towards Sydney.  Here we had a bonus treat in store.  Ondria, our ex-Bougainville friend, had tracked down and put us in touch with Mary Roddy, whom we had all known as a Catholic Sister at the neighbouring hospital a few km up the road from Kekesu.  Mary and her fellow sisters had been an amazing support to us during our time there and it was an unexpected delight to be able to meet her again.  No longer in the order, but still a committed Christian, Mary just exudes wisdom and compassion, as she always did. 

Our lunch together reawakened memories and the gratitude I felt in some of those quite testing times forty years ago.  After lunch, it was a short drive back up the mountain to find Grant Medaris and his wife, Jan, who gave us another great welcome to their home in Mt Riverview. The weather had not improved much, so once again, the visit was dominated by talk and relaxation, rather than sight-seeing.  Some of our hosts feel they have to apologise for the weather, but it suits us just fine to be allowed to sit around and chat!  Grant and Jan are very much involved with the support of refugees and asylum seekers in Australia and it was good to hear about their convictions and activities.  Meeting both Mary Roddy and Grant and Jan reminded me that retirement is a time when one may be able to become more involved with helping others than when one was working.

Our last visit on this "loop" of our journey, was with Margaret and Chris Charles.  Margaret is Daphne's sister, so Liz's "sister-in-law's sister".  She and Chris spent a lot of time in UK and Europe when they were younger, staying for quite a long time with Susan and Ken at Esher, so have always had strong ties with the family.  They live in Chatswood, very much part of the city of Sydney, but their home backs onto a bush reserve, making it seem quite rural.  They have had several severe fire scares over the years, but the only thing to disturb us was a drama being played out by a green tree snake and a ring-tailed possum in the tree right outside the verandah.  Staying with Margaret and Chris closes the circle of the family reunion and it was lovely to meet their daughter Sophie and delightful grand-daughter Poppy.  However, Poppy had brought a vomiting bug home with her from day-care and it proceeded to cut a swathe through the family like the grim reaper!  Chris remained unscathed, and I escaped with only griping pains and loss of appetite (no bad thing), but Poppy herself, Sophie, Margaret and Martin were all wiped out for at least 24 hours.  We had to delay our departure for Melbourne - 10 hours on a train didn't seem a very attractive prospect - and re-book by plane the next day.  Still, always look on the bright side of life, the poor weather in the mountains and the enforced lie-down in Sydney have made us spend a very quiet few days and take a real break.  Probably no bad thing at this stage, just over half way through our travels.

Across Lake Burley Griffin - the Museum of Australia.

A modern representation of the Aboriginal legend "Rainbow Serpent" at the Museum of Australia.

Old Parliament House - now the Australian Museum of Democracy.

Not all of Canberra is smart and architecturally attractive. The Aboriginal Embassy outside Old Parliament House. The PM is not their favourite person!

Main Street, Gundaroo. Ros works part-time in this emporium.

At Gundaroo with Ros, Melissa, Ash and Bowie.

At Govett's Leap with Ken and Helen - note the spectacular Blue Mountains view. What happened to "Australia, land of sunshine"?

Mary Roddy at Warrimoo - we hope we're as sharp at her age!

With Grant and Jan at Mt Riverview.

Out for a walk with Liz and Margaret - an Eastern Water Dragon.

At Chatswood with Margaret and Chris. Photo acknowledgement to Chris and his professional equipment!