Well, sort of. I actually did not see any of Canberra by daylight, as I was busy workshopping the entire time I was here. But I do have some interesting photos below from the Australian Capital Territory (ACT). Canberra itself was a ghost town, I have never been someplace so sterile and free of people. But I’m getting ahead of myself in the narrative. Let’s go back to the beginning. The timetable was this: I arrived in Melbourne from Singapore on Saturday morning for a brief 36 hour stay. I had to fly into either Melbourne or Sydney from Singapore, because Canberra is not an easy place to get to from outside Australia. So I planned to fly into Melbourne, catch the footy (which I did) and stay one night with local friends (from my trip last Christmas) before taking the short flight from Melbourne to Canberra. I arrived after dark Sunday night, for my Monday-Tuesday workshop. Gave my talk on Monday morning, had a nice workshop dinner that evening, enjoyed a fantastic set of talks and really liked the workshop–these smaller events with 40 or so participants are so much more fun than speaking in front of a large but impersonal audience.
Part of the “deal” in my travelling to this particular workshop was a promised nature walk in the Australian Alps. We thus spent Tuesday afternoon, after the workshop closed, at Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve in the ACT, about 40 minutes outside of Canberra. The area had been decimated by bushfires in 2003, and it was still obvious.
The nature reserve was amazing, in that there were native Aussie animals out and about, in large natural habitats, and you could wander around and see them. For this reason, you did not get a close-up perfect look at the animals, they way you do in a zoo, or in the Healesville Sanctuary where I went in Melbourne in Dec. The rangers, in fact, keep watch for the more elusive animals and leave laminated placards on the pathways to indicate where visitors might want to look to see a koala. And we saw one. After climbing around through some scrub, standing on a downed tree… Woo-hoo!
I was totally kicking myself for bringing only my point-and-shoot camera and not my digital SLR–I’m just going to have to come back.
The other thing that I saw at Tidbinbilla, which I most certainly did not see in Healesville, was kangaroos and wallabies actually HOPPING. They were meandering around with the “pentapedal walk” (using the tail to stabilize walking on all fours, since the front and back legs move in pairs instead of alternately) in Healesville, which was interesting in its own right, but I’m guessing was a symptom of a relatively small enclosure. This was not the case in Tidbinbilla, where the animals had free ranges of many, many acres. But doesn’t everyone want to see a kangaroo hop? Here you go 🙂
Driving out of the park, after our visit, we saw kangaroos on a corner. As in, kangaroos in the wild. Not in a zoo or nature reserve. Just hanging out in their native environment. My local hosts explained to me that ‘roos are like deer in the states, they’re just out and around and (if anything) likely to be obstacles on the highways when driving at night. Thus the iconic kangaroo crossing signs. Travelling is so educational.
But back to our regularly-scheduled narrative. Tuesday night found me back in Canberra, we went for a walk into town for dinner, and on the way back ran into whole bunches of possums hanging around the bases of trees. So more interesting wildlife, and my overall impression of having been in the ACT thus revolves around two things: the town was amazingly sterile and there were no people walking about, but it was quite easy to find interesting animals in their natural habitat.
Several loose ends to tie up. Why do I keep saying “we”? This workshop ended up being so much fun for many reasons, one of which was that my host was amazing, but also one of my “professional friends” (people in other places that you meet through work but start to like much, much more than just as colleagues) was at the meeting, which gave me a fantastic person to hang out with throughout the workshop. More on that next time. I’ve arrived in Sydney and have much to report and many photographs to share, but that will have to be tomorrow’s effort.