Canberra National Gallery of Australia

We asked our hosts to see an Aboriginal exhibit. We’ve enjoyed our stay in Australia, but we wanted to give a nod to the native Australia culture. Off to the National Gallery of Australia (NGA) we went.

Bonus: museum is free. There was a traveling exhibit from the Tate (London) which required tickets but the rest is open to all. Knowing my history with art museums, we skipped the tickets.

NGA has two Australian exhibits of note: collections of Australian art. The collections varied from Victorian era Impressionist paintings to modern sculptures and photography.

Indigenous art. The pieces are also wide ranging in time period. NGA holds the largest collection of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art so I can imagine how much rotation they had. Interestingly, they had a warning at the entrance to their earlier pieces:

Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander people are advised that they may see images and names of recently deceased Indigenous people. All such references have been reproduced with the permission of the appropriate representative family members, where possible. 

Definitely a cultural sensitivity.

NGA does not explain the differences between Indigenous groups. Their focus is exhibiting art, and giving necessary description of the artist and artwork. If one wishes to understand Aboriginal culture and tribes, this is not the place to come.

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The animal you never knew you wanted to hold

For those of us uninformed, when we think of Australia animals, we think kangaroos, koalas, Tasmanian devils. For those with a little more background, we may even think the gazillion poisonous snakes and spiders that wander around here.

How about them wombats?

Funny looking marsupials, closely related to koalas but burrow in the ground. They have pouches where they carry their babies and a very hard boney backside, which they use to snap at predators. It is not unheard of to see dead predators with broken heads and necks laying by the entrance of a wombat burrow.

OK, I’ll be honest. They are ugly animals. But the babies are SO CUTE!!!!!

We paid a visit to Majors Creek Wombat Refuge, a small self-run self-funded refuge focused on saving injured wombats. Most wombats they get are hit by cars or have mothers hit by cars. At the time of our visit, they have over ten babies in their care. And a few adults waiting to be released back into the wild.

The owner, Bill, has converted his large farm land into a series of wombat pens. The younger the babier, the more enclosed the pen, to protect from predators and disease carrying rodents. The older the wombat, the more open the pen.. although Bill admits he is losing the battle to their burrowing habits. Some of the metal walls he as put up are more buried than above ground.

We actually didn’t see many full grown wombats. Most of them were underground except for a couple that have been too injured to survive on their own.

 

For the babies, Bill and his wife fashioned fleece pouches from donated clothing. They had cut off the arms off the sweaters, sewed up the arm and neck openings, and hung the pouch off the side of the pens. The babies just knew to look for them, many of the more mobile ones automatically climbing into the pocket on their own to curl up and shut us out.

I never knew I wanted to meet a wombat.. let alone hold one. But, yes, I did. They made very little sound, and just wanted to be held in a warm embrace.. as if they were back in a pouch.

Coastal Walk: Down Under Style

It’s been a while since I traipsed across parts of England’s Southwest Coast Path.. I was ecstatic to do a similar walk in Australia.

For a friend’s birthday celebration, we traversed the Coogee-Bondi walk. Well, they say “Bondi to Coogee Walk.” We opted to go the other way around because I wanted to finish off the walk with a swim in the Iceberg Pool. More comfortable to finish the day dripping wet from the pool than to walk in that state, don’t you think?

Our first stop was gelato to kick-start the walk. Well, the girlfriends stopped for gelato. I, the lactose intolerant, got to admire some hot beach volleyball players as I waited. Next stop, Giles Baths. The walk is marked by a whole bunch of rock pools/baths, where a natural rock or stony beach is turned into a built-in pool with little effort. Waves supply the sea water. So Giles Baths.. problem:

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Yeah. We didn’t think to check the tides.

Moving on.

The walk takes us winding through some coves. All of which afforded beautiful views. Path tends to dip down towards the inside of the cove to allow for access to the water and ascend back up the cliffs where the land jutted out towards the ocean.

 

We got caught in a downpour as we were approaching Clovelly Beach. We tucked under a nearby building’s awning and tried to wait it out. As the rain fell heavier, much to some of our surprise, a bunch of swimmers came out of the woodwork and went right in. Well, if you’re going to be wet anyway.. it wasn’t so much the rain that made us pause. The surf was strong.. the ocean was quite opinionated at the moment. As a swimmer, I was a little jealous of them.. but as someone who is content with my chlorinated box with a blue stripe in the bottom, I admit the waves were intimidating.

Clovelly pool is interesting. The cove is almost perfectly rectangular, because they had poured in straight cement ledges on the long ends, making it into one gigantic ocean pool. I didn’t even see the separate elevated lane pool until later.

We took the longer-than-expected rainfall as a hint. Time to break for lunch.

The sun came out by the time we finished eating and we continued on. We had fun with what we call “Lion King moments.” Some of the jutting cliffs had extended rock formations and we may have been a little silly with our posing.

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How can you now with a spot like that? No, that wasn’t our “Lion King” pose.. one of the girls just snap-eager while I was making my way out. The wind was no joke, though.. so we were venturing only so far. Side note: I never understood people’s need to leave their mark. Look at the carvings on the stone. It was not a soft stone.. people had to work on those.

So several of the rock pools were out due to the raging surf (at least for us). But the Iceberg pool was an absolute must for me. I had to go to one.. and the girls were agreeable to chilling out over a pitcher of sangria while I got my over 1500k swim in. I was *not* prepared for how cold the water was. The waves were lower by the time I went in, but I still felt the swaying. Actually, I felt it more when I got out, with land sickness and swaying as I walked. It took only a few minutes to recover, but I was gripping onto walls and surfaces. An unexpected pleasant perk in swimming here? Being surrounded by equally serious swimmers. I’m used to being the swimming in a recreational pool. This is a swimmers’ pool.

One con? They nickel and dime you out to go to this pool. Admission, I understand. Towel? $2. Lockers? Another $2.

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Total Tally:
– Weather: Occasional gusty winds, alternating between bright sun and heavy down pour. Drizzly more than not.
– End points:
33°55’08.4″S 151°15’30.8″E
33°53’41.9″S 151°16’27.4″E
– Path conditions: mostly varying concrete pathways, some dirt path

Highlights: Beautiful views, rock pools, and an amazing swim to finish the day off.