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Route 54 City to Majura Park

Date: 16 February 2023

Route: 54 City to Majura Park

Sights: War Memorial

Weather: 14 C - 31 C warm and sunny

Time taken: 3.5 hour round trip

As part of the original Burley Griffin plan for the Garden City of Canberra, all the industrial parts of the city were located one place. The first location was Fyshwick; big furniture stores like Harvey Norman, a newspaper, the Canberra Times, a market, the railway station and all things that did not fit as one into the nice suburbs lumped together. As the city grew another, large, area had to be found to house the airport, IKEA, Bunnings, Costco and a new shopping centre. With acres of car parks around it, and the airport on one side, only one bus an hour, the 54, services this mecca of consumerism.

According to the 2021 census, 61 people live in this area (it does include some farm land, at Pialligo) but most of the development has been industrial. Majura Park Shopping Centre opened in 2016. The Majura Park Gun Club and Federal Police both have designated areas, with the AFP having a driving range too; a place for new recruits to learn defensive driving, not golf. There is also the free range egg farm, a farm to plate farm and a solar farm. None of these things can be seen from the bus.

I thought the route was going to be more disrupted than it was. The ongoing work for the tram extension and the ACT Multicultural Festival mean route diversions for both cars and buses with roads not just down to one or two lanes, but total closures. To hear the people who rely on cars complain it sounds like the end of the world. One person I overheard said she never goes into the city any more because of the mess that the roads have become. I do not drive into the city very often and maybe I have a different experience growing up in London and spending the best part of my adult life in Melbourne, but it really does not seem too bad to me. Traffic flows, there are no major traffic jams, and parking can still be found if I persist a little. We have a little joke in our house when we see the traffic along Northbourne Ave piling up that it is the “Peak Five Minutes”. No doubt it is frustrating for those in their cars but I know it is worse in other places.

My trip from the city to Majura Park was uneventful. The bus came at the allotted time, it filled up with many people who got off at IKEA, and a few others who stayed on until the shopping centre. Two tourists, identifying themselves to the driver, wanted to be told where to get off for the War Memorial.

The route is rural-looking along Fairbank Ave in the gap between Mount Ainslie and Mount Pleasant. The road winds its way past two parks that house the peaks. Mount Ainslie Nature Reserve was part of the original Burley Griffin plan. The trees are mature with many of them dead and hollowed out; an important refuge for birds and small creatures. The land has been used by various peoples; a women’s place for Aboriginal people, over 20 significant cultural sites have been identified and are now protected. European settlers used the land for sheep grazing and then opened a quarry for a few years in the 1930’s. The stone was mainly used for roads but the small church in Reid was constructed from the quarry. Walkers are urged to stay on the tracks as the area was used for live firing practice by the military from World War II up until the 1960s. Live ordenance has been removed but it is thought more remains. That might spice up a walk!

Two young men, in their 20s, looked happy to bump into each other and started to talk about, what I hope was their studies. One told the other about how to “pop” an eye out of a socket, and how easy it had been, much more easy than he thought. He was at pains to explain it was all done with consent. I was happy to hear that. I noticed that one of the men had the exact same backpack as me. I felt modern, hip even.

The bus driver is considerate. He slows right down as a cyclist peddles faster to get past the bus stop the bus is slowing for. The bus driver waits patiently for the middle- aged man to pick up his pace and get past the stop. He remembers to tell the tourists about the War Memorial. They thank the driver with real appreciation, getting off to do the long walk around the 1 billion dollar expansion.

Route 54 does a loop around Majura Park taking in IKEA and the shopping centre. The airport has its own bus that drops people directly at the terminal. I get off at the shopping centre, knowing the bus only has one more stop in the loop and I will get to see that on my return trip.

The shopping centre is like any other. The car park does not have a roof so it does not feel as intimating to walk into as the one at Tuggeranong. I make my way through the neat lines of cars, I do the things I have to do at Big W and then wander around until it’s time to get back to the bus stop. The bus service has been reduced to once an hour, with the changes to the new network. I imagine that is a little hard on the people who work at IKEA or Big W, Costco or any of the shops and cafes, and their shift does not align with the bus timings. And very inconvenient if you miss that one bus.

I find some shade, near the stop, between an avenue of yellow ash and ornamental pear trees. The shadows they throw do not cover the seat at the bus stop so I stand. Further up in the car park shade cloth structures protect the cars, but nothing at the bus stop. Good to know the cars will not get sunburnt.

There is a steady stream of people walking from offices at the other side of the road to the centre and then returning, coffees in hand. They make their way over the small soccer pitch, complete with goals with nets, and avoid the man on the large lawnmower. He has gone over the grass once producing stripes on the bright green grass. He goes back the other way to change the direction of the stripes producing a checked pattern. The pitch has a conveniently placed zebra crossing from the car park to the mid line of the pitch. I wonder who this is for; people to play at lunchtimes? Do they have a league? Teams made up from shops, the airport (which I can see from the bus stop) and the surrounding offices including the Therapeutic Goods Administration. Do they do drug testing?

I am joined at the bus stop by another passenger. I tell him I can see the bus is on its way. Next There has a real time GPS location, if the bus is fitted with GPS, so I can follow it along the route. He tells me what time it is due. He has been to Costco.

We get into conversation about electric bikes. He tells me he rides to Tuggernanong from Kamba and sometimes to Woden to do bits of shopping. He also likes to walk. He describes Mount Taylor (856m) and how you would think you were in the country on the climb up the peak. Wild life such as kangaroos and koalas can be seen easily, but it is just short distance from urban living. I tell him about my project; 64 bus routes in 52 weeks and he tells me when he lived in the US he wanted to get to all 50 states; he has two to do, as a retirement project now.

We talk about what a great city Canberra is to live in with everything so easy to access, even by bus. Since he retired he has not used his car much, and he is worried that the octane in the tank will have degraded and be no good. He tells me how much he likes the Dickson Library. I agree it is lovely; I go there sometimes to write or read. He goes to read the papers. That is a bit of a trek from the South side to see what is going on in the world!

He thinks about what I am doing and says it makes him think he should tackle this as a project too. I do know of one other person doing this. If this man joins us it will make three. Maybe we should start a club?

We were so busy talking I forgot to take in any other details of the trip. He got off at the Legislative Assembly, just before I got off at the last stop at the interchange.

It has heated up by the time I walk through the interchange to the tram stop. Many busy people are putting up stages, marquee-type tents of different sizes for the festival this weekend. There is a buzz in the air.


What is a Mountain?

In my younger days, while still living at home with my folks, we did a lot of walking. My father could not swim so beach holidays where not a thing we did but walking across hills and dales was something we could all do together. On these walks my father would give us information about stars, the landscape and environment. He imparted knowledge about plants, trees, and distances; how long was a furlong, how wide was a river as opposed to a stream, and how high does a hill have to be before it is a mountain. Needless to say I have forgotten most of this stuff and have now spent a while searching to find out if the hills around Canberra are in fact mountains. They have all been given ‘mount’ as a prefix but do they qualify?

I have looked up many different websites and a few dictionaries, I now know there is no consensus. I do know that a mountain is “ a large natural elevation of the earth's surface rising abruptly from the surrounding level; a large steep hill.” (Oxford English Dictionary) and that it is “generally bigger than a hill, has steep sides with relatively confined summit area.” (Brittanica), and “it rises at least 300m from its surrounding land.” (Wikipedia) but these definitions are not much help. If a mountain is higher than a hill, what do I judge it against? The hill next door, or across the country?

In the UK it is acknowledged there is no globally accepted definition but there is a general acceptance that “ any peak with a height of at least 600m above sea level”. (Rambling In the mid 20th Century the standard definition of a hill being less than 1000 ft and a mountain being taller was abandoned by both the US and the UK. National Geographic takes a different tack “hills are easier to climb than mountains”: nothing about height there.

Maybe it is a cultural thing; how the locals name and feel about their peak. The 1995 film starring Hugh Grant, The Englishman Who Climbed Up a Hill but Came Down a Mountain explored this theme. Two cartographers arrive to measure the mountain near a Welsh village in 1917. They conclude it is less than the require 1000 ft and declare it a hill. The locals are outraged and decide to make it a mountain by piling rocks and earth on top, (this is technically a mound). One of the cartographers, Hugh Grant, understands the importance for the war-ravaged villagers; it is a point of pride. I wonder how local Canberrans might view Mount Majura if it became Majura Hill?

There is consensus about how a mountain is made: it is pushed up from the earth’s crust to rise above the surrounding area. The Blue Mountains on the edge of Sydney are in fact a plateau that has been washed away, leaving peaks, so do not qualify as mountains. I expect it was a little difficult to tell which way the peaks had been made by the people who named them.

I have now concluded that a mountain is a mountain because it bears the name. Mountains, like so many other things, are indeed, cultural.



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