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Route R2 Fyshwick to Fraser

Date: 27 January 2023

Route: R2 Fyshwick to Fraser via City

Sights: Parliamentary Triangle, Lake Burley Griffin,

Weather: 22 C - 34 C warm to hot

Time taken: 5 hours round trip

A quick look around our apartment illustrates to me that we live a modern life; washing machine, dishwasher, computers, mobile phones, coffee machine, all time-saving devices that mean I do not have to do more of the drudgery of domestic life. Information, cleanliness and food production at the touch of the button. Most of these modern appliances were developed in the 20th Century and the rate of change is increasing and we get no choice in this: we just have to roll with it.

January in Australia is full of holiday time, relaxing, festivals and sport, and more sport and more sport: basketball, cricket and tennis are just about wall to wall. I like tennis and it used to be so easy to watch the Australian Open on the TV. Come home from work, slip my shoes off, plump on the sofa and turn on the device. Make sure you were on the right channel and we were away; Ivan Lendl and Steffi Graff could be seen doing their thing without any interruptions. The whole process took about 2 minutes.

Last week I decided to watch Channel 9 (host of the AO in Australia). To do this I had to:

  • Download the Channel 9Now app to my TV

  • Download same app to my phone

  • Sign up to Channel 9 giving them email address, phone number, full name etc

  • Wait for an email so I could verify who I am (this involved my computer)

  • Click on the email to get back to Channel 9

  • Go back to the TV, wait for a verification code on my phone to be put into the TV

  • Find out how we do this, some Googling involved

  • Put in verification code

  • Find the Channel 9Now app

  • Find the match I wanted to watch in the many Channel 9 channels

  • Sit down, with large drink

  • Watch tennis.

Whole thing took about half an hour! I had missed the end of the match I wanted to watch and then we had a power outage! Short, but effective enough that we had to do the whole turn off TV, turn off router, turn everything back on, pray to any electronic gods and wait. We did this another three times before everything was righted.

Transport Canberra, like other modern entities, seem to delight in change too. The timetable for the buses had been the same all last year, with a slight reduction in service due in the summer timetable. Regular users have accustomed themselves to the routes and timetables, from previous changes. Today (30/1) to coincide with the new school year it is all about to change, again. I am told this is something that happens often. Passengers have been warned; some routes will change and there will be fewer buses on some routes. There are positive changes too: more frequent buses on some routes and at least one new route (Route 47).

I have asked about this in the Transport Canberra office in the city. The new maps with the routes were not out last week and the new timetables are only available on the website, or if you go into the office and ask they will print them from the website. People with no internet, or smart phones, and they are a few, are forced to do this. We are urged to ‘Plan your route’ but without the wherewithal to do that it makes it hard. The woman in front of me in the queue to speak to the office staff was inquiring about a number of different routes she wanted the timetable for. After she had a couple the man assisting told her that he could only get her another one timetable as that was her limit. She opted for 71. I was also told, that routes and timetables will be changed again at the beginning of the Term 2 after Easter.

The reason given for the changes to the network, is the work being done for the extension of the tram line to Woden. (The tramline itself will enhance public transport), but I am not sure how, and no one can explain this to me, if any routes are going to be lost and if the routes will stay the same, and the changes are just to the timetable. When I asked the friendly guy in the Transport Canberra office he told me they were the last to find out and would have to dig out the information themselves when people asked. There were no new hardcopy map routes at that stage (a couple of weeks ago).

With all the changes in mind I set off on one of the longer routes before anything happened to it. The R2 works its way from Fyshwick in the south-west to Fraser in the far north-east taking in the city and Belconnen. I wanted to do the whole route so set off into the city by tram to pick it up heading to Fyshwick.

At 8am I boarded the bus with a female driver with a very cheery hello to each and everyone who boarded. The bus was packed, not a seat left and people standing. As we entered King Edward Terrace, in the Parliamentary Triangle, a number of young people dressed in black got off. When we got to the John Gorton Building, just past the Aboriginal Tent Embassy, more alighted; all young, all dressed in black. Hospitality workers heading for the galleries, Questacon and the library, I suspect.

Many more young people got off as we passed the Bus Depot Markets and Kingston. The markets do not operate on Saturdays but there are many new places to eat on the Kingston foreshore. When we first started visiting Canberra on a regular basis about 17 years ago, when my eldest attended ANU, this area was a waste land. The market brought some colour and movement but the foreshore was a mess. Cars parked anywhere they could on the compacted dirt. The car park for the market is still compacted dirt but if your car is a minute over the time allotted with the meters on the foreshore road you will get a ticket. The apartments with shops and cafes underneath them and the broad-walk give the area a very European feel, but you can’t just park anywhere.

We arrive at Fyshwick at the back of the Canberra Outlet. I check Next There and see the next bus is a good half an hour away so do some exploring. The Anatolia Mediterranean Market has a man outside smoking, but what is inside is gold. It is one of the those places that you have to know about or just come across, but I am not too sure how many people would be wandering around the back of the Canberra Outlet.

The sign outside offers groceries, bazaar and homewares and it does not disappoint. I settle on dried lime flakes and pilaf seasoning, but I am tempted by much more including the egg dye, ready for Easter.

I return to the bus stop. It is heating up; 28 C. There is little shade and I forgot my hat. The bus arrives. Many young people get off, all head towards the shopping centre. I move to get on and am stopped by the bus driver who tells me I will have to wait for the next bus as he is going on a different route. I wait. Next There tells me it is 4 minutes. A bus pulls around the corner. Same bus driver who waves to me as he passes.

I check Next There again. The bus I had been waiting for is gone with the next one more than 30 minutes away. What to do? I could have a look at the Outlet, it does have a TK Max, so I walk towards it and get most of the way there, and the bus, my bus, the R2, rounds the corner. It stops and I run. I don’t want to wait another 30 minutes. I board the bus thanking the driver for waiting. This is the same driver who told me he was going on another route and passed me! I choose to be generous; maybe he got diverted by the powers that be? I sit at the back of the bus recovering; that is the furthest, and fastest I have run in a long while. The first time I have run for a bus since being in London last in 2016!

The two of us, driver and me, head towards the city, then to Belconnen. A few people board and alight from the bus but it is not nearly as busy as it was at 8am. This driver is also in a hurry, he shot past a couple of stops, braking hard, but still missing the designated stop. Passengers were forced onto the grass to board the bus. He waits patiently while two electric scooters riding illegally on the road pass as he pulls onto Commonwealth Ave.

The bus heads out of Belconnen, where the abundant agapanthus are looking past their best, into an area that I have never been to. Along Southern Cross Drive to Latham and Macgregor. We are now in the furthest north corner of the ACT. The bus turns off the main drag onto suburban streets finding the left hand turns tight. This must take a certain level of skill and the driver does it well, slowing down. I am the only person on the bus, once the teenagers talking about pregnant friends, all the chores they are expected to do, and how difficult it is to organise their lives now they are heading back to school, got off.

All the buses have a screen that tells you which stop you are at and how many more there are to go. This is sometimes accompanied by a voice that reads the screen. The voice on the bus was silent but the screen told me we were one stop from the end.

By this time I was thirsty and needed to eat. Most of the interchanges and suburbs have a small number of shops. I had tossed up whether to get off at Belconnen but thought I would wait until Fraser. We are still sitting at the penultimate stop. The driver is clapping his hands trying to catch mozzies, then he hums Bollywood sounding tunes, his turban wobblying to the rhythm. We are there for about 10 minutes. I think he has forgotten me. Finally we move and arrive at Fraser. There is nothing there; no shops, no toilets (except for bus drivers) no places to sit, just a sea of houses. I can see NSW.

I walk up to the driver to make him aware I am still there. He is surprised. He confirms there is nothing around here and tells me that he is only going back to Belconnen, not into the city, as he has to pick up a different route now. I tell him what I am doing and give him one of my cards. He asks me to say nothing bad. I assure him I never would.

I am the only person on the bus until we get to Belconnen. The driver drops me off and we part company with a cheery wave.

The Belconnen bus interchange is never boring; people, traffic, noise, colour and movement. I sit next to a woman who is crocheting yellow granny squares. I knew at some stage my two interests would collide; buses and craft, how could they not? She tells me and then shows me a larger thing she is working on with just a short tuff sticking out at the end. I ask her if she is member of the Canberra Knitters and Crocheters Facebook group I belong to and if she ever gets to a group in person. She tells me she has joined recently and loves to look at others’ work online. I go to the Tradies most Sundays and suggest she come along. She tells me she would love to but other things get in the way. She suggests that we should all wear badges or pins so we could identify each other when out and about, as it is so nice to chat to others interested in the same things. (This idea is now being investigated for our group)

Her bus arrives, and off she goes wrapping up her ball of yellow yarn and stuffing it in her bag. Maybe I should take my crochet out with me, as it gives people something to talk about.

My bus arrives shortly after and we make our way back into the city. The last week has been warm with only a little rain. The trees look like they are suffering a little with the grass browning off; only grass that is watered regularly remains green. The eucalypts all have pools of shedding bark around their base.

I finally arrive home at lunchtime, hot, tired, thirsty and a little bothered. I make a mental note to remember my hat, water bottle and snack for the next time I do such a long trip.

Modern life is confusing, but once you get things in place most things work smoothly. Until they don’t or they change.


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