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Routes 32 Belconnen to City, 70 & 71 Woden to Tuggeranong

Date: 15 August 2023

Route: 32, 70 and 71

Sights: Belconnen tower blocks, Brindabellas

Weather: 2 to 14 C

Time taken: 6.5 hours round trip including lunch and a one hour wait for return 32!

I made the decision, a while ago, that every time I went to Tuggeranong I would try to do more than one bus in a day. Tuggeranong, while not geographically that far from the centre of Canberra, is much further by bus. Google maps tells me it is just over 24kms. In a car this would take a little over 20 minutes, but by bus it can take hours. My aim was to get to Tuggers, as it is known locally, to catch the 70, taking in Kambah, Cooleman Court and on to Woden. The 71, same bus route which diverges on Drakeford Drive to cover the other side of Kambah, the biggest suburb in the ACT, would take me back to Tuggeranong. To take in another bus trip I opt for the 32 from Belconnen to the City.

It is easy to get to Belconnen from our place; a number of buses do the route. I wait for the first one to turn up. R9 will take a slightly faster route to Belconnen. When I get to the city I will have to take a route directly to Tuggernong, most of which I have done. I will see which bus is arriving first and get that one. That is the plan!

I get to Belconnen without any fuss. At Westfield I work out which platform to be on; there are only two but I still manage to stuff it up on a regular basis. A man with a beanie, pulled down over his ears, under a bike helmet, backpack and bike is waiting at the front of the ill-formed queue. He is talking a mixture of quick Spanish and English. First I think he is talking to himself. I look for earbuds. None to be seen, he has a beanie covering his ears. No phone in hand, maybe it is in the backpack? It was not that long ago that when I saw people talking to themselves I would steer clear, walk the other way, not make eye contact, but now everyone looks like they are talking to themselves when they have earbuds and a concealed phone.

His bus arrives and he lifts the bike, with little effort onto the bike rack at the front, still talking his rapid Spanglish.

A young woman with short skirt, boots and a sweatshirt gets off. She has a dragon tattoo on her left shin. Her sweatshirt has “Keep Smiling” emblazoned on it. She is not smiling, on a mission, head down walking purposefully towards the shopping centre entrance. The bus she got off is covered in an ad, one of those I dislike. It is black with gold writing declaring “Canberrability”. Gold hexagons make up part of the design. It is not clear what the company is or does but the advert on the bus obscures all the windows and doors.

It is a chilly morning and waiting for the 32 which is now 7 minutes late, has caused my feet to go numb. The other platform has four buses all turn up at the same time only just fitting into the long platform. All Rapid buses; 3, 4 and two 2s. In the days when I lived in London and would wait at bus stops for a bus to turn up (no way to check timetables or apps on phones in those days) there was a joke that buses would always turn up in threes.

When the bus arrives three of us get on. The driver, with a royal blue turban, greets us. The man in the seat in front is rubbing his hands together; one of his fingers is completely white. We are whisked away through the suburbs of Macquarie, Cook and Aranda. The wattle is noticeable: all is not what it seems in the suburbs,

The most prolific of the wattles in the ACT at this time is the Cootamundra Wattle. In its natural habitat, an area of NSW only about 50kms in radius, it looks stunning, but it has escaped this nature boundary and been planted in domestic settings due to its hardiness (it does not mind a frost), its longevity (will last longer than most wattles before it turns up its toes), and it grows fast (great for new gardens). Problem is, this tree has escaped its domestic setting and taken a hold on most of the wetter areas of Australia, New Zealand, California and South Africa. It is now considered a weed in Victoria, parts of NSW, the ACT, and SA. The stunning display each tree gives us at this time of year covers the fact that it displaces other wattle species that are native to these areas. I look at the wattle with new eyes.

The bus has many passengers; each of the double seats has at least one person on it, with a couple of school students choosing to stand. One man who got on shortly after Belconnen is having a video call with another man. He gets animated at one stage, his English lapsing into Hindi. The man on the other end of the call finishes it. The passenger calls back straight away, contrite in both English and Hindi, Hindlish?

We pass down Barry Drive with its views of the mountains. Many of the passengers get off at ANU, including the man, who is still on the phone and still apologising. We arrive in the city.

The R5 is the first bus to go to Woden or Tuggeranong so I get that. This bus takes the direct route with no stops between Albert Hall and Lyons. A quick trip.

I wait for the 71 at Woden to head to Tuggeranong. Many people at the bus interchange have green and gold scarves showing their support for the Matildas soccer team who have made it through to the semifinals of the Women’s World Cup. Even the two punks: black leather jackets, piercings and torn tights, have scarves.


The Australian Women’s Soccer team, known as the Matildas or Tillies for affection, take their name from the song Waltzing Matilda, a bush ballad sometimes referred to as the unofficial national anthem.

The Women’s Soccer World Cup is being played in venues across Australia and New Zealand. The Matildas hold the hopes of a nation. The whole country has gone mad for soccer and the team. We know all their names, who they play for in their domestic games and all about Sam Kerr’s injury. We held our collective breath with the penalty shoot out against France in the quarter final. In a country where oval balls, rugby and AFL dominate, we have all learnt about the off-side rule, even though we are still puzzled by it.

The Matildas or any other team who are playing in the World Cup are not allowed to play on the hallowed grounds of the MCG, in Melbourne, as the AFL bodies that be, and Channel 7 who hold the rights to show the games, blocked the use of the venue, but the match against England was played at Stadium Australia in Sydney with two other venues being booked out for supporters to watch the match on big screens. All capital cities around the country have outdoor venues where people can gather to watch, including Canberra. Garema Place has been decked out with a big screen, temporary toilets, bean-bag seating and yellow and green decorations.

The Matildas had high hopes going into this tournament and they brought the rest of the country along with them: they have tapped into something in the national psyche. Women’s sport is having a moment. Women’s AFL, rugby, both types, and the netball (World Cup played in South Africa July/August 2023, Australian Diamonds won) is now reported on as part of the sports section of news bulletins. There is the suggestion of a public holiday if they win the whole tournament. There is no doubt the women are incredible athletes. There is debate that the women should be paid as much as the men are professionally. I have no doubt the women should be paid, they are professionals who do a professional job and should be paid for the job they do but I think the men should be paid what the women are. When the WAFL started holding league matches people flocked in droves to watch. The games were held at smaller ovals, people attended with their families, many generations. It reminds them of how footy used to be before the AFL turned into the monolithic business it is today.

We, as a nation, have got behind the Tillies because it gives us the same feeling. The players, against all odds, both professionally and personally, are there, playing a game they love. We want them to win, of course we do, it connects us to each other and reminds us of something we once had.

Note: The Matildas lost the semi final against England (The Lionesses) 3 - 1 and will now play against Sweden for the playoff third and fourth places.


As we pass the Phillip Fire and Rescue Station the trucks are all out having a wash. In Victoria the trucks are red, and known as BRTs (Big Red Trucks). I wonder what these large vehicles are called here; they are neon yellow.

As we head to Fisher I can see the Brindabellas. Fisher is hilly. We pass Cooleman Ridge, a place I have heard of but not known where it was located. The bus heads down Marconi Court to do the right-hand side loop of Kambah. For a suburb this size I do not feel it is very well serviced by public transport. For anyone living on the part near Wanniassa it would be a long walk to the nearest bus stop. We drive across Drakeford Drive, the wide road that intersects the suburb heading towards Greenway. Lake Tuggeranong is still today. It is cold but there is no wind.


Kambah is the largest suburb of the ACT. Gazetted in 1973 and settled the following year it was not laid out in the same neighbourhood framework as the rest of the ACT. The shops sit on one edge, not in the middle, and it is filled with large detached single-storey dwellings. There is no medium or high density housing and

The Woolshed at Kambah Homestead. Image National Archives

no tower-blocks. The name was taken from the homestead. The streets are named after pioneers, except the streets in the Gleneagles Estate which are named after golfers and courses.


I have over 30 minutes before the 70 arrives so dip into the shopping centre for a coffee. This place is deserted. Most of the shoppers are elderly; so many wheely walkers. The cafe at the entrance has closed since the last time I was here, another is closed for a revamp. That leaves the soulless place in the confluence of the arms of the centre; sterile with abrupt staff. Not my first but it is my only choice today.

As I am waiting for the 70 the magpies swoop the peewees and the superb blue wrens; they want to keep the territory for themselves and have any food tidbits left on seats or pavement. Two teenage boys are playing around on scooters that look way too small for their lanky height. A man runs past with two more behind, then a policeman. The man is outrun by the police; all are heading for something around the corner out of my sightline. The boys on scooters take off after the running crowd. A police car turns up, then another, the boys head back the other way. Maybe they have been told to clear off? Maybe there is nothing much to see?

I get on the bus, I am the only passenger. The bus driver is singing along to some heavy-metal-sounding dirge. We head up Drakeford Drive, back past the lake, where I spot two black swans gliding on the surface. We cross Athllon Drive, the main route to the south and the longest consonant cluster, and head back into Kambah the other side of Drakeford Drive. The houses look the same as on the first ride; large with established gardens. I spy a sign for Kambah Pool, a spot on my places to visit list.


Located on the Murumbidgee River, Kambah Pool is a natural pool which is a popular swimming and fishing hole. It is closed at the moment to protect the Peregrin Falcons and their young. The area caters for walkers, bird watchers and nature lovers including those who like to go naked.

Image: Kambah Pool from Wayfarer website


We get to Woden. I thank the driver as I tap off. He tells me there are faster ways to get to Woden from Tuggers. I tell him I know, and about my project. He has driven very well; not too fast, not heavy on the brakes, waited for older people to sit before he accelerates. I tell him. He tells me he has 17 years of experience driving so knows he does it well. I am not sure about his choice of music but don’t tell him that.

Now I have a choice. I want to get the 32 to do the return leg of the trip. I can take a number of buses to the City from here and opt for the first one that turns up, the R4. The trip goes smoothly with nothing to do but stare out of the window and take it all in.

I see the 32 I was aiming for leaving its stop as I am making my way there. I have an hour to wait until the next one! Once an hour is not really a bus service but a bus obligation. I sit and wait. I am very glad the sun has come out and I am sitting in it.

When I finally get to Belconnen a bus heading back to Dickson is waiting. It really has been a long day.


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