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Routes 55 City to ADFA & 181 City to Lanyon Marketplace

Date: 10 October 2023

Route(s): 55 City to ADFA Loop & 181 City to Lanyon Marketplace

Sights: Lake Burley Griffin, James Cook Memorial Water Jet, Mountains

Weather: 6 - 22 C

Time taken: 6.5 hours round trip

Today is the day! I am going to finish the In Transit project of 64 bus routes in 52 weeks in the ACT. When I first dreamt this up, in the back end of 2022, I was not at all sure I would finish it. And now it is done, with a few weeks to spare!

I am not sure why these are the last two buses I have on the list, probably something to do with the haphazard way I approached this in the first place. Another reason, maybe: I have been avoiding going to ADFA. Not sure why, now I have been there.

I start my journey in the city waiting for the 55 at Platform 8. This sits in the heart of the bus interchange. The 53 to the National Museum and the 54 which takes in the War Memorial also stop here so it often has tourists. Two women dressed for a bush walk: hats, long sleeved light-weight shirts, long pants, very sturdy boots, and “Yes” stickers plastered all over their shirts, are checking both a phone and the bus timetable on the bus stop pole. The timetables changed on Monday this week (9/10) and I am not sure if the timetable on the pole has been changed with new times. I tell them this. I ask where they are headed for and we work out that the timetable is not correct. They told me they are tourists from Adelaide from a bush walking club (!). They tell me it is their free day so they are trying to do some tourist things. They are booked into a tour of Parliament House at 3.30 pm but have time to kill before then. They decide the Sculpture Garden at the National Gallery is the go and I tell them how to get there: R2 and R6 stop outside the National Library and it is only a short walk from there. They can walk up the hill (about 15 minutes) to Parliament when they need to leave. They tell me how everyone they have come across is so friendly in Canberra, so helpful. They tell me the city feels friendly, they feel safe, and the public transport system makes it so easy to get around. They leave with smiles and more thanks for the help.

I settle to wait. I just missed (by two minutes) the 55 so have at least half an hour until the next one comes. Two women, well dressed, with jumpers and coats, good looking handbags and haircuts, tailored pants sit next to me. One jumps up to look at the timetable. I explain about the change of timetables and how that one is wrong. They are waiting for a 54 to take them to the War Memorial. One of them tells me they are visiting from Brisbane (that would account for the jumpers and coats), they are leaving on Thursday. They tell me they have had such a good time; everyone is so friendly in Canberra. They tell me they have been to Floriade; it was the main reason they came. I hear disappointment in one of their voices: I ask. She tells me she was expecting more variety, she did not realise that it was going to be mainly tulips, tulips, and more tulips, but they had still had a good day there. She told me they had been to the National Gallery to see Blue Poles, the other woman said she was impressed with the Ned Kelly Series by Sidney Nolan. They had also been to the Portrait Gallery and done some shopping and were going to spend their last day at Cockington Green. I give them a little information about other attractions at Gold Creek (Reptile park, walk-in aviary, all-year Christmas shop, dinosaur museum) but nothing takes their fancy; maybe the Old George, English Pub, would be good for lunch.

We discuss how to get to the airport by bus so they do not have to spend money on an Uber, for their return journey. I tell them about the R3 that can be caught from Platform 4. They both have MyWay cards for Interstate Seniors that had been arranged before their trip. Very organised.


Ned Kelly by Sidney Nolan (1917-1992)

The Ned Kelly series of 27 paintings completed by Sidney Nolan in the years 1946-1947 cemented and built upon the mythology of the Bush Ranger Ned Kelly. The paintings were mainly completed in a time when Nolan lived with Sunday and John Reed at Heide in Victoria (Now the Museum of Modern Art). When he left to live in the UK in 1947, Nolan told Sunday

Image: Geelong Gallery

Reed to hold onto any of his paintings she wanted but later retracted this. She gave him over 200 paintings left at Heidi but kept 25 of the 27 Ned Kelly paintings for herself. A dispute between Nolan and Sunday Reed raged, by letter, and was only resolved when Reed donated the 25 paintings to the National Gallery of Australia in 1977.

The paintings follow the main narrative of the last part of Ned Kelly’s life: the gang, homemade armour, the showdown with the police and shooting of the officer, capture and trial, although Nolan interpreted the story in his own way. Nolan expresses the universal themes of love, betrayal and injustice. The series also allowed Nolan to paint the Australian landscape in new ways. The Nolan depiction of the Kelly homemade armour is now part of Australian iconography used for art, homewares, cards and decorations.

The paintings are part of a travelling exhibition from the National Gallery so more people, around Australia, have access to them.

Image: Cookie cutter from my own collection


My bus arrives and I take my leave with them offering thanks for the information and reiterating how friendly people are in Canberra. I am left wondering why interstate tourists, who are also seniors, can not just buy a Seniors MyWay card from any outlet, or even the office Transport Canberra has in the city. It really should be easier for tourists, seniors or not, to be able to use public transport.

When I board the bus I tell the driver I am going to do the whole loop and he should not worry that I don’t get off. He gives me a questioning look, shrugs his shoulders, and tells me he meets some extraordinary people on the buses. I don’t think he meant it in a complimentary way, but I am not sure so will give him the benefit of the doubt.

The bus takes a picturesque route through Reid, Campbell and Russell and finally through Duntroon, the Australian Defence Force area that offers all things to the military personnel who live and work there. The Australian Defence Force Academy (ADFA) is also housed within the perimeter.

Reid and Campbell are old suburbs in Canberra. They are well established with nice houses, some knocked down and rebuilt in a more modern style. The well maintained and established gardens now look at their best at this time of year. European deciduous trees in full leaf giving the shade they were planted for, iris, azaleas, African daisies, rhododendrons, all in full bloom with roses poised to open.

Two lads, in a school uniform I do not recognise, get on the bus. They sit up the back and watch music videos while they travel. The noise from their phone drowns the radio the driver is playing. REM, End of the World, merging into Cruel Summer by Taylor Swift. Not sure which I prefer, but sure they sound bad together.

The bus turns onto Constitution Ave to drive along next to the Central Basin of Lake Burley Griffin. This road is beautiful; lake, silver birches, and the vista to Parliament across the lake. It makes up one of the three sides of the Parliamentary Triangle, part of the Burley Griffin original plan. It is the link from the City to the Russell defence employment area and on to the airport. There is only one problem with this road: it is not made for anyone on foot or on bike. The road works wonderfully well, fast, lots to look at but if you wanted to walk from Duntroon to the Lake it is just about impossible.

From Russell Ave the bus turns into Duntroon.

I have driven past Duntroon many times but never been in. I did not realise it was so big. As well as the things inside I was not surprised by: Officer’s Mess, Cadet Mess, Parade Ground, there were other things that did surprise. Swimming pool (where the two boys got off), golf course (open to the public too), community centre (for defense families only) and a building that looked like a small hospital with “Joint Health Command” that could be military speak for hospital. As well as the communal spaces there is a great number of houses. Both public and private areas have gardens that look organised and clipped; all standing to attention.

One of the public buildings is being rebuilt; a couple of skips full to overflow with building rubble and personal detritus (soft toys, clothes, chest of drawers and photos in frames) assure me that the people that live here are people first and not just military. As the bus turns the loop back past the swimming pool, tennis courts and playground I notice a hedge maze, also clipped, no stray twigs or branches here.

Back on the road that exits Duntroon I spot a sign “Historic Duntroon Dairy”. This is thought to be the oldest standing European building in the ACT, many of the original European buildings were demolished to make way for Canberra. Built by Robert Campbell in 1896 soon after European settlement, it stands 5 m X 15 m and was built to provide milk and butter to the many people who lived on the station. Constructed of local stone and built into the side of the hill. A well was dug into a natural spring to provide cooling and water to the building. It was well situated above the flood plane of the Molonglo River.

We are nearly back in the city: the bus takes the route around the Canberra Centre into the city. Glebe Park is looking glorious with the trees, newly in leaf, and many people enjoying the sun at lunchtime.

As I get off the bus, last person as usual, the driver asks me why I wanted to make the trip. I told him about my project. The driver tells me he has driven most of the routes in the network at different times, and his favourites are the loop buses in Gungahlin. He tells me they work really well and get people to where they want to go with options on times. These buses (19, 20 & 21, 22 & 25, 26) are loops from Gungahlin centre to the outer suburbs which are the same route but different numbers according to which direction they go around the loop; clockwise or anti-clockwise. We agree all buses should be that often and work that well.

One more bus to travel and I have to wait a good hour for it as the first of four commuter buses to the south, and will arrive at 4.21pm. I kill time in the Canberra Centre looking for a suitcase.

The 181, one of the commuter buses to Lanyon Marketplace, is on time. I know this route fairly well now: out of the city over the Commonwealth Ave, onto Cotter Road, then the Tuggeranong Parkway, to the suburbs south of Tuggeranong, the 181 traversing Gordon and the edges of Condor before ending at Lanyon Marketplace.

The light is hitting the distant mountains in such a way as to illuminate the trees, each tree an individual instead of a group of green. White fluffy clouds with darker undersides hover over the peaks. It is chocolate box or jigsaw puzzle beauty. Everything looks improved in this light; the golden hour.

Most on the nearly packed bus get off around the streets of Gordon. I am the last on the bus, again. I always expect the driver to stop at the major stops, especially the last one, but I have been known to be wrong before. I have been caught by not pushing the buzzer to tell the driver I want to get off before and got to get to another place in the city by mistake. I did not get up in time to push the buzzer. The driver drove past the stop. I get to the buzzer. She thought quickly, turned around the roundabout and back to the bus stop on the other side. When she opened the doors she apologised. She told me she did not know there was anyone else on the bus, she told me there is not usually by this stage of the trip. She told me she had saved my bacon and I did not end up at the depot.

I get off, cross the road to the platform for the R5 to get back to the city. Waiting viewing the sunshine in the Golden Hour.

And that was it. 64 bus routes, in 40 weeks! As I sit on the bus returning home I reflect on what I have done, and how I did this. I could only complete the project this quickly because some of the loop routes are the same, clockwise and anti-clockwise, I did not have to do them, and I realised I did not have to limit myself to one route, there and back, in one week. Doing more than one route, especially when in the south, made the project achievable. The other half of the project, and the deeper reason I took it on, was to write regularly about something on a weekly basis. This half has been the more difficult to do. Getting on a bus, enjoying the scenery is a joy: making myself write 2000 words once a week can be a little more trying.

Now I have finished both and I feel a great sense of accomplishment. What’s next?


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