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Routes 74, 75 and 77

Date: 23 May 2023

Route: 74, 75 Tuggeranong to Tuggeranong

Sights: None

Weather: -4 to 15. Foggy start clearing to sun

Time taken: 6.5 hours including lunch in City with a friend.

We have had a run of cold foggy starts to the day that clear to sun. Today is one of those days. The frost covering the oval opposite our apartment is apparent when I wake. The view towards Gungahlin has been obliterated by the fog. Most cars and all the buses have headlights on, giving a wave of diffused light moving, as one, down Northbourne Ave. As the traffic lights change they come to a halt, then move again when the lights allow.

The recent windy days we have had mean many more of the trees are now in their winter nudity. Carpets of red and brown leaves sit beneath the trees that line the lake. Mulching lawnmowers shredding the leaves move around the tree trunks leaving neat circles of brown lines.

As I have nothing else planned today I decide Tuggeranong is the place to head to. It will need time. Most places in Canberra can be easily reached in 20 minutes, by car. To get to Tuggers, as it is known locally, I will have to give about an hour of my time; tram into the city then a bus to Tuggeranong, even the R4, the bus I get, takes a good 45 minutes and that was without the 12 minute wait for the bus to begin with. The bus I plan to take, 74, does a loop from the bus interchange through the Tuggeranong suburbs and then back to the interchange. The same route is taken by the 75 but it travels in the other direction.

When I first came to Australia I did not bring a coat; testament to beliefs I had that it would not be cold here; too much watching Neighbours, I think. I did not own a coat for many years as I went everywhere in a car; from home to school, to the shops, to friends. The only time I walked was around a shopping centre or going for a walk that would only be undertaken in more clement weather. This changed when we moved to country Victoria and our youngest took up Aussie Rules Footy. This is a winter sport and watching was required. The Footy did not last but the coat I purchased did. The next coat purchase was for living in Yorkshire in 2016, and another for a visit in 2019. I now own two coats; one a light weight puffer jacket, one a bigger, longer puffer jacket. Gloves, beanie and scarves are necessary in this Canberra climate and imperative for the amount of outdoor incidental walking I do. I hate having cold hands, neck, and feet. Thermal tights and socks are also a necessity, especially on long bus trips; the buses are not always warm.

I know people reading this will think I am a weather wimp, and I am. Gone totally soft; forgotten how to huddle as I walk and hate the cold, and grey days always lead to morose feelings.

Tuggeranong is one of the original areas gifted by NSW to the capital territory. Its name derives from the Ngunnawal name for ‘Cold Place’. Once the capital was established the names that were already in use remained: Tuggeranong, Isabella Plains (after Isaacs, infant daughter), Lanyon. The land was transferred to the capital territory in 1911 but not gazetted until 1966 when the plans for the fifth ACT city were complete. New dwellings built in the early 1970s housed families. The blocks are big, big enough for a sizable three bedroom place, garden. Schools, shops and churches followed. Known locally as ‘Nappyville’ because of the high number of families with young children. The suburbs are all situated in garden city like planning; walking tracks under roads, parkland, and stunning views framed by the landscaping towards the Brindabellas. Planned earlier than Gungahlin it has a totally different feel. Less medium density housing, very few apartments or multi-dwelling blocks. Planned when car was king and everyone wanted a family home, with a mother at home to do the domestic work, including gardening. Not much thought to the future. These suburbs now have multi-generational families living in them, (many cars outside one house is evidence of this) with the younger people not able to buy in this area, or any other.

None of this can be seen easily today due to the fog. As the bus moves through a tunnel of fog all I get are views of the gardens, cars parked in driveways and street trees. Lake Tuggeranong is only visible through the mist when it lifts slightly. A lone kayaker dips his oars into the still water, sending ripples across the lake. A cormorant dries its outstretched wings while sitting on a rock. Both paddler and bird do not seem worried by the fog; maybe they know it is lifting.

The bus driver is listening to a radio station playing 80s hits; the Police singing Every Breath You Take followed by Boom Town Rats I Don’t Like Mondays. He knows all the words. As he stops to let more passengers on I can see his head bopping around, hands tapping out the time. Cheery ‘Good mornings’ to all new passengers. It makes the day more glorious when the bus driver is happy.

As we head around Gilmore I notice the street names: Louisa Lawson Cres, May Maxwell Cres, Aronson Cres. I have to wait until I return home to look up the suburb name and who it was named after. This page also gave me the theme for the suburb; writers, journalists, particularly women. I had not heard of many of these women, even though Mary Gilmore features on the $10 note. I know that there are far fewer suburbs named after women in the ACT (81 named after men, 11 after women and 27 held original name or describes place; Canberra Airport)

Mary Gilmore (1865 - 1962) was a prolific writer who ran away with William Lane and 200 others to start the New Australian Colony in Paraguay in 1893 only to return, with the others, nine years later when things did not turn out as they expected. Socialist Utopia it was not, even though the land had been gifted to them by the Paraguay government who wanted more white settlers. On her return, Gilmore wrote for newspapers, published poetry and novels. Her hardline left wing views made her unpopular with many but she was awarded Order of British Empire making her a Dame in 1937. The first person to receive this honour for literature.

Zara Aronson (1864 - 1944) also a writer, journalist. Her life was not as exciting as Gilmore’s but she did get around a bit. Born in NSW she was taken, by her family, to Europe to be educated in Yorkshire and Germany, before returning to NSW at the completion of her education. She described herself as an ‘editress’ in a letter to Miles Franklin (another Australian female writer), who she was apologising to, for misspelling her name as ‘Francklin’.

I wonder about Lousia Lawson and May Maxwell Crescents. I feel the first name of these women had to be added or there would be an assumption that the street was named after their more famous male relatives, or famous men with the same name. Louisa Lawson was mother of Henry Lawson, poet, and May Maxwell could be mistaken for a relative of Glenn Maxwell, cricket player. I also wonder if the people in this suburb know about the streets’ names, and the women they were named after.

There is a sameness to these streets; houses and gardens built on crescents looking similar. Houses with different finishes or that are oriented a different way stand out, but most are a variation of brick veneer, three bedrooms and one or two garage doors. All on large blocks with little distinction.

We arrive back at the Tuggeranong bus interchange in bright sunshine. The mountains that have become visible can not be seen from the interchange. There is nothing lovely about this place; glass bus shelters, benches, bad paving, and many dead leaves whipped round in swirls by the wind tunnel created by the buildings. It does not feel good here, I am sure it would feel even worse at night. Three learner buses pull in, one after another, each trying to park in the big bays. One bus has a bike on the rack on the front, that would make it more tricky to park in smaller or tight spots. I hope they do not take wrong turns in the sameness of the suburbs.

Transport Canberra is recruiting over 100 new drivers. The bus drivers did not work one day this week to allow them time to attend a meeting about their Enterprise Bargain. Hopefully, more drivers and better pay will mean more buses, especially at the weekends. One every two hours on a Sunday is not good enough.

There are a number of ways that I could get back into the city but decide to take a bus to Woden, not the most direct route, to tick off another bus trip on my list. While I wait I watch a woman feeding her sandwich crusts to one magpie. Another turns up for a look. By the time she has finished her sandwich there are 12 magpies warbling, hopping about and looking very interested in what she had in her bag.

The Australian magpie is native to Australia, and Papua New Guinea. Named after the European Magpie, it has its own genus and is not closely related to any European bird. They sing many different songs and live in family groups. They are also known for the aggression they show when they have young in the nest, swooping anyone or thing that feels like a threat. Riding a bike during magpie swooping season can be hazardous. Cycling helmets become a must and they are often adorned with large painted eyes on the back or have zip ties threaded through the holes in the top to stick out to protect the wearer. During the ten years from 1866, 1000 Australian magpies were introduced to New Zealand. They have displaced native birds and are now considered to be a pest.

Route 77 turns up right on time according to Next There and I hop on, the only person on the bus. We head back into the suburbs I have just emerged from. No one else gets on the bus. By the time we reach the Canberra Hospital we have picked up a few people, some in hospital uniform, in Isaacs and O’Malley. The driver is very attentive to the needs of the passengers. He waits until each person is seated before he sets off. He takes his time getting over the speed humps in the suburban streets. He greets his passengers. He does not have a heavy foot on the brake or the accelerator when the traffic lights are about to change.

We get to Woden Temporary Interchange. The wide spaces, newly painted shipping containers and maps on the walls are far more inviting than the Tuggeranong interchange. I notice more people are using the pedestrian crossing. As I leave the bus I stop by the driver to compliment him on his driving. I hand him one of my cards, so he can read this. He looks so pleased I have taken the time to tell him what a good driver he is. He tells me it has made his day, and he will tell his wife. He tells me he loves his job and always tries to do the best he can. He tells me he likes it when people notice.

I find out which of the bus platforms I should be at. This is often the most difficult bit of any journey I make, often get it wrong and so miss buses. I use the pedestrian crossing to another platform even though it takes longer than just cutting across the road. I figure if the time has been taken to put it there, it should be used. I head for the platform with the R4 and R5. I see a friend sitting at the stop. She is surprised to see me. She asks me if I am on a bus trip, I tell her I am done and heading home. She suggests lunch in the city, I agree.


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