top of page

Routes 78 Tuggeranong to Chisholm Shops & 79 Tuggeranong to Calwell Shops

Date: 26 September 2023

Route(s): 78 Tuggeranong to Chisholm Shops & 79 Tuggeranong to Calwell Shops

Sights: Mountains

Weather: 6 - 24 C

Time taken: 6 hours round trip

This week is the first of two weeks of the Spring school holidays. Some of the universities have one week's break and many people are off work to look after their offspring. This means there are fewer cars on the roads, more people in the city (attending activities and Floriade) and more people on public transport. I see many grandparents with school-aged children in their charge taking the tram and getting on buses.

I set off at just gone 9am (I do not get charged on my Seniors Card if it is off-peak time) and arrive at the tram stop as the packed tram is arriving. I get to Alinga Street to find the correct bus stop (platform 4) and the R4 pulls up. My timing, so far, has been impeccable. The ride to Tuggeranong, to get either the 78 or 79, takes 45 minutes. We go via Woden Temporary Interchange where most passengers get off. The rest of us stay on to Tuggeranong.

At this point my good timing leaves me; I see the 79 turning the corner to exit the interchange. I check Next There to find the next bus I want is 55 minutes away. Time for some shopping.

Shopping tasks done (two pairs of summer PJs for the child who is still at home and two t-shirts for the husband) I return to the bus interchange.

This interchange is a little grim. It does not improve with better weather. It looks dark and cluttered. Seven platforms cramped together with glass bus shelters as well as seats. To add to this mess a number of shopping trolleys have been left as the people using them have boarded their buses. Some have been attached together but most are at strange angles to the rest of the straight lines. Passengers making their way from the shops have to push them out of the way to get to a seat.

Two men, both wearing old and disheveled clothes arrive to take up one of the yellow seats. They each have a shopping bag. They are sharing a bottle of Johnny Walker. They are discussing, in an animated way, which would be the best, and easiest way, to their destination. One of them starts to re-arrange his bag taking out the contents to re-stack it in the bag. He pulls out a cocktail glass shaped like a pineapple, a couple of novels (I am too far away to see the titles), a book of Sudoku puzzles and a small ornamental cat sitting on a deck chair. He is very pleased with this last purchase and admires it before it goes back in the Coles insulated bag. He does this just in time as their bus arrives and they bundle all the purchases, including the Johnny Walker, with lid on, into their arms and board the 70.

I still have 10 minutes or so before the 78 or 79 (they are both scheduled at the same time) arrive. The information board tells me the 78 is called the Richardson Loop. This is not indicated on the bus map I have, nor on the information on Next There. The bus finishes at Chisholm Shops according to the map but I am now not sure if the bus will just turn around or will make everyone get off. I know, from previous experience of the Gungahlin bus routes, if it says “loop” there is every chance the bus will just keep going. I ask.

An older woman with a purple shopping trolley tells me she thinks it does come straight back. “Where else would it go?” she asks herself. She tells me she gets off at Richardson and knows the bus goes onto Chisholm but she could not imagine it would stay there. She tells me she has lived in Canberra since 1963. She tells me her husband was in the navy so he would go around the world and she would go around the shops but wanting to stay in one place. She tells me she is on her own now and Canberra is such a lovely place to live because everyone is so friendly, up for a chat, and when you are on your own it is good to talk to others. A Transport Canberra man walks past us. I ask him if the 78 does a loop. He tells us both yes, but then asks why I would want to go to Richardson, there is nothing there, he knows, he lives there. You will only want to come back again, he finishes with. That is why I wanted to know if it was a loop route I tell him. We all laugh. The man moves away, the older woman tells me the bus will be here in 5 minutes. She tells me she is anxious to get home before the storm she has been watching on the weather radar hits. She tells me her cat hates thunder and has found a way to open the door to the linen press to hide in the towels. She tells me storms are the only time the cat does this. She tells me how she loves to get the bus because she looks at all the gardens and how they are managed. She tells me she gave away her lawn mower so she was not tempted to use it as it was too much for her now. She tells me she pays for someone, a young lad, to do the lawn once every two weeks. She tells me this gives her someone regular to have a conversation with too.

The 78 arrives; a bendy bus. The older woman sits at the front and I make my way to the back so I can be higher and see more. It feels a long way from the driver.

This area of Tuggeranong was first gazetted in 1975. The estates soon followed. The houses and gardens look established and well cared for; a pride is taken in them. We pass a high hedge with windows cut in it; to see out or in? A garden with a large ash tree covered in hanging baskets with newly planted petunias takes my attention. I think it is a little early to plant summer flowers but they seem to be doing well. The tree once in full leaf will give protection from frosts.

The weather has been unusually warm over the last couple of weeks; a few degrees above the average. An El Nino weather pattern was declared on Monday warning us of the hot and dry weather to come.


Image: ABC

Hundreds of years ago Peruvian fishermen first noticed the warm currents that would appear near South America and disrupt fishing and their livelihoods. It would also trigger heavy rainfall. They named it El Nino de Navidad, the Boy of Christmas, as it would appear near the end of December. They had identified the biggest driver of climate change. Now shortened to just El Nino, the name describes the weather in the Pacific that affects more than half the world.

In normal years the trade winds push warm seawater to the western Pacific cooling the eastern side. The result is warm humid air near the equator north of Australia creating thick tropical clouds and rainfall. (Rainy season in the topend). During an El Nino year the pool of warm water is pushed eastwards. This warm water changes the trade winds, sometimes even reversing them. This, in turn, stops the water from South America being pushed westward and weakens the trade winds; setting up a self reinforcing weather pattern that can last up to 12 months.

Under an El Nino weather pattern Peru gets a lot more rain in the Andres and Australian eastern states get a lot less. Drought conditions are common and can last for years (Millennium Drought 1997-2010). These conditions also mean the higher risk of extreme weather days (40 C plus) and bush fires.

For the last three years Australia has been in a La Nina weather pattern. This is the opposite of El Nino, with above average rainfall, floods and cooler temperatures across the eastern states of Australia. (Highest temperature in Canberra summer 2022-2023: 35 C)

It is these three years of high rain fall that account for the green landscape we have all become accustomed to. The hills around Canberra and the whole of the Great Dividing Range down the eastern seaboard are green.

El Nino and La Nina are not “normal” weather patterns but we are experiencing more of both with climate change.


Another garden that catches my eye is filled with cacti; large and small. Some of the larger prickly pears are contained in huge terracotta pots, others, looking like a cowboy movie set, planted straight into the ground. The area around the cacti is covered in small stones ranging in colour from yellow to brown, giving the whole garden a desert look. A small black cat sits under one of the large cacti.

The BMX pump track outside Chisholm Primary School is being used by four small boys with motorbike helmets on. An adult looks on but does not intervene when one of the boys falls off. He gets up, hops back on the bike and off on the track again.

Once heading back to Bonython the bus stops several times with no one getting on or off. It must be early. We return to Tuggeranong. I get off one bus and onto another. My timing is back.

The 79 is on time. This is not a loop bus so I will have to wait at Calwell for the return journey. Two women get on in front of me. One older with purple hair and a matching purple trolley, the other younger with big headphones. She has a phone in her hand that is playing loud discordant music I do not recognise. The head-phones not plugged in. They are together and talk to each other above the noise emanating from the phone.


Arthur Calwell 1896 - 1973

Born in Melbourne, Calwell joined the ALP after serving as a public service union rep. He won a seat at the 1940 election and was promoted to the Minister for Information after the 1943 election.

Under Ben Chifley (PM 1945 - 1949) he moved to become Minister of Immigration. Calwell became party leader in 1960 overseeing three general elections and losing each one. He took a stand against the Vietnam War, which was not popular with the electorate. He was challenged for the leadership in 1966 by Gough Whitlam but survived. He also survived an attempt on his life the same year. He resigned the leadership shortly after, but stayed a member in parliament until 1972 seeing Whitlam become prime minister.

Image: Wikipedia


As we pass the Enid Lyons Building groups of public servants are spilling out of the building crossing the road and heading out for lunch. It is gone midday and still no sign of a storm but some have a cautionary umbrella. I hear thunder but there is no evidence of rain. Purple woman and her companion get off the bus about four stops from Tuggeranong. They sit on the seat at the bus stop as soon as they alight. Waiting for another bus? Or just gathering energy to walk up the hill? It is hilly in these parts. The upside being many of the houses have fine views to the mountains. Driving here must be a delight: catching glimpses of the mountains in all their moods. Today huge white clouds puff up from the tips, looking as if they are being pushed from something unseen below.

The bus stops at Calwell Shops. Housing a Woolworths, and a suite of medical surgeries: eyes, GPs, chemist and pathology, the entryway gives many printed instructions to read before I get in. “No grass on your shoes from playing football, of any kind. It is dangerous”. “Calwell Shopping Centre is Private Property”. Opening hours. Directory. It is not the most pleasant of places. Signage is in overload on the interior too. “This way to medical suites”. “This way to grog shop”. There is a Vietnamese bakery and a good looking butchers, with a queue, but the remainder of the shops, including the cafe and take away place, located in the main foyer area, look sad.

I am happy to wait at the bus stop for a few minutes for the next bus, I do not feel the need to explore what the Calwell Shopping Centre has to offer.

On the return journey I notice how many irises there are in the gardens: Dutch, flag and bearded all make an appearance in this suburb. They come in a variety of colours; yellow, mauve, white, but purple seems to be the dominant theme. Iris must have been the in vogue bulb at the time of the gardens being developed. They are hardy, long lived and beautiful; stunning as a single plant or en masse. What’s not to like?

Getting back into the city via the R4 is uneventful. I am happy just to sit and stare out of the window watching the busyness of others.


bottom of page