Thursday, October 18, 2007

Visit to Canberra

I had to fly to Canberra today for work reasons. You see we're introducing a new training management computer program and one of my roles will be the state coordinator of this system. So myself and a colleague from each state were scheduled to travel to our national office in Canberra to be trained in the new system. My wife asked me to take some photos so I thought I'd share them with you. For those of you who aren't already aware Canberra is the capital city of Australia.

It's 1268km (788 miles) by road from where I live in Brisbane to Canberra which would take approximately 16 hours to drive. Thankfully it's only a 90 minute flight. I've only been to Canberra once before and that was in 1987 to attend a gaming convention called CanCon.

Brisbane airport - my plane, a Qantas Boeing 737-400

So I was up at 4.00am after a total of only 4 hours sleep due to a sick little Georgia coughing for most of the night. My plane was scheduled to depart at 6.10am and I arrived at the airport at around 5.30am. As I passed through security I dropped my hand luggage on the x-ray conveyor belt and passed through the metal detector without any alarms going off. As I was picking up my bag I was approached by a female security person who advised me I'd been randomly selected for an explosives check. She waved what appeared to be some electronic sensor (an explosives 'sniffer' I assume) over my body. She then pressed a sticky tape on the end of a tool on to several areas of my bag. After that she peeled off the sticky tape and ran it through a machine. After an all clear I was on my way.

The view out my window of the pacific ocean far below

I would have loved to catch up on some sleep as we flew south along the east coast of Australia but unfortunately I find it difficult to sleep on planes. Instead I read a book - Prisoner 1167 - The Madman Who Was Jack the Ripper by J.C.H. Tully which I'd picked up 2nd hand at a school fete a year or so ago but had never read. It's an interesting read in which the author tries to link James Kelly, a paranoid schizophrenic who escaped from Broadmoor asylum, to the Jack the Ripper murders in the latter half of 1888. I was so engrossed in the gruesome details of the murders that the 90 minute flight flew by and before I knew it we were commencing our descent into Canberra. After landing I caught a taxi to my destination and managed to take some quick photos along the way.

We like to point out to tourists that Canberra is our national capital - not Sydney

Did you know that Canberra was the sister city of Nara, Japan? - No, neither did I

Lake Burley Griffin with Parliament House in the distance

If you look in the distance past Lake Burley Griffin you'll see Australia's Parliament House. See the white building in the center foreground on the other side of the lake? That's not it. Parliament house is the white building behind that with the 81 metre flag pole. Incidentally, the Australian flag flown atop that flag pole measures 12.8m by 6.4m which is about the size of half a tennis court.

The Telstra Tower on the summit of Black Mountain

We (meaning the taxi driver and myself) passed the Telstra Tower (AKA the Black Mountain Tower) on the way to Belconnen where our office is situated. The Tower, rising 195 metres above the mountain summit, is not only a landmark in Canberra but also offers panoramic views of the city and its surrounding countryside from a viewing platform or from the Towers revolving restaurant.

Almost there!

Belconnen is situated to the north-west of Canberra's city centre and surrounds Lake Ginninderra. As I had a little time to kill before the training session I decided to stop at Westfield Belconnen which is a large shopping centre only a couple of blocks from our national office.

Any game stores I wonder?

The first thing I did was check out the game stores in the shopping centre. Unfortunately all they had was a Toys R Us.

But do they have any Heroscape expansions?

I've recently bought the game Heroscape and frustratingly I can't find any of its expansions anywhere locally. Apparently Hasbro, the makers of Heroscape, are no longer distributing to Australia. I was hoping that this particular store would still have some expansions left. Alas, for after some searching, I was again disappointed.

After that I headed to the office. I won't bore you with the details of this suffice to say that I sat in a computer training room for 4 hours with 9 other people learning the complexities of the new program.

I decided to get out of the office at lunch time, so I walked a couple of blocks back past Westfield Belconnen to the shores of Lake Ginninderra where I found a nice spot to eat my lunch and read my book.

A relaxing half hour by the shores of Lake Ginninderra

If you're wondering about the photo above, no, I didn't ask someone to take a picture of me, I simply set my camera on the rock wall and pressed the timer button. That explains the odd angle. It was a beautiful day, not too hot and not too cool. What I really enjoyed was the lack of humidity in the air. Brisbane is often very humid during the warmer months but Canberra is more southerly and also inland so it's much drier. After eating my sandwiches and reading more of the awful murders which occurred in Whitechapel in 1888 I headed back to the office.

I struggled to keep awake through the afternoon session but before I knew it I was heading back to the airport by taxi to catch my flight home. Unfortunately my flight was booked for 5.45pm and I arrived at about 3.30pm. That meant I had about 2 hours to kill. I decided to head up to the departure gate to see if I could catch an earlier flight. This time as I was passing through security I followed the same procedure as the morning. I placed my bag on the conveyor belt while I walked through the metal detector. There were two metal detectors and just like in one of those 'Choose Your Own Adventure' books I chose the left one. I must have chosen incorrectly because the metal detector beeped and I was directed by security personnel to take off my shoes and pass through again. This time my shoes went for a ride through the x-ray machine while I again passed through the metal detector. Thankfully on this occasion there was no beep so I picked up my bag and put my shoes back on. It must have been the metal eyelets on my shoes which had set off the metal detector.

I checked to see if I could get on an earlier flight but they were fully booked. With a couple of hours until my flight I decided to head back past security to the lounge area where I bought a coffee and read some more of my book.

Come the time to pass through security again I chose the right walk-through metal detector. I must have chosen correctly because, bizarrely, that metal detector did not pick up the metal in my shoes and I walked through without any hassles.

By this time I was feeling pretty tired. It had been a long day and I always find training sessions to be quite draining. I still couldn't sleep on the plane so I just read. The plane touched down in Brisbane about 7.20pm and I caught a taxi and was home just before 8.00pm.

The sunset looking west out of the left side of the plane at about 6.30pm


iain.triffitt said...

This is the worse possible time to mention it but "Alice's Bookstore" which is in a building next to Westfield Belconnen often carries old Avalon Hill games and the like. (as well as role-playing stuff, miniatures, etc.)

I haven't been there in ages though, but it's probably the first place to look for something gamerish in Canberra (there's also Mind Games in Civic, but that's more expensive than any other game store I've been to.)

Ozvortex said...

Thanks Iain, I'll remember to check out Alice's Bookstore if I'm ever in Canberra again. I was aware of the Mind Games store in Civic but after checking out their online price list the night before I flew, I decided to give them a miss. Some of their prices are pretty outrageous. For example, Heroscape: The Rise of the Valkyrie is selling at Toys R Us nationally for $89.99 (which I thought was pretty expensive), and Mind Games are selling it for $120.00! I can get the same set for only $29.99 at local toy store in Brisbane. Cheers, Wayne.

Shingo said...

Funny.. I made the exact same trip from Brisbane to Canberra just last week.. I had job interview and after not being in Canberra for 7 years I started to wonder around civic and much to my joy found Mind Games there. Selection there was pretty amazing and it was just worse it to see the actual game in my hand. They also had nice display of all the SdJ winners from the very first to the last. That was definitely nice to see. I used to live in belconnen and didn't get there in my trip but it was nice to see it in your photo. Thanx and hope to see you one day to game.

Ozvortex said...

A display of all the SdJ winners from the first to the most recent? Wow! I'm sorry I didn't have time to check it out. You go to Critical Mass don't you? If so, I may catch up with you there one day for a game. Always great to hear from another gamer in Brisbane. Cheers, Wayne.