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Australia: The Land Downunder Part I

Jonathan van Bilsen



May 25, 2022

Australia: The Land Downunder Part I

Now that things seem to be opening up again, it will be nice to fulfill a few of the trips I have planned, but put on hold. Until then, it is all I can do to reminisce about recent adventures.

A few months ago, I wrote about my treacherous climb to the top of Ayers Rock, deep in the Australian outback. I received several emails, asking me to elaborate on my visit to the rest of the country. I will do that today, in an effort to bring back some greater memories. My May television show, photosNtravel, also features Australia, and is available on YouTube, for those who cannot find the listings on regular TV.

Australia has an interesting history, similar to Canada’s, as it went through a comparable settlement process. In 1788 Botany Bay was established as a convict settlement, but the sandy soil and poor water supplies would not support the community. It was relocated 15 km north; to what is now Sydney, the largest city in Australia.

In 1851 when gold was discovered in the area, Sydney’s population encountered quite a boost.  The expansion of agriculture and industry, and the construction of roads and railroads, caused this area to lead the way in the country's push for independence in the late 1880s.

I stood in awe as I stared at the magnificent opera house, an icon of the city, located on Circular Key. It took 30 years to complete, mainly due to bureaucratic arguments, but finally it opened. It is home to a center for the performing arts, with a concert hall, a music room and movie theatres.

Another landmark of the city is the Sydney Harbour bridge which opened in 1932. It was the world's widest long-span bridge, until the Port Mann Bridge in Vancouver was completed in 2012. After a lengthy view of these beautiful structures, as well as an opportunity to see an opera, I continued my trek to one of Sydney’s best-known beaches.

 Bondi Beach is probably Australia’s most famous beach, not only for being a topless bathing area, but also because its semicircular shape has frequently been described as a perfect beach. The sunshine was amazing, but sunscreen is a definite must.

I had an opportunity to visit a wildlife park and was greeted by a very hungry koala.  These cute little marsupials tend to spend up to 16 hours a day sleeping, mostly due to their intoxicating diet of eucalyptus leaves.

I left beautiful Sydney and travelled to Australia’s capital city of Canberra, located about three hours south. I stopped at the small town of Berrima, best known for having the oldest pub in the country. The village is a tourist spot, complete with its quaint general store and many interesting shops, and well worth the visit.

Canberra received its name from an Aboriginal word for meeting place. The planned city was developed by Walter Burley Griffin, and its geometrical design can best be appreciated from atop one of the three hilltop lookouts which surround the city. One of the most prominent features of Griffin’s design is now the sight of the parliamentary triangle, with the new Parliament House as its apex.

A visit to the Australian war memorial was very moving. Australia has participated in nine wars, since colonial troops were first sent to New Zealand in 1850, to put down the Maori Wars. Australians have given their lives in faraway places such as Sudan, the South Africa and South Vietnam.  

After visiting Canberra, I returned to Sydney and  drove to the airport for the journey to my next destination, Cairns, located in FNQ or Far North Queensland. I will cover this fantastic area in next month’s edition of Focus Magazine, as this continent country is far too vast to explore in one article.

Jonathan van Bilsen’s photosNtravel TV show can be watched on RogersTV and YouTube. To follow Jonathan’s travel adventures visit

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