Our 2014 Canberra Trip got off to a very different but certainly a flying start. For the entire Worongary history of Canberra Excursions we had travelled by bus for nearly 18 hours to reach our destination. This year we were flying and were we ever excited about this new mode of transport.
So it was with great excitement that we checked ourselves in to the Jetstar counter, made our way through security even with the odd random explosives tests and got ready to head to Sydney. For some of us this was our first time on a plane and we certainly enjoyed the wonderful Gold Coast weather as we headed out over the blue Pacific Ocean, some of us even spotting whales and dolphins.
The Jetstar cabin crew were over joyed as our novice flyers indulged in the Jetstar Inflight food and beverage cart. Squeals of excitement rang out as they paid exorbitant prices for a soft drink and biscuits. I think we need to work on our financial literacy. After only a brief hour flying time we arrived into a very wet, windy, cold and blustery Sydney. All agreed it was the worst ever weather we have experienced on a trip.
We eventually made it to the terminal and finally claimed our luggage and headed off to the Zoo. Due to the weather we had the place to ourselves, unfortunately all of the animals decided that it was too cold and wet to venture out of their enclosures. I am sure that they were warm and safe inside their dens looking out at us thinking “What are those funny animals doing standing in the rain watching us”
At the Taronga Gift shop more joy for the staff as we again had the tills running hot with the purchase of many adorable fluffy pet toys.
Despite many reminders that we were here for 5 days our intrepid shoppers refused to pay heed and continued unabated with their purchases. You should have seen us jumping on the ferry in the rain carrying rafts of stuffed toys and armfuls of souvenirs, but as I said to the students we won’t tell your parents what happens on tour stays on tour.
The ferry trip was one of the most eventful as the harbour tuned on swell that would have made Kirra proud during a summer cyclone. Rain lashed the windows, wind howled and all we saw was pelting rain and mountains of swell. Anyway it was certainly an experience that they will never forget.
Then it was on the bus and we headed for Canberra and our home for the next 5 days. Arriving at around 8.00pm we had a quick dinner, lots of dessert and headed up to unpack, unwind and get ready for bed.
As an experienced Canberra traveller it was certainly a delight to arrive in Canberra not so tired and refreshed and ready for the rest of the trip without the extreme trauma and dramas of the long bus trip. Bring on day 2.
The weather was better, the students were keen, the staff were refreshed, the breakfast was delicious and we were ready for a big day. This was our first day in Canberra and we had a mighty day planned for us.
Our first stop was Canberra’s highest point, Mt Ainsley. Thankfully there wasn’t a gift shop in sight and the wallets stayed on the bus. We were greeted by strange markings on the ground welcoming all from the land of Worongary to the land of Canberra. There were also some imposing statues guarding the mountain lookout. These statues, known locally as the Oak and the Smack, formed an honour guard for those of us from the land of Worongary.
The mountain gave us a wonderful view of our nation’s capital and allowed us to see all of our planned attractions for the day ahead. It also let us experience some of Canberra’s finest breezes and picturesque landscapes that Sidney Nolan may have enjoyed. We then ran into another school from Queensland; Hilliard State School from the Redland Bay area. We had better shirts, a better web page, better behaved students, brighter smiles and funnier jokes. Thankfully there is no competition between schools.
Then we arrived at the new Parliament House where once again the wonderful Worongary students demonstrated just how clever they were with astoundingly intelligent responses. However there were a few classic comments to be heard in the visitor gallery such as when asked if anyone had any further questions, one of students replied with “Do you sell batteries”?
Another student asked “Why does Clive Palmer fall asleep in Parliament?”, only to find one of our own had snoozed off during the presentation.
It was then back on the bus and off to the War Memorial for one of the highlights of our tour. We were fortunate to see the ceremonial soldiers practising for an upcoming event. Some of us met Lieutenant General David Morrison, the Australian Chief of the Army, as he was there to coordinate the 100 year anniversary of the First World War. Again all were very impressed with our respectful behaviour and understanding of the sacrifices that our soldiers have made for our country.
When reading the inscription on the tomb of the Unknown Soldier (1914-1918) there was one interesting moment when a student asked how come he was only 4 years old!
More food and then off to Questacon. Finally another attraction with a gift shop: wallets out; cash registers singing; staff smiling; students buying. We also enjoyed the many different scientific attractions, games and the big slide. On a scientific note we were impressed by the following quotes: Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I am not sure about the universe. Make sure to check out the video as students really enjoyed the giant drop slide.
Back on the bus and we headed home for dinner; a scrumptious meal of fish and chips. Some even got adventurous and had a side order of salad, even those with allergies to any green food! Off to bed early as we have to get up and be ready for our trip to the snow.
This was the day we were all waiting for and it didn’t disappoint. The weather was spectacular, when the sun finally appeared. We had a wonderful breakfast of pancakes, toast and cereal to get us psyched for the snow. After a pleasant 2 hour drive to Jindabyne during which our wonderfully dedicated staff demonstrated their amazing ability to supervise the students while appearing to be sound asleep .We then kitted up with our snow gear and prepared for Mr Oakley’s traditional Canberra Trip” Running of the Long Johns”.
Then the bus headed for the White Mountains and for some of our staff and students this was there very first viewing of the white stuff, thankfully there was plenty of snow for all of us to see. We grabbed our Toboggan boards, put on our minion coloured beanies, donned our snow shoes and headed up the snowy forge to prepare for the first run of the day. We very quickly realised that controlling careering toboggans was beyond the ability of most of us.
Gee it was great fun. It was amazing to see some of the staff taking boards from the students and racing off down the hill reliving their youth and challenging all and everyone to a race. Check out the videos. The drivers assured us that after an hour the students would be exhausted and sick of it. They didn’t count on the Worongary spirit, we were still going hard after 3 hours and we couldn’t get them off the slopes. All agreed it was the best awesome fun. I think there will be some very sore backsides when we wake for day 4 but we will wait and see. We made snowmen, threw snow balls, rolled around in the snow and created snow angels.
If you haven’t been contacted by us or the medical authorities your child survived the day on the slopes. Finally we dragged them off for lunch: hot chips, pies, sausages rolls and pieces of chicken and vegie Burgers, drinks and rest. Then we were ready for more snow play and snow fun. Finally we got back on the bus and headed for home exhausted but very happy. The bus trip was another highlight as we watched movies, sang karaoke, danced merrily, shuffled and hung from the bus rail that was just the staff as the students were all seated with their seat belts on.
After a hearty dinner of chicken schnitzel and lots of vegies we indulged the students with our videos of the day on the slopes. It was great to relive the day and laugh at our exploits and misadventures as a group. Thanks Mr Mack for putting this together on the bus trip back from the slopes. Wearily we headed off to bed as exhausted children put their heads on pillows and drifted off to sleep with thoughts of playing in the snow drifting through their heads.
Good night all see you tomorrow. Almost home 2 more sleeps.
After the excitement of the previous day snow adventure we were all a little tired and slow to start day 4. Breakfast soon put us right as we worked our way through a mountain of bacon and eggs, mushrooms and tomatoes. We certainly needed a big breakfast as we had a very full program in front of us. Walking out of the dining room we were greeted by a very chilly -2 °; Canberra finally turned on some cold weather for us.
Now that we were wide awake and fully recovered we all headed off to Old Parliament House ready for the Electoral Education Program. For this next section I need to set the scene, so please indulge me. Our guides had just spent a lengthy session explaining Australia’s compulsory voting system in which they told us it is against the law to not enrol to vote or to have an invalid address.
Our first activity was for our students to use the electronic roll to “find” their mum or dad on the electoral roll. There was mass confusion as students were heard to be calling out over their screens, “We don’t live there anymore; We haven’t lived there for years; I can’t find my mum or dad; They are not enrolled, are they in trouble?; I don’t know how to spell my parent’s name” (Dear Mums and Dads, it might be a good idea to update your electoral roll details now that our students are so well informed about the democratic process). After that, the session improved dramatically as we moved into a mock election in which our students shone with their level of knowledge and understanding of our democracy. All were impressed and maybe even surprised with questions, and sometimes answers, that we were able to give.
Then we headed off to an all-time favourite, the Australian Institute of Sport. Here we got to see our hard earned tax dollars at work. One of our guides was recently returned from the Glasgow Commonwealth Games with a bronze medal in the Cycle Track Tandem Sprint Pursuit. We were impressed!! The guide also mentioned that he could leg press over 500 kilograms. Mr Oakley can only manage 450 kilograms and the rest of us can’t even think about managing a leg press. As the guide was explaining the average height of volleyball players is well over 2 metres, one of our students reasoned that’s about 2 Mr Does. We also gave the gift shop a solid workout, even the staff had the cash registers ringing. I don’t know where the students got their money from but the AIS staff were certainly pleased. Where else can you buy a small hand towel for $20.00. At this stage someone had a good idea that we should all participate in a selfie duck- face photo bomb. I don’t even know what this means but the results are very funny. Check out the Canberra video for more info on this little piece of creative art.
Back on the bus and off to the National Art Gallery with more bus driver trivia and questions. The children were asked for the name of Australia’s highest mountain. No response from the student , so he helped out with a Mt Kosi…… ? A clever student came back with “I know! Mt Kosi-bro!”
“Sorry, that is New Zealand’s highest mountain”, was the bus driver’s reply.
Finally we arrived at the gallery. This was where the staff prayed to whatever God they knew to please keep the national treasures of our country safe and to keep our students away from the wrath of the ever present eagle-eyed security guards. Not to worry as our students continued to impress all concerned with their behaviour to and engagement with our nation’s treasures. In fact one of our students brought a tear to the teacher’s eye as he took over from the guide in explaining the New Zealand culture and art work in a far more engaging and intelligent way than the gallery guide. It was great to see our students so passionate and knowledgeable about their culture and heritage.
It was then time for lunch. We ordered 65 pizzas, mountains of fruit and loads of water. We watched as all of this was consumed in a matter of minutes. At this stage the students were ready for the next activity and the staff were absolutely stuffed. Some were having nana naps, other were snoring, but we were all actively supervising the students (check out the Day 4 video we had a lot of fun making this one).
Off to the National Archives for more educational activities and more praise for our students as they were able to show off their talents despite being incredibly tired and somewhat emotional. As we were leaving, one of the guides braved the Canberra cold and came out to tell us what a very respectful and well behaved group of students we have. Well done Worongary!!!!
The last stop of the day was Telstra Tower on top of Black Mountain, some 865m above the Canberra Skyline. Finally there was coffee for the staff and scenic vistas for the students. The students were thankfully being protected by the Guardians of Telstra Tower Dopey Doe and Sleepy Banks. We were exhausted after another very busy and engaging day in Canberra. Tomorrow it will all be over!!!