Canberra is a totally planned city designed by the landscape architect Walter Burley Griffin. Before the city was built the area where it now stands was mostly two large sheep stations, Yarralumla and Duntroon. This blank canvas enabled Canberra to be designed with areas of open country, which results in a spread-out city with integrated areas of bushland. This is ideal for urban bushwalking, and means that I can go on a nice bushwalk straight from my front door!
Two of those bush areas at the urban edge of Canberra are the Mount Ainslie Nature Reserve and the Mount Majura Nature Reserve. These reserves are contiguous, and span from suburban Canberra out into to the surrounding countryside. The nearest point of these reserves is a little over one kilometre from my Canberra House-sit, and, if I count a bush corridor that starts nearby as bushwalking, I can start this semi-urban bush walk only a few hundred metres from where I’m staying.
Climbing Mt Ainslie
Mount Ainslie is the more accessible of these two mountains.
Walter Burley Griffin, in part, designed Canberra around Mount Ainslie by creating an alignment between the mountain and the parliamentary zone, and placing the Australian War Memorial at the base of the mountain on that alignment.
The Australian War Memorial has a large, free, parking area (a rare thing in Canberra), which is great for walkers climbing Mount Ainslie. These conveniences combined with the excellent views across central Canberra from the top of Mount Ainslie make this an extremely popular walk with Canberrans. There’s a mostly well-made walking track to the lookout on the top of the mountain; although there is also a road to up there.
As I passed behind the Australian War Memorial at the start of the climb up the mountain, there was a well composed view to Black Mountain – another near-suburban bushwalking destination that I hope to get to while I'm here.
The path up Mount Ainslie is generally well made, at times moderately steep, and passes through some lovely open bush.
I have walked to the top of Mount Ainslie a couple of times before, and have commonly seen plenty of kangaroos; although, I didn't see any here on this trip. However, on one of my previous walks, I did see this cute little fellow crossing the path:
It's a red-headed mouse spider, which is reportedly potentially as dangerous as a Sydney funnel web spider. It's one of those deadly Australian animals that international visitors get so nervous about – but it’s only two centimetres long, and it didn't attack me! (Give me a deadly Australian spider over a North American grizzly bear any day!)
Views from Mount Ainslie
Here are some of the great views of Canberra from the top of Mount Ainslie – this is part of Lake Burley Griffin with the mountains of the Bimberi Wilderness in the background.
You can see just a little bit of snow on the mountains.
This is the parliamentary triangle which includes most of Australia's national institutions. On the other side of the lake you can see the old and new Australian Parliament Houses, the National Library of Australia, the High Court, the National Gallery of Australia, and the National Portrait Gallery. In the foreground you can see the Australian War Memorial, with Anzac Parade stretching out the lake.
This is Black Mountain with the iconic Telstra Tower, which can be seen from all over Canberra and its surrounds. At the base of the mountain is the Australian National University, with Canberra Civic (the central business district) in the mid-ground.
Climbing Mount Majura
There were three busloads of primary school children on a school excursion to Mount Ainslie when I got there, so, as I had been there a couple of times before, I pretty shortly moved onto my walk to Mt Majura.
The track from Mount Ainslie to Mount Majura is much rougher and much quieter than the Mount Ainslie track, so it felt more like ‘real’ bushwalking. This is the view of Mount Majura as I left the top of Mount Ainslie:
While there were a few other walkers on Mount Majura, it's not as developed as Mount Ainslie. There's also a road to the top, but the main reason it’s there is because there's a radar installation there for the nearby Canberra Airport.
As Mount Majura hasn’t been developed to cater for visitors, the view is not as open as it is on Mount Ainslie, but there are some nice glimpses of the rural countryside surrounding Canberra through the trees.
As well as from the aforementioned spider there's plenty of wildlife in these nature reserves.
Echidnas and ants
I passed an echidna on the side of the path:
If an echidna feels threatened it will find a hollow or a ledge to press into, tuck its feet and head in underneath, and present its back to you. This works well – those spines are very sharp (although, not poisonous); in fact, they are sharp and strong enough to puncture a car tyre if you are unfortunate enough to drive over one. (It’s even more unfortunate for the echidna.)
In case you don't know, unlike many other quintessential Australian animals, echidnas are monotremes rather than marsupials; that is, they are mammals that lay eggs, and feed their young on milk.
Echidnas’ favourite food is ants, and Canberra has untold numbers of meat ant nests. Throughout the winter the meat ants pretty much go into hibernation; but just recently they've started coming out again. The meat ants’ nests just look like a low patch of gravel with some holes in it, like this:
But if you stand on the nest the ants pour out of holes to defend it.
This is what a meat ants’ nest looks like when an echidna has had a go at it:
There are plenty of kangaroos in these nature reserves; in fact, there are plenty of kangaroos all over Canberra – suburban football fields and parks, and even the lawn in front of the Australian War Memorial, are covered in kangaroo droppings.
Most of the kangaroos that I encountered on this walk moved away as I came by; however, one mob stood their ground and gave me some photo opportunities – here they are, acting like meerkats as I walk by.
Here's a nice picture of a mother kangaroo with a joey in her pouch:
My walk on Mount Ainslie and Mount Majura from my house-sit in Campbell was 17 Kilometres long, with 700 metres total climbing. It took me five-and-a-half hours, including a good break of about fifty minutes for lunch and a chat with other walkers on the top of Mount Majura. Here’s a Google Earth aerial view of the whole walk:
Mount Ainslie is on the right, and Mount Majura is on the left; Lake Burly Griffin and central Canberra are in the top-right corner of the picture.
The red section of the route is where the path shown on my map didn't exist; this wasn't too big a deal because the country is open, and you can pretty much go anywhere. However, if you were to follow my route, you'd be better to take the power-line service road that you can see on the aerial view for this section.
While it was convenient for me to start this walk from my house sit in Campbell, the best place to start it is from the Australian War Memorial car park.
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