Canberra is such a spread out city it really has to be seen to be believed. This is the capital city of Australia, yet at any time it can appear totally dead. Sometimes there is nobody about. On a Sunday night the place totally dies down. The main streets of the city centre are like a ghost town, something surely not witnessed in any other capital city of a country as big/populated as this one. The first night in Canberra however proved to be an excellent and lively adventure.
The hostel we stayed in the Canberra City YHA on Akuna Street does a barbecue for $6 every Friday night, so we were all up for that – Daniel, Neil and me. It started at 6.30 pm on the third floor balcony amidst the backdrop of a capital sunset. None of the others from our 8 bed dorm were up for the barbecue. $6 in Australia for a sausage sandwich and a beer can’t be bad.
We queued for a double sausage sandwich and a bottle of chilled Carlton Draught beer. We sat with a posh English guy from London and a Korean guy on a wooden bench. The hostel we were staying in was nice, but it was very quiet and unsociable. This barbecue, as it happened, was as sociable as the hostel ever got for us. So after finishing our Carltons, we decided it was time to head out on the town, or sorry the city.
We started next door to the hostel in the Transit Bar. It was down some stairs into a groovy wee club. In there they actually served pints of beer – something which we didn’t get in Parramatta or Sydney – the servings in bars there are all much smaller – Schooner size. Even so, Corona and lime was “on offer” at $5 a bottle, so I went for that – that’s about £3!! Hardly cheap for a beer in a quiet wee bar – but what the hell. Daniel and Neil had a pint each – I think they went for Carlton again and it cost around $8. We sat over to the side, in front of the empty dancefloor and the two DJs.
Daniel and I did laugh at the moves of the two DJs, who seemed to think they were ace mixers of the tracks being played. Somehow they managed to destroy classic tunes such as “No Diggity” by Blackstreet. They weren’t great – but it was free entertainment so we enjoyed it for what it was worth. The DJs were called D’Opus and Jemist. To annoy Neil we also saw a guy in there wearing a West Ham United shirt! After polishing off the lagers, we headed on City Walk on round for some more nightlife.
We passed a quiet bar called “Australian Bar” and then with a large beer garden and looking lively, the Irish pub King O’Malley’s shot out at us, so we went in. This was again funny to be drinking in a busy and popular Irish pub. We got the beers in, pints this time for all of us and couldn’t find any seats. We somehow got three stools though and leant on a ledge at the back. The pub was busy and lively.
Instantly there appeared to be a local hero in the bar. A guy with vintage old style hair and a well groomed beard in a style of its own – this was to be the star of the dancefloor in King O’Malley’s that night (and maybe every night). This local lad was clearly a regular in the bar and was hitting the moves on all the ladies. He looked a bit werewolf like in appearance, leading Daniel to proclaim this legend as “Wolverine.” From that moment the legend of “Wolverine” or “Wolfie” as I called him could begin. This guy had us in stitches.
A bouncer noticed us talking about him and chatted to us, saying he was nuts and that he had been thrown out and banned before, but grew a beard and came back. He wasn’t on drugs, he wasn’t drinking much alcohol (we saw him drink 1 pint the whole night) but was a guy having fun in Canberra. The dancefloor thanks to Wolverine was lively and a band was about to begin.
The live band was called “Heuristic” and they played a range of obvious rock star cover versions. The singer was a hefty big bloke with a great voice. They had the audience buzzing. We were sat at the back, with the bar on the right. They served Kilkenny in there and that was my drink of choice for the night. The Australian beers really were doing nothing for me.
The band played Brown Eyed Girl by Van Morrison and it was my turn to get up and dance with a local Canberra lady called Sarah. She was a bit of a rock chick and from somewhere I had pulled out some dance moves to dance with her for one song only. It didn’t somehow feel right though and I danced for a fair bit that night, still in love with somebody I couldn’t have. Midnight in Canberra had long gone and Neil had gone home to the hostel. It left me and Dan out.
We spoke and got a photo with the hero of the night – Wolverine. His real name I think was Kevin. He reminded me a bit of John Johnson my old mate and housemate from Dartford. I had noticed they sold Bushmills whiskey, from Northern Ireland so I got me and Daniel a shot each of that with Coke.
The following morning we were due to be up early to meet Evan for a full day of sightseeing in and around the city. That didn’t stop us from partying it up in King O’Malley’s till almost 4 am. By that time, I was drinking water, Daniel had won a free glass of champagne from a lady for her chatting him up as a bet and Wolverine had long faded into the Canberra night sky. The legend of Wolverine lives on…