Friday, 28 August 2009

Curlew Camp Walk

My cousin Jeff, who lives in Brisbane, was in Sydney for the weekend. We met for a walk along the Sydney harbour foreshore on a bright Saturday morning. The walk is a fairly new one, the result of a collaboration between Mosman Council and Taronga Zoo, and skirts Little Sirius Cove, close to where the first fleet anchored in 1776. It passes the site of Curlew Camp where several famous Australian artists, including Arthur Streeton, Tom Roberts and Sidney Long, used to come in the late 1800s for sketching opportunities.

A map of our route is downloadable at this site.
We began at South Mosman wharf. The path climbed steeply to the crest of a hill, from which there were good views back across the harbour towards the city.

Circling some expensive real estate, I admired the landscaping around an apartment tower.These are fine specimens of kangaroo paw (Anigozanthus spp.)

A small park allowed us some more good views looking across the harbour towards the southern shore.

Directly below we could see Little Sirius Cove.

Our route led us along a suburban street and down a narrow footpath to the small park and sandy beach we had seen from the ridge. Looking back from the shore we admired the eclectic mix of housing on the hillside. All were designed to take advantage of the views, the older houses with wide verandas, the modern ones with plate-glass windows and expansive decks.

Continuing on our way, we passed through a grove of paperbarks and found ourselves at the Curlew Camp site. One of the artists had obligingly marked the spot by carving the name and the year into a nearby sandstone rock.

More information about the artists and their camp is at Mosman library's blog.

As we approached the Taronga wharf, we passed above Whiting Beach where the pale blue harbour waters met an immaculate strip of white sand. A huge Moreton Bay fig loomed overhead.

At the wharf our daughter picked us up in her car and ferried us back to our starting point. Then we all went further around the harbour to Balmoral Beach and picnicked on the grass with some of the best fish and chips in Sydney. It's a popular spot - others had the same idea.

From the promenade above the beach, we could look towards North Head and the narrow gap that leads from the harbour to the vastness of the Pacific Ocean. The tide was so low that the sign warning of "submerged rocks" and the rocks themselves were high and dry.

As we walked back to the cars, I paused to admire the green roof on a low apartment building across the road from the beach.

It was a pleasant way to spend one of Sydney's sunny winter days. I found a video of the walk, with commentary on Youtube.
It provides more explanation of the artists' camp and adds another perspective to my own impressions.

Although we drove to and from the walk, you could make an even better day of it by taking a ferry from Circular Quay to South Mosman wharf and returning on the Taronga Zoo ferry from the other end. For some unaccountable reason the South Mosman ferry does not run on Saturdays, so we had no choice in the matter.

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Deep Pass

Our August bushwalk continued to enjoy the pattern of fine weather that we've been having for these occasions. In fact, the rainfall this winter has been well below average. So far this month only 8 mm has fallen, and authorities are predicting a dire bushfire season ahead.

Regardless, it was a very comfortable, sunny day for our walk, which took us steeply downward through unremarkable country to a clearing beside a small creek. Beyond the creek sheer cliffs rose skyward,

enclosing us in the grassy valley where stands of sunshine wattles (Acacia terminalis) were in full bloom.

Michael opted to make another entry in his sketchbook sitting comfortably in the bit of shade cast by one of these wattles.

The slope where we had entered the valley was dotted with Lomandra longifolia, so carefully spaced that I wondered if they had been deliberately planted. This is a hardy and adaptable plant, often used now for roadside plantings and to cover rocky slopes.

From where we stood we could see a dramatic cleft in the cliff face ahead.

Our party crossed the creek, scrambled up a rough trail and squeezed one by one through a keyhole in the boulders to reach the inside of this amazing fault.

There were actually two rifts running at right angles to each other. So narrow was the gap that it was hardly more than shoulder's width across. My photos are blurred by the movement of people and by the dim light at so deep a level (and maybe just a little by the photographer's lack of skill.)

From the end of one canyon we could look back towards the valley we had left.

This natural feature was unquestionably the highlight of the day. The upward journey to return to our vehicles was challenging to say the least and we were pretty tired by the time we reached home.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Six Foot Track

We did the first section of the Six-Foot Track back in May (see May Meander). On Saturday we continued on the next section, hiking to the Cox's River and back again, a total distance of 15 kilometres. Our group this time was composed of members of the National Trust, who were interested in the track's historic character. Blazed in 1884 to allow access from Katoomba to the famous limestone caves at Jenolan, the track fell into disuse after 1904 when a road was pushed into the valley by another route. Although six feet wide when it was constructed (to allow two laden horses to pass each other with ease), it is now no more than a single-file trail.

We began in the Megalong Valley, where the track crosses private property towards the river. It was lovely weather, and the open paddocks allowed us some fine views across the valley

Recently, farmers in the area have begun to plant grapevines in paddocks once occupied by cattle and horses.

The track undulated over dry slopes,

before entering open forests of eucalypts where huge rocks lay among the undergrowth.

Under one boulder we discovered the hanging combs of a wild bees' nest. Fortunately, the residents were elsewhere.

Interesting fungi, not unlike a horizontal version of the bees' nest, decorated some of the tree trunks.

As we approached the Cox's River, we could look down on the watercourse from a high bank. Native she-oaks (Allocasuarina littoralis) grow all along the riverbanks, often in the most unlikely places such as these fissures in the rocks.

The most exciting experience of the day was negotiating Bowtell's Swing Bridge across the river. The bridge sways alarmingly as you approach the midsection, and several of our party decided to get wet fording the river rather than face its perils. One woman confided to me after making the bridge crossing that it was the most terrifying thing she had ever done. I rather enjoyed it myself.

We ate our lunch on level ground at a campsite beside the river, within sound and sight of the water flowing over rocks in the dappled shade cast by the she-oaks.

Michael, who had forded the river on the way in, braved the bridge on the way back.

As always in the terrain here, the route back to our starting point was uphill. By the time we reached our car, we were both feeling the challenge of such a long and strenuous walk. We had set off at 9:30 and it was after 4:00 when we said goodbye to our companions of the day.

Sunday, 2 August 2009

River Cruise

Through the local branch of the National Trust we have come to know John and Susan, who belong to the Wooden Boat Association. Last Saturday they invited us to join them and some other enthusiasts on a cruise up the Nepean River at the foot of the Blue Mountains. The Nepean is a broad, calm stretch of water. It was here during the 2000 Summer Olympics that the rowing competitions were held.

Our craft was the lovely MS Molly.

We were accompanied by an assortment of other little wooden boats, including speedboats (one of which had travelled all the way from Lake Tahoe to Australia)

and a small craft that reminded us of "The African Queen", the boat in which Henry Fonda and Katherine Hepburn escaped in the movie of that name.

This area on the plain at the foot of the mountains is blazingly hot in summer, but has mild winter temperatures, at least during the daytime. On this day, it reached 20ยบ C. Michael enjoyed the sunshine.

We travelled about as far up the river as it was navigable. A broad rock provided a handy place for our picnic lunch.

Susan guarded the Esky full of beer...

but I preferred a glass of wine.

Note our suitably nautical attire.

Below us the boats bobbed patiently.

By early afternoon, the sun was already beginning to drop behind the high banks,

so we headed back to the landing stage, where MS Molly was loaded back on the trailer for the short journey home.

Thank you, John and Susan, for a lovely day.

Saturday, 1 August 2009

Trail to Hanging Rock

The last couple of weeks have been hectic, so we decided a walk was in order to give us something calm to reflect on. We had tried the trail to Hanging Rock once before, but turned back when a storm blew up.
This time, although a few gloomy clouds swept overhead, we had generally pleasant if cool weather and reached the end of the trail. Where the hanging rock itself was, we had no clue, but the sheer cliff walls across the valley were spectacular.

From the cliff edge on this clear afternoon we could see all the way to the distant towers of Sydney. There is something disconcerting about standing in the midst of this wilderness and gazing out towards where one fifth of the population of this vast country lives. Michael took time out to sketch.

Naturally, I spent that time investigating the surrounding flora. Tall black flower spikes of grass trees rose through the undergrowth.In my childhood they were called "black boys", but culturally sensitive times have since demanded a more inoffensive name.

Winter brings fuzzy golden flowers on the many wattle species. This is the sunshine wattle, Acacia terminalis.

New growth on some of the eucalypts matched dark red stems to the crescent-shaped, sage-green leaves.