Day Thirty Seven – Monday – Port Macquarie
With Harry, we drove to Laurieton and walked up North Brother Mountain, in Dooragan National Park, one of ‘three brothers’ (three mountains at the heart of local Aboriginal stories), 880 steps to reach the summit at 490 metres – a training walk for the Himalaya. Beautiful forest, stunning views of the coast north from the top.
Picnic, kindly picked up by Jenny, a friend of Harry’s in her car and driven down – coffee at The Appletree. Back home, Andrew and Harry went for a swim at Lighthouse beach, chilly and even at waist deep a perceptible rip; tried the crossed leg sit and stand featured in the BBC series about how to stay young – only achievable with a one handed assist!! Quiet night in – caught up on blog, downloaded photos, Kerrie watched Australian Story about doctor taking heart treatment to the country and Four Corners about drug taking in sport, Media watch about reports on Great Barrier Reef.
Day Thirty Eight – Tuesday – Port Macquarie to Sydney
Said goodbyes, headed off around 9am. Stopped at Taree for coffee, coincidentally where we stopped on our trip north to Queensland with the girls back in 1999. Pressed on to Sydney – lots of memories as we passed various iconic locations and travelled well-known roads. David’s directions missed one vital turn off – so we drove all the way to Palm Beach, back tracked and finally arrived at the Evans at 4pm. Lovely roast dinner and lots of conversation catching up on the past – sat on the veranda as the sun set over Pittwater. Beautiful!
Day Thirty Nine – Wednesday –Sydney
Walked the dogs (Billy and Monty) with David and Jan around the neighbourhood, down to the Navy’s jetty and along the foreshore to the sailing club. Back home for coffee, lunch and we chatted on till mid-afternoon, as so often with old friends our sense of humour and shared interests immediately connected. At 5:30 K and I drove to Neutral Bay to meet our old neighbours from Lane Cove Andrew and Libby Barnes and Steve Sailah and Carolyn Biggs for Thai dinner at the Yok Thai on Rangers Road. Took 1 hour 15 – lots of traffic.
Great evening, lovely to catch up with everyone’s news, all the kids now grown up and having amazing adventures. Talked about family memories, ABC, super, travels, house swaps in Europe. Back around midnight.
Day Forty – Thursday –Sydney
After the neighbourhood with the dogs, uphill to a café next to the Evans vet, we prepped to go sailing. Weather wasn’t great – but there was the possibility of an improvement and some wind. Decided to go for it. David and Andrew went down to the boat via dinghy and took down covers, got things ready, then picked up the girls from the wharf.
Motored off around the Pittwater coast, and around Scotland Island – amazing number of boats anchored. Features were the Oatley residence and a massive house being built for actress notorious for the “Where the bloody hell are you”Aussie ad. Tore down a bunch of trees. By contrast next door (almost) is the Wentworth estate – still lots of trees, houses amongst them, access by private road only. Motored around to The Basin – a bay off the National Park.
We’d been there many years ago with Andrew’s mother, before children! Lovely bay. Jan brought out lunch – fresh prawns, dips, rolls washed down with a refreshing drink. Excellent.
Andrew decided he’d go for a swim (somewhat madly). Kitted out in his ‘wettie and rashie’ – he dived into the bay. It was freezing! Swam briskly to shore – walked around and saw dozen or more wallabies grazing. Swam back and took an hour to warm up again!!
David and Jan tried to set the sails – but really not enough wind, so we motored out towards Lion Island, could see a grotesque hotel that had been allowed to be built on the other side of Pittwater. Some dolphins in the distance. As dusk crept in, we headed home guided by the lights on the Navy wharf.
Day Forty One – Friday –Sydney
Beautiful day – sunshine and windy! But actually too windy for sailing. Went to Palm Beach – playground of the rich and infamous.
Walked the dogs along the beach, stopping for coffee on the way back sitting on antique style chairs – with aged customer hovering – his usual spot perhaps?
We left the dogs in the car and walked up the peninsula towards Barrenjoey Headland and the lighthouse. En route we stopped to take some shots of Home and Away location Summer Bay (for Miranda, a fan apparently).
Good steep climb to the top, made somewhat easier by a paved track. The lighthouse and associated buildings, made with Sydney sandstone had been restored and looked beautiful. A bushfire had swept through a few years before – a fair amount of regeneration happening.
We walked on past the lighthouse for a better view of the Pacific – and a hoped-for sighting of passing whales. It’s the season when they track up the Eastern Australian coastline on their way north to their breeding grounds off the North Queensland coast. Didn’t expect to see anything – but struck lucky. We saw several “blows” and whales surfacing – about half a kilometre away. Most likely Humpbacks. Walked back down the smugglers path, took the dogs to a park where they can run around off the leash – then back home for lunch. Kerrie went to the shops and saw Richard Roxburgh (very excited about that!!). We went out to dinner with Jan and David at the Avalon Surf Livesavers Club – which they hadn’t been to before – balmy evening so we sat by the open window overlooking the ocean and had ginger mojito cocktails. Food was good – seafood – although some dishes a little ‘light on content’. Delightful last evening at the Northern beaches!
Day Forty Two – Saturday –Sydney
Packed up and went out with David and Jan to walk the dogs along the edge of the Pittwater harbour towards Church Point opposite Scotland Island and back. Said our farewells – it has been a wonderful visit – then we drove south to meet our friend Alana whom we’d known back in Lane Cove days in St Leonards. Despite going via Mosman – and having to remember the backroad (great work by Kerrie) – we made it on time. Parked the car and with Alana – caught the train into town.
Lunch at the Sydney Hospital café – then went to NSW art gallery to view to the Archibald portrait exhibition. Some striking and impressive works (eg of Gary McDonald and Deng Thiak Adut – a former Sudanese child soldier).
Some weird stuff inevitably. The winning portrait pf Barry Humphries was excellent, the use of light and shade especially good. Also viewed the Wynne and Sulman exhibitions – interestingly the winner of the Wynne prize for landscape was by a collective of five sisters (the Ken family) from the Aboriginal community of Amata in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands in the far north-west of South Australia who had produced a vast double canvas depicting the story of the seven sisters – which we’re sure is the same story that Vincent told us – part of the Uluru and Kata Tjuta songline/story.
Caught the train back, said farewell to Alana and drove to Fiona’s place in Five Dock, via River Road – full of memories from our time in Lane Cove – going past Greenwhich School and noting lots of new apartment blocks; we arrived just as Fiona and Graham did from a 60th party. Lots of catching up, discussion about politics, Brexit and how the world appears to be going – somewhat disturbing signs in US, UK and Australia. A great dinner, wonderful to see old friends.
Day Forty Three – Sunday –Sydney
Woke to a fine, sunny winter’s morning and the sound of barking dogs next door – such is city life. After a wonderful cooked breakfast Fiona and Graham took us on a great 8km hike around the Paramatta River/Rozelle Bay foreshore, taking us past the historic Callan Park Hospital for the Insane – still standing – strangely silent amongst the trees. Somewhat eerie – but better than development! Just past the buildings are Aboriginal rock carvings which depict a ship and European figure, clearly from post contact times.
After crossing the Iron Cove bridge, we circled back along Pittwater.
Stopped for a coffee and cake at a café on the way. Then back home for hearty soup before packing the car and driving south. A too brief but excellent time with Fiona and Graham!
Navigated our way through the heart of Sydney to the south part of the city – and made our way to Leone and Wayne’s house. Kerrie and Leone know each other from kindergarten days – so lots of catch up and recalling of old stories over an excellent meal and wine, Great to see Alex and James as well.
Day Forty Four – Monday –Sydney
A great day – we drove to Cronulla – an old stamping ground of the ‘girls’ when they were growing up. Walked along the beach and coastline overlooking sandy bays, large swells, groups of surfers and swimmers braving the chilly waters.
After a coffee, drove around to Cape Solander a National Park at the end of the Kurnell peninsula – where Cooke first landed. The oil refinery now just stores oil, next to a billion-dollar desalination plant that is moth-balled until the next water shortage crisis. Many houses under canvas and being repaired after being hammered by a terrible storm 7 months ago with winds over 200 kms an hour, strongest winds recorded on the mainland and hailstones the size of tennis balls! Drove to the point overlooking the Pacific where a whale-spotting station was counting whales on their migration north – some 2280 so far.
We walked along the headland, loosely following a trail under construction, sometimes just a few metres from the edge of the sandstone cliffs. White cockatoos screeched and wheeled as we gazed out to sea in search of the elusive mammals. We walked some 3-5 kms, and only when we returned to the car were we rewarded with sightings. Borrowing the whale watcher’s binoculars, we saw humpbacks blowing and breaching, slapping the water with their fins. Fantastic! Fish and chips and lentil burgers appeased our hunger – overlooking Botany Bay. Headed home tired and happy.
Day Forty Five – Tuesday –Sydney
A quietish start to the day (Andrew has come down with a cough and cold). But we decided we had to go out and went into the city for a Lebanese lunch at Abdul’s restaurant on the corner of Elizabeth and Cleveland streets. Superb food – we gorged ourselves on hummus, baba ghanouge, lamb and chicken kebabs and cabbage leaf rolls, washed down with fresh lemon drink and Lebanese coffee. Ah – wonderful.
Rest of the day checking out our travel itinerary for tomorrow and catching up on correspondence.