Friday, January 11, 2008

A trip down memory lane - Manly

I’ve got some time to kill today in dribs and drabs and stuck in the city. Luckily I’ve been meaning to see the Sidney Nolan New Retrospective exhibition at the Art Gallery of NSW but just never got to it. Today’s the day. I’m starting from Macquarie st. Luckily just near an entrance to the botanic garden, so a very pleasant and interesting walk through the gardens will get me to the Gallery. Along the way I follow the aboriginal path that tells a truncated version of black and white history. Very well done. Just the right balance honesty with a tone of reconciliation to it. With more of that sort of spirit on both sides this country would come a long way.
In the gardens round about informative labels are included to explain native uses for indigenous plants of the Sydney area. The gardens in general are so lovely and with glimpses of brilliant blue harbour and a lovely sea breeze today it is glorious Sydney summer weather. I wander down the rainforest pathway. I enjoy the chatter of the flying foxes roosting overhead, and the distinctive smell, but I can't help being concerned at how many there are now.
I mean business so it’s directly into the exhibition on arrival after cloaking my bag. There is a very interesting short film – Nolan in his own words, which gives a great insight into the works in the exhibition. I like art, but I have very little time for the expert analysis that often goes along with it, they make up any rubbish to say. The artist’s own intentions however can be very fascinating and enlightening and Sidney Nolan has very very interesting things to say about some of his major works and what he meant to convey or what he was feeling or going through in his life at the time. Fascinating and I gain a new and deeper appreciation of his work, which of course makes this a very good exhibition! There is also on display an absolutely magnificent work depicting a riverbend, 18 panels in a circular room.... fantastic. Also some very striking landscapes of Antarctica. There is also a great exhibition gift shop which I browse and am sorely tempted, but I hold strong... I’m a little weary and have a deadline so I head on back to my Macquarie St commitment.
Free again and in some discomfort, but trapped due to transport difficulties the glorious weather calls me. At Circular Quay I decide to kill the time and distract myself with a trip on the ferry to Manly. Another thing I’ve been meaning to do for a while. I’m just in time to jump on the next arriving service, and luckily find a seat outside on the southern side. The stiff breeze is making lots of white horses on the water. Not a pleasant day to be fishing outside (outside the heads that is). White horses always remind me of my Dad. When I was a kid he’d always take a run around the edge of the plateau where we lived to check the sea and whether conditions were any good for going fishing - white horses always meant no.
The ferry travels rather fast these days and the Opera House and the city slide quickly behind. I’m all nostalgia today and miss the old class of Manly ferries that were a bit slower and less slick and that had to turn around slowly before heading off to Manly. As we cross the heads a safety warning is played telling people to stay seated while we cross due to the higher swell. But it’s pretty mild today really and more fun I think when there’s a bit more movement. Now crossing when things are rough – that can be truly exciting – and there’s no colder place in this city than Manly Wharf in a stiff wind on a cold day in winter. Cuts straight through you. I’m feeling a bit cold now actually and look around and notice all the people dressed for summer with goose bumps adorning their bare flesh. Nothing too serious but my mind is drawn to the people on the internet who scoffed at the idea that you can need a jacket on Sydney harbour at night in summer. Well, they can’t have been on the harbour at night in summer very often I guess. …

Funny how you take things for granted isn’t it. As a teen a bus to Manly and the ferry into town for a movie or theatre and dinner with friends was so standard you just didn’t think about it. Totally took it for granted. After a while you simply stop noticing how beautiful the harbour is, whether day or night. It’s simply glorious and I’m just bursting with pride to be Sydney born and bred. This is MY city and I LOVE it. We approach North Head and I realise how deeply ingrained your place of birth and rearing is for someone. I’m a Northern Beaches girl and the sight of North Head really makes me realise it. Odd considering I’ve spent most of my adult life rebelling against that and the down side of living in the “insular peninsular”. We’re a tribal lot Sydneysiders with strong local prejudices. Mine are singing today and the song they are singing is northern beaches rock!!
North head had the good fortune to be possessed by a combination of the military and the Catholic church which has meant that much of the natural bushland remains. Even threatened bandicoots hang on up on North Head and those living up on the East Hill sometimes get them in the garden. How can anyone bother with Bondi when Manly is the alternative? Very puzzling.

Memories flood my senses as we approach the wharf and disembark. My baby daughter dipping chips in the sand before eating them at Little Manly beach which is visible over to the east of the wharf.. Dad’s stories of snorkelling around the shark net enclosure before they pulled it down. (The one that’s there now is newer and smaller) What a privilege he had growing up in Sydney in the thirties, a boat to muck about with in the days when the harbour was more or less pristine, money to make his own mask and spear gun in the days when they couldn’t be bought and few people could afford a boat. I can so understand the anger of aboriginal people. This was all theirs once. Pristine, perfect. Gees how cranky would you be?

It’s not so long since I’ve been at Manly Wharf, but I don’t recall the Aldi supermarket… that just feels wrong somehow and I miss the old fun pier, shabby and crass as it was. Even more I miss the old pie shop across the road that used to sell the BEST cherry and cream pies. Hubby and I would have one for brekky on the way to work when I was pregnant with our 3rd kid. So many memories. I’m susceptible today as I’m on my own. Usually I’m with a group and there’s other stuff going on.

Manly hasn’t changed much really. The old Manly icons are still here. Humphries newsagents, the chemists. There is a holiday rush on. People everywhere. Dressed in boardies and bikinis. Thongs. Bare chests and scantily clad people. I realise why I always considered it just fine to go about everywhere barefoot. It’s how it is /was over on the north side in summer. So many people are on their way to or from the beach all the time. Even at Warringah Mall, you didn’t think twice if someone was wandering around in a cozzie and a sarong, thongs or bare feet… I don’t get that vibe in other areas. An atmosphere to be treasured.

I walk down the Corso towards South Steyne (the southern end of the beach). At Darley road I make a turn and go looking for the old haunts. Ah, goodness me Wishbone chicken is still there. Probably has changed hands a thousand times, but still there. A Manly institution surely. Fruit shop still there. I duck in and buy a banana for lunch. 40 cents. Lovely. I glance up towards Manly Public School. I can see as clear as day in my mind, my sister pushing a pram and my niece and nephew in their drab brown school uniform that my sister thought was lovely, racing in or out from school, or the day my son ended up at the police station when we went to vote at the school. Sir Roden Cutler came from Manly, his family lived just up a ways from here towards the East Hill.
I cross the street and note there’s a funeral in St Matthews Church. The shining black hearse is parked in front on the paving. My head is full of my nephew’s funeral. St Matthew’s is such a public place for a funeral. So many people passing by. I can see so clearly the crowds as they gather sombrely as the tiny white coffin is placed in the hearse…something about a child’s funeral always grabs people’s attention. St Matthews is a lovely church with stained glass windows.. but I’m on my way. All along the Corso they have a water feature for kids to play with, so do yourself a favour, or rather do your kids a favour and dress then in stuff they can get wet, including footwear…
I cross over to the promenade. It’s very busy here today. The lifeguard is busy on the loudspeaker rousing at people drifting out of the flags, or others trying to paddle out of the flags. Doing a great job at keeping everyone safe. The flagged area is jam packed with people. Gosh I hate surf swimming in a crowd like that. I’d like to do the walk around Fairy Bower to Shelley Beach and I make a start, but I have a deadline still and there’s no way I can get up to the headland, so turn back. I get far enough to see that it’s still the same. Better than Bondi to Bronte LOL. You can’t see it from South Steyne, but if you go up on to the headland behind Shelley beach there are .. or were splendid views up and down the coast. I challenge myself looking north along the coast, is the north slide really less developed…. Yes… but you can see some larger dwellings are starting to intrude, but overall more green. The cliffs of the Eastern suburbs are probably a bit more dramatic.. Oh OK part of it is just severe bias I suppose, they are both beautiful LOL.
Back at South Steyne the lifeguard is still berating people who are trying to swim outside the flags. I glance up to North Steyne. I can’t see crowds up there and I wonder if any of these hoards and those struggling to find a clear space between the flags realise that there’ll be flags up there too and at Queensliff, but more space to enjoy the surf…it’s not that far to walk and the promenade is beautiful and shady. Still I suppose the locals are only too happy to have the tourists stick to South Steyne. It’s so wonderful to see the Norfolk Island Pines clearly thriving. Once upon a time not SO long ago they were dying from the detergents and pollution blowing onto them from the sea spray. Manly wasn’t a nice place to swim then. Just about nowhere in Sydney was. Too polluted back then. What an improvement, I still can’t believe it. Even the water is a different colour now.

Back at the Corso I detour up Sydney Road. Again a few changes to shops, but many the same. The buildings where Dad used to work are all changed long ago. The pub is pretty much the same. Memories still haunting! Some are unprintable LOL. Mum used to have a shop in the Marketplace, but it’s long been divided up into discrete properties. The area loses something for the loss of the Marketplace – but the wafting of incense along here is still the same LOL. Real estate agents still the same. THEY never go out of business! I turn around and do a detour into Whistler st I’m looking for the old record exchange – it’s still there!! That’s a bit of a surprise, and the locksmith too. I head back to Sydney Rd to walk around to Belgrave St and back to the wharf. Sahib’s Indian Restaurant is still going also – I went there on a school excursion in high school, but the little Chinese café where we first tried combination short soup is long gone. It was long gone long ago LOL but we still miss it.. Past the court house, Belgrave Park is still the same, even the aviary is unchanged, always reminds me of my brother in law, who knows the location of every gas main in the area LOL

I wonder if Manly still attracts the oddballs. I guess most have been priced out of the market. People like Miss Manly - an elderly lady - had to be in her 60s at least 70s maybe - she'd get around in platform shoes and a miniskirt, low cut top, her hair in pigtails tied with tartan least in my day, I dare say she varied over the years... She had a penchant for opening the door stark naked.. or the onion sniffer.. she was a middle aged lady who wore a flowing black dress. Her hair piled up on her head like a pony tail sticking straight up like a fountain, or something out of Mooninland. Thick black makeup around her eyes... kind of like you get if you use ponds cold cream to remove your mascara... She was often to be found in the fruit shop or in Coles sniffing all the onions one by one. She'd spend ages at it.

Back to the wharf and I’m just in time to make a dash for the next ferry as it departs. I’m determined to sit on the western side on the way back so I can see Sydney Harbour National Park. I won’t describe the sentimental value of Dobroyd Point LOL

It’s very hot and sunny on this side of the ferry, I reapply my sunscreen and check my face is out of the sun. No breeze on this side either, but I’m determined to stick it out to the end. There’s numerous little sandy beaches, totally isolated and not a soul on them. Thank God for Sydney Harbour National Park. We round HMAS Sydney and turn on the run up the harbour, shade and breeze aplenty now. The Opera House and Bridge come into view, Admiralty House (Sydney residence of the Governor General) and Kirribilli House (Sydney residence of the Prime Minister) sitting in prime position directly opposite the Opera House. Magic. My city. Just MAGIC.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Walking Coogee Beach to Bondi Beach

We’re up for a bit of exercise so hubby and I opt for the coastal walk Coogee to Bondi. We arrive Coogee Beach about 8:45 am. It’s overcast and forecast for showers. Very rough seas and most beaches yesterday were closed. Same is expected today. We have no trouble parking down by the beach in a 4 hr slot and set off. Coogee is an attractive beach with a nice mix of landscaping and trees and no shortage of nice well kept cafes and shops across the street. Indeed there doesn’t seem to be much else besides eating places of all sorts of cuisine. IMHO Coogee is easily the nicest eastern suburbs beach. Coogee beach is actually open. We head off up to the north of the beach. The paved coastal walk is clear but not sign posted. We stick as close to the headland as possible for the views. The walk itself stays well back and the views could be better at this point. The terrain is undulating with reasonably steep inclines or stairs up and down over the course of the walk. We seem to have headed in the right direction in this respect. On balance we seem to have slightly more downhill than up. We leave the path to get the following shot looking south from the cliff edge.

Just around the headland we pass through Gordon’s Bay (photo below). The local volunteers and the council have done a stirling job of bush regeneration around this bay, which is taken up with slips supporting the tinnies (small aluminium boats) of the local fishing and volunteer sea rescue club. No sand. No swimming here. Flocks of new holland honeyeaters play and chase eachother through the vegetation chirping happily all the while.

Our next beach which we reach via the headland - mostly covered in a big parking lot - is Clovelly. The headland around the car park is a bit manky actually and you don’t gain much by venturing around across the rocks. Pools of stagnant water a bit smelly, bits of rubbish here and there. Plenty of crabs in the crevices though, and they creep away as you approach. Clovelly is nicely landscaped, with grass and trees and gardens. It is a deep inlet and calm water this beach is very protected and is open for swimming also. My daughter loves Clovelly as she finds the snorkelling the best she’s found around Sydney. There’s a large area of concrete on both sides of the bay, it has access for vehicles, and spoils the natural effect of the bay. I guess in the days this beach was established smothering everything in sight in concrete was seen as progress. I assume the landings must be used in rescues or something.. The water doesn’t look too inviting to me, lots of bits of weed and detritus from the rough conditions further out. We push on and climb the next headland and along the way take the photo below.

The paved walk cuts across the in from the ocean a distance with Burrows Park a bit of a grassy wilderness stretching out to the cliffs and ocean views. Sticking to the path therefore seems a bit pointless so we cut across the park and stick to the cliff edges and the rough track to maintain as much sea view as we can. Fairy wrens are calling from the scrub that lines the park. A male in his spectacular metallic blue and black perches high and calls briefly before flitting down into the protection of the undergrowth. The bushland right along is degraded and infested with weeds and invasive grasses. The further we go the more the flora is featured by all those pesky imports that diligent councils around the state once planted and are now trying to eradicate. Bitou bush, invasive grasses, lantana, morning glory, all a bit neglected and wild. This is consistently the case for the rest of the cliff track really. The native birdlife declines accordingly. Quite disappointing. There are no fences along this area and caution is needed, no doubt a reason why the paved walk travels in around the built up area. The views along the walk reach up and down the coast to the headlands reaching out to the pacific. I find the development that crowds them quite intrusive. We come to Waverley cemetery (photo below) and we travel along the narrow path between the white ocean side railing and orange construction fence supported by star pickets. The reason for this ugly orange barrier is unclear. Perhaps they just want to keep the numerous walkers out of the cemetery? Totally uninspiring.

Beyond the cemetery we are obliged to walk out and down a road cutting to Bronte beach. The least attractive beach so far, due to the degraded vegetation round about. We are in Waverley Council area now. They need to pull their finger out on the vegetation front I think, but at least it is featured by a large grassy park behind the beach. The conditions here are very rough and the beach is closed. Even the rock pool is closed.

Heading north from Bronte the quality of the walk improves considerably. No doubt this is why this section gets more promotion than the stretch to Coogee much of which is a like walking down a dingey back alley with water views on one side. Along this Bronte – Bondi section pieces of exercise equipment are conveniently placed. At intervals there are interpretative signs. The walk here is bordered by the attractively eroded sandstone of the cliffs on one side and the ocean on the other. Next stop Tamarama and we cut across the beach where they have a beach volleyball net set up. Tamarama is very small and quite pretty. I can't help but think how beautiful the area must have been before European settlement. That's so true of most of sydney. Understandable but at the same time rather unfortunate that the first settlement was selected on what IMHO is the most outstandingly beautiful harbours, and coastline on the East of the continent. At one of the beaches, I forget which, a sign marker along the walk explains that people originally were attracted (in part) by a lovely waterfall up behind the beach. We don't explore but I wonder if it's still there. Probably not I suppose. Many people congregate on the next headland. We were puzzled as to why, but I guess they are just admiring the scenery. There’s a helicopter hovering for ages out to sea a bit but finally it swings away.
Along the way we pause to take a photo of the scenery to the south.

We round the point and views of what must surely be Australia’s ugliest beach - Bondi - dominate. We stop in a viewing bay for an interpretative sign that makes it clear with photos from 1875 and 1930 just how they managed to turn what was a stunningly beautiful beach into the next best thing to an eyesore. What an achievement. All in the name of business. Once upon a time they built all the infrastructure and erected hessian screens and charged entrance to the beach.

There's still a way to go yet though and we climb up and down the hills around another rocky little indent in the coast. There's something mesmerising about waves crashing against a rocky shore...

We climb up and around Bondi Icebergs, famed for mid winter swimming devotees, then down and around the promenade to north Bondi where a surf carnival is in progress. It’s lightly drizzling now. We buy a fundraiser sausage sizzle roll, with onion and tomato sauce. All very much a cultural tradition. Finally we wander over to find the departure points for the beach runner bus. This we find leaves on the half hour from Bondi and for 90 cents will deposit us safely back at Coogee. Walking along Campbell parade I am drawn by some interesting calls and a moment’s investigation reveals a cuckoo chick being fed by a poor long suffering brush wattle bird. Now I didn’t expect to see that here! It's clear that the local council are doing their best to try to make the area more attractive. Norfolk Island Pines have been planted, but have a way to go yet. I wonder if I'm correct in recalling that some time back there was a proposal to remove the large parking lot from the beach, but there was an outcry and so it remains. They could do so much with the area to beautify it if the huge car park was removed. A legacy of the environmental vandals of early last century.
You get a good view from the Bus actually and this would make an alternative to the walk for those less mobile or energetic. On arrival at Coogee the contrast to Bondi is stark. Coogee is so much more attractive. The whole walk plus wait for the bus and return has taken us about 3 hrs. 2 hrs actually walking.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Water comes up, Water goes down

Today daughter and I are off for a jaunt. The weather is a bit changeable, showers passing, abundant clouds but also periods of sunshine. The temperature is moderate forecast highs of early 20s C. Beautiful for a drive. Having considered the options and our late start (about 10:30 ish) we’ve opted for the waterfalls of the southern highlands. We head down the scenic route from Camden and the villages of Picton, Buxton and Tahmoor, Yerrinbool once again ending up on the Old South Road, and Range road, which you may have read about in the post of 13 October 2007. The scenic route from Camden is a very pretty alternative to the highway if you’re not in a hurry – or on restricted speed like my L driver. Today we’re up for Robertson’s shops. It’s lunch time more or less and we could use a rest stop. The views are tempting from the café, but we’re not in the mood for something that substantial. I follow daughter belatedly into the ice cream shop, and get my arm twisted to get some icecream. Boy, I’m glad I did! Truly superior product at very reasonable prices. Made on the premises. Full of the most authentic flavour, glorious texture. The pick of our selections was the Pear and Cinnamon. You can really taste the pear. Very unusual and delicious. I teamed that with the coffee option, which was also absolutely delicious. The lady obligingly allowed me to have one scoop’s worth with two flavours. Daughter got two scoops and selected honey almond and raspberry with white chocolate. The honey uses .. I think it was Blue Gum honey and you can really taste that authentic flavour. Plentiful almonds. The raspberry was full of fruit. Truly the best icecream product I have had in this country – I’m still nurturing fond memories of the Cold Stone Creamery in Kansas City – but this is just as good (LOL) and very very fresh cones. Superb. Daughter also buys some nougat which was expensive but high quality. Not as good as the pistachio and cranberry nougat we got at the corner store in Central Tilba though. That was nougat perfection and has yet to be beaten. Next stop we are tempted into Gallery Serpentine to look at the corsetry. Daughter tries on a lovely blue underbust corset and a few others. They’d make very attractive formal wear and she is much taken with them. Though some insight is gained as to why lady’s maids were necessary in the days were corsets were the mandatory apparel. Very interesting. Having consumed quite a bit of time we’re back on the road. To balance the sugar and fat of the icecream we opt for some more fat and head to the Robertson Pie Shop for a sausage roll to share. Fairly average. You can get better, but it was OK. We spend 25 cents of remaining spare change on a few Cobbers and gummy lollies. This is THE best lolly shop for buying a few of this or that. Everything very fresh. Fresh Cobbers. Hard to find and hard to beat. They don’t have a huge range here, but they do have a high turnover which is the most important thing. Plenty of places in these tourist prone towns have lolly shops that aim to stock every lolly made on earth, but they generally have minimum purchases and the stock could be fresher. Anyway, fortified we are off to Belmore Falls. View from Hindmarsh lookout. We stop first at Hindmarsh Lookout. This provides glorious views over the valley – Kangaroo Valley? We take our fill of the view and walk the brief track around to the falls viewing area. All the rain of recent times has the falls flowing beautifully and the bushland is full of new growth and wildflowers. Belmore Falls I am particularly taken with a clump of grasses replete with seed heads picturesquely nestled at the base of a tree on the edge of the cliff. The white tea tree flowers are particularly cheerful here and all over the highlands, but there’s also broad leaf geebung in cheerful yellow tubes, and the sentimental favourite – the red mountain devil which will form a seed pod shaped like a horned devil’s head from which little devils are, or used to be, made to sell to tourists in the Blue Mountains. There are also lovely tiny star daisies in clumps, another creamy flower which looks like some sort of pimelia type thing, and another rather like a bottlebrush in soft red. The isopogon flowers of spring have given way to the drumstick heads that give it it’s common name. Even some beautiful purple pea sprays of a hardenbergia climbing up the wire mesh of the fence on the way back up the path. It’s starting to spit lightly with rain so we head back to the car to resume our journey. We’re winging it today so now we have to decide where next? As the falls are flowing very well, we decide to back track through Robertson and visit Carrington Falls. To get there we go back down to the Jamberoo Mountain road, opposite the Pie shop. We don’t stop at the lookouts over the escarpment and Lake Illawarra today, but head determinedly to the falls area. All day we’ve been travelling through verdant pastures with beautiful cattle and expansive views with our spirits soaring. The highlands is beautiful at any time , but in a good year for rain it’s spectacularly lovely. It’s quite a while since we’ve visited these waterfalls. Carrington Falls The kids always liked Carrington Falls when they were small, they were harder to get to back then. Now the roads are better and the facilities a bit better maintained/constructed. The path is paved and even making access to the lookout to the falls easier, though it is a reasonable slope for anyone with a disability or mobility problem. The falls look gorgeous. There are interpretative signs along the paths identifying the plants. Having admired the falls, we follow the path around. It leads to a section of steep metal grill steps that lead down a sharp gully by a natural tunnel in the rock and back up to the upper falls area where there is a rocky area that’s fun for kids to play. I enjoy watching a little boy chasing water skinks with great enthusiasm. (He’s got no chance…. Well I always thought so with my younger son too, but he was extraordinary and could generally catch them – even when they were right near their favourite crevice!. Most kids have got no chance! Those lizards are FAST.) Daughter recalls coming here when she was little and there were dark frogs in the pools. Is there any better way to spend a day with young children than taking them out to run wild in the bush? Ah, how I look forward to taking the grandkids places like this when they come along. There’s a deep waterhole here where swimming is possible, no signs prohibiting. Most people here are geared up to get wet, but noone is swimming in the deep pools. You need to be very cautious in such locations as the swimming is innately dangerous where underwater snags are unseen – and the water is probably very cold LOL. The picnic area back at the cars we note has wood bbq sites. A good spot for a picnic in a few weeks if the weather is good. We reckon my little nephews would enjoy it. An alternative to Leura Cascades which is hard to beat for a fun picnic and bushwalk for the littlies. Last Australia Day weekend picnic, my older daughter caught a yabby in Leura Cascades and the preschooler and baby had a ball letting leaves go to race like boats down the cascades over and over! Great fun! We tear ourselves away yet again and suddenly wonder if the seas are still huge – perhaps the Blowhole at Kiami is putting on a show? It’s just a hop and a skip down the road from here. Recently the cyclones forming off Queensland had enraged the seas so much all the Sydney beaches had to be closed. On new years day, the surf at Coogee was very rough and dangerous and daughter got a big fright, narrowly escaping having to be rescued. So it’s down the Jamberoo Mountain Road we go. There is no end to the beauty driving around this part of NSW and this road is no excepting. Steep, hairpin curves, but a very very lovely drive. Daughter is well practiced at downhill challenges by now LOL. We head in to Kiama, noting the tempting outlets for fish and chips. The whole place is very tidy and up-market. We do the obligatory thing and head first to Blowhole point. Park and wander over to the (very dangerous) blowhole, which finally after several fatalities on the one day they completely fenced. It’s hard to think of anything else looking at this site. If you fall in this hole, you are dead for certain. No chance of rescue in time. How anyone could let their kids get close enough to fall in is beyond me. But one day that’s exactly what happened. A couple of little kids fell in then adults tried to save them by jumping in. All dead. Very sad. Anyway, the unfortunate thing about this blow hole is the entrance faces the wrong way for the swell today at least, but I’d say most of the time really. But we can see the little blowhole performing down to the south and we decide to take off there. Back in to town you turn at the post office and follow the signs. The next turn is signposted just before the caltex petrol station. The little blowhole is at a reserve in a mostly residential area and it is much more fun that the big one on Blowhole Point. Angled to catch the swell it sends up regular jets of water high in the air. Well worth a look and there’s a coastal walk you can talk around the headland. The shadows are lengthening so we get back on the road. We have a choice to go home the quick way or head back through Berry and Kangaroo Valley… no competition. We choose the most scenic route and head south to Berry. This stretch of the coast is I believe our favourite part of coastal NSW. It is simply spectacular. Glorious ocean and lush rural views, the massive escarpment and brooding clouds a magnificent backdrop to both. Stunning. Berry is a busy popular spot, but we don’t stop today. We take the Kangaroo Valley road, shaded and green after the rain. It becomes apparent we have provided more schooling on steep downhills, than on steep uphills, so that’s good. A handy opportunity for tutelage. We can feel the cold nip in the air as we climb the mountain. A welcome relief from the steamy heat of the coast today. The break in the rain and dull light has brought the birds out and we thrill as we disturb a male lyrebird scratching on the side of the road and he scuttles slowly off into the undergrowth not overly fussed. Not far along and what looked like a female satin bowerbird is disturbed from a roadside post. An Eastern Whipbird calls from a gully alongside the road. I’m not the only one who loves the rain! Normally we would turn to Cambewarra lookout and head in along the main drag into the valley for the expansive views all along the way, but today we’re in the mood to explore and so we follow the back road down shady avenues and then into the valley itself. No views to speak of but very lovely just the same. It’s about 6pm by now and we pull up for another break and call home. A drink at the Friendly Inn. Deserving of the name we found. Humourous ditties from the Rutles spinning in both our minds tonight and making us smile we can’t help singing softly to eachother … “I have always thought in the back of my mind - cheese and onions…..” I swear Eric Idle is a comedy genius!. Daughter is frustrated we don’t have time for a game of pool. Ah, if hubby was with us I’d walk into that classy looking motel across the road and enquire about a room. Why don’t we spend whole weekends down here? The down side of being an easy day trip away I suppose. It’s clearly been raining in the valley, I just love this kind of weather. Life would be so dull if you only ventured out on days that are fine and sunny and cloudless. You’d miss the clouds and sunbursts across the landscape. Next pause Fitzroy Falls, but it’s raining more heavily than I’m prepared to withstand and we neglected to pack our rain jackets or an umbrella. Oh well, maybe next time. I bet it’s flowing even better than usual with it’s artificially maintained flow. We punch straight on back in to Bowral and Mittagong and given the time, daughter hands the controls over for a fast run up the highway to home, arriving back at about 7:45. What a great day. Oh how we love a scenic drive and it just does not get better than the southern highlands and Illawarra coast in a good year for rain!