Creatures of Kiama Part 2

By Vita Forest

More creatures seen on our recent holiday in Kiama and its surrounds…

  • On Blowhole Point… my mother delighted in sighting two willy wagtails, black tails swinging sideways as they called to each other and hopped about on the grass.  A bird she remembers seeing a lot as a child in Sydney but hasn’t seen locally for years.
  • On a few of our walks, we saw long-legged herons with blue-grey feathers picking through the wet grass, or rising heavily into the air.
  • Climbing up the hill towards Minnamurra… Lucy stooped to watch an orange ladybird exploring a blade of grass. We had just come from a lookout and read about the whales that migrate past that point, not right now though, we were either too early or too late.  From thinking about the blue whale – the largest animal in the world, to a tiny ladybird.
  • As we neared Gerringong on the Kiama Coast track… we came upon a field of black and white cows – Friesians, straight off the picture on the milk bottle. We were in dairy country after all, the lush green hills ridged with meandering bovine tracks beneath the long grass.
  • Driving up to Saddleback Mountain… we saw honey-coloured horses leaning over white timber fences, manes shaking as a woman walked toward them, hand outstretched. And later as we returned, we wondered if they admired that view all the way to Wollongong, or liked the cooling wind straight off the ocean.
  • And on that same trip… before we got to the top of that long ascending road that followed the spine of the hill, we had to pull over, stop the car, open the door and ‘encourage’ a large green stick insect (or was it a cricket?) to join the wide green world outside again. It leapt out the window, flinging itself back toward the grass with whirring wings, much to the relief of the rest of us.
  • At the summit of Saddleback Mountain… after parking the car, we walked through fluttering butterflies and hovering dragonflies, straight out of a scene from a Studio Ghibli film.
  • On the second last day, my sister Molly and I were walking back from Blowhole Point, around the headland toward the Surf Beach… when all of a sudden, a girl in the group just ahead of us pointed towards the water, “Dolphins!” and there they were. Three of them, black-bodies arcing out of the water then diving back again.  We stood and exclaimed as they reappeared again and again, chasing a school of fish.
  • And on the last day, taking one of our last swims in the Continental pool by the harbour… we swam out from the bay in the direction of the sea, and as we watched, a crab reared up above our heads and scuttled sideways along the edge of the pool, silhouetted against the blue water behind. Lucy lurched forward and it disappeared again, down over the side of the seawall, under the waves that the sea sent over the edge of the pool to splash us.
  • And heading toward our very last swim in the rock pool on Blowhole Point, we walked around the harbour and stopped near the boat ramp… and saw the most enormous blue and black spotted stingray with a long tail and huge eyes, dredging the shallow water for discarded fish with a pelican keeping it company. We had missed the stingray show (a new development since last we visited) but it seems the stingrays know the place to be for tasty treats in the harbour.
  • Arriving home later that day… we found two little cats very pleased to see us again.IMG_3053
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Creatures of Kiama Part 1

Cormorant at Bombo Headland

By Vita Forest

Just letting you know – this is Part 1…

  • On top of a tall lamp post on Blowhole Point… on each of its three lights, sprawled three birds; two black cormorants chilling in the sun, and one pelican, asleep, tail up in the air, head down. How it stayed up there, I do not know.
  • On the Kiama Coast walk from Kiama to Gerringong… we heard again the scrabbling chatter of fairy wrens hidden in the dense scrub pressed into the hillside by the wind. And later behind Bombo Beach… a male in his iridescent blue finery danced around the bare feet of a man sitting on a bench and staring out to sea.

Kiama Coast Walk between Loves Bay and Gerringong

  • At lunchtime, between past Loves Bay and before Gerringong, when you can see no houses or roads and you truly feel you are away from it all, where we sat on the track, looking down on the waves smashing on the rock platforms and the shivering grass on the hills, there, at the most isolated point, who should appear over the crest of the hill, but two walkers and their dog, their friendly dog who saw our lunch and bounded down the grassy track, while we scrambled for lids and bags and clutched our food away from its eager jaws. (And not long after this, our peace was disturbed again, by the peal of a bell, not a bird but a mountain bike that we turned and saw negotiating its way down the grassy slope toward us while we grabbed our possessions again to make room for it to pass, Lucy snatching up her iPhone that lay right in its way, on this track, in the middle of nowhere, or perhaps not after all.  After that we finished our meal in peace).

Kiama Coast walk

  • At Minnamurra Rainforest… the scratch of claws amongst the ferns and dry sticks alerted us to the presence of a lyre bird. Then another crashed under the walkway where we stood and into the greenery beyond, trailing its curling brown tail flowers, like the fern fronds it was pushing through.  And we heard it trill and chatter and screech.  Max played a ring tone on his phone (he’s seen this done on YouTube, how they’ll copy other sounds) but this one was too caught up in its own crazy song to worry about sounding like a doorbell.

Cicada in the rainforest

  • And higher up in the rainforest… where we climbed to see the waterfall, we walked through a force field, a pulsing deafening din that you could feel in your bones – cicadas. We noticed some on the track – black bodies and beady red eyes.  But it was the ones that we couldn’t see, hidden in the trees that shook the air.
  • After lunching at The Boneyard, a delightful rocky bay just around the corner from Bombo Headland, while surfers straddled boards out on the break and snorkelers floated in the clear water closer in, we pulled on our backpacks and our hats and retraced our steps around the bay on our way to Cathedral Rocks and beyond to Minnamurra. On the path a shriek from Lucy, and I turned to see a small snake wriggling through the soft grass where I had just stepped.  It seemed little and harmless…

There be a snake somewhere about… The Boneyard

 

This week

By Vita Forest

This week I have been

ENJOYING a lovely holiday in Kiama and it’s surrounds

HAVING visits from my sisters and parents and Fleur (nice to share a favourite spot with others!)

SEEING many many creatures (more of that coming up in another post)

EATING lots of good things including

  • delicious gelato from the Kiama Market
  • duck pie from a farmers market
  • burgers from the fabbo milk bar at Gerringong

WALKING

  • from Kiama to Gerringong
  • from Kiama to Minnamurra

  • around Minnamurra rainforest

  • around Bombo headland

SWIMMING all around Kiama

REREADING Finnikin of the Rock and Froi of the Exiles by Melina Marchetta (Ah bliss!)

WATCHING the weather change from gale-force winds, wild seas and general chilliness to serene seascapes, hot sun and endless blue skies…

THINKING about planning next year’s holiday.

Not even the beginning

By Vita Forest

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“You mean this isn’t even part of the walk?” face sweaty, voice grim.

“That’s right.”

I walked on.  We would not turn back, not now, no way.

But now it was THE walk, not a walk from the station, not the walk down the hill but THE walk.  See – the dreaming poles marked it.  It was not the end of the beginning, or the beginning of the end but it was the beginning.  There was mutinous muttering from Max and Lucy, Fleur whispered she could take them back.  But no!  We were going to do this walk and we were going to enjoy it…

The kids took off their shoes to wade through the water at Werri Lagoon and did not put them on again on the other side.  They stalked on grimly in barefeet.  And I thought why not? And pulled my shoes off again too.  The grass was soft and buoyant and the wind from the sea felt good on my bare skin.  We stepped along up the hill, away from the beach, away from the shrieks of the swimmers and the drone of the cars and into the silence.

The complaints stopped as we climbed the bare grassy slopes that hid the town and the road.  The kids fell silent and felt the breeze, saw the blue water sinking back from the black rocks, saw the green hills rising away into the distance along the coast and the wildflowers buzzing with butterflies and crickets.  All you could hear was the booming breath of the sea, rising and falling and the hundreds of birds hidden in the undergrowth.

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“Is this The Shire?” they asked, but we didn’t come across any hobbits.


Further on, pelicans flapped by lazily in formation, so close you could hear the air against their wings.  I stopped and stared up at the hill rising to the west and even though it was “just grass” every blade was alive in the wind, not a solid monolithic mound but a writhing, dancing collection of stems, each one clutching a fist full of rattling, plump seeds.

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Later we went off the track into a stand of remnant rainforest – the rainforest that used to run all the way down to the sea.  We sat enclosed in the shady room fretted with tree trunks and ate fruit.  I climbed down deeper and found a circular cairn built around the sinuous roots of a tree that was totally enclosed by the scrubby foliage around it.  Cradled inside it like a snow dome.  Someone else had visited too.

I had promised them cows and we saw some, staring and edgy at Max’s frenzied hooting.  We were disturbed to see an anxious calf on the wrong side of the fence.  We wondered how it had got out and how it would get back?  Barbed wire was strung tight across the top of the fence and the gate we eventually passed was locked.  There was also wild fennel, identified by rubbing its lacy leaves between finger and thumb and inhaling deeply.  Aniseed.


We peeled eggs under a tree at lunchtime and looked back across the path heading south.  And after lunch we came to the stile, THE stile and I told them the story of how, years ago, I had looked at this stile, every day, every time we came down to the beach, the stile in the distance on the headland, near the dry stone walls.  How I’d watch walkers climb over it and hike along the headland, coming from who knew where?  How I stood rooted on the sand, small children at my feet.  Them.  And I had wondered – what had those people seen?  Where had they come from?  With their backpacks on their backs, while I watched, anchored to the beach.  Now I knew.  They were us.  Ten years later but there we were, walking out of the wild.  Walking north along the track.  It was us all that time.

We stopped again at Easts Beach, Lucy tumbling and dancing on the sand and falling into the splits.  Max watching critically and remarking, “When she laughs, her bum shakes.”

And it did.

Max and Lucy swam in the surf (Neptune’s son). I made do with a paddle and Fleur with a siesta under the tight shade of a juvenile pine.

Walking on, I watched a bare-chested man saunter past the “No dogs on the beach” sign carrying two black Chihuahuas, one tucked under each armpit.  He carried them into the water where they bobbed serenely, safe in his arms.

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Can you see the Chihuahuas?

I guess they were never on the beach.

At the end we found we were all sunburnt despite hats, sunglasses and slathered sunscreen.  There were red stripes where we had been absentminded with the lotion.  And my toes… well they appreciated the cool dip at sundown in the rock pool at Blow Hole Point.

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And Fleur said that she doesn’t know if she would do it again.

But she’s glad she did it once.

At Bombo

By Vita Forest


On Wadi-Wadi land, where Charmian swam, we walk out to Bombo.  We fill up our water bottles from the last tap, pull our hats down low and sling our thumbs through the loops of our backpacks.  The sun grinds down, shadows crouch and hide from its glare, pulling their knees up to their ears.  It’s nearly noon.

We crouch on the cliff and watch the surfers below as they bob lazily, straddling surfboards and squinting out at the horizon.  Watch as one paddles, then stands and streaks along just in front of the curl of a wave.  An admirer claps and a friendly dog rubs her snout into our open palms.  Watch as another surfer scuttles down a goat track beside us, board beneath his arm, runs, runs down the spit of rock, runs at a retreating wave, then hurls himself onto the fizzing foam.  The sea is wild today.


We walk on and pause to see A View.  A long-haired boy heaves rocks, chucks them with all his might so they land, just past his feet.

Heavy.

“I can do this,” he explains, “coz now I’m six.”

The water boils and roars and surges high through the red columns.


His mother shouts, “Stop throwing rocks!  There are people about!”

And high above on the rocky hill, built with boulder and facing the sea, a shriek, a whoop as the sea slaps down those reckless climbers who sauntered past us moments before.  We make sure they emerge again.  No need to call for help.  Just yet.


We follow the path deeper, between the tossing grass and humming insects which scatter yellow as we approach.  Into the bowl of the headland, into the hollow, the hole, the crater between the land and the sea.  See how the water rises?  Angry, foaming at the bit.  Seething.  We dare not climb the columns as I’ve done before on another calmer day.  We stand back and feel the spray as the sea finds a crack, smashes hard on solid rock.  It will hold, I imagine, I trust, I hope.  Fishermen peer out to sea behind the barricade of boulders, slinging a line out to sea like a grenade.  The water exploding with a Boom! against the cliffs.


We pick our way across a desert of red rocks.  Sun scorching down, burning the backs of our necks.  Lizards scurry at our shadows and I stamp hard, warning off the serpents.  I had seen one at this very spot.  Not rainbow but a killer, red and black.  Red for danger!  It lay on the path, soaking up the sun before sinking back into the waving grasses off the track.  Sinking back like the sighing sea as we tiptoed past as far away as we could manage.  We pick our way across the desert of red rocks, calves flex as we balance on those boulders.  Like those surfers on the sea.


 

This week

By Vita Forest

Costume craziness

Costume craziness

This week I have been

READING

  • Froi of the Exiles by Melina Marchetta (love spending time with those Skuldenorians)
  • Animal Farm by George Orwell (on Max’s recommendation)

WRITING Day tripping

MAKING costumes, costumes and more costumes!

WATCHING Borgen Series 1

VISITING

  • Gerringong and Kiama with Saskia
  • Cockatoo Island

CATCHING

  • up with some lovely colleagues past and present
  • up with my old Mothers Group.  What an amazing bunch they are, what a lot we have gone through since we first met.

DOING some “extreme sketching” at Cockatoo Island in wild winds and with aggressive sea gulls dive bombing.  Who knew sketching could be such a daredevil activity?

 

Day tripping

By Vita Forest

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On a glorious spring day, Saskia and I set off to revisit a favourite walk – Gerringong to Kiama.  We did it in January, in the middle of summer, stopping for a swim on the way and racing a storm back to the holiday flat.  This time it was a day trip from Sydney, travelling by train for a full day out.

The train ride itself, down through the Royal National Park, and then along the Illawarra Escarpment is very spectacular.  The train cuts through thick swathes of bush, climbs across high, curving bridges straddling steep valleys, and clings to the side of the cliffs with the Pacific Ocean gleaming away into the horizon.  Sometimes you see hang gliders drifting off from Stanwell Tops, sometimes you see whales breaching off shore.  Sometimes you just have to settle for the clear, endless blue of the ocean.

Below Wollongong, the train turns inland a little through lush dairy country which continues down around Kiama and Gerringong.  The hills are rolling and green, the cows are black and white, the fields are dotted with cabbage tree palms and giant majestic fig trees, remnants of the rainforest that once extended from the mountain ridge right down to the coast.

We changed trains at Kiama and went one stop to Gerringong, we would be returning by foot.  It is perhaps three kilometres from the station to the start of the Kiama Coast walk, but half of this is along the pristine Gerringong Beach, a long stretch of sand with a dramatic grassy bluff at its southern end.  There were surfers enjoying the water, and we enjoyed a paddle, but the water was still a little too bracing for swimming.  For me anyway.

Gerringong Beach

Gerringong Beach

At the northern end of the beach, we cleaned the sand from our feet and put on our walking shoes ready to start the walk.  A pair of wooden poles, decorated with local Indigenous symbols, mark the start of this section of the walk.  You pass through them, and head up the hill, and away from civilisation.  This area seems like a wild place, despite the fact that it edges around farmland.  Though there may be cows munching the grass to your left, on your right are steep cliffs, clambering wildflowers and dramatic black boulders plunging into the sea.

Saskia preparing for the walk

Saskia preparing for the walk

We saw many birds – a number of hawks (cruising over the cliffs or perched imperious and solitary on a fence post), flocks of seagulls (following fishing boats or fishing themselves in flickering white formation), an elegant heron, some crows, and jaunty squabbling fairy wrens, who love the thick dense shrubs that border the pathway.

We stopped for snacks and lunch on the grassy path, looking out to sea and back down the coastline.  As the day progressed, the sea changed from smooth and glassy to a heaving, swelling living thing, causing white breakers to smash against the rocks at the shoreline.  (This was also convenient when we reached The Little Blowhole – the rising swell of the water shooting a dramatic white spray vertically into the air, much to the delight of the onlookers).

We climbed over the stile at the southern end of East’s Beach, a landmark I used to look at from the sand when my children were very young and wonder about.  What was past it?  Where did it go?  Now I know.

Our shoes came on and off as we walked along sand, then back on grass.  There were steep steps, thick grass and even at times, concrete paths.  We inspected gardens as we walked along headlands, sat on generously placed seats, and chatted to people and dogs.

We arrived back at the Surf Beach and dusted off our feet for the last time.  There was a train heading back to Sydney in a few minutes so we hurried up the hill and sank satisfied into north-facing seats on the train.

Another marvellous journey on the Kiama Coast walk.