A stroll at twilight

By Vita Forest


Tonight we took a walk.  Lucy and I strolled down the road at twilight with Max click-edy clacking away and back on his skateboard.  We soon turned off the main road and headed up the hill through the quieter streets.  Max scooted ahead until it was flat and swerved along a car-less road.  Our suburb is full of walking tracks and pathways between apartment blocks and we followed him down one such track into the cool damp shade within.  There were brush turkeys scratching about between some trees, but they soon dashed out of the way when the sound of the rolling wheels grinding over concrete alerted them to Max’s presence.   I was suddenly aware of the gradients of the path, the hills, the jutting cracks in the footpath.  Having a fourteen year old on a skateboard will do that to you.

We walked through another track to a park hidden between an apartment block.  Someone had personalised the pathway to their door with ferns and potted palms and a few pink Impatients for colour.  Further on we glanced up at “the hoarder’s house” a balcony we had noticed on another visit, I don’t know what the inside of the apartment is like, but the balcony is overflowing with “useful items” – a microwave oven, an ironing board, piles of chairs and more chairs, a rusting electric fan, a folded banana lounge and boxes and boxes and boxes of stuff.  Makes me feel ill just thinking about it.  Max was pleased with the deserted day care centre area that backed onto the park and was “available to the public” at this after hours hour.  There were gentle slopes, steep inclines and different levels to roar across.  I inspected the rocky course for the water pump and the tiny veggie garden with its neat row of brightly coloured watering cans.  Max and Lucy peeled off their shoes and pulled themselves up to the top of the climbing frame, laying back and looking up at the fading blue of the sky.  Max relaxed into the ropes but Lucy kept a firm grip on the edge.  I lay back on a convenient chair and looked up at the sunset.

Later, Lucy and I inspected the “house” – a part of the park with the outline of a building mapped out with some low walls, some empty window frames and a welcoming wooden door frame.  Inside the “rooms” there are tables, chairs (some moveable) and even a wooden chaise longue.  Every table is decorated with brightly coloured pottery and doily inserts.  It’s very homey.

While waiting for Max to reappear from one of his skating jaunts, Lucy and I were calming watching a couple of brush turkeys pecking around in the damp earth of the park.  Suddenly another, crazier one appeared.  It dashed across the lawn to one of its friends, then proceeded to chase it up into a tree.  Lucy and I watched as they branch-hopped, jump-flew their way up the tree then we scattered as the chas-ee took flight (very badly) and heaved across over our heads before landing on the grass and running off again.  They are not the most graceful flyers.

We walked past the oval, past the grunting footy players on the astro-turf, and turned for home as the light dimmed.  The clouds were chiaroscuro mountains in pink, orange and dazzling gold.  The world smelled fresh and alive after all the rain and our clattering heads had calmed.

Walking does that to you.

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.

This week

By Vita Forest

Sydney Harbour Bridge

Sydney Harbour Bridge

This week I have been

Sydney Opera House from the Sydney Harbour Bridge

 

This week

By Vita Forest

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This is week I have been

  • READING The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton (not even half way, it’s a hefty tome).
  • WRITING Lil’ green bug
  • HONING ideas for costumes and choreography for the senior dance group at school.
  • WATCHING reruns of The Adventures of Merlin with my daughter Lucy. We love it!
  • VISITING Kiama with Lucy for a mother/daughter weekend away with lots of
  • SWIMMING at two rock pools and two beaches and
  • WALKING around the Kiama Coast Walk to the Little Blowhole (it performed well for us, unlike its bigger relation).

Kiama Coast Walk in Numbers

By Vita Forest

Gerringong

Werri Lagoon, near Gerringong

Another post hand-written while on holidays…

By Vita Forest

2 walkers – Saskia and Vita.

1 stop on the train – Kiama to Gerringong. $4 for my train ticket (because I left my opal card at home… $2 for Saskia, she remembered hers).

2 legs of the Kiama Coast Walk – Gerringong to Loves Bay and Loves Bay to Blowhole Point.

14km walk from start to finish.

3km walk from Gerringong station to the start of the walk at Werri Lagoon.

2 pairs of wooden dream poles covered with local indigenous symbols, at either end of the Gerringong to Loves Bay leg.

Dream poles, Kiama coast walk

Dream poles, Kiama coast walk

1 herd of black and white cows huddled together in an adjoining paddock.

Millions of golden dandelions covering the hills.

Dandelion covered hills, Kiama Coast walk

Dandelion covered hills, Kiama Coast walk

1 woman using the hillls over Werri Lagoon as an outdoor gym – interval training, jogging up and down the steep hill and stopping at the top to do push-ups or squats…

Millions of hidden insects in the swaying grasses, chirping and clicking.

Thousands of visible bugs in the vegetation – butterflies, crickets, flies hitching rides on the back of our backpacks.

2 girls overtook us on the walk.

1 train line disappearing into dark caverns beneath the hills.

1 handful of delicious, wild, sun-ripened blackberries picked from the bushes along the path.

Blackberries

Blackberries

Thousands of purple wildflowers tumbling down the steep escarpments.

Wildflowers on Kiama Coast walk

Wildflowers on Kiama Coast walk

4 sea kayakers passing below the cliffs as we walked in the opposite direction, 2 with tiny sails to take advantage of the sea.

8 pelicans flying in formation.

Pelicans on the Kiama Coast Walk

Pelicans on the Kiama Coast Walk

1 electric blue fairy wren balancing delicately on the barbed wire fence beside the path.

4 patrolled beaches along the route (Werri, Easts, Kendalls and Surf).

Near Easts Beach

Near Easts Beach

3 caravan parks.

1 stile over a dry stone wall near Easts Beach.

1 heron that stood silent and still before launching off over the cliffs at Easts Beach when I ventured too close.

1 amazingly refreshing swim at Kendalls beach.

Storm approaching, Kendalls Beach

Storm approaching, Kendalls Beach

Several rumbles of thunder and flashes of lightening as we neared the Surf Beach.

1 downpour just as we neared our holiday flat.

1 blister on the bottom of my right big toe.

29 degrees C in the middle of the day, 22 degrees after the storm.

2 tired but happy explorers sitting on the balcony with a cup of tea watching the rain.

Kiama

Surf Beach

 

This week

By Vita Forest

Kiama

Surf Beach, Kiama

This week I have been

READING The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George (I’m afraid I would not recommend it. Saskia lent it to me to see if I would feel the same way she did about it. And I did. Thanks Saskia!!)

WRITING with a sharp lead pencil in my notebook as I’ve been –

VISITING Kiama and its surrounds on holiday with Betty and Saskia

SWIMMING in the glorious glittering ocean and in the beautiful Blowhole Point rock pool.

WATCHING dolphins swim around the rock pool at Blowhole Point!

WALKING around the coast at Kiama, two legs of the Kiama Coast Walk, the track at Minnamurra Rainforest.

CHATTING with Betty and Saskia.

PLANNING lots of writing.

LISTENING to Opera in the Domain in Sydney with some lovely work colleagues.

WAITING to get somewhere to write up and publish these posts! (working on the iPhone did not prove easy – any tips?)

Beware of wand thieves and sunburn

By Vita Forest

On the way to Shelly Beach

On the way to Shelly Beach

Last weekend, Lucy and I met some of my old high school friends and some of their children for a day out.  Heather, Venetia, Gemma and I (the adults) were keen to do a big walk somewhere beautiful.  The children (Ava, Jasper, Bob and Lucy) were not so keen on the walking part, but came anyway with the promise of icecream.  We settled on the Manly to North Head walk and met at Circular Quay to catch the Manly ferry.

When we arrived, we walked through Manly to the surf beach.  It was a beautiful Spring day and the beach was busy.  Before walking to Shelly Beach, we checked the sunscreen situation.  Bob was prevailed upon to apply some more (he hates it so much that he has been known to wear long sleeves in Summer just to avoid it).  The females admired the ocean waves, the surfers and the clear blue sky, while Jasper and Bob turned away from the beach and admired the real estate.  I pointed out to Lucy the small child-height statues dotted along the rocky wall that she used to toddle between as a two-year old.

Sculpture of a snorkeler, Shelly Beach

Sculpture of a snorkeler, Shelly Beach

We climbed higher and looked out over the ocean (making a slight detour when a water dragon appeared in our path, cocking its head and waiting to see whether it had to run.  It did not).  There was some confusion as to whether we could walk through the bush, Venetia’s instructions were via the streets, so through the streets we went.  (Apparently you can walk through the bush, but it was not well sign-posted). Up the hills we went and  entered the Sydney Harbour National Park at North Head.  We didn’t see any bandicoots but we did see this sign.

We didn't see any bandicoots, they are nocturnal after all.

We didn’t see any bandicoots, they are nocturnal after all.

The bush there is thick, dense scrub.  You can’t see far into the distance on the track, but all at once you feel a cool breeze, and the vegetation suddenly breaks open and you are standing looking along the cliff line.  There are some old military sites to explore, including observation posts cliffs facing out to sea.

Ava collected a good solid stick that she swished about as a wand (she had just watched Harry Potter).  At one lookout, another child came over.  She held it out to him to inspect and to her astonishment, he snatched it and ran off!  Luckily there were plenty more wands to be had.  After that, we were on the lookout for wand thieves.

The view North

The view North

Signs indicating the distant existence of a café pricked the interest of the girls, who were deflated to learn we had brought our own lunch.  They chewed on snacks as we stepped along the mesh path over the Hanging Swamp.  The spring flowers were putting on a fine display – flannel flowers, grevilleas and bottlebrush.  Ava wanted some spells for her new wand, preferably one that would help us fly and so avoid the walk in the hot sun.  She asked Lucy if she knew any.  (“Not Avada kedavra,” I instructed. “Or Sectumsempra!”)  The girls settled on Wingardium levisoa and Obliviate.  Ava tested this last one by giving her Mum a small punch and then using the Obliviate spell to see if Gemma would forget her naughtiness.  Unfortunately for Ava it did not work…

The

The Path through the Hanging Swamp

After stopping for lunch (outside the cafe), we visited the Quarantine station cemetery.  It was was brimming with wild flowers which dwarfed the crumbling monuments that stood on the hill looking back towards the city.  Heather even found one grave for a Edward Kelly (a not so famous one we presume).  We continued past  the Quarantine Station (“Ghost tours!” said Jasper) and on to the lovely Collins Beach, into penguin territory.  After a brief paddle it was back to the ferry wharf where we were herded on to a ferry back to Circular Quay.

Wildflowers in the cemetery

Wildflowers in the cemetery

Lucy and Ava waved to the passengers on passing boats, and Gemma reminisced about doing the same with her sister on car trips when they were children.  If anyone waved back, they were “allowed” to come to their birthday parties!  Gemma always collected more waves than her sister.  Jasper closed his eyes but opened them a crack when Ava gleefully announced that her brother was asleep.  By this point, we were all grateful to be sitting down.

At Circular Quay, we all indulged in the long-awaited reward of gelato before Lucy and I had to say farewell and rush off to try and make the kids’ 5pm handover.

We all slept well that night.