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Walking in convict footsteps

Once allowed out of our Local Government Area, Mr S and I headed off to a walk I’ve wanted to do for a while – the Old Northern Road built by convict chain gangs. The recalcitrants, the wrong ‘uns of the wrong ‘uns, were sent to clear a path through trees and bush, up a vertical cliffs, so the colony could reach the plains of the Hunter Valley.

The walk has plenty of information points so the steep climb is relatively easy. Some info plinths have recreations of artefacts, like the leg irons Mr S is wearing below.

Flannel flowers abounded. A clever sign of spring. I’d say there were fields of them except they were growing out of vertical rock faces.

The road was quite wide – two cars could pass easily, though it’s closed to traffic, only walkers and bikes allowed. Most amazing was the culverts, drains, buttresses and curved stone walls supporting the road. Imagine! All this carved from solid rock, by hand, on a diet of flour, tea and, often rancid, meat. Colonisation was brutal on the colonisers too.

The view across the Hawkesbury River was beautiful. Spoiled by the noise of the masses of motorbikes on one of the favourite weekend motorbike routes.

The plan was to do the gentle walk, up and down the same road. But we decided to do the loop and return via the narrow road that was the first attempt by the surveyor to create a road, until the governor, rightly, declared it too steep and the second attempt was made – the track we took up.

Before we hit the down hill (read down cliff), we walked along the ridge. An interesting walk with views west to a swamp and through bush, where we saw a goanna and a lyrebird, and masses of Gymea lilies.

Then we hit the downhill track. Oh my god. It was steep and more like a water channel for stormwater run off. A goat track maybe. It was hard going. Lots of unsteady footfalls with loose rocks and pebbles.

From the bottom of the track we had 2km to return to the ferry. Mr S volunteered to walk the extra distance to our car, so I waited for his return. I’d done nearly 10km. But it was the downhill goat track that did me in.

After crossing back to the Wiseman’s Ferry side of the river, we had a little picnic.

Oh it was lovely to be out and beyond our LGA. And amazing to know that this wild beauty is only 45 minutes drive from home.

A Very COVID Easter

Just when lots of people who had been isolating for weeks were over it, I started my isolation.

And I loved it. It has truely been a time of restoring my mind and body.

Before term ended, before the lockdown laws had come in, I popped into a major shopping centre to pick up some hair colour solution. (The restrictions would mean I wouldn’t be able to make my hair appointment so I had to risk doing my own colour. “What! You’re not a natural blonde?”)

Once at the shopping centre, I felt sorry for the businesses; even though the restrictions hadn’t come into effect yet, the centre was so empty. So I bought some stuff besides the hair colour stuff – clothing and Easter decorations.

I’d love to share the table setting and front door decorations with you, but I forgot to take any photos. And now they’re all packed away.

Easter autumn weather is among my favourite in Sydney. It’s finally cool. But still sunny. The light is soft. The sky a brilliant blue.

And now we could enjoy it with forced rest.

Long slow breakfasts on the front porch, in the morning sun. The new Easter plate held a hot cross bun. Hot cross buns – another reason to love Easter.

I am lucky to live in the suburbs but surrounded by national park and bushland. Nearly every day, Mr S and I have gone on a bushwalk, exploring tracks that we didn’t know about or rediscovering ones we hadn’t ventured on for years. I can feel myself getting fitter. Although the walks are only around 10,000 to 15,000 steps, they’re up hill and down steep paths, scampering over fallen trees and boulders, constantly paying attention to loose rocks and sticks and uneven surfaces. All while enjoying bird song, fresh air and golden light.

There have been moments on the shorter walks were it has felt like Pitt Street. Who are all these people? We don’t normally see so many on the bush tracks. (A neighbour who walks her dogs daily around our suburb, says she didn’t know there were so many dogs here – she’s never seen them out before.)

In other places it has been oh so quiet, hard to believe we are so close to suburbia.

Flannel flowers – they are soft, like flannelette, to touch. They don’t like domestication, always a joy to see them in the bush.

Scampering down the path

Contemplating jumping over the roaring creek. OK, it was more like a big step, but I psyched myself out. You had to walk down the rocks to the creek which was narrow at this point so made a lot of noise. I was sure I’d fall into the deep washpools and break a leg.

Here’s how loud it was:

On other walks, other creeks are quiet and prompt more calming contemplation.

One day, Mr S was heading off to work (his work is a 20 minute walk from home), and I accompanied him as a friend lived near his workplace and I wanted to drop off a birthday gift to said friend. On the way, we made a spur of the moment decision to turn right and take a longer bush track rather than take the direct route by road. I felt like Little Red Riding Hood – but without the cloak or the basket.

Our area has steep hills. The main thoroughfares stick to the ridge, so the area looks flat. Deep gullies are full of lush plants – not all natives.

Along with daily walks I’ve been pottering in the garden. I’ve put in sweet peas again. This year I won’t be going overseas, so I should hopefully enjoy the cut blossoms.

I’ve joined the world in tidying and organising my house. Our local council had the kerbside cleanup the Tuesday after Easter. I emptied out the junk from under the house. Mr S hates throwing things away. Or maybe he just hates making a decision? So he puts things under the house. Where they get dusty and dirty and damp – our house is on piers and underneath is open to the elements. My neighbours have never seen us dispose of so many things. A 27 year old heater – bought when Older Boy was born. Director chairs from before that. A fussball table bought by Opa years ago for the boys. Old rusty exercise equipment. Not nice to think of the landfill we created but so soothing to know there is clear space under the house. (And I got Mr S to agree to get rid of the beer home brewing bottles he has stored under the house for over 12 years without brewing. He used to be a home brewer. As soon as this social isolation is over I will freecycle the bottles – they are the old, pre-twist top type, perfect for home brew sealing.)

What else have I been doing?

I am trying to reclaim the junk room. I did this back in 2013, when it was called The Room You Cannot Enter, but shit has taken over in it again. First step was to bring together all the Christmas wrapping and cards. Packed away now with the Christmas decorations. Next step putting books on the bookshelf and making a hard decision about my French lesson papers.

I have been doing some German language study, via Deutsche Welle.

I haven’t read much – only finishing one book. My COVID mind just isn’t up to sustained concentration. But this book, Bruny by Heather Rose, is a book for this time. In parts too scary as politicians make decisions for their own power or financial gain. Stuff the environment, the people, quiet, peace, spirituality, culture. It’s all about “the economy”.

I know I say this every break, but I really don’t want to go back to work. I just don’t have time. Too much pottering to do. All this without yoga or personal training sessions as gyms are closed.

I have spent a day at work and hours on other days dealing with work stuff. Blurgh. I’d rather be pottering.

Of course, I’m grateful that I have employment, and that it is secure. I’m also very aware of how fortunate I am that I live in a place I can get out and walk straight into the bush.

Hope everyone is finding things to fill their day!

My usual walk

I have a “lap around the block” that I like to do about four times a week. It’s about a 45 minutes walk – longer in the heat. The family call it “my usual walk.” Such as, “when will dinner be?” or “are you ready to eat?” “After my usual walk.”

My usual walk makes for a great divider between work and home, so on work days I do it of an afternoon or evening. On holidays and weekends, I do it whenever the mood strikes or the weather allows. Not that the wet stops me. There’s an added beauty of walking through the Bush in the wet. (It’s not bush walking, given there’s a wide concrete path, but the path skirts through the edge of some bushland. And most is on suburb streets.)

On my usual walk I daydream and let my mind wander; it’s good for both de-stressing and reducing my flabdomen.

Even while I let my mind wander, lots of things catch my eye. Animals. Flowering plants. Birds. Lizards. Eels. Trees.

One of my favourite gardens always has different flowers in bloom. Even in the heat.

Look: parasols for plants. A novel way to protect a flowering plant in 38° heat.

I rarely walk with headphones on – I like to listen to the birds as I walk through a bit of the local bush.

This bridge crosses a little creek. I’ve seen eels in there – but not since a big flood washed them away. There used to be a family of ducks, but not for several years. They probably were killed by cats or foxes.

There’s often little kids with their parents investigating around the creek, or throwing sticks in and watching them float away. It’s also dog heaven, running across the ford.

I know the river dragon thinks it is his creek. When he jumps out from his camouflaged position on a rock, scatters across my path and plops into the creek, I squeal. Always.

One day I heard some scratching in the leaf litter next to the path. And there, right on the path was an echidna. I look for him all the time. But have only had one other sighting. (I did see a family of three deeper in the bush.) I am sure the little fellow is OK – his thorns would protect him from predators.

There’s always parrots or cockatoos or kookaburras. My favourite are the crimson rosellas.

I love the little finches that scatter and hop about through the low shrubs. Less common is the lyrebird that I have seen a couple of times. Being a ground dweller, I do worry he will be victim to cats and foxes.

Recently I heard an Eastern Whipbird. I actually saw him while he was making the unique call. At the end, he flicked his head back. (Worth listening to.)

I was excited to see what I thought was a new bird. Turns out it is the juvenile Eastern Koel. Not rare at all. (Apologies for the poor photos. I am walking with a phone and not camping out with a camera with a zoom lens after all.)

Of course, the dreaded brush turkey has made it to Sydney. They make a huge pile for their eggs. The male tends to nest to keep the eggs warm. I say dreaded as once they invade your garden, you’ll never get rid of them. And their size protects them against all predators. Here’s one roosting near his nest. A photo of the nest doesn’t show how truely huge the nest is – about three metres across. So I haven’t bothered with a photo. It’s just a pile of leaves anyway.

I also love looking at the trees. The changing texture as the gums drop their bark. While the trees are ever green, they are sort of deciduous – dropping their bark every year, revealing a smooth tree trunk. I’m not sure if I prefer the red trunks or the white of the ghost gums!

Either way, I do like how the bark sits around the base of a trunk like the tree has stepped out of its pants and left them on the ground.

Then there’s my favourite tree. It is hanging on despite most of the soil around its roots having been washed away. It looks as if a few little rocks are all that are left under one root. Bits of the tree have fallen off. Yet it lives on.

Coming back into the suburban street, one garden ornament often catches me out. I forget it is there and every so often, I notice it. I think I miss it as I am often looking elsewhere – at the nearby brush turkey, at kids on bikes, at an occasional car – or struggling up the hill. When I do notice it, I always smile.

I’m always pleased when the flowering gum I pass is in bloom.

Likewise I love when the hedge of gardenias are in bloom. The scent always reminds me of summer.

Pink bottlebrushes sing to me in a way the red ones don’t.

In other seasons, there’ll be a carpet of cherry blossoms confetti.

I don’t do the walk as much as I’d like when it gets dark early. It is a bit creepy walking down the track that crosses the creek. A young girl was abducted there one afternoon – so it doesn’t have to be dark, I suppose. Luckily she escaped when someone else walked by.

Mr Sans and I like walking with a torch in the dark along the path as it has no street lights. Despite evidence of an excessive number of possums living in our suburb – think jackboots on our roof – I haven’t spotted any when we wave the torch up the trees.

I also haven’t seen any wallabies – though Mr Sans says he has. Reason enough to keep walking this route. I may see one someday.

If I time my walk right, I can come up the last hill, just as the sun is setting and get these views:

Into the real wild: rainforest

Every time I visit my mother on Tambourine Mountain, I have to go for a walk in a rainforest. There’s a wildness, a sense of the strength of nature, in the rainforest that allows no space for humans to sit. There’s no place for suburban niceties and neat growth. This jungle sits besides suburban blocks. You just know it will swallow the neat grass plots in no time.

As you enter the rainforest, it is instantly darker and cooler. The scent is of sweet decay of plant matter.

It is rare to see any animals or birds. You can hear the birds in the canopy or hopping in the undergrowth. In the past I’ve seen leeches swiggling up from the soil, but this time it was too dry for leeches. Amazingly, this time I saw a wallaby, a brush turkey, several small species of birds, bright blue dragonflies, different butterflies and actually saw a cicada flying from tree to tree. While you can often hear the cicadas, you rarely see them.

There’s generally not much colour. Texture and shades of green.

Any colour stands out as almost garishly out of place. Such blatant lures in the drive for reproduction!

It is not quiet in the rainforest. The cicadas are deafening.

As we entered, my stepfather laughingly told me when his sister visited from Germany. She wouldn’t enter the rainforest. Too dark. Too scary. And she saw a snake. Tee hee. Imagine not wanting to walk along the path. Without the path, yes, it’d be hard work. Even with the path, there’s always lots of leaf litter, palm fronds, branches, small fruits that litter the path, and can trip an unwary walker by hiding small rocks, so you have to watch your step.

I nearly trod on this large frond. And then realised it was not, indeed, plant matter. [Look carefully below.]

Farrrccckk!

I squealed. I ran back up the track. My stepfather was all for stepping over the sleeping python and continuing along the track. No, flippin’ way. My heart pumping as double time, I crept forward to take the photo.

Then I made us return the way we came. Enough rainforest walking. Enough excitement for one day. Be still my giddy heart.

I still enjoyed the return walk, all the time looking twice at each fallen frond, each vine that hung across the path, each tree root. What would happen if another snake was on the path? We’d be stuck between the two!

Who was it who mocked the German aunt? Not me!

Tambourine Mountain

Shush. We’re in hiding, tucked up in Tambourine Mountain. OK, we were tucked up. Our Easter hibernation den. 

On Friday we didn’t venture out. Hung around my mother’s place, talking, reading, blogging, drinking, eating, snoozing. 

On Saturday we snuck out for supplies. What are all these people doing on our mountain? Quick, back to our hidey hole. 

Lorikeets feeding in my mother’s backyard


On Sunday, my cousin and aunt took me to the Botanic Gardens. I haven’t been here for over 16 years. What a difference! The gardens are extensive and beautiful, with interesting and whimsical details. There’s a little section, The Sooty Owl grotto, to entertain kids with lots of hidden owls. 

A working waterwheel. Who’s that looking out the window?

Can you see now? It’s Sooty Owl.

Oh great! Pester power. To build a home for snakes and spiders in your yard!


By the time we left, the car park and surrounding road was full of people stopping in for lunch. Lucky we came relatively early. On most days there are not many people here. 

We then braved the shopping road, Gallery Walk. It’s aimed at tourists with knickknacks, soaps, candles, crafts, wine etc. Amongst the shops is one of my favourite dress shops. I can always find a bright Gold Coasty dress, something different from Sydney stock. And this time the shop did not disappoint. I got two dresses for the price of one – a super Easter special – and a necklace. 

On Monday I took Mr S to the Botanic Gardens. Look who greeted us. We were there early and the birds were in full voice. Though this fellow was quietly watching and hunting. 

Rare to see one right at eye level. Actually I just love everything about rainforests.


Mr S is not a gardener and not normally impressed with gardens. These gardens impressed him!!! 

The wall of green of the rainforest at the boundary of the gardens is so tall. Without ongoing mowing and pruning, the rainforest would reclaim the gardens and lawn. 

Wall of the rainforest. Look at the gums that tower over the other plants.


We then did a short bush walk through the rainforest. You can’t come to Tambourine Mountain and not do a rainforest walk. Listen to this whip bird from our walk! And get a feel for the rainforest. The jungle! Palms and trees and vines! Magic!


A few more shots from the rainforest. So lush!

Fungi working their magic on fallen trees.

You’re looking at a fallen tree, being overtaken by other plants.

Love the buttress roots.

And I love how the white ghost gums stand out. And tower above the canopy, so straight


In the afternoon we visited my aunt at her home. Mr S has teased/bullied her into baking a cake. She makes the most divine cakes and this one was perfect. She hand whips her cream. I don’t know if this is what makes it so silky but it has a different consistency and sheen. My cousin, who had visited her mother, had to go home early as her cows had escaped – best excuse ever. My cousin’s daughter’s anticipated visit did not eventuate as she is still cleaning up after the recent floods. Her town just south of the border went under. Here’s some photos of the flood at her house. 

Flood waters lapping at my second cousin’s verandah.

So you understand the enormity of the floods, my second cousin lives in a Queenslander. For overseas readers, that’s a house on stilts with the residence upstairs, so designed to allow air flow underneath and aid with natural cooling. The flood waters in the Ohio above are actually lapping at her top storey. Here’s her house when the floods just began. Now you can see why everything is so green and the waterfall at Armidale was gushing!

By Tuesday, the worst of the traffic was gone and Mr S and I snuck off the mountain, heading home the Pacific Highway route, one thermos filled with boiling water and one with milk for our cuppa rest break. Would we find a nice spot? 

Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree

My regular walk takes me along a track that has bush on one side and trees all around. 

Anyone who has walked through the Aussie bush will know you rarely see animals. Except ants and birds.

Depending on the season and time of day I will see, or more likely hear, different birds. 

On my walks around the bush near me, I have seen and heard several lyrebirds. Their sound is very distinctive. In the two times I actually spotted one, I was led to the bird by the unusual sounds. It imitates all manner of things – mechanical and living. 

Among my favourite is the little finch. Always in a mass pack, they flit so quickly among low shrubs and tall grass. It is their movement I love. And the challenge of spotting one. 

Yesterday Dar said she’d like to hear a kookaburra in the wild. And she wondered if it would become annoying. 

The thing is Aussie birds tend not to sing all day. (In fact some are horrid screechers so singing and chirping are not the right words. Have I told you how much I hate cockatoos?)

I never find kookaburras annoying. They don’t call all the time. Mainly they communicate to other kookaburras of an evening. 

As luck would have it on my walk as the sun was setting today, I came across a group of kookaburras who were winging it home. They called to one another, gathering all together before they disappeared towards the bush. I whipped out my phone and recorded them. You cannot really see them but they flew between trees as the headed off towards the bush. 

So here’s one for you Dar? Enjoy. 

How can this sound not bring a smile to your face? (Don’t stop the video too soon. The horrid screeching towards the end is a cockatoo. Shit things. Noisey and they peck apart housing, fencing and sensor tiles for the blind as well as tip bins over.)

Lifts the heart

Just had to share this:

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We have rain – at last. I walked in the rain. The sounds of drops falling through the leaves in the bush was simply beautiful.

Walking down the hill on the way home, I had a perfect view. The setting sun lighting up the tops of the tall gum trees, with the sky dark towards the east and a perfect rainbow.

From my street I couldn’t get the whole view, but here’s some footage:

Just click here.