Thursday, March 31, 2011

31 March 2011 - Lane Cove National Park, Sydney, NSW

Another wet dull day in Sydney! We have managed to dodge the soaking rain but it has taken the gloss off our sightseeing.

Botony Bay and Cook’s landing were on the list of to-dos, as they are probably on everyone’s who come to Sydney. We had studied our map and decided that a combination of train, bus and walking would be the only way to achieve our goal, and so we set off this morning for the station in our coats, after I had pegged the wet washing on our portable line under the awning and made up another batch of milk.

We changed trains at Central and travelled south to Cronulla, passing through less salubrious vistas than those enjoyed on previous days. Railway tracks tend to pass the backend of life, of residences and factories, shops and wastelands, often defaced with graffiti or rubbish. The trip today was such as this.

If you look at a map of Sydney and it’s surrounding geography, you will see that south of the Sydney Harbour there is yet another larger harbour; Botony Bay. This is the outlet of the Georges River and the harbour into which Captain James Cook sailed on 28 April 1770.

Below this Bay, there is a narrow peninsula and to the south of that, Port Hacking and Bate Bay. The latter is the playground of surfers and bathers who have made Cronulla beach famous. I have to confess that I had no idea that Cronulla was a surf beach, or any kind of beach. I had heard of it in context of a sports team, and knew it to be a place in New South Wales; now I know otherwise. Today this well known beach was windy and wild and there were but four intrepid swimmers out in the water. We came, we saw and retired to the more sheltered street.

From the Cronulla station, we caught a bus out to Kurnell, on the peninsula of the same name that divides Botany Bay from Bate Bay. The driver assured us he would drop us to the stop nearby the landing place, and so he did. The very end of the peninsula is now a National Park where there are monuments of various kinds and explanatory plaques to educate. This rocky shore near Sutherland Point is effectively the birth place of modern Australia, because it was from that landing which began with a few lances being tossed at Cook and his crew and a few volleying shots aimed first in the air and then at dark legs, an eight day replenishment stop and the keen research by Joseph Banks, the botanist on board, who sent glowing reports of the suitability of New South Wales as a future settlement for the overflowing population of Great Britain back to the old country.

Many of the plaques also lament the fact that this was the death knell, figuratively, of the aboriginal way of life, a life that had been unchanged for thousands of years, and was never to be the same again.

An interesting thought particularly at this time when there is so much being written in the newspapers and said and unsaid in parliament here in Australia about the Aboriginal problems. It appears that Alice Springs is not a suitable place to travel to, and so we may give it a wide berth until the problems of the useless drunken violence perpetrated by the indigenes have been addressed. Sadly it is like all things, those who are at the centre of this problem are actually very few in the big picture but they tarnish the name and reputation for all those who are hard working, decent and wonderful citizens.

However I digress.

The bus driver had assured us that there were heaps of busses running the circuit, that he would be doing at least a couple more this afternoon and there were others to follow him. When we returned to the bus stop, we found that we had missed the last bus by five minutes or less and had another hour to wait. And it was raining. We walked on around the route we believed the bus would take, a kilometre or two, until we came to a stop with shelter and sat wrapped in our coats until the same driver reappeared, and took us back to Cronulla.
It was then we discovered the sea, the shopping centre full of surf and “cozzy” (togs) shops, and McDonalds where we indulged in icecreams because even though it was cold and wet, we were at the seaside.
From there we caught the train back following exactly the same route of the morning, arrived at camp to find the mail that Pauline had forwarded to us had arrived, and back to our little home on wheels where the washing was hanging limp and wet, waiting for us.

This evening I have ventured back into this online blog to post the last few days and was delighted to see that Olly has ben in here working on the hideous mess I had managed to make. My photos are still lost and will need to be reinserted; I shall do that in an idle moment! Thank goodness for clever sons! Thank you, Olly!

30 March 2011 - Lane Cove National Park, Sydney, NSW

This morning we woke to a glorious blue day; that is blue skies and sunshine. We agreed that this was an excellent day for a drive tour, so with picnic lunch packed and sunscreen applied, we set on out of camp soon after nine o’clock.

We headed for Palm Beach on the north tip of the Hawkesbury River’s south head, via Mona Vale on up Barrenjoey Road. The heads have that same name; Barrenjoey. The lighthouse which also shares that name and the park surrounding invites visitors on one hand, and then sends them away with parking metres just everywhere, charging $4 an hour. Imagine heading out to the beach for a surf or a swim, or to one of the charming café’s on the waterfront and being faced with a parking meter!  We stopped on the Pittwater side of the peninsula for a coffee from the thermos and kept one eye out for a parking ranger.

We then drove down the ocean side pausing at Palm Beach; Chris recognised the place where he and his fellow backpacker traveller, Stan, spent their first night in Sydney nearly forty years ago after having driven up from Melbourne. This area has many fine and elegant mansions, their residents not likely favouring vagrants on the foreshore then or now.

The road soon rejoined the one we had already travelled, so we crossed over to the Pittwater side and followed the shore as far as the streets would allow. Here they are very steep and narrow, deliberately so to keep tourists out, I am sure. A wonderful area overlooking this lovely inlet which inspires much sailing of the yachts waiting moored in the many marinas.

Further around we entered the Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park; that will be $11 please to take your vehicle in for the day. This was not surprising; we had encountered it before, however we still find it peculiar. The road up the Lambert Peninsula to the Western Head is better than all the roads we had travelled all day. That probably explains why so many cyclists were out and about.

 We did a couple of short walks, about four and a half kilometres in all, each taking us to wonderful view points overlooking Broken Bay, the inlet called Cowan Waters to the east, the islands, and the sea coast up to Woywoy and toward The Entrance.

While having our lunch we were visited by a very large goanna, although short of the average adult length of two metres. I have now overcome my ridiculous fear of these creatures, which stems from a story heard nearly thirty five years ago in Vanuatu. Then, our receptionist was a woman from NSW named Toni, who had grown up on a farm with her two sisters. She recounted a time when the three of them were walking back from the school bus stop and were bailed up by a very large goanna. The story remained with me for all these years, the goanna growing in size, and creating a good reason why one would not want to live in this land of monsters. Ridiculous of course, but we are all allowed our little quirks.

In the afternoon we travelled further on around Cowan Waters, across to the inlet called Coal & Candle Creek where we discovered more wonderful marinas tucked into the amazingly sheltered corners at Akuna Bay. Then out of the park back into city scapes, and north again up to Bobbin Head which is still in the same National Park. We came down to the shore here and were thoroughly delighted to find expansive parks beside the water, and stretching up river along mangrove walks. Alas the clouds were gathering and we could hear thunder in the distance. We decided that the weather was a bit dodgy to consider another walk, and drove on up to the Kalkari Discovery Centre, still in the park and spent the passing of the storm safely inside watching a lovely 3-D slide show of the park.

By now it was approaching four, and we decided we should head home before the onslaught of the work traffic. This we did with the invaluable assistance of Tomtom, in time to relax with a coffee and the newspaper before starting dinner preparation.

29 March 2011 - Lane Cove National Park, Sydney, NSW

As evening falls, the sky is still clear of cloud, unlike the days and days that have preceded this. The parrots and kookaburras are very vocal tonight, but then night seems to fall earlier by the day. I guess daylight savings will come to an end soon.

Government House
We left camp this morning with a general plan of travel, caught the train to Wynyard, then to Circular Quay where we tried to sort out a ticket duplication problem which arose yesterday when we were rushing for the Parramatta ferry. We were unsuccessful but handed a complaints / resolution form to complete and send in to the appropriate authorities. I suspect we will not get around to doing anything about it, however even having lost one day’s travel, we count ourselves to be getting an excellent deal with these weekly travel tickets. We have seen what one way tickets to our various destinations cost, and realise that the amount we have paid out for the three weeks (less one day), is just a tiny fraction of what even one of those weeks would have cost otherwise. We would thoroughly recommend anyone travelling to Sydney and staying four or more days to buy one of these weekly multi-passes!

Government House
Spontaneously, and influenced by the fact that it was not raining, we headed off up the hill to the Botanic Gardens, and across to Government House located in the north west corner of the gardens, overlooking the harbour.. This amazing “castle” built in Gothic Revival style in 1845 sits among beautiful gardens of it’s own, filled with trees planted by visiting royals over the years; the young Queen of England in 1953, Boudoin and Fabiola of Belgium, Charles of England, Diana, his wife, et cetera, et cetera. The building is open for guided tours, but alas not on Tuesdays. If we have time or the inclination, we may return to do such a tour, however even with this third week extension, we are running out of time to do and see all the things we want to.                               

Looking down through the Queen Victoria building
From there, we walked on down through the gardens to Farm Cove, had our lunch watched by kookaburras and mynahs (not noisy miners this time). From there we walked up over the second peninsula of the Botanic Gardens to Wooloomooloo Bay, to wander about the streets of old terrace house back toward the city, more particularly toward St Mary’s Cathedral, across Hyde Park, and in amongst the towering skyscrapers of the business area of the city. The Queen Victoria building, referred to some time ago when we were seeking a bus station, is an incredibly beautiful building and one of Sydney’s most cherished landmarks. It was built in 1898 to replace the old Sydney markets, later used for various other purposes over the intervening years; housing a concert hall and the city library, before being restored to its former glory in 1984. It is considered by some to be the most beautiful shopping centre in the world. That is a big statement, but we can see why some would find it so. It houses five levels of stylish shops and cafes, and a very elegant tea rooms on the top floor. As Chris and I wandered around in our jeans and walking shoes, we decided not to bother wandering in to the shops to even pretend we were would-be customers. They would not believe us.

From there on the lower floor we passed under the streets to a Westfield shopping centre, and enjoyed a McDonald’s coffee rather than tea at the tearooms. We came out in the Pitt Street Mall, a part of one of the main streets closed off for pedestrian traffic. There were street entertainers, shoe shiners and beggars, along with a buzzing busy populace made up of workers and tourists such as us. A walk up Martins Place also famous for some very old and grand buildings was not quite as interesting, but took us to the station at Wynyard, where we discovered a Coles superette to source some necessary supplies before catching the train uneventfully home.

28 March 2011 - Lane Cove National Park, Sydney, NSW

It is late as I pick this up for updating. I have been on Skype “talking” to Olly about the problems I am having with this blog: the disappearance of the photos and the auto inset of paragraphs. I say “talking” because we communicate by typing messages to one another rather than video or voice. It is effective but not good for opening family to family communication. I fear that Charlie and Matthew may forget who we are!

We have braved the weather today and ventured out on yet another adventure. Just after ten this morning, after I had installed the corned beef in the crockpot and Chris had installed the new smoke alarm on the ceiling, we set out for the station, travelling in to Wynyard, then to Circular Quay, and then catching the Paramatta River Cat by the skin of our teeth. The last connection was complicated by the fact that when Chris inserted his weekly pass in to the ticket machine to pass through, it would not function. He tried several times, and then we decided it must have expired, so he went back to the ticket office to buy a couple of new weekly passes. In the meantime, I was down at the ferry ramp and there was two minutes left before departure. I explained the dilemma to one of the workers, and she ran with me searching for Chris, saying we should have simply complained to the gate keeper. Chris was just emerging from the ticket sales kiosk, and all three of us ran back down the wharf to the ferry as it pulled away.

The trip up the harbour was even more enjoyable than that taken last week when we went all the way to Parramatta, because this time we called in at wharves on the way up and had a closer look at the shore. We alighted at Homebush Bay, the Olympic Park terminal, caught a bus up to the Park and headed for the information office.

Views back to the city from Olympic Park
A trip to Olympic Park had been on Chris’s must-do list, and having no objections, I was pleased to tag along. Of course I knew that the 2000 Olympic Games had been held here in Sydney, and that there had been great construction carried out for that purpose. What I did not know was that the development for the sports and events village had been started before it was a forgone conclusion that they could be held in Sydney. The Park is still a busy place, location for many great games and events and call centres for the Commonwealth Bank and others.

We ascended to the 17th floor of the Novatel Hotel where there is an observation area, from where one can see over the whole development and also has wonderful views back to the city. We visited the Cathy Freeman Park where the Cauldron is now placed, and a couple of other related sculptures, the Games Memory Poles, 480 outside the Olympic Stadium which is now the ANZ stadium, commemorating the volunteers who assisted with the games, the 1.5 kilometre Olympic Boulevard with it’s lighting towers each named after a city that has hosted an Olympic Games, the fountain and wetland at the end of the Boulevard and the Brickpit Ring Walk, and of course wandering about the area as a whole and seeing the various other venues.

The Brickpit Ring
I was particularly taken with the Brickpit Ring Walk. This whole area, where the Olympic Park now is, was originally the location of an abattoir, a rubbish tip and a brick works. The quarry where this brick works now is now a conservation refuge for Green and Golden Bell Frogs. An elevated circular walkway with viewing platforms take one 18 metres above the floor of this previous industrial site. The large pit is now a lake, covered in green slime, enjoyed by a variety of birds and frogs. The walkway is well illustrated with signage telling the history of this place; it is truly a capsule of Australian political and commercial history, having been state owned, then privatised, then state owned again, sabotaged and rebuilt and now abandoned. There was also a little snippet of information I found most interesting in this time where we lament the impossibility of young people owning their own homes. In 1911, the price of an average house was equal to eight years of he average wage. Today (or at least when the comment was written) on an average annual income of $50,000, an average home cost $400,000 (eight times an annual income), so really the cost of a house is no different to what it was 100 years ago!

We found our way to the rail station and caught the train to Lidcombe, then to Chatswood, and from there back to our local at North Ryde.

I was relieved to open the caravan door and find that the slow cooker had not boiled over and through the van, but that the meat smelled wonderful and all was well and ready for Chris to compliment the meal with vegetable preparation. As he gathered the veges from the frig, Ken, who is actually John, arrived again with his chair and his half finished beer. We were again entertained by him and finally rescued when his lovely wife arrived, stayed briefly and then suggested they leave us to our dinner. She is obviously a practical woman.

Monday, March 28, 2011

27 March, 2011 - Lane Cove National Park, Sydney, NSW

Tucked up inside after having had dinner outside, protected from the rain by the awning. It has rained today more often than not. Just as last weekend, we seem to be hampered by this precipitation. I have just pulled up the 10 day weather forecast for Sydney, and it reads as the last few days did; possible shower. It should read  “showery, possibly heavy rain”.

Soon after I last made an entry, on Friday evening, our neighbouring camper, Ken, arrived with beer in hand and his deck chair. Chris was half way through cooking the dinner outside. The reason that Chris is such a superior cook (to me) is that he actually follows cooking times, unlike me who is a bit hit and miss. You can imagine that this impromptu visitor was not entirely welcomed to stay long! He is a lovely man, who with his wife has been travelling this lovely land for nearly a decade. He had noted our Queensland number plate, and wished to greet fellow Queenslanders. He had advice for us as so many of these long time travellers do, some which we welcome keenly and some we file for future consideration.

Yesterday, despite the inclement weather, was an amazing day. We donned our glad rags, having pulled them out from storage and ironed them the best our dodgy iron would allow, and set off soon after nine o’clock for the rail station. It was still very early when we arrived at Wynyard, and so we decided to walk down to Circular Quay enjoying the reduced weekend city crowds. High heels are not the most sensible shoes to walk distances, however we took our time. The rain held off until we reached the Quay, where we enjoyed a coffee at a strange little room above the actual counter of Hungry Jacks. However from there we were able to linger over our coffee and people watch out the windows. We were not cheeky enough to pull our sandwiches from my hand bag, but ate them under some trees back from the Quay when the rain had stopped. Still not midday, we slowly set off along the quay to the Opera House, calling in to an outlet for aboriginal art. We were welcomed attentively by staff there, and we decided this was because we were so well dressed as opposed to the other casually dressed tourists. They thought they might make a sale, but with paintings ranging from $5,500 to $19,000, they were barking up the wrong tree.

By the time we reached the Opera House, the rest of the audience were gathering in the foyer. While the dress code suggests that one should make an occasion of attending the opera, even a matinee, we were a hotch potch of fashion. There were some dressed to the nines and some in jeans. Unlike the matinee crowd who attend the opera in Auckland, who are mostly the cauliflower brigade, the Sydney crowd was far more varied. There were of course the cauliflowers, but also a good representation of the middle aged and younger. But then we should not forget that we are not too far off being part of that cauliflower (white headed) lot ourselves!

The opera, Handel’s Partenope was just wonderful. The music was fabulous, with many beautiful arias, all sung in English. The story as with most operas was silly, but very comic, and certainly risqué. We did wonder what some of those older patrons thought of it all. However it was all within context and quite acceptable.

During the interval, we stood out on the balcony, behind the massive glass windows, and watched the busy boating below in the harbour. The Opera House is an incredible building, and what a special delight to enjoy such a superb entertainment there.   

When we came out at about five, it was not raining. We allowed the departing crowds to carry us back along the quay, past the bars so busy with Saturday evening customers. There was a blues band entertaining at one bar, and so we paused and watched and listened to them on the concourse below us. Further along, there were the usual buskers; the didgeridoo player, the acrobat.

We had a visit to King’s Cross on our to-do list, and decided that tonight was the night, so caught the train from Circular Quay to that part of Sydney with such a terrible reputation; a den of prostitutes, strip clubs and a vibrant night life.

When we came up out of the underground, it was still only a little after five and quite light. We spent the next hour walking the streets; I had changed my shoes to a pair of far more practical flats by then. We sought a Thai restaurant for dinner, but found most of them took cash only, rather than EFTPOS and credit cards. There were lots of people out on the streets with us, a few derelict souls stretched out on the payment in drugged stupor, a couple of girls screaming foully at a liquor supplier who would not serve them without evidence of age, but mainly people just going about their legitimate and decent business. Finally we relented and withdrew cash from an EFTPOS machine and dined at a delightful Thai restaurant named the Opium Den, a place of wonderful character where we sat on round poufs at a tiny round table almost too small to support the number of dishes that were brought to us.

This restaurant was in fact at Potts Point which I have been led to believe is a rather posh part of the city. There are some very beautiful old buildings there, and some very attractive apartments. Potts Point runs seamlessly into King’s Cross. The hotels in the Cross are grungy and attract a lot of backpackers. I am sure these frugal tourists love the vibrancy of the district; the bars and the diversity of clubs and restaurants.

We moved on to our favourite Scottish desert restaurant where we indulged in our favourite sundaes. This was quite a feat given the large plates we had enjoyed at the Opium Den, however we figured the hours walking around the Cross allowed for such decadence.

By this time, it was dark. The leggy girls in their mini skirts and high high-heels were out, along with the transvestites, the burly bouncers and those heading for the night’s entertainment.

We headed back to the station, caught the train back to the Town Hall, then to Chatswood, and then to North Ryde. Fortunately the rain had held off and we walked without incident from the station back to camp, back up Plassey Road lit up enough to dodge the puddles, arriving home not long after nine o’clock.

We turned on the television and caught Kristina Kenneally giving her concession speech. The liberals had had a massive win in the state election, Labour defeated after 16 years in power.

A massive day; for the politicians and for us.

This morning we woke to more rain. I made the packed lunch as I do most mornings directly after breakfast, but we ended up eating it here “in house” at midday, not being moved to venture out into the weather.

We decided however that we really should rouse ourselves and do something. There was a break in the rain, and so we set off up the road toward the station. Halfway there, it started to rain. We dried off in the warm wind that rushed up from the underground on our descent, and then caught the train through to the Macquarie Shopping Centre, that which we had driven round and round seeking a park several days ago. Unlike that discovered at Chatswood, this is a wonderfully designed shopping centre, with many levels and those in between, full of a variety of shops, not all exclusive and expensive.

We bought a new smoke alarm from Dick Smiths; the one in the caravan having gone off without cause a few days ago, causing great distress to us who could not turn it off or remove it, and to our neighbours worried that there was an emergency. The Big W had jackets and vests to fill our needs, and the Woolworths supermarket the groceries we needed.

After packing the heavier items into the back pack, we returned to camp uneventfully and in a timely manner; no long waits at the station.

25 March, 2011 - Lane Cove National Park, Sydney, NSW

We are now set up further down the camp under gums, mission all accomplished by 10.15 this morning, by which time the laundry was all on the line and we relaxed for the rest of the morning reading the day’s news. With the NSW election tomorrow, most of the newspapers are full of scandal and supposition, and early guesses at the outcome, as happens in all political elections. We have been following it all and will be interested to learn the outcome late tomorrow or on Sunday.

Our decision regarding the direction to set out after we leave here has been cunningly solved, at least for now. We have secured our site for a further week and so will not be leaving here until 5th April at the earliest. I feel quite relieved about that, however we will have to be careful we are not so relaxed about the extra time that we still fail to squeeze all our must-dos into that remaining time. 

Eastern Water Dragon
After lunch we set out for a two hour walk out into the National Park, the edge of which we are camped. The pathway took us down from the very extensive camp, through scrub and bush, to the Lane Cove River. We followed the river bank down until we came to the weir, and then returned by the same route. We saw ducks, and rails, butterflies of yellow, of brown and of orange, kookaburras, noisy miners, magpies and lorikeets, and mostly many many eastern water dragons. They were most put out that we should trespass on their pathways, initially freezing and pretending that they were not there, and finally and reluctantly scurrying away.

It was a lovely walk and we may well do a more extended version should we find ourselves at a loss for things to do before the date we are due out.

24 March, 2011 - Lane Cove National Park, Sydney, NSW

What a fabulous day! Yet again. Our days here in Sydney are coming to an end, just four more full days and  then we will have to move on. But for now we are making the most of every day.

Again we woke to sunshine and the promise of another wonderful day. We caught the train into the city, changed at Central this time, just to see how big that main interchange was, and were duly impressed. From there we caught a second train to Bondi Junction, came up out of the station and were rather baffled as to our next move, in the absence of helpful signs. Out came the compass and we ascertained the general direction we should head. After a few blocks we came across a sign pointing to Bondi Beach, confirming we were on track. Bondi Road runs from the Junction, down to Bondi, and then more steeply down to Bondi Beach, for at least four kilometres. As we neared Bondi itself, Chris kept commenting how he had yet to spot any familiar landmarks. He spent some months living here back in the early seventies, and was interested to see his old boarding house in Penkivil Road. Number 42 is now a great multi storied apartment block, as are most of the other buildings in that street. The area was far shoddier than he remembered; times change and perhaps he had rose-coloured glasses on as a foreign backpacking traveller in those days. As the road became steeper, I suggested to Chris that we catch the bus back up the hill rather than retracing our steps on foot. As it turned out that was a superfluous request.

Bondi Beach is an icon of Sydney, in fact Australia; a great golden swathe across a glistening bay, crowded with those bathing in the water or the sun, surfing and walking either themselves or their dogs.

There are no trees, or at least none that count as shelter for beach visitors. We walked the promenade the length of the beach and then found a shady place behind the pavilion to eat our lunch, next to four old foreign men playing a passionate game of dominos.

We decided to catch the bus up to South Head and The Gap. After a false start on the wrong bus, we travelled through the very smart suburb of Dover Heights and even more exclusive of Vaucluse. Residences here facing north have the most amazing view up the harbour toward the Harbour Bridge and Opera House. If I were a millionaire and wished to live in Sydney, this is where I would live.

The bus wound around the narrow streets then finally descended a steep street toward Watson’s Bay, passing The Gap. We stopped the bus and got off halfway down the hill, then walked back to the top to the cliff top above the Pacific Ocean. This precipice is infamous for suicide. There are signs and cameras and even a gentleman who lives opposite who watches would-be jumpers and rushes across with offers of a cup of tea and a chat as an option to the leap.

Preferring to walk across the top of The Gap rather than leap
We walked along the cliff top to the South Head National Park and enjoyed the spectacular views, but were disappointed to find we could not actually get to South Head itself; it is a defence area as was the entire National Park until fairly recently. From there we descended into Watson’s Bay, a charming bay, long a tourist attraction for Sydney day trippers. We caught the very very fast cat ferry back to Sydney, doused with sea water each time it turned or reversed.

As we docked at Circular Quay, the ferry buildings were dwarfed by a cruise ship in at the Overseas Terminal. That probably accounted for the extra large crowd on the ferry.

An uneventful trip back on the train to Wynyard, then changing to Chatswood where we alighted to shop. To our delight we found the mall crowded with a wonderful variety of international food stalls to celebrate Harmony Day in Willoughby (a generic name for the area around Chatwood). We sat for a while and listened to a guitarist playing classical Spanish airs, then went on to the Coles supermarket in the shopping centre we had been so very disparaging about last weekend. We stocked up on meat and a rotisserie chicken for dinner, repacked the back pack and caught the train on to North Ryde, arriving home about four.

(I didn't intend to feed them, Mr Ranger. I was just sorting the seeds for my muesli when they flew in!) 
It was nice to be back at camp a little earlier than we have been for the past week, just to relax and study maps still trying to decide where we should head when we leave here. Suddenly I had a visitor on my shoulder, a rainbow lorikeet. “Quick”, I said to Chris, “Grab the seed in the oven”. Well, where else would one keep birdseed?
My little mate was delighted with the offering, called his mate over and the two of them made themselves right at home. These are wild creatures I am speaking about! We were both amazed and delighted. After about ten minutes they were frightened off by another camper walking past holding a freshly ironed shirt. Will they find us tomorrow when we are parked up further down the row?

23 March, 2011 - Lane Cove National Park, Sydney, NSW

Another sunny day in beautiful Sydney! Late home after a big day, and we dined too late to join the aborigine show on the lawn nearby however did watch it from our veranda.

This morning we made an effort to keep our rule about being out of bed before eight o’clock, something that has not been religiously adhered to of late. We needed groceries and had decided to try the shopping centre at North Ryde which the office people here had suggested was the nearest and most convenient, although it did only have a Franklins. Somewhere in this lengthy work I mentioned that the major three supermarket players were Coles, Woolworths and Aldi. I was wrong. Franklins is the third, at least according to an article I read in The Australian recently. We had however not had occasion to use a Franklins, and so this morning’s shop there was a first. Perhaps it was unfair that we should have chosen to shop at the one at North Ryde, but if it is indicative of Franklin supermarkets generally, we are not impressed. The meat selection was as inadequate as you would find in an obscure Four Square at a remote beach settlement in New Zealand, a small choice of vacuum packaged meat priced at at least fifty percent more than you would expect. The fruit and vege section was totally non-existent, and the choice of other lines was poor and over priced. Parking was under-ground for vehicles not exceeding 1.9 metres or outside in the delivery bay area in tight spaces better suited to Mini Coopers. We came out of the supermarket with a few desperate  essentials. Fortunately there was both a greengrocer and a butcher adjacent, and so we replenished our fruit and vege needs adequately but sparingly, and reluctantly paid out for some over priced meat balls at the butcher. All in all, an unsuccessful exercise. We have decided that we will need to get off the train at Chatswood on our way home one afternoon, walk to a Coles supermarket, then walk back to the station to continue our journey home, and hope that the time spent in the back pack will not rot the meat.

Once back at camp, provisions unpacked and stored, lunch made, we set off in to the city again for another adventure. Again we switched trains at Wynyard, for Circular Quay and waited to catch the 11.30 ferry to Parramatta, an hour long trip on the River Cat.
The ferry turning at Parramatta
Parramatta is now just a suburb of Sydney, but originally was an outpost settled in 1788 by the first fleeters when they realised that they would not be able to grow all they needed at Sydney itself, and recognised the area’s farming potential .  The first craft built in Australia in 1789, named the “Rosehill Packet”, or more familiarly “The Lump”, plied the river as far as Parramatta, sometimes taking a week to get there and back. In 1793, clinker boats had taken over the run, taking just 4 to 5 hours to make the journey, and by 1831 steamers could do it in 80 minutes. But by 1928 silt had made the river un-navigable, and so river traffic came to a stand still. It was not until 64 years later, in 1992, the River Cats, part of the Sydney Ferry fleet recommenced the service. If today’s passengers were typical of those who normally travel this way, I would say that the service is mainly for the tourists. Commuters can take the train in to the city in just half an hour, half the time it takes the ferry, but not nearly as enjoyable.

I cannot emphasis how lovely the Sydney Harbour is. The fact that most of the shoreline is built up with residences is a plus. There are green areas on points and in bays, set aside for recreation, which serve to add colour and variation to the scene. Just beyond the Sydney Olympic Park, the river narrows, and is lined with mangroves for most of the upstream trip. From Rydalmere, the last wharf before Parramatta, the river narrows yet again, and is only for the River Cat’s use. The wharf at Parramatta is at the uppermost extent of the navigable river; a weir creates a barrier for all further watercraft,.

We disembarked, then followed the signs to the Information Centre, which took us across that weir on a footbridge, and upriver along a pathway, mirrored on the opposite shore. I was reminded of the park like walks along the Waikato River in Hamilton, as we continued on our way. This 800 metre Riverside Walk is however painted  with symbols that reveal the history of this very interesting area. We ate our lunch watching a flock of cockatoos swoop and swirl above us from time to time, for no apparent reason, then climbed the steps to the street above the river.

The Information Centre which doubles as the Parramatta Heritage Centre, had an excellent exhibition titled “River reflections – River of stories” with photos and stories of settler families and those that came after who made a mark on the city.

The Heritage Centre library is manned by two (or more) wonderfully helpful staff who helped us source microfiche records and set us up with some quite sophisticated computers to read through these. However for all this, no further progress has been made in my search for Thomas Ingram. I do however have a better feel about the life and times in which he and Benjamina lived and will continue my search online.

We left the centre and walked up through the city centre to St John’s Cathedral, the building that replaced the original St John’s Anglican Church dedicated by Samuel Marsden in about 1803. It was here that my great great grandmother Margaret had been baptised in 1841. The doors of the cathedral were bolted shut, unwelcoming to history hunters, worshippers and the cosmopolitan population of this modern city.

The St Andrew’s church in Parramatta where Thomas and Benjamina had married, was carried away brick by brick many years ago, and moved to a place whose name meant nothing to me. 

So again we had done everything we could, and so ends my physical search for these particular ancestors. The internet in these modern times will remain the sole tool I have, however I do feel that the searches have not been entirely in vain. I have come away with a greater understanding about the people and places of the times.                    
Our return journey was equally a delightful, and we arrived at the central railway hub twenty minutes ahead of yesterday, however the crush of humanity was no less. It was good to arrive back home, and sit for a while under the awning with a couple of cups of coffee, listening to the chatter of the birds.

22 March, 2011 - Lane Cove National Park, Sydney, NSW

What a difference a little sunshine makes! We set off this morning with a positive expectation of a good day, even if still armed with umbrellas and coats. There was some problem with the power on the rail this morning so we had to alight at Chatswood and catch the city bound train on a different line. We ended our train journey at the Town Hall and walked back toward the Art Gallery, to complete unfinished business.

St Mary's Cathedral
We could not walk past the St Mary’s Cathedral without calling in. This was designed by William Wardell in a soaring gothic revival style that recalls the cathedrals of medieval Europe. The construction began in 1868, but was not finished until 1928. The spires on the southern twin towers were added to the cathedral in 2000 by helicopter. It is indeed a formidable building; high ceilings and housing many alters, both on the sides and behind the main alter which, dare I say it, reminded me of St Peters in Rome. The paintings with their heavy frames depicting the twelve Stations of the Cross aide the almost overbearing sombreness and gothic ambience. Somehow one could not ever imagine a congregation singing “All things bright and beautiful’, clapping and delighting in their faith. To worship in such a place is surely to feel the weight of one’s burdens rather than any uplifting  There were many tourists inside, along with those seeking miracle or answer to their prayers. There were also a surprising number of school children there; a group from a visiting convent school and others who appeared to be more touristic rather than dutiful.
Beneath the nave is the crypt, apparently featuring a stunning terrazzo mosaic floor. We were too mean to pay the entry fee  to see that for ourselves or to visit the tombs of five Arch Bishops and several priests housed in that crypt.

Another view of this ostentatious cathedral
From there we proceeded to the Domain and ate our lunch on the same lawn we had lunched the day before. The same birds were waiting for us, but the fitness freaks were a different lot, although equally entertaining.

At the gallery, we resumed our tour, this time of the three lower floors. We were both surprised and delighted to discover yet more exhibitions of Chinese treasures; pottery, bronze, drawings, calligraphy, weaving and much more, spanning seven thousand years of civilisation, all well laid out and well explained.

The modern works seen today were not unlike that found at the Museum of Contemporary Art visited last week, galleries of pretentious rubbish (in our opinions).

The final exhibition was that of aboriginal artists, some traditional and some in a more modern style. We found most of this either interesting or enjoyable. I was delighted with a rather bizarre work; a Hills clothes line, on which fruit bats fashioned from fibre glass, arrayed in cloaks patterned with traditional abo art, hung upside down as they do; twenty eight on each of the four sides.

We emerged to find the weather had improved beyond our expectation; not a sign of rain and the harbour glistened below us. “Manley”, we announced to each other and set off to Circular Quay, to catch the ferry across the harbour, a half hour fast ride.
Flying foxes hanging like pears in the Botanic Gardens
En route across the Royal Botanic Gardens, we passed by trees laden with flying foxes, real ones rather than those of fibre glass. The ranger here at the park had told us to look out for the colony should we visit the Botanic Gardens, and we had both forgotten and certainly had not imagined to encounter such a huge number of them. Their chatter is just amazing, happy and unconcerned with the city life that is carrying on about them. I think they are great. The noise took me right back to Vanuatu when I had a tree-ful outside my bedroom window before Kit was born.

It was downhill from the gardens to the Quay and all aboard. What a beautiful harbour Sydney has, and on such a day! We were swept along by our fellow passengers once on shore at Manley, all heading across the isthmus to the ocean shore. Manley centre is a delightful place, geared especially for the tourists who flock there to enjoy the surf and sun.
We indulged ourselves with icecream as one must on such an afternoon at the beach, called at the post office to post some mail, and then drifted back to the wharf to catch the return ferry. The journey back was just as spectacular.

The Opera House from the Manley ferry
It was just before five when we reached Circular Quay, and right on five when we reached the train station at Wynyard, along with half a million city workers, all pressing to catch the train too. Those that came in and went, but not for our stops, were full to the brim, as was the Hornby via Macquarie train which stops at North Ryde.

We had planned to drive out this afternoon on our return to the supermarket, but decided on reaching camp to make do with baked beans, bacon and eggs. Manana le manana: tomorrow morning will do instead.

21 March, 2011 - Lane Cove National Park, Sydney, NSW

The cicadas are actually audible, at least for the moment. Not a sound of rain; I cannot believe it! We heard rain through the night, but little on waking, and were optimistic as we rose, breakfasted and prepared a packed lunch. The plan was to get down to the railway station as soon after nine as we could, and in to the city.

The morning television programme updated the situation on the Libyan war and the miracle of two being found alive and relatively well nine days after the tsunami in Japan, filled in the story about the ten year old who took revenge on his bullies (a story Olly had spoken to me about, a story I had not heard until then) and the forecast that rain would be developing in Sydney today. What!! Wasn’t it rain that had caused us to change most of our sightseeing plans for the past two days? Apparently not, because within a short space of time, the torrential rain started, far heavier and incessant than all that before. It looked as if we would be having our picnic in the van again!

And then at about eleven, it stopped. A break! We grabbed the back pack, our umbrellas, coats, and the normal paraphernalia and beelined for the railway station, staying absolutely dry. We travelled in to Wyndham, changed trains and disembarked at St James. How I love these trains, the underground! I am like a small delighted child having so much fun travelling this way!

We found a relatively dry bench at the Domain, overlooking the harbour, and ate our lunch in the company of ibis, crows and noisy minors. Exactly at midday, a couple of girls in sports clothes arrived accompanied by a personal trainer bearing a variety of accessories; skipping ropes, balls and boxing gloves. This had happened on the day we picnicked at the Observatory, but on a larger scale. The new in-buzz lunchtime activity for city workers is boxing training. I don’t actually think these fitness freaks indulge in boxing fights, simply the training exercises that such combatants would undertake. It is quite entertaining for those sitting about enjoying the views and people watching, such as ourselves.

We tore ourselves away from the show, and went on to the Art Gallery of New South Wales. This is housed in a very beautiful building on the edge of the Domain and near the Royal Botanic Gardens and is naturally one of the country’s leading art galleries.

We spent about three and a half hours wandering about the ground floor. I was especially taken with the exhibition titled “Homage to the Ancestors – Ritual art from the Chu Dynasty”.

In the last twenty years, there have been two separate discoveries of tombs dating back to the ancient Chu kingdom in the Warring State period (481 – 221 BC), one of these was happened upon during the construction of a new motorway. One of these was of a noble, the Marquis Yi of Zen, and the other an anonymous aristocrat at Jiulandun, both of four separate rooms all furnished with elaborate bronzes used to hold food and wine, and musical instruments, and every other chattel that such a noble person may need in the afterlife. Too much detail you cry! Perhaps so, but I was obviously entranced by the seventy stunning ritual objects and the explanations and history that surrounded them. I was also horrified with the waste of “wealth” all in the name of superstition, as I was and still am when I see such riches gathered and adorning Christian Churches in Europe and elsewhere.

On this same ground floor there were galleries upon galleries, those featuring 19th century European art, 19th and 20th century Australian art, 15th to 18th century European art, and an exhibition of secondary school art that has gathered several prestigious art awards.

Among the older works, there were few I did not appreciate. Among the very modern works, there were few I did appreciate, however as I have stated at least once before, I have not been schooled in art appreciation. In fact, after a while they all become a blur; one is all arted out. We concluded that it was time to head home and return another day to visit the three floors above.

Outside we were pleased to discover it was not raining, and it remained so even when we came up out of the subway at North Ryde. However about 100 metres from the caravan, inside the park gates, it started. I ran the last lap, and once we were inside, down it came, as it had much earlier in the day. How lucky we were with the weather today!

20 March, 2011 - Lane Cove National Park, Sydney, NSW

Another very wet day here in Sydney although this evening there are breaks in the weather from time to time.

We hung about camp this morning, reading and playing yet another game of Scrabble, Chris beating me this time, waiting for the weather to improve. We had decided on rising that we would not let the weather rule our day, and that we would head out no matter what. By midday we were still sitting here with our sandwiches in their Tupperware sandwich savers and decided to have our picnic in the caravan. We headed straight out after that toward Chatswood, the nearest railway station east of us, just six kilometres away. By rail it is somewhat longer, as the underground track sweeps north and then east in a hoop. Tomtom guided us to Chatswood without fuss but once there, we were caught up in traffic jams. This is Sunday; goodness knows what it is like in the week! The car parks in the shopping centre all had barriers of 2 metres or less, so we drove around streets on the perimeter of the centre looking for a park. We were about to give up and come home again when we did at last find a space, and then walked nearly a kilometre in to the centre.

We bought tickets to the movie “The King’s Speech” for later in the afternoon and then wandered about the Westfield Shopping Centre, unimpressed. Perhaps those shops that we have come to expect in the large shopping centres, are in the more traditional parts of the town. We did however still manage to spend; a couple of pairs of jeans for me, and a dozen pairs of sox for us both, along with another Bill Bryson book.

The Academy Award winning movie “The King’s Speech” is absolutely fabulous, to be recommended and thoroughly worth the accolades it received.

We came out of the cinema after most of the shops were closed, and were pleased to see the masses had headed home, arriving back at camp at 6.30 p.m. in time for the news and dinner waiting in the crock pot.

19 March, 2011 - Lane Cove National Park, Sydney, NSW

Spent sitting out a very wet day in Sydney, enjoying the novelty of having nothing that had to be done; beating Chris at Scrabble for the first and only time, reading the weekend Australian newspaper, catching up with Olly on Skype, doing Sudokus, and spending hours on the computer.

Note: The landing path for the airport is exactly the same on Saturdays as it is during the week.

18 March, 2011 - Lane Cove National Park, Sydney, NSW

Another evening tucked up in our cosy home, the rain falling noisily outside. Where do the days go or more to the point, where do all the hours of the day go? I made this remark to Larissa a week or so ago when we were chatting on Skype. She was just so sympathetic to hear that we just were so busy that we did not even have time to read, that our days were so full… as you can imagine. However my lament was sincere even if her sympathy was not. Our days are truly busy and full and I do not get to do half the things I would like to do. Olly was concerned when I retired that I would be bored! That is something I cannot yet imagine. Perhaps the days will come, when I have no health or energy to budge from my bed or chair, only to do the writing and genealogy I struggle to do now, and sit and be bored. Maybe, perhaps…

Yesterday we decided that we would spend a few quiet days where we might catch up on some of these activities, and so set ourselves a small itinerary for the day.

We travelled on the train right in to the city, to the Town Hall Station. We came out of the station surrounded by high skyscrapers, masses of people, and could not agree which way to the City Archives. Now I am famed in our small family (of two) as being a really awesome navigator, unlike most women. However my skills deserted me and in the interest of harmony, I abdicated my role as navigator to my husband for the day. And so we did find our way to the office. The archives of the Sydney Council go back to only about 1870 and so there was little they could do to assist with my quest for Thomas Ingram.

The problem with Thomas, my great great great grandfather, is:

  • Thomas was a constable in Sydney and Paramatta, in the early 1840s.
  • He married Benjamina in 1841.
  • He was then a widower.
  • My great great grandmother was born in the same year, and her brother followed three years later.
  • The family left Sydney for New Zealand in 1856, accompanied by the oldest child who was evidently born in about 1833.
  • A Thomas Ingram was transported for 14 years from Lancaster in 1830, sailing to Australia on the Marquis of Huntly.
  • This same Thomas received a pardon in the early 1840s.
  • In the early 1840s the colony was desperate for policemen and recruited convicts by giving them their pardons first.
  • Question:        
  • Are these two Thomas Ingrams the one and same.
So there you have my quest explained for Sydney.

We were directed to the New South Wales Archives Office down in The Rocks so we walked down to this charming area.(Chris says it was up, because The Rocks is north of the city centre – we agreed that we would agree to differ until such time we discovered the local common usage). This office was tucked in to one of the rock cobbled lanes. There we were served by a middle aged womble with the most appalling dress sense, especially compared with his fellow Sydney city workers who are all impeccable in their immaculate suits. His badly cut trousers were green and his shirt yet another shade of the same. He was however wonderfully helpful and friendly and explained his flawed taste in reminding us that it was St Patrick’s Day. Of course!! How could we think ill of the man? He was celebrating in style!

My quest however was still no longer at an end, because the reality is that any information that may solve the matter is all on line, and I need to spend time with my computer rather than in the government office. I came away with many papers spelling out what resources are available and how to access those. So I reiterate what I said at the beginning of this diatribe, I just need more hours in my days!

From there it was just a hop, step and a jump to the park in front of the Museum of Contemporary Art, where we sat and ate our lunch and watched the cosmopolitan world pass by, and listened to the buskers on the waterfront; one a bush folk singer who threw in some Irish ballads for the sake of Olde Paddy, and the other who kept to his classical guitar repertoire.
The museum is a very large building, offering free entry to most of the exhibits. The one exhibition excluded from the gratis entry was the work of legendary American photographer, Annie Leibovitz. I suspect we would have enjoyed this more than those we did visit.

Bardayal “Lofty” Nadjamerrek managed to turn out quite a lot of work during his lifetime, most in the style of the Abo rock drawings. His human and animals figures are x-ray like, in shades of brown and white, three dimensional in the cubist style, fantasy like as so much of the aboriginal culture seems to me. It was interesting but one seemed very like the next.

The contemporary art section is so modern and so “out there”, I found it to be pretentious rubbish. But then what would I know; I have no education in art appreciation.

We caught the train back uneventfully, arriving in time to dine early and get ready for the next adventure of the day.

We had signed up to go on a free wildlife torch light tour of the park. Numbers were limited and so it was to be a relatively intimate group. There were in fact just over a dozen of us, including three children under ten. We were first taken in to a small “classroom" by the ranger and given a talk about the birds and animals that live in the park here. This was very interesting and we all had questions. The children are all travelling with their parents and were all bright, articulate and assisted the lecture by being animated and interactive.

It was about 8.30 pm when we set out with our torches along the pathways and roadways through the caravan park. We saw ring tailed and bushy tailed possums, sleeping kookaburras and noisy miners, spiders of great variety, heard flying foxes, learned about brush turkeys, bazza eagles, tawny frogmouths and boonboona owls, Bandicoots and swamp wallabies, and then at about 10.15 pm we lost six year old Hugo. We disbanded and spread out across the park, and fortunately discovered him with his parents when we regrouped back at the park office. His father assured me that there would be words when they got back to their caravan.

Needless to say it was too late when we got home to pull the computer out of the wardrobe to write all this down.

This morning we woke very late and finally headed off to pursue the day’s tasks after ten. We were on the hunt for a Dometic dealer who could help us with our awning problem. We found a couple of businesses on line, entered their addresses in to the Tom-tom, and started up the landcruiser which has been sitting in front of our camp neglected for several days now.

The first was Barnes Caravan Spares down in Lansvale, toward Liverpool, about thirty kilometres south west of us here. Thank goodness for navigational technology especially after the symptoms of Alzheimers yesterday. The people at Barnes Caravans, presumably Mr & Mrs Barnes, were just fantastic. They filled out the relevant forms, instructed us how to get a number on our cellphones for Caravan World in Woombye so that they in turn could email proof of purchase, and the formalities of a claim on Dometic could be set in place. They also managed to sell us  side and end awning shades, and some plastic levels and blocks, without too much arm twisting. They had been on our wish list anyway.

We found a delightful little spot by Chipper Norton Lake, a reservoir on the Georges River which eventually empties out into the Sydney Harbour, where we had our lunch. There I spotted more wildlife; a rat which definitely was not a bandicoot, and a very large skink. Perhaps I should start a roll call of all wild creatures I have spotted?

It was our intention to shop at the large shopping centre near the Macquarie University, which we found courtesy of Tom-tom. Unfortunately the only parking is undercover where the height clearance is just 2.01 metres. We were not game to try to squeeze under that, so after circling the block for alternative parking, we headed for Epping where we found a Coles supermarket. We have come to favour Coles above the other supermarket chains despite the fact they are currently being vilified for undercutting all their competitors with their very low milk prices. We are strong advocates for competition and the free market, and we also love their beef low fat sausages which are like their milk; very well priced.

Our journey home took us through a tunnel and on our first Sydney toll road. We have our toll e-tag which goes “bing” when the toll is charged. Very exciting!

Despite the fact that this was to have been a quiet day with few activities, it was still late afternoon when we arrived at camp. I rescued the washing off the clothes line before the rain set in, most of it pretty dry.

Kit, Kyla and Isabella joined us by Skype for a while until Isabella kissed us goodnight and the reception froze our video out.