Monday 14th May.
Another one of those days where we seemed to do very little but on reflection we did plenty. Then again, maybe it was a day where we did lots and it felt like we did nothing!!
I had a double blood and urine test this morning. I had to fast, again. Then a blood sample was taken after which I had to drink an exceedingly sugary drink and sit still for 2 hours. Oh No. I could not go to the shops or get a haircut. I had to sit still the entire 2 hours. This was so they can measure how my body copes with high sugar levels and eliminates them or stores it. Any activity will help burn off the sugar and distort the natural “at rest” process.
Of course I felt nauseous and hungry combined with a sickly sweet taste in my mouth as I dreamt of bacon n eggs at 11am. The reality was there was no bacon or eggs and I had to be content with a couple of slices of toast with peanut butter slapped on (is there any other way to eat peanut butter?)
About 1pm we went to Kirrawee where I had a haircut and beard trim. I now look corporate again. The lady who cut my hair is a world class Quiller and creates Quilling works of art. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quilling
She had some of her works on display in glass cabinets. Some of her creations are featured in New York. There is a whole new world of interesting things for us to see and learn about. Quilling has become one of them.
Then we saw the Chinese Restaurant across the street with a lunch time special. $6.80 to choose from a special menu including a drink or soup. We chose soup. The meal when it arrived was far from what I expected. I expected an entre’ size Mongolian Lamb with a spoonful of rice. What I got was a huge full meal with a complete full serve of rice. I could not eat it all. $6.80 for lunch, including rice and soup is a fabulous deal. McDonalds eat your heart out.
After lunch we drove to a place called Shiprock Reserve at Port Hacking. Council has just built a state of the art staircase down the cliff to the rocks below.
Council must have spent around a quarter of a million dollars on this project, perhaps more. The entrance has two gate posts faced with dressed sandstone.
Two observation platforms give an expansive view across to Bundeena. The rock is a popular spot for scuba divers and scuba training. The rock does look like a shape of a ship.
Otherwise there is nothing else to see.
Today was cold and very windy so we did not stay long. We noticed surf rolling in the shallows and sandbank near the Bundeena side of the bay. The strong wind over the last three days has created huge swells and these swells race through the heads finally breaking as surf on the sandbar at low tide.
I recall many years ago when as a “go anywhere for a surf” youth my friend Laurie Otto and I paddled our boards from the Cronulla end of Gunamatta Bay just to surf this sandbar. The thought of sharks never entered our heads. After exhausting hours of surf we then had to paddle all the way back to Cronulla. I was pleased just to be able to see this surf again and stand mesmerised. A local ferry passed close by and I recalled the ferry’s operating at the same time as we surfed all those years ago.
After that we went to Miranda Fair to shop for dinner tonight, our last night before we take up a three month housesitting gig in Horsley starting tomorrow.
You be the judge. Was it a day where we did little or did a lot?
Tuesday 15th May.
Last night we received a call to say the houseowners want to delay leaving by another day. We took the opportunity to visit the Royal National Park. First we drove to the river crossing at Audley where we saw the historic old boatshed.
Maybe my memory is imperfect but it really does not look much different to when I was a youngster or when I last visited in my early 20’s.
Next on our list was a visit to Wattamolla Beach where we had an opportunity to leave our footprints on fresh wave washed sand.
Once again this spot looks unchanged since I last visited, probably in 1969 or thereabouts.
The car-park is sealed and a walkway to the beach is in place but otherwise not much has changed. It is a picturesque spot which is loved to death on weekends and public holidays.
The track still follows the course of Wattamolla Creek and meanders to the creek edge and up again following the sandstone cliff-line, trees, shrubs and overhanging sandstone caves.
The path is a mix of sandstone rocks, tree roots, clay and boardwalk.
There are several great coastal walks of just a few Klms and up to 13 Klms. Hmmm! I would not mind doing one or two of the walks. Perhaps later this year?
Next up was Garie Beach.
This place has changed in that the steep and winding road is now sealed all the way to the beach and a huge car-park is also sealed. Three very large buildings are used by the Garie Beach Boardriders Association. Impressive. Impressive also were all the beach fisher people and judging by the catch of what looked like Tailor being carried off the beach, good catches were made. The daily bag limit is 20 Tailor we saw several people struggling to carry their catch to their cars.
Wednesday 16th May
We drove from Gymea to Horsley a suburb of Wollongong where we will take up housesitting duties along with babysitting two elderly dogs. Greg and Anne O welcomed us with a barbecue dinner and gave us a guided tour around the house. Their son Adam and his partner Katie arrived to round out the numbers for dinner. We all relaxed and it felt like we had been friends for many years.
Tomorrow begins day one of three months of house and dog sitting.
Thursday 17th May
Greg and Anne had planned to leave by 8.30. Like us their getting away plans fall awry and they finally got away after 11am. At 12.30, as we were eating lunch we received a call. They had forgotten a few items and were on their way back. Oh dear such a long way to drive…twice. Late in the evening we received a text to say they had arrived just outside the town of Orange and were set for the night. We had a barbecue with Errol n Nicole and returned to Horsley to settle down for our first night alone with the dogs.
Friday 18th May
We woke to a bright sunny day and saw deer in the field behind the house. Deer? Yes deer! I encountered deer many years ago when riding trail bikes around the fringes of the Royal National Park at Otford. At that time they were a minor nuisance in the area. Since then they have become a major pest not only within the national park but all along the lower reaches of the Great Dividing Range Illawarra Escarpment. See http://www.illawarramercury.com.au/news/local/news/general/feral-deer-still-running-wild/1768952.aspx
Regardless of their pest status it was still fun to see them.
I bought a bread maker a couple of weeks ago and today was our first chance to use it. The first test was to make a butter cake. The result was surprisingly good although I failed to notice the browning setting which created a base crust. A lighter browning will produce a nice light but moist cake with a regular base. Tomorrow I tackle making a Sourdough Rye Bread.
Most of today was spent just vegging out. Errol called in for morning coffee, in time to taste test the cake.
Saturday 19th May
Another of those days when we seemed to do nothing.
In the morning I did test number two of the bread-maker with a Sourdough Rye loaf. After we attended to the two dogs needs we drove over to Shellharbour Square Shopping Centre for some retail therapy. Hmmm! Not much relaxation therapy in such a stressful environment. This is without a doubt the biggest, busiest, noisiest, crowded, complicated shopping centre we have encountered. We were both happy to get out of there.
Noteworthy is that all levels of the car-park have great views across Lake Illawarra and on to the Illawarra Escarpment.
Back home the aroma of fresh baked bread greeted us as we entered the house. It may not have been the best sourdough rye but I sure enjoyed the crusty rye taste. A bit of roast chicken and lettuce made for an enjoyable sandwich.
In the afternoon we drove to Kanahooka to have a look at a lifestyle resort. Hmmm! It is a combination of lifestyle resort plus a care facility plus a high care facility. It all seemed old, musty and as Donnis noted, it was all too much like going to work. Neither of us could live in such a facility. Strike this type of resort from our list.
After leaving the facility we drove to the little village of Wongawilli which is nestled into the foothills of the escarpment and sits below the old colliery. The village was established after the mine opened in 1907. The Wongawilli Colliery is still operational although it is now called Elouera Colliery. There is not much to see in the village except for old churches and schools. The colliery itself is accessible only by authorised persons through a security gate. The Illawarra District has a rich coal mining history dating back to the mid 1800’s with around 200 mines of varying success. Most are now gone but some are still in full swing. Several rock falls on the escarpment have been blamed on coal mining. The escarpment shows the signs of recent rock falls, one in particular slid in February this year (2012). As the escarpment has always undergone rock falls in the natural geological process the jury is still out on the blame against the coal mines. For more information about the latest landslide see the following http://www.illawarramercury.com.au/news/local/news/general/slide-rips-open-keiras-old-wound/2445925.aspx
I have seen these landslides before at the escarpment behind Dapto. I rode a trail bike to the bottom of the slide and found rocks bigger than houses, in fact a house was nearby and had it been further up the slope would have been wiped out. The scar from that landslide is still visible…if you know what and where you are looking.
History of the mines, which stretch over the mountains as far west as Joadja near Mittagong, can be found here http://www.illawarracoal.com/contents.htm
Sunday 20th May
In the morning we went for a drive to Kembla Grange and had a look at the Go kart Racing. The track and pit area is huge as you would expect in such a large population area. The grounds and track are nowhere as good as those we experienced in Mackay late last year. So for our readers Shan and Dave please tell the Mackay Go Kart Association to take a bow.
After leaving the Kembla Grange we travelled on to Mt Kembla Village below the original mine site
and Kembla Heights above the mine site. We started along the Harry Graham Drive which continues to the top of Mt Kembla and the Wollongong Motorcycle Moto Cross Track and Trials area. The drive has been closed from Kembla Heights due to the February 2012 landslide. Access to the track is now via Picton Road. We took time to look at the old Anglican Church
which has many grave plots where many victims of the 1902 Mt Kembla Mine Disaster are buried.
The original Mt Kembla Mine suffered an underground explosion on 31stJuly 1902 killing 94 men and boys, yes boys. A further two men died trying to rescue them. The rescuers were overcome with fumes.
The mine was supposed to be free of mine gas but according to historians the explosion occurred when miners naked flame lights ignited coal gas which caused a secondary explosion of coal dust. Also on site are parts of the original entrance support beams, picks shovels, winches and some coal train bins recovered from the site.
The mine still operates today but safety and security are now primary concerns and operates under a different name. One sad story we noted while looking through the cemetery was that of a 17 year old killed in the mine. His grave and headstone were erected by his loving wife! Many of those killed were members of a family unit. Fathers and sons, brothers, uncles and cousins.