Monday, September 19, 2016

Bundeena & Illawarra Coast Snapshots

The past year has been a whirl of work, household chores, and family care commitments.

July marked a couple of personal milestones—our silver wedding anniversary and our half centuries—and we'd hope to take time off to celebrate. So, at the end of July we headed to Bundeena for the weekend.

Bundeena

Bundeena is a small, seaside village on the outskirts of southern Sydney and is surrounded by national park land.

Although my family spent a lot of time in the Royal National Park, I'd never been to Bundeena and it had been quite a long time since Tony'd visited his Aunt and Uncle who used to live there.

We stayed at “Sanctuary Bundeena”, a spacious studio apartment, a short (albeit steep walk) to the main street of Bundeena. We arrived early Friday evening hoping to find a cafe or restaurant for dinner, or a store where we could buy ingredients for dinner. Dinner ended up being at the local bowling club, which served bistro-style Australian and Asian dishes. Not exactly the intimate birthday dinner for two we'd envisioned but the food was tasty and the servings huge!

Our hosts provided us with all the ingredients we needed to prepare a continental-style breakfast, or cook bacon and eggs. The following day we found the local grocery store so we bought tomatoes and mushrooms to supplement Sunday's cooked breakfast, and other groceries for a barbecue chicken dinner.

On the first Sunday of each month, Bundeena is the venue for the Bundeena Markets and Bundeena Maianbar Art Trail, where local artists open their studios to the public. Although we were in Bundeena the prior week, there were signs of the local creativity in public works and private gardens.

We woke late on Saturday to a beautiful sunny day, enjoyed a leisurely cooked breakfast in the small backyard, and then wandered down to the main shops of Bundeena, a couple of blocks of small businesses lining one side of the main street and facing towards the foreshore reserve and waters of Port Hacking.

We'd little idea of what we to do or see in Bundeena. I'd browsed through the information provided in our apartment but hoped to find more in the main street. Unfortunately it seems the tourist information (and apparently one of the top restaurants in town) were located at the RSL, which was destroyed by fire in February 2015 and was being rebuilt.

The main street led to the jetty from which the Cronulla/Bundeena ferry regularly arrived and departed. From the jetty we wandered up the headland following markers on the Bundeena Maianbar Heritage Walk, then walked along a narrow road to Jibbon Beach and the Bundeena end of the 26-kilometre Coastal Walk in the Royal National Park.

It was a beautiful day, much warmer than we'd expect for a Winter's Day. There was a hint of Spring in the air with blooming flowers and shrubs in gardens and through the bushland.

By the time we arrived at Jibbon Beach most of the serious walkers had started their treks, and those planning shorter walks were coming back for lunch. There were few people on the beach. Most seemed to be locals, walking their dogs and enjoying the fishing. Out on Port Hacking there were multitude of yachtsmen enjoying the clear sailing conditions of a beautiful day.

Traversing Jibbon Beach we climbed a trail through the bush reaching a grassy clearing that used to be a campsite for generations of the Dharawal people. I was surprised to see a small pond nearby, possibly an ancient water hole fed by rain water.

Further up the trail we ascended the stairs to a steel walkway that overlooked the gallery of rock engravings depicting whales (a totem of the Dharawal people0 and food sources like sting rays and kangaroos. Many of the engravings were faint due to erosion and abrasion from people walking over them in the past.

After viewing the gallery we headed back into Bundeena, grabbed a late lunch at the Copper Cup Cafe, bought supplies for dinner, and then returned to the apartment to rest and recharge our devices.

We ventured out for one more walk using the Pokemon Go app to guide us to points of interest. The app guided us back to the Bundeena Bowling and Sports Club, and on to the local sports ground, artwork and murals around Bundeena Skate Park and the community centre, and Horderns Beach, the main beach at Bundeena.

Maianbar

Sunday was a mix of grey and blue skies. Gathering clouds threatened rain and a few drops fell as we left for home. We just took a “small’ detour in the opposite direction via Maianbar and the Illawarra Coast!

Maianbar is the neighbouring village to Bundeena and can be accessed via a walking trail, and by road.

I'd only visited Maianbar twice before this trip: once with my family, once with Tony when we were dating. My hazy childhood memory of Maianbar was one of lots of people enjoying the beach, a long walk to reach the ocean, and a decent shell-collecting spot.

When we arrived the tide was out exposing the sand flats and mirroresque ribbons of water.

We traced the shoreline towards Bundeena and discovered a channel of flowing water separating the point from a sand spit. We could hear the crashing waves on the other side of the sand spit but, not really in the mood for paddling, we decided to turn back and continue our trip home.

Illawarra Coast

It has been years since we'd driven down the Illawarra Coast, south of Sydney. The last time we could remember spending time on the Illawarra Coast was when Tony was working in Wollongong and we travelled to Wollongong via the Hume Highway, which is inland from the coast.

We stopped at the Otford Lookout and Bald Hill Lookout, both lookouts at the southern end of the Royal National Park with coastal views. Otford marks the end of the Coastal Walk and Bald Hill has a memorial cairn to Lawrence Hargrave, a pioneer in aeronautics. Hargrave lived in Stanwell Park, the town below Bald Hill, and carried out his experiments on the beach. The coastal road on which we were driving was named Lawrence Hargrave Drive.

If we were unsure of when we'd last travelled down the coast road, it had to be prior to 2003. In August 2003 a section of Lawrence Hargrave Drive, which was subjected to regular rock falls, was permanently closed. In December 2005, The Sea Cliff Bridge was opened replacing this section of road. The Sea Cliff Bridge is an off-shore bridge built parallel to the coast at a distance to avoid future rock falls.

We stopped at the southern end of the Sea Cliff Bridge and walked to the start of the bridge. Although there are signs prohibiting attaching locks to the bridge, people attach locks to the blocks of rocks that stabilise the approaches to the bridge.

As it was getting late in the day we didn't walk across the bridge, stopping at the start of the bridge to photos before continuing onto Wollongong for lunch.

We ended up at Flagstaff Hill, and so, it seemed, did everyone else. What started out as a grey, possibly-rainy day developed into a clear, sunny day—perfect for social gatherings out in the fresh air.

Flagstaff Hill (also known as Flagstaff Point) is a headland east of Wollongong city. The point has much historic significance: a military fort was established on the point in 1890-1891; it is the only point on the east coast of Australia with two lighthouses - the Wollongong Breakwater Lighthouse built in 1871 and decommissioned in 1974, and the Wollongong Head Lighthouse established 1936 and still in use; it is the site of the convict-excavated Belmore Basin where Wollongong's commercial fishing fleet was established in 1860 and continues to be housed to this day. In the park is the Vietnam War Memorial and other commemorative plaques, and outside the park, along the City Beach foreshore, is the City Beach Function Centre and other cafes.

Lunch comprised steak sandwiches at The Green Room City Beach Cafe, sitting outside, listening to the music and watching people pass by. Perfect! Afterwards we walked around the headland, again, using Pokemon Go to guide us. Pokemon Go had only just being released in Australia and many of the kids were running around searching for and catching pokemon.

After our walk we thought we'd better head back to Sydney to pick up Quila and to return home and prepare for the week.

We really needed the weekend to ‘disconnect’ from the routines we'd set over the past months. We'd been on autopilot for a while and needed the break. Only wish it'd been longer!

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