Having a week to ourselves, John and I decided to go on a few days holiday down the South Coast of NSW. We were curious about Murramarang National Park, which lies north of Batemans Bay, a small fishing town sitting on the banks of the Clyde River. So John booked a cabin at the adjacent Murramarang Nature Resort, we packed our bags and left at a leisurely late time of the morning for the long car trip down south.
Past Wollongong, the landscape was, as it usually is, green and lush looking with the native Illawarra Flame tree at its peak flowering putting out a burst of magnificent red here and there.
It was an unusually hot day and when we got to the quaint old, over-loved town of Berry (which is always crowded with bloody tourists) for lunch, the heat hit us like a furnace when we got out of the air-conditioned car.
Nevertheless, Berry radiates peace and serenity as this country
lane shows. However with these lovely old towns there always seems to be a ghost of the marauding white settler in hob-nailed boots whose grave lies somewhere in the gently whispering cemetery – someone not quite ever aligned with this much harsher and wider country than from whence he or she came.
The gloriously purple Jacarandas are still flowering along with
the magnificent red Flame Trees, but it was hard to get the two of them together. When I did see one such duo growing wild by the side of the road, I clambered up the slope and found myself plunged knee-deep in grass and was too terrified of snakes to wander further and find a better camera view. So this was the best I could get.
When we got to the Resort, fairly late in the afternoon, we exclaimed in pleasure at the pretty and very spacious villa that we had, overlooking a charming garden courtyard with native palms and a barbeque. Later on, the
resident kangaroos that grazed lazily around the resort moved to our courtyard and were busily chomping the grass. Apparently the staff never need to mow the lawns, due to these insatiable herbivores and even have a problem with the outsides of the lawns being eaten out of existence.
Actually the occasional wallaby, darker more chocolate brown, smaller and of more curvaceous build was much more timid, bounding off into the bush almost as soon as they were noticed.
I spent the first full day lazing on the beach, where I saw a majestic White-bellied Sea Eagle bursting out of the nearby forest and flying far over the bay pursued by two aggressive Ravens, who soon lost pace.
The afternoon John and I went on a walk in the forest, following a trail that led to reputedly the second-largest tree in NSW.
And here it is with its massive trunk and tall, twisted arms. The forest trees were a kind of spotted gum, the blackbutt and the occasional stringybark.
It was a dry, dusty kind of forest with open glades, some mossy logs and vines that from time to time festooned themselves on trees. Resident birds ranged from
finches and wagtails to wattle-birds, whip-birds, pigeons and kookaburras.
When one speaks of open forest glades, it kind of conjures up the sort of pretty clearings with green sward that happen in English and European forests, so beloved of medieval knights and ladies of yore.
But glades in Australian forests can be enchanting too, especially in the manner of its botanical diversity and its lone, wild beauty, untouched by civilised history. Apparently when the Europeans first arrived, the forests were kept in a park-like state with myriads of diverse native rodents. But
unfortunately they have mostly disappeared due to the depredations of
introduced species like dogs, cats, foxes and prolific rabbits and these days the eucalypt forests are much more prone to destructive bush fires.
The next sunny day in Murramarang (Paradise), after another dip in the ocean and appreciating the fresh air and crystal clear waters, I went for a short walk along bush trail down to the rocky southern headland and into the National Park.
I arrived at a place called Wasp Head, which probably got its name from the intricate honey-comb weathering covering all its sandstone rocks. Further out at sea was Wasp Island, which apparently is haven to much bird-life including, Terns, Mutton-birds (Shearwaters) and even a colony of Little Penguins.
On the lonely head (which I had all to myself), I saw a Pied Cormorant preening its drenched feathers in the sun and two Sooty Oyster-catchers with their long, thin, vermilion beaks and red legs.
Further southwards stretched a lovely little bay known as Emily Miller Beach, which I again had the luxury of having all to myself.
The colour of the water was a beautiful turquoise green and there was even a cave among the rocks.
The next day was Monday, some clouds had blown over and the weather was cool and breezy. Some gentle rain set in
as we walked Northwards up the beach where the small village of South Durras nestled. There was supposed to be an Aboriginal midden near the cliffs of this headland but we could not see anything of it amongst the graffiti-scrawled rocks and caves at the foot of the beach.
We saw some Cormorants and a black little Egret fishing along the sandstone rocks, which bore some very interesting weathering, a series of rounded smooth holes through which you could see the waves threshing under.
That night we went to nearby Bateman’s Bay for fish and chips, eating our takeaway at the quay and trying to avoid the greedy seagulls. The place is a little fishing town presiding over a pretty bay and the mouth of the Clyde River.
The late afternoon deepens into evening and a rich blue-black inky cloak of night falls gracefully over the scene. The yellow and white lights of the bridge, jetties and houses enliven the black waters with glistening, moving, coalescing towers. It is quiet except for the sometime cars and the occasional road train chugging over the bridge. A number of small fishing boats and yachts are moored in the quay, silent and barely moving with the lapping tide.
Later on at night when we got back to our cabin, some
uninvited guests in the shape of possums dropped in hoping for some of our food. However we do not feed wild animals, particularly as doing so makes them more aggressive. The possums and kangaroos at the resort seem quite used to humans and they can be quite bold and difficult to shoo away, especially where there is a prospect of getting some food scraps.
The following Tuesday morning, we reluctantly packed and said our goodbyes to this utterly salubrious place. We headed for Mt Pigeonhouse, near Ulladulla, on the way back home to Sydney.
Fortunately, the weather was a mild and sunny one tempered
with a cool breeze. At a turn-off from the Highway, we drove for about 30 kilometres along a mostly rough, dusty, unsealed road to the foot of the mountain we intended to climb.
First there was a stiff climb up dry Eucalypt woodland like spotted gum and Stringybark. Then an easy stroll through a kind of heath where we saw quite a few honey-eaters feasting on the red flowers of the prickly Mountain Devil bushes.
Then we neared the last part, the great crop of sandstone rocks that formed the citadel of the summit. Extremely tired from the continuous uphill climb, I felt so slight and frail against the onslaught of mighty rock that it seemed that getting to the top was impossible. But I did it with small, patient steps, stopping every now and then to rest and catch my breath and climbing carefully up the perpendicular steel ladders.
Then we got to the summit of Mount Pigeonhouse, where our
panoramic reward awaited us. To the North stretches a stunning view of plateau mountains, clothed in dusty, khaki coloured trees. They raise their solemn, rocky slopes clear from their forest skirts among the deep u-shaped valleys.
To the West, there are an interlacing network of ululating hills lying like a crumpled, grey-blue blanket under the heavy cloud covering of that part of the sky. I see trees from that distance like bronze-green cauliflowers clothing the gentle swell of the hillsides.
South and East, sweeps the undulating hills and plains to the coast and beyond. And the summit holds sway over this inviolate, fecund last great domain of wild forest woodlands, rainforest and heath that hugs its gullies and slopes.
No-one knows what goes on in that expanse of uninhabited country, lying peacefully under the shadows of clouds, warmed by the late spring sunshine and enlivened by a fresh, cool North East breeze.
After observing some birds like a green Wompoo pigeon and a small, tan-breasted Origma (similar to a Wagtail) on the rarified environment on the summit, we made our way down and got into the car for the long trip back to Sydney. And that was the end of our lovely trip.