Poly(1-phenylethane-1,2-diyl) and molluscs

Walking along The North Entrance beach today brought the sight of a dozen or so dolphins cruising through the waves heading North. Attempting to get a photo of them was simply an exercise in demonstrating that dolphins can more rapidly take breaths than phone cameras can take photos. We do have a lovely selection though of shots of what the water looked like a second or so after the pod submerged again.Its always a joy to catch the sight of our snouty aquatic friends, they’re so elusive it feels a privilege to be in the same place at the same time and to happen to be facing the right direction as they pass.

The beach is much eroded at present from recent storms, with the sand cut back right to the dune field. At the narrowest parts of the beach the water had at the last high tide washed up to the foot of a 5 metre tall cliff of sand that is held together by the roots of the dune grasses growing scraggily along the top. The sand cliff is a layering of different sand sedimentation, dark layers half way up indicating periods of organic material deposition.

The recent storms have also left a puffer fish stranded at the high wash mark, their bodies swelling to skin tightening proportions in the heat of the day. Woe betide the first seagull to take a peck at their gas filled corpses. Peck-peck-pop! Ain’t no seaside picnicker gunna welcome that little birdie afterwards.

Along the way some washed up blue mollusc shells caught our eye, their attachment points fringed with bright red filaments. A closer inspection revealed that these molluscs had anchored themselves to a lump of half decayed polystyrene. The ubiquitous plastic takes so long to break down that to all intents and purposes it is in the environment for ever. Floating in the open ocean it seems to be an ideal attachment point for a passing young bivalve mollusc. It’s craggy, it floats, and it doesn’t break down. Perhaps even after this particular set of molluscs have long since died and fallen off this piece of polystyrene, the plastic itself will remain still only to blown or washed back out to sea to become a  home again to another set of bivalves. The really bad thing about these shell creatures making a home upon this toxic substance is that it may make it a more attractive meal to some other creature. If you think trying to eat a puffer fish and ending up with a face full of exploded fish guts is a horrendous idea, try going for a snack of molluscs and ending up with gut full of poly(1-phenylethane-1,2-diyl).

Wednesday Cycle to Woy Woy

What a glorious day for a bike ride…..what a glorious, glorious day. Oh yes. We were dead keen. Due to the hilly nature of our current surrounds, cycling is sadly a thing of the past for Veghead and Spinneychick. Or so it was. We have turned over a new leaf. We’re bringing back the bikes. I personally think it is a Veghead ploy to stop me taking so many photos on our Wednesday Walks. The camera was not even present on the ride, so no photos for today’s post. But, back to the story. Spinneychick has not mounted her bike since leaving England, so that makes almost two years since my last cycle. Veghead has done little more, so it makes sense to start small. Additionally, the bikes were free as other people had no further use for them, so Veghead had done some work on them. Lots of WD40 and a pump….that’s all I know. Spinneychick’s bike had a significant amount of rust, but the wheels were turning without too many sounds, so that’s something I guess. Upon several laps of the visitor’s carpark, Veghead’s bike is given the go ahead. Spinneychick’s bike refuses to change to all available gears, which are now reduced in number from fifteen to five! Golly I hope there aren’t any hills. Veghead has eighteen gears. Spinneychick’s brakes are somewhat less than adequate. The front brake slows the bike if squeezed all the way to the handlebar, but does not stop it. The rear brake also slows the bike if squeezed slightly beyond the capacity of my left hand. Veghead’s brakes are fine. So we’re ready to head off then. Getting down the very steep hill from the apartment requires Spinneychick to dismount several times due to the untrustworthiness of the brakes. Once at the bottom though, its mostly flat sailing. The ride out to Woy Woy is quite lovely. Along the waterfront at Gosford, then out past the netball courts, and there is a cycle path the whole way. Once at Point Clare there are mangroves all along the waterfront, which to my way of thinking are a bit smelly, but a valuable habitat so I can appreciate that. Most of the rest of the ride goes all along the waterfront around the Brisbane Water which is really quite beautiful. After completing the ten kms to get there, we had our picnic lunch on the edge of the wharf across from Pelican Island (and yes, there are pelicans) and watched the Jellyfish go floating by. Sadly for our sitting bones, and for Spinneychick’s thighs, (now we’re wishing we had gotten on the bike at least once in the last two years), we could not rest for very long, as the end of the school day was looming. So butt cheeks back on to those phenomenally hard seats (I think mine was made of solid wood) and on to Gosford (ten kms return and that makes twenty altogether). Of course now we have to get back up the extremely steep hill…..pushing the bikes. Spinneychick is dying. Once back inside with the bikes safely stored on the balcony where they belong, she flops onto the floor in a stupor. Then a brilliant idea emerges from the blur which is currently her mind. Let’s go for a swim in the pool. Veghead thinks this is a bad idea, but relents. An unidentified male is sunbathing by the pool when we get there, but he says that he has no intention of going in. Well, why go to the pool if you’re not going in, I think to myself? Anyway, Spinneychick goes in first (she nearly always goes in first), and the water is breathtakingly cold. Much colder than the ocean at this time of year (and yes I have been in there too so I know). I swim straight to the ladder and get out so that I can breathe. Veghead is even less convinced that this is a good idea, but goes in anyway…..straight to the ladder…. whoop…. try to breathe…. now that…. was invigorating!

Norah Head

We had actually planned to go on a forest walk on this particular day, but alas, we awoke to a day which was rather bleak, to say the least. Grey, windy, drizzle….I thought I had been transported back to England. An obvious joke, I know. So we drove to Norah Head to walk around the lighthouse which was established in 1903. Veghead thought that we may get in a short walk if the sky cleared, but to no avail. The view over the ocean was awesome with all the white caps, and the spray over the rocks was pretty wild, but Spinneychick was getting damper by the minute and blustered about, which is really not great for the hair. I managed to collect some interesting bits that had been blown off the trees, and brought them home for a photo collage. Not much exercise today.

Katandra Circuit

Good day to you. This week’s walk was to a place called the Katandra Reserve. What a lovely spot. The reserve is connected to the Rumbalara Reserve (which is basically our back yard) via the Mouat Walk, which Veghead has done, but Spinneychick has not. So this week we are quite close to home. The walk was filled with strangler figs. Some of them grow up trees or around boulders, and some, like this one on the left, grow around fallen logs. The log has rotted away and one is left with the ‘Strangler Fig Tube’, which is listed as one of the things to watch out for on the walk. We had experienced quite a lot of rain recently, so some of the walk was a bit muddy. Lucky we were wearing our hiking boots so this was not a problem. There were plenty of the gorgeous Angophora trees. So gnarly some of them, with smooth bark and twisted branches, and a pinkish-purple tinge to them. Spectacular. In the middle of the reserve is Seymour Pond, where many a pond dipping school excursion is undertaken, and indeed so was one on this day. LeStrange and KarateKid’s primary school in Datchet took a minibeast hunt at Braywick Nature Reserve every year. It was great fun. Spinneychick always volunteered for this excursion because you get to scoop waterboatmen out of the pond with a net.

Strickland Falls and Cabbage Tree Loop

This week we headed off to Strickland State Forest, which is quite near home. The waterfall is pretty small but it gives you somewhere to walk to. This area of forest is filled with banksias, and in the wetter areas, cabbage-tree palms, hence the name of this week’s glorious loop walk. Sometimes I take a lot of photos on our walks. Veghead doesn’t seem to mind, although I worry that sometimes he must be thinking “there’s not a lot of walking happening on this walk” but Spinneychick must have visual evidence to go along with the story. That yellow corally-looking thing is actually a fungus which was growing on the forest floor. I couldn’t describe it with words. Awesome, isn’t it. And those gnarly-barked banksias too. They’re so lumpy. They need to be seen to be believed. Anyway, enough of that and on to something else. The scribbly bark trees for instance, which always remind me of snugglepot and cuddlepie. Apparently the scribbles are made by a bug crawling around under the bark of the tree before it falls off, but I prefer May Gibbs’ idea that its the newspaper for the gumnet people. And have a gander at that tiny treelet growing straight out of the rock. Now if I didn’t have a photo, you just wouldn’t believe me, would you?

Rumbalara Reserve

This week the forecast was for rain, so Veghead and Spinneychick were prepared for a picnic on the balcony, but we had a backup plan just in case the weather did not turn foul….and it didn’t, so we went with the plan. From our balcony we have a luscious view of an area of bushland called the Rumbalara Reserve, so we can pop in for a short walk at our convenience. We didn’t take the camera so the photos in this post were taken at various times from our balcony or in the reserve. We ate our lunch on a rock platform with an extensive view over Gosford and a rather large population of mosquitos. So we ate rather quickly and made our way back to the trail. The walk was called the Flannel Flower walk, so I chose this one because they are my favourite flower, but sadly it was the wrong time of year so there were no flowers to be seen, well not the flannel ones anyway. We’ll be back in the springtime.

Song’s Ridge Valley Loop Walk

Ha, ha, ha. You’re going to love this one. Veghead did. He was grinning from ear to ear when he pulled this ruse off, and anyone who knows Veghead, knows he loves a good ruse. But I am ahead of myself. Back to the beginning. This week Veghead proudly pronounced the discovery of a great walk. “It’s one from the Wildwalks website”, which I have mentioned before and we get many of our walks from there. The subterfuge begins when Veghead prints off the track notes, all beautifully laid out as per all of Wildwalk’s walks. “Oh, I’ve just looked up that walk again, and its quite near Bucketty, so we should just pop in to drop off that large, heavy piece of bush art that we’ve just acquired”, he says. “OK”, says I being sucked in even further. So off we go to Bucketty, and on the car journey Spinneychick is reading the track notes. “Oooo, this sounds lovely”. “Oh, yes”, Veghead replies. So we arrive and unpack the large thing from the back of the car, when Veghead starts unloading all of his walking gear. The waves of confusion are starting to wash over poor Spinneychick, who still has no idea what’s going on. Then she takes another look at the tracknotes….. “Hang on a minute! Did you write these notes? Is the walk here?” Veghead answers with a cheesy grin, turns on his heels and asks for the first segment of the track notes to be read out. I must admit, he did a good job. We followed the route as per the track notes and it was all spot on routewise, although there was no mention of the sticky green things on the valley floor that were going to require handpicking one by one off Spinneychick’s jeans and shoelaces. And even more importantly, no mention of the leach infestation which on this particular day was phenomenal. Veghead managed to complete the entire walk with I believe only one leach removing experience. Spinneychick, on the other hand, had a dismal time as far as leaches were concerned. I stopped counting after twenty. Did I mention that I have an extreme dislike for leaches. I have written a limerick to mark the occasion.

There once was a god awful leach,
From my sock to my leg he did reach.
So I gave it some strife
With Simon’s Great knife,
When its slimy, hard skin I did breach.

Pure poetry! On a happier note, we did see some beautiful paperbark trees, and a humungus fungus. There are quite a number of small caves and plenty of wombat warrens. In fact, Veghead may have stepped in one. In the photo on the left, you can see him traipsing along the valley floor. Just after I took this photograph, Veghead completely disappeared from view. I immediately heard a muffled voice in the distance cry out “I’m okay”. It was a great walk……except for the leaches.

Copacabana Rock Platform

At the Copa…..Copacabana…..You’ve gotta love Barry Manilow. Or perhaps not. Anyway, there is a lovely beach nearby called (you guessed it) Copacabana Beach, or Copa if you’re a local. There is a rugged rock platform leading off one end of the beach which is great for clambering, and so for this week’s Wednesday Walk. It was a gorgeous sunny day as you can see from the photographs, and the waves were pounding against the rocks. We had our lunch right next to crashing waves and a fine ocean spray floated over us. This luckily did not effect our picnic. Afterwards we moved to a sheltered spot, as it was rather blustery on this particular Wednesday and the wind was a little cool. It was on a small rock ledge very close to the water. Some of the waves were coming quite close to us across the rock platform, but Veghead assured me that we were quite safe, and that the waves would never come up this far. Well of course you can see where this is heading. No sooner had this pronouncement been made, when a massive wave came hurtling towards us. Veghead grabs his own bag as his reflexes bolt into action, moving in a millisecond to higher ground, leaving Spinneychick with her bag and the camera, which luckily has a padded bag to offer premium protection from many a hazard such as a wave unexpectedly creeping over a rock platform. Spinneychick collected pretty shells and rocks because you just have to do beach collage on a rock platform. Later.

Piles Creek Loop

Welcome to this week’s episode of the Wednesday Walk. This week we journey to Piles Creek. The walk begins at Girrakool which is an aboriginal word meaning ‘place of still waters’. There were plenty of lookouts on this walk with views all through the valley. Halfway through the walk there is a suspension bridge over Piles Creek, hence the name of the walk, which we walked over prior to resting for our standard picnic fare. Veghead decided to go swimming, and there were some rather large mullet in the water. This fact was pointed out by some serious ramblers, recognisable by their titanium walking sticks. Spinneychick did not bring her bathing suit, so had to settle for watching her manly man frolicking about on his own. There were plenty of small sandstone caves on this walk which were lovely to rest in, so we did on several occasions, and even sat by a pool with a bicycle in it. We pondered for a short time how said bicycle managed to get into the pond, then carried on. Spinneychick loves to take photos of the wildflowers, and there were some particularly delightful specimens out today. Also many, many spiderwebs. Spinneychick insisted upon being the rear walker, whilst Veghead braved it up front with a “Spider Stick”. He is so brave.

Gap Creek Falls

Welcome to the second Wednesday Walk. This week Veghead has chosen a bit of a drive and then a bit of a walk. This time in the Watagans National Park. The walk was about 1.5kms, but this is a return, so failing a helicopter to extract us from the base of the waterfall, we also had to walk back. And there was quite a bit of steep uphill walking on the return journey. We were prepared for this though because we’d already done the downhill part beforehand. I read somewhere that the waterfall is arguably the best waterfall in the Hunter region. I couldn’t possibly argue seeing that its the only waterfall in the Hunter that I’ve seen, but it was quite lovely. Not all that much water; not much more than a trickle really as there hadn’t been much rain, but lovely nonetheless. Maybe we’ll come back another time after a deluge. So it was a nice easy walk down to the bottom, stopping along the way to explore inside a tree, and taking care to avoid the triffid, which is actually a strangler vine which has strangled a rock….nasty. We had our picnic on the rocks at the bottom of the falls and then made our way back to the top. I was panting heavily on some of the steeper parts of the ascent, but Veghead is quite accustomed to trekking uphill, and normally carrying a large log to boot. This was nothin’. Upon returning to the car, we spotted a goanna on a tree. What a treat.

Maitland Bay

Destination for this week’s Wednesday Walk is Maitland Bay, which is named after a ship which was wrecked there in 1898 during a tempest. This walk was about 2km in length and we set forth from the National Parks car park which as per the standard contains a map of the park, descriptions of the local flora and fauna, details of the wondrous sights to be seen and which probably brought you here in the first place, and my favourite….public toilets, an underrated but crucial requirement for a day of walking in the bush. Of course one can always squat but Spinneychick prefers to use the facilities when available. Veghead cares not. We also have track notes, courtesy of a marvellous website discovered by Veghead. The site has a glorious variety of walks to suit all abilities and time constraints. We mostly stick to the walks of a few hours only, as the loinfruits need to be transported to the local Olympic pool for their weekly swimming lesson on Wednesdays, which just so happens to be the same pool where I did my squad training many moons ago. Aah….memories…. Anyway, the walk was lovely. We took the optional side track which took us to a lovely viewpoint up on the rocky cliffs overlooking the ocean, where apparently whales can be seen at the right time of year, which of course it wasn’t. Perhaps we shall return at the right time. Veghead then took us along a track which didn’t really look like a track at all. Spinneychick was a little apprehensive to begin with, but the painted arrows on the rocks were reassuring, and we soon connected with the coastal track. There were some fantastic gnarly trees along the walk. Ones that grow over and around the rocks, great pink giants some of them. There were flannel flowers, my favourites. Such delicate beauties with a velvety feel to them. And some strange sort of fruiting plant, where the fruit looks like a pineapple at first, but they came apart in bright red segments, which the brush turkeys had clearly had a good go at, as they were strewn all over the forest floor. We made our way down to Maitland Beach to have our picnic lunch. A group of rambling retirees arrived to share the beach with us, but other than that we had the beach to ourselves. Spinneychick braved the elements to go swimming in the ocean whilst Veghead rested his weary bones on the beach. Why is Veghead not partaking of the swimming I hear you ask? And this is a very valid question. Firstly, even though the beginning of March is early Spring, it isn’t always hot. Secondly, Veghead, whilst being a keen ocean swimmer, prefers the water to be refreshing but not too breathtaking. Spinneychick on the other hand, will frolic in the cooler waters if she really wants to go in…except for that time in Mwnt. By golly that water was cold. After several failed attempts she had to admit defeat on that occasion. Afterwards Spinneychick engaged in one of her favourite beach activities, other than swimming of course, beach collage. No photo of the masterpiece is available due to the camera deciding that it had done enough recording of the events of the day. What a memorable first Wednesday Walk.

Wednesday Walk

Well, no posts for an extraordinarily long time, so I thought I may as well. Veghead and I were just the other day discussing the demise of our fitness. Gone are the days when the car was only used on shopping day and to transport the loinfruits to their chosen non-school forms of education. No longer do we spontaneously jump on to the bicycles to pop down to the shops, or to get to school. You’d think with all this sunshine we’d be out and about on a daily basis, cycling ourselves into a buttock-firming frenzy, but not the case. Where we live now can be most adequately described by the words ‘rather hilly’. The apartment block lies on the top of a hill a mere 500m from the delightful Brisbane Water, and a lofty 70m above it which makes for a breathtakingly steep walk home. I just don’t feel as compelled to cycle anymore. I really enjoy it, but Datchet is far more suitable to the leisurely ride to which I am drawn, so there you have it. And so the birth of the Wednesday Walk, which I am looking forward to enjoying immensely…tomorrow.