Monday, February 6, 2012


After long stretches of grey skies and rain, the weekend let Sydney do what it does best - the water.

More than 200 million years ago, when Pangea was the single unified planetary supercontinent and the first dinosaurs were appearing, the Sydney 'basin' was the mouth of a massive Antarctic river, flowing east to west and emptying into what is now the vast Australian inland, the inland sea that isn't there. Gondwanaland was yet to split off to become the great southern continent, and Australia had still to rift from Antarctica and move north. The sands of the river would be refined and filtered to become sandstone - the gorgeous golden stone which would build the new settlement. And the city would spread out along the ridges and crests of the vast network of waterways, of which Sydney harbour is only one, that are fair reminder of what could be seen through squinted eyes and hindsight as some vast delta.

To the north is the Hawkesbury River curling around the western and upper rim of the outer city and emptying into the Pacific Ocean with a splendid complex of ridges, waterways, inlets and little beaches. Just short of its final ocean journey is one of Sydney's great pleasure spots - Broken Bay.

The scalloped beaches above are the northern beaches of Sydney's 'peninsula', and the terminal crescent is the especially beautiful and glamorous Palm Beach. We are now about an hours drive north of the city. Behind the Palm Beach headland, that is inland, is West Head, and looking closely you will see a little curve of yellow - Great Mackerel Beach, or Mackerel as it is better known.

And it was to Mackerel we went on a glorious sunny Saturday for a special birthday lunch. There is no vehicular access, only ferry or water-taxi access from Palm Beach. There are no vehicles there. Residents move goods from the ferry to home in wheelbarrows. It is idyllic.

(above photos from linked sites)

Again I forgot the camera, so thank you mr-i-phone. On the beach looking north to the wharf

... out to the Palm Beach headland and the Pacific beyond ...

... and south where a family was swimming

... with a bucket of crabs at waters edge

Some houses sit on the beach front, some hug the cliffs like tree-houses peering out to sea past the intervening headlands, and others follow a sandy path winding back along the grassy gully into which a creek filled from spilling waterfalls flows.

We lunched in a cliff house surrounded by dense native bush, a cool breeze, the sound of waves lapping with the occasional crash of a large one breaking the rhythm, and a reminder that we are here as their guests - a small goanna (almost pet sized compared to this fellow) and sliding slowly across the stone steps as we came down for the afternoon walk, a lazy diamond python, interested but unfazed by it all.

The survivors, names withheld to protect the guilty. And keep stum.


Herringbone said...

I loved the geologic reminiscing. I was seeing it through squinted eyes. Just this exercise of origin, reveals a connection. There is something very beautiful about the notion of Pangea.

Susan Scheid said...

What a beautiful place! Thank you for giving us a glimpse.

wanderer said...

Herringbone - yes, I agree about Pangea. As a state of unity it makes me think we are going the 'wrong way' - splitting and fragmenting, lands and peoples.

Susan - one of those so far yet so near places, but the hard-to-get-to-ness is a two-edged sword.