February 2003

Click pictures to see the full-size photos.

Where is the colour in the photo? – Barrington Tops in the clouds

4WD weekend on Barrington Tops. On February 1-2, we depart for a 4WD week-end at the Barrington Tops, 280 km north of Sydney, together with Erica, Mark, Sabine, and Eric. The good things first: We do not suffer from the heat, we do not have to worry about bush fires, we can happily ignore the Total Fire Ban, and have no shortage of water. The Barrington Tops mount up to 1.600 metres altitude and are amidst the clouds. Thus, temperature goes down to 12C and the sight is partially below 50 metres. What a contrast to the heat in the valley! Peter and Claudia brought along only t-shirts and shorts: If the others wouldn't be so kind to lend us their clothes, we would wretchedly freeze. Since it is not funny to set up the tent in pouring rain, we test the usefulness of our car for providing a shelter. We are reminded of long-distance flights in economy class: Spending a night without being able to stretch the legs. Enough of a complaint: One of the most southerly rain forests blankets the heights of the Barrington Tops and nature is lush and abundant. Furthermore, Claudia and Peter drive on 4WD tracks for their first time and need to learn it: Diff lock and low range, where the 5th gear is still below the 1st gear in high range. The speed (3-4 km/h) is entirely controlled by the amount of gas: No breaking, the motor break is supposed to do the job. We learn from the "old hands" Eric and Mark, hop into the other cars to get new ideas or to compare the driving features. We learn where exactly our wheels are located and gain confidence into our vehicle. It has been fun! To the photo gallery Barrington Tops.

Storm and Fire in the Lane Cove

New kayak. By mid-February, we upgrade our kayak equipment. The adjoined photo shows our old tandem, the yellow "Storm" and the blue "Fire" at one of our beloved trips into the Lane Cove. With increased paddling experience, we long for a better boat, sell the yellow plastic kayak – without loosing money ;-) – and buy a second fibreglass boat, a Mirage 530, which is commonly referred to as a "Mercedes" amongst the kayaks. The new boat shoots off: The average paddling time from our home to the far end of the Lane Cove drops from 120 minutes to 105 minutes per way. As well, our arms and shoulders start to show effects of the physical exercise; we are proud of it ;-) Sometimes, Claudia and friends from the Seakayaker Club paddle out between the Heads of the Harbour onto the open sea. A feeling she needs to get used to: Getting seasick in a kayak and trying to... from the kayak. This is, what spray skirts are good for...

Claudia in Bouddi NP at her favourite activity

Claudia in Bouddi National Park. As of March, Claudia will be a lecturer at the Department of Linguistics at Macquarie University in Sydney. In order to enjoy her "last days off", she fetches her camping and picnic gear and drives to Bouddi National Park at the Hawkesbury north of Sydney to camp for 3 days. It is an unusual feeling to be on her own in a remote place – but luckily, each night sees some camping-mates, making her feel much more comfortable. How can one spend 3 days at the beach on one's own? The days start with a barefoot run along the beach. Then swimming. Breakfast. Bush walking to adjoining bays. Reading. Meditation on a rock. Lunch. Observation of the crabs in the water holes of the rocks. Reading. Chatting with randomly encountered guys at the beach. Swimming. BBQ. Again chatting with other people... And yet again it is a Friday afternoon, Claudia fetches Peter from his office and a normal (normal? When did we ever have that?) week-end dawns. This time, we exemplify February 15./16.

Bad Habits (with Claudia and Poppy) is being towed home at 0 knots of wind

Some words about 16-Foot-Skiffs. Peta, who went with us to the Whitsundays in October 2002, moves home on Saturday 15. We help her to carry boxes and furniture onto the street, pack the stuff into our cars, and unload it at the new location. It is sunny and hot, probably not the nicest occupation for a Saturday, but it is finally clear that meanwhile, we are so well integrated that we are even asked to help for unpleasant activities. After Peta had moved into her new place, we spent a – we are tempted to say – wicked – afternoon on our balcony. Like on every Saturday, many dinghis start for races around "our" Cockatoo island, including the notorious 16-foot-skiffs. Poppy and Claudia sail such a skiff in a smaller version (12 foot), but the originals are simply mercilessly fast. Adding to it a wind gusting to 25-30 knots, and our balcony provides us with a "seat in the first row" onto the action in the harbour. Dramatic scenes take place, and our binoculars make us feel very close: Speeds that lift the dingis out of the water until the center board, gybs with a spinnaker and all 3 skiff sailors out in the trapeze in a blink of an eye, lightning-fast rebalancing of the boats in a gust or a wind hole and dramatic capsizes. This is better than any reality-TV. We plan to incorporate the Saturday afternoon on our balcony into the standard package for visitors ;-) In the evening, we are yet again invited to Peta's place for a house-warming BBQ. On Sunday, Claudia and Poppy sail into the Main Harbour for a picnic (in the mentioned 12-foot-skiff) whilst Peter happily prepares meat balls and pasta salad for it. We encounter a wind ranging from 0-25 knots when a front comes through, and it is worth mentioning: We do not capsize ;-)

An afternoon in Glenbrook Gorge

Trip to Glenbrook Gorge. A Saturday afternoon in the Blue Mountains. It has started to rain on Thursday – finally! This is the first decent rain since September, apart from the 30 hours of rainfall mentioned in December. For the first time since September, the omnipresent signs "Fire Danger" display "low". It keeps on raining each day and each night, but not unsuspendedly. Thus we decide that the weather should not take down our mood and drive over to Glenbrook in the Blue Mountains. (The original plan was to stay overnight – that becomes a victim of the rain.) The park rangers in Glenbrook recommend us to take a track down to the river and to continue into the gorge when the track has ended. Thus, we gain our first experiences with what is called an "unformed track": The terrain allows to bushwalk here, however, we need to invent our own path. It is like 4WD for bushwalkers. On all four limbs, we crawl across the rocks and ever deeper into the gorge. Just when we feel at the end of the world, two other bushwalkers cross our way. Anyway: It rained on both the drive into the mountains and back; during the hike itself, we stay dry.

Bush tucker: billy tea

Hiking trip with Jeremy. This report shall end with an account of a historic and botanic bush walk at Wisemans Ferry one week later: Jeremy shows us how to brew a genuinely Australian "billy tea": aluminium can onto a fire place, tea leaves, milk, and sugar added plus everything that can be found in the bush; in this case eucalypt leaves. Seldomly, a tea had ever tasted that good!