Great Whites out there
And the two not so Great Whites ashore
“There are thousands of great whites out there,” said Martina as we stood at her kitchen window scanning Bar Beach Bay, looking from headland to headland and as far as the horizon of the Tasman Sea.
“The trouble is with the young ones. When they are in transition from eating fish when they are small to needing bigger prey like seals as they grow they mistake surfers for seals. The older ones stay further out. Personally they don’t worry me as a swimmer, the first line of defence is the surfers.”
This interesting chat was a prelude to our next swim and the four of us, Rob, Martina, Kate and I walked the short distance across the road and car park to the beach and I was relieved to see the rollers had settled down to an enticing size, so I wouldn’t be swimming in the granny pool amongst the rocks at the bay end we’d be sharing the ocean with great whites.
In fact it was like having a gentle liquid massage in pleasantly warm water. Then came a welcome breakfast, Scandinavian style before Rob went off with Pete and Alexa, his internet slave in the pickup truck and Martina and I walked into town to share some time looking around the art gallery and climbing to the 8th floor of the new and very glassy university to view the city and docks below. I was hobbling a bit with my foot so we didn’t hurry. Just a nice meander back via the boutiques on Darby and my first kombutcha (I might have spelled that slightly wrong and it was delicious) plus a shop for some food at the indoor farmer’s market and liquor store and then home.
The next day, while Rob was wrestling with his osteopath I went in the pickup with Pete to meet his parents and check a storage shed on his old work site. Pete wanted to sell the shed but it needs some repair work doing first. Also we needed to collect picnic chairs from it for the concert that evening.
In the distance we looked across to his old house that he built for the family and is now owned by someone else. I looked back once at the lovely house I once owned in Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight and seeing the way the back garden had been transformed from a wildlife haven into a clinical ‘yuppy’ retreat was painful. Where had all the wildlife gone? How could anyone do that? So I knew how he felt.
With ease Martina phoned some friends and soon we had a group of ten preparing picnics for a gathering on the shore of Lake Macquarie in a little town called Warners. Thunder rumbled in the hills all around us under a leadening sky adding atmosphere to the music and children entertained themselves on roller skates along the broad pathways. It is a regular event and a great way for families and friends to spend a Friday evening. Fortunately the rain held off until the end of the concert and we returned home for another game of Rummy Cub to round off our penultimate day with our friends.
One thing Rob and I really like about NZ and Australia is their outdoor way of life. For our last day, after our early morning swim of course, we started with a drive north as far as Port Stevens lookout to get a preview of where we could bring Zoonie in to anchor, another safe spot as we port hop down the east coast at the end of this year. Boy it was hot and getting hotter as another heat wave hit the country. We skirted more bays on our way down to Havachat and a restful drink aboard. Memories of our wonderful times in Fulanga came flooding back, Mere and Jone and the other village people aboard Havachat after the Sandspit party remember, when we danced around the after deck and into the night.
Leaving the car at the house we wandered across the park to the Bowling club for some food. The management have, by using some common sense pricing techniques, brought the ageing club back to life and now it is popular not only for the game but also as an entertainment place for young families and groups to eat and socialise. The food was good and cheap unlike the new bar in town that was the first on our pub crawl that evening. Silly prices at this one sent us to a converted bank around the corner cunningly named Reserve after the bank that lived there before. Then on to what had been the Customs House where there were considerably more cockroaches than clients in this old building.
That is one of the problems with Pete and Martina’s family home. Built in 1970 it now has an extensive colony of cockroaches living underneath and Dean the cockroach man was putting repellent on all the cupboard hinges one morning. From then on we would come across roaches, lying on their backs about to breathe their last. Our friends may demolish this building and build another to their design which will also deal with the bugs, but time will tell, it’s a big decision.
The next morning Pete and Martina stood looking at the grey sky and uninviting sea from their upstairs bedroom window while Rob and I stood at the kitchen window beneath and simultaneously came to the decision that a swim was off for that day, as indeed had most other folk. So after breakfast and ‘goodbyes’ Pete drove us to the station to catch the 8.50 train to Sydney for our connection to Canberra.
It was Sunday, and just like the UK there were line works. So we had to struggle with our bags out of Wyong station to a coach and then back onto the train at Hornsby. Well it stopped at nearly every station and we were on tender hooks as to whether we would make it in time for the midday train we had already booked. There was only one other later that day and it might well be fully booked also.
We stood ready at the doors of the slow train as it slowed in to Circular Quay, 11.56, moved with the human conveyor belt, waited at the lift, raced to the exit, 12.01, scanned for an attendant to tell us which platform, ran to the escalator, 12.05.
We ended up running to the platform and saw the train was still there. Three ladies in grey uniform saw us running and waving and our names were the last to be ticked off their list. Smiling, one said, “Next door turn left.” I have a feeling they waited for us as we left the station seven minutes late, very relieved and grateful, and the steward remarked, while pouring us a welcome coffee, “Just made it then.”