Tag Archives: Careel Bay

Exploring Our Borrowed Backyard, Palm Beach.

We can’t all be Christopher Columbus or Captain Cook exploring the high seas in search of hidden lands. However, we should never overlook the many treasures in our own backyards. Most of the time, they’re not even buried but staring us straight in the face. You could say that I’m lucky because our borrowed backyard is particularly stunning but many of the houses and the boats around here are left vacant, which always strikes me as odd. I’m sure every house has its story. However, I am here and I am definitely making the most of every single second. Well, at least that’s my intention.

Our Border Collie Bilbo out on the mud flats. No doubt he is looking for his tennis ball. He doesn't care about the view and certainly tries to avoid the water.

Our Border Collie Bilbo is out searching for the meaning of life. For him, that meaning is very simple. It’s his tennis ball and of course…food! Although he swears that all his bulk is only fur, we know a coverup when we see one.

It just so happens that our borrowed backyard is a tidal expanse of mud and sand stretching from Careel Bay, Avalon through to Dark Gully, Palm Beach. While mud might not have the instant appeal of golden beach sand, it has a certain je ne sais quoi and a squelch factor which is hard to beat. I don’t know if this kind of mud is any good for your skin or whether it’s full of glow in the dark heavy metals which have nothing to do with thrashing guitars but it is fun with a capital F…especially for kids and nature lovers alike. The crabs particularly love it although I wish they’d grow a little bigger!!

A Miss in mud.

A Miss in mud.

Setting out from the Avalon end, I’ll let you in on what was a fleeting, temporary find. We found a lounge room set up in the mangroves. Somebody, had picked up what had been fairly top of the line cane chairs from one of the council cleanup piles beside the road and set them up along side an upturned wooden crate as a table and a lounge chair. I was quite excited to stumble into this secret world.Conjuring images of drinking port by candlelight Dead Poet’s Society style once the weather warmed up, I was looking forward to sneaking in late one night after sunset when the tide wasn’t in. However, when I returned only a few days later, it was gone. Removed. I gather this little makeshift venue wasn’t considered suitably “Palm Beach” and somebody had made a fatal call to council.

Just perfect for a Dead Poet's Society...the lounge room in the mangroves.

Just perfect for a Dead Poet’s Society…the lounge room in the mangroves. Shame it was only so temporary.

Before you start noticing the critters in the mud, you’ll be struck by the amazing array of bird life. 116 species of birds have been recorded as having been seen in Careel Bay, no doubt feasting on all the baby fish. Of course, there are the usual seagulls and every now and then the plovers take up residence, nesting in one of the empty backyards and fiercely dive bombing passers-by screeching and squawking as well.They can be a real terrifying menace…especially for the kids.

Grey Heron at Sunset, Pittwater. Really makes me wish to be a bird!

Grey Heron at Sunset, Pittwater. Really makes me wish to be a bird!

Much more impressive, are the stately grey Herons.

There are also a few pelicans. I’ve loved pelicans ever since I watched the movie Storm Bay based on the novel by Colin Thiele as a child. Pelicans have always been “Mr Percivals” like the pelican from the film.

Most beautiful of the land birds you’ll find around Careel Bay are the Rainbow Lorikeets.

There are large flocks of Sulphur-Crested Cockatoos along the waterfront sustained as much by people, as the food nature provides.

There are large flocks of Sulphur-Crested Cockatoos along the waterfront sustained as much by people, as the food nature provides.

You’ll also spot the odd Sulphur Crested Cockatoo during the day but the cockatoos take over centre stage just before sunset when they congregate in the trees along the waterfront before swooping en masse across Careel Bay performing a deafening sunset screech as they head for the National Park. It’s quite a spectacle to watch , although you might need a good set of ear plugs. They’re almost as deafening as a heavy metal band.

Crab of unspecified type. Wish I could zap it with my wand and I won't mention the rest.

Crab of unspecified type. Wish I could zap it with my wand and I won’t mention the rest.

You don’t even need to take a close look at the mud to notice the many, many holes which turn the mud into some kind of moonscape. Towards the Avalon end, the sand crabs rule the roost and as you move towards Palm Beach and Dark Gully, the soldier crabs have set up residence. These are amazing critters which march in their thousands across the mud, raised up on legs like stilts. They look like something out of Star Wars. These crabs can be a little bit scary to a certain person when they’re on the move but the rest of us find them intriguingly spectacular.

Soldier crab.

Soldier crab.

There’s also poetry in the mud with the ebb and flow of the tides. You really find out what it means that the tide waits for no one living on the edge of a tidal zone. While you’re getting yourself organised to get out on the kayak, the water miraculously disappears and you’re left high and dry. When the tide goes out, an entire underwater world is magically revealed and it’s way to far to lug out the kayak. Likewise, I’ve been caught out and the tide has come in while I’ve been out walking. Most of the time, it doesn’t matter if we get a bit wet but it’s not so good for visitors heading back home on the ferry without a change of clothes.

However, there’s not just poetry but also art out there in the mud.

Art in the crumbling boat ramps which are slowly being eaten by moss and colonised by oysters which convert their simple wooden pillars onto ornate Grecian columns.

Surprisingly, there are a few rather dead looking boat ramps along the waterfront. They remind me of Wordsworth's poem: "The Deserted Village". I also see this as the seas reclaiming its ground. Mankind thinks we can tame the sea but...

Surprisingly, there are a few rather dead looking boat ramps along the waterfront. They remind me of Wordsworth’s poem: “The Deserted Village”. I also see this as the seas reclaiming its ground. Mankind thinks we can tame the sea but…

There’s also art in the amazing ripples through the mud.

Art in nature...such incredible ripples in the sand.

Art in nature…such incredible ripples in the sand.

Eventually, as our walk continues, we reach Dark Gully. Dark Gully is a small cove which opens up into quite an expanse of mud at low tide. It is called Dark Gully because it is shaded from the sun. I have always loved exploring and was delighted to find a little creek flowing into Dark Gully. I tried walking along it a bit but didn’t get very far as it is rather smelly and overgrown. Much better looking at the photos.

Dark Gully, Palm Beach looking out onto Pittwater at low tide.

Dark Gully, Palm Beach looking out onto Pittwater at low tide.

As you walk around Dark Gully, you will spot an intriguing sandstone cave with a door. I’m convinced that it’s a pirate’s lair but haven’t spotted any comings and goings quite yet. Obviously, the pirates come and go by water at night when there’s a full moon and a high tide. After all, pirates need to be discreet and keep their headquarters under wraps.

I have also enjoyed watching the clouds roll by and even soaking in their reflections in the shallows.

Dreaming by the Sea...cloud reflections at Dark Gully, Palm Beach.

Dreaming by the Sea…cloud reflections at Dark Gully, Palm Beach.

Last but not least are all the dog walkers along the flats.

After all my bad press, Lady found herself on the lead when we went walking with Geoff. She walked very, very nicely as well. Could teach Bilbo a thing or two!

After all my bad press, Lady found herself on the lead when we went walking with Geoff. She walked very, very nicely as well. Could teach Bilbo a thing or two!

As much as I love exploring the mud and shallows finding all sorts of crabs, birds and exotic critters, I have to say that my favourite experience on the mud flats has been watching the sunset over the water. The entire sky can turn a brilliant orange and this is reflected in the rippled waters down below. Sometimes, the sunset looks like thick oozy melting cheese and is such a magnficently bright golden yellow. Even though I am quite a stress head, even I manage to relax and unwind watching these sunsets and being on the East coast, it is a rare thing to see the sunset over a body of water.

The sun setting over Pittwater, Palm Beach.

The sun setting over Pittwater, Palm Beach.

sunset Palm Beach

Lady at Palm Beach

As the sun sets over Palm Beach, school holidays are rapidly drawing to a close. It’s going to be very, very hard to go home.

xx Rowena

Mutiny on the Kayak

There is something so gloriously serene about kayaking across a beautiful diamond carpet of almost still water on a glorious, Spring morning. You’re almost inhaling all those positive ions and good vibes and feeling absolutely on top of the world. It’s just you and the sea and you’re floating along so effortlessly, almost levitating on a magnificent sea of calm absorbing all that superlative beauty.

However…

Add two reluctant kids to the mix, not unsurprisingly, the experience can quickly turn on its head. Instead of everybody moving in sync, we ended up with Mutiny on the Yellow kayak…especially when two dogs decide to do a bit of kayak bombing!

Here's Bilbo our Border Collie swimming out towards our kayak. This was a huge step forward for scaredy-dog although not such a good move for Mister in the pink single kayak.

Here’s Bilbo our Border Collie swimming out towards our kayak. This was a huge step forward for scaredy-dog although not such a good move for Mister in the pink single kayak.

Welcome to my nightmare. Trying to set off on a simple kayaking expedition with my kids in Careel Bay, just off Palm Beach in Sydney. To put you in the picture, this is right near where they film the Australian drama series Home & Away except we’re on the Pittwater side which is just perfect for all sorts of water sports (other than surfing, of course).

I don’t know what it is with my kids. Why they don’t jump at the chance to get out there onto the water and carpe diem seize the day? Why do they prefer virtual living to the real thing? By virtual living, I’m of course, referring to playing x-box and Minecraft and all those electronic gadgets too much. At least, I’m blaming the gadgets.

When I was a kid, I couldn’t wait to go to the beach. Get into the sand. Go outside. The only time we ever stayed inside was when it was pelting down with rain and my parents practically had to bolt down the doors to keep us in. There was also the odd bout of sunburn which put us out of action as well. Instead of the parents hassling the kids to get out, it was the other way round. “Come on, Mum! Dad!” I remember a particular beach holiday when my Dad locked himself up with a very, very large doorstop of a novel called Shogun and that was the end of him for the holiday although he might have taken us fishing. We were trying to drag Dad out into the water. It certainly wasn’t the other way round.

Times have changed. Now, it’s me the parent doing the dragging or should I say still doing the dragging. Doesn’t anybody else want to get out there? My husband certainly does. He might not be the original Solo Man but he has kayaked down the Tasmanian rapids which Grant Kenny traversed in the commercial. My husband had a real thirst for adrenalin and loved pushing himself hard before he was consumed by the rat race.

Miss and I in the kayak with Lady.

Miss and I in the kayak with Lady.

Although my kids are in the sea scouts and seem to be happy enough out on the water there, for some reason our daughter is often terrified of going kayaking with me and today is no exception. She brought up almost each and every fear known to man and although there was a bit of wind out there she wasn’t going to drown in knee-deep tidal water especially when she was wearing a life-jacket. She wasn’t going to get killed by stingrays either, which seem to scare her more than sharks but then again there is what happened to Steve Irwin. That certainly added stingrays to the Deadly 60. Last but certainly not least on her list despite their size, was the vast army of soldier crabs which were hiding in their crab holes underwater. They were all about to come out to get her. With all these worries being brought up while she begged me to turn back, it was like she had swallowed the DSM manual. You know the great book the psychological professionals use to classify and define all your weird and wonderful idiosyncrasies. She was absolutely gripped with fear and all teary but her wretched mother kept going because if you keep avoiding fear, you never develop the neuropathways to overcome it.

I know I’m hardly Robinson Crusoe with my lifelong phobia of false teeth and the incredible fear of dogs which I had growing up but other people’s unrealistic fears always look much more surmountable than your own.

Anyway, as you can appreciate, Miss really, really didn’t want to go kayaking.

While Miss and I were in the yellow double kayak, Mister was on his own in the single kayak. These kayaks had been left behind by the previous owners. They’re certainly not the latest and greatest craft and do have a certain bathtub look about them but we love them and they have taken us on some fabulous adventures. We’ve explored the mangroves. We’ve also paddled back and forth across the bay trying to catch glimpses of the great giant flathead and the amazing flying mullet. Of course, their mythical proportions rival the likes of Nessy[1] but you know how kids can turn hyperbole into fact. Mister’s been out there very determined with his net but the giants of the deep have eluded him and retained their precious secrets. I have also been on a number of very serene solo expeditions and it’s so relaxing just to float on the water and drift. Simply drift.

So Miss and I are paddling along. There’s a strong headwind and so we’re not moving very quickly and I’m talking her through her fears and encouraging her when I notice Lady, one of our dogs, has just launched off the boat ramp and is paddling out to join us. We’ve only had Lady two weeks and we’re still getting to know her. She’s two years old and she comes from a farm and is quite a bundle of surprises. Yesterday, she leaped up off the beach and successfully landed on top of a 3 metre high retaining wall. She really does make anything look possible and is quite a gutsy, spirited dog.

While you could wonder about the logistics of having a dog in a kayak, I thought Lady would be okay. I haven’t weighed her but she’d probably weigh something like 10-20 kilos. I certainly have no trouble lifting her up. Consequently, when she decided to “kayak bomb” us, I didn’t really hesitate to pick her up and help her into the kayak. Geoff and I have been sailing on the little Laser with Bilbo onboard before so I though Lady would be fine and she was. She sat on the front of the kayak in front of me as I awkwardly paddled around her.

Mister kayaking along with all 40+ kilos of Bilbo our Border Collie...the calm before the splash.

Mister kayaking along with all 40+ kilos of Bilbo our Border Collie…the calm before the splash.

Meanwhile, when Bilbo saw Lady kayaking with us, he somehow overcame his huge fear of even getting his paws wet and launched himself into the water. I saw him wading out with all his fur billowing out. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen him swim before except for the time he fell in the swimming pool chasing his tennis ball. Even for a Border Collie, Bilbo is a big dog and dry he weighs around 40 kilos so with his very thick woolly coat soaking up all that sea water, he was getting very heavy indeed. Well, he ended up on the single kayak with Mister who also weighs around 40 kilos. Mister is quite good on the kayak but not unsurprisingly Bilbo managed to capsize them and dog and boy were in the water. Bilbo managed to scratch Mister on the way out and apparently also tried to grab hold of him. It was only shallow water where at least we could all stand up so there was no risk of anyone drowning but there was certainly plenty of pandemonium.

I decided that this was also a good time to get Lady back on terra firma. The novelty of trying to paddle around the dog was wearing off, especially given my daughter’s catalogue of fears and I didn’t even want to consider how she’d react if Lady capsized our kayak. Needless to say, Geoff put the dogs back behind the fence before he headed out for a paddle.

As much as I enjoy a relaxing, solo paddle soaking up all that serenity, there was definitely a certain “je ne sais quoi” with this mad scramble of kids, paws, paddles and of course avoiding the huge ginormous Giant Stingray which is out there somewhere lurking in the very shallow depths.

It’s crazy experiences like these that become the great family legends. I can already hear everyone gathered around the family table laughing about the time Bilbo jumped in the kayak with Mister and they capsized and everyone roars laughing.

So much for peace and tranquility but as Helen Keller said: “Life is either a daring adventure or it’s nothing.”

I’d love to hear of any of your family adventures, especially family holiday antics!

Xx Rowena

PS Kids still aren’t seeing the funny side of things yet. Miss just told me: How would you like it if you capsized and the dog scratched you with its claws? Mister was also fairly gloomy about the experience as well. It seems there is a fine line between humour and trauma that we still need to work on. After all, your disasters always make the best stories.

[1] The Loch Ness Monster.