Sunday, January 10, 2021

Travelling Pathetically - Leathery Winged Swooper of the Night Edition

 This was really supposed to be a blog entry about Wolli Creek.  My excursions into the outside world are getting smaller and smaller and this time I only intended to go a few kilometres from home.  Specifically to Wolli Creek.  I thought I would catch the train (after masking up and bathing in disinfectant obviously) to Wolli Creek and wander around a suburb considerably younger than I am and then perhaps go and take a look at the eponymous creek.

Wolli Creek (the suburb, not the creek) was carved out of some former industrial land on the banks of Wolli Creek (the creek, not the suburb) to provide a home for Sydney's Mongolian community.  It was called Wolli Creek because the original suggestion, North Arncliffe, was just a little too unimaginative.  Although apparently only a little.

Suiting deed to word developers were unleashed on this hapless piece of industrial leftover and and soon glittering tower blocks were rising to the sky; to date not all of them have fallen down.  I would, I thought, wander about this gleaming piece of residential modernity followed by a quick trip to the creek.  Unfortunately the trains weren't running.

Thinking on my feet (well my backside actually, I was sitting in a cafe at the time) I came up with a new plan.  If I could not visit Wolli the Suburb then Wolli the Creek would be my destination.  Wolli Creek flows a few kilometres from my home gradually intersecting with the noxious flow that is the Cooks River at the aforementioned suburb that I wouldn't be visiting.  My walk would take the form of a rough triangle.  The land between Wolli Creek and the Cooks River consists of a low hill occupied by the suburbs of Earlwood and Undercliffe, territory somewhat familiar to me as my Mother was raised there.  I would walk along the base of the triangle to Earlwood, over the top of the hill and then follow the valley of Wolli Creek to its meeting with the river whereupon a sharp left turn would enable me to follow the river back home.  It also had the advantage that I would be able to stroll through the Wolli Creek Nature Reserve.

Wolli Creek Nature Reserve exists for the usual reason.  Successive state governments having been foiled in their plans to smother the area in concrete by the protests of residents have reluctantly given formal approval to an established fact and provided the shreds of bushland along the creek valley with an official right to exist.

I set off full of hope into the cool, cloudy day.  It had been raining all week and I was a little afraid that I would be caught in a downpour.  I needn't have worried, a short while later I was gasping up the hill towards Earlwood in the blazing sun having removed as much of my clothing as decency (and the law) permits and noting that once again I had managed to come out without a hat.  A lesser man might have fled for home but I am made of sterner stuff, sunburnt sterner stuff, but sterner stuff nonetheless.  My destination was Girrahween Park just over the top of the hill which connected with the reserve (and which I got lost in as a small child).

Once in the park I was sheltered from the worst of the sun (ie I burnt without being aware of the fact) and struck off towards the creek and its junction with the Cooks River.  There is an established walking track so I wasn't exactly hacking my way through the wilderness with a machete (which was good as I had left my machete at home along with my hat) but I was able to stroll along surrounded by trees and bush with nothing to hear except the song of birds, the rustle as insects and lizards fled my approach, the buzz of a nearby chainsaw, the rattle of trains and the chatter from other people who kept on popping up at inconvenient moments walking their dogs, their children and occasionally each other.

Ah yes, far from civilisation

It will have been noticed, if any of you have been paying attention, that a lot of my walks seem to involve creeks or rivers.  The simple reason is that these are the parts of land that are the most difficult to build on and therefore stand a better chance of having actually survived with a portion of the natural environment intact or at least intact to the untrained eye.

I was a little surprised at the presence of people, if I had done a little more research I would have realised I was walking along the Two Valley Trail which is popular for recreation.  Fortunately there weren't too many people out and I was able to spend most of my time alone in nature apart from the trains and the chainsaw and the frequent glimpses of housing and industrial estates (which I have carefully excluded from the photographs).

I took a photo of a rock.  In my defence it was a big rock

From time to time handsome sandstone outcrops stopped and posed for photos.  I took the one above after waiting patiently for five minutes for another walker to get the hell out of the way.  To give her and her partner time to get out of the way I hung around at the outcrop for several minutes no doubt screwing up the photo opportunities of those who came after me.  Eventually I moved on and headed towards what turned out to be the highlight of my walk.

A sign, not unadorned with guano, announced that the area I had entered was a camp for the grey headed flying fox.  I was cautioned against approaching any such bats that I might see lying on the ground and was informed that the bats carried a virus that could be harmful to dogs and humans.  Therefore I was strictly enjoined against permitting my dog to eat them as it might kill the dog (it probably wouldn't do the bat any good either).

Eager to spy the promised flying foxes I studied the trees in my immediate vicinity but saw nothing.  Well I saw branches, leaves and occasional bits of sunlight poking through but nothing batlike.  I was about to leave in disgust when something caught my eye.  Could this possibly be a bat?  It was, surrounded by leaves and branches and with its wings wrapped around it it didn't look terribly batlike but there it was.  I dug out my camera and practically ran the battery out of charge attempting to take a picture that would somewhat resemble a bat more than a deformed pine cone.  I wasn't entirely successful.

This is the best I could do

Then I turned the corner and walked face first into half the bats in Sydney.

Like this

And this

I think this is a mother suckling her young.  Bats don't have a problem with breastfeeding in public

I was utterly gobsmacked at the number of bats on display.  It was like being in an orchard if what you were growing was bats.  There were bats everywhere.  Incidentally they are freaking noisy.  It's daylight, I thought they were supposed to be asleep.  I was entranced, I took as many photos as my failing battery permitted and cursed the solitary bat sleeping alone that had caused me to waste so many photos.

Having passed through Bat Central I continued on my journey.  The path was gradually descending towards the creek and from time to time I was able to get glimpses of the waterway which had inspired (for want of a better word) my journey.  It was very and I took a couple of token photos but with bats still ringing in my head it can't be admitted that I was paying too much attention.

See, a creek

 As mentioned before I was somewhat familiar with the geography and while I had never been here before I knew roughly where I was.  I was skirting Undercliffe (most of which, despite its name, is at the top of the hill) and heading towards the triangle of land where creek and river met.  I say I knew roughly where I was, that's true.  Specifically I had no idea where I was until I stumbled out into a patch of open land which proclaimed itself as Turrella Reserve.  There was a little more walking through occasional pieces of bushland but now I had entered into more open park territory and strolled among grass and picnic tables set up to provide comfort for people who had a burning desire to come and see Wolli Creek meet the Cooks River.  On the other side of the creek was Wolli Creek the suburb in all its glory and in deference to my original intention I took a photo.  This was the closest I would get to the suburb all day.

Wolli Creek, the suburb

I swung around the pointy bit where the two waterways met and headed up along the Cooks River for home.  When I was a child I would catch the bus to my Grandmother's house in Earlwood and as the bus started to climb the hill I would see the occasional rooftop back at river level and wonder what was there.  Well it only took about forty five years but I finally found out.  Crammed between the river and the hill rising to Earlwood is a narrow strip of rather handsome houses looking out onto the river.  I wasn't bushwalking anymore, rather a combined foot/cycleway in heat radiating concrete stretched between the houses and the river heading in the direction I needed to go.

Where the waterways meet.  Wolli Creek is on the right.

I have frequently mocked the Cooks River for its pollution and general noisomeness all of which is true but life tends to find a way and the fringes of the river still have trees, mangroves and, of course, ibis.  Because there is no part of Sydney so environmentally devastated that an ibis can't find food there.  Attempts are being made to fix a little of the damage done to the waterway over the years.  Most of the riverbank is completely altered from its natural state but since its natural state was mangrove swamp this might not necessarily be a bad thing.  Still occasional patches of wetland are being planted and nurtured and in certain spots the containing walls (built to prevent erosion) have been replaced by a more environmentally friendly alternative.  I know this because a sign next to one of these spots informed me of the fact.  This new type of retaining wall (more a retaining ramp) allows crabs and wading birds to return to an area they were summarily evicted from when the walls were built.  I looked without much interest at the area the signpost was referring to and realised it was alive with crabs.  Apparently word gets around.  Unfortunately the crabs were far less interested in posing for photos than the bats.

Basically the only crab photo I got

The other thing the sign mentioned was a warning about an invasive species of turtle that was apparently taking over territory and making it difficult for native turtles to compete.  Apparently environmentalists need a lesson in multiculturalism.  I looked carefully but I saw no invasive turtles.

This is a photo of the Cooks River about fifteen minutes walk from my home

With the crabs taken care of I headed for home.  I knew I was getting close when the trees surrounding the river gave way to a golf course.

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