Saturday, March 18, 2023

Taking a Clutchy Stick for a Walk

 I received a clutchy stick for Christmas.  For your information a clutchy stick is one of those unfoldable sticks with the claw on the end that are used to pick up rubbish.  Later, on my birthday, I received a pair of work gloves.  Lest you think this is the beginning of a confession for some bizarre fetish permit me to reassure you I had completely non-sexual reasons for requesting these gifts.

A block or so behind my home is a golf course and through that golf course flows the Cooks River.  It is fair to say that the Cooks River has had its ups and downs since the coming of the white man (and by extension white women and children).  First it was a fishing resource, then a sewer, then an industrial run off zone (and sewer) and finally (somewhat improbably) a place to put expensive "riverside" housing.  We really have buggered the Cooks River about quite a bit culminating in completely changing the mouth.  The mouth of the river used to enter Botany Bay where the airport currently sits so engineers sat down and had a brief chat with the river about the benefits of cosmetic surgery and moved the mouth several kilometres away from its original location.

Despite all of the messing about and a spectacular level of pollution bits of the Cooks River are beginning to be remediated as humanity does its usual trick of annihilating 98% of something and then becoming insanely protective of the remainder.  Bits (rather small bits) of the concrete river banks have been broken down and improved by being returned to something approximating their natural state.  Back in the 1930s of course they thought they were improving the river by lining it with concrete in the first place.  While the river still isn't anything you'd want to expose your naked flesh to the fact that fish have returned is considered a positive sign.  I don't actually know if fish have returned but the presence of numerous signs warning you to under no circumstances eat any fish you catch can be considered indicative.

Marrickville Golf Course hugs the riverbank for part of its journey and a narrow strip near the water's edge can be walked along (any golf ball induced concussion is your own problem).  I walk along there quite often as there are trees, birds and a river.  I listen to the rustle of lizards in the grass, birds in the trees and the hysterical cursing of golfers as their balls refuse to go where they want.  As I do so I gaze at the mangroves that line the river.  The thing that mainly meets my gaze is rubbish.  Any river that flows through an urban area is naturally going to pick up a fair bit of junk and that junk gets deposited wherever the land is flat enough to do so.  I got so irritated by this that I decided I wanted a clutchy stick and now when the mood takes me I wander down to the river with my clutchy stick and pick up rubbish.  I have no illusions that I am making any sort of dent in the river's overall pollution issues.  I'm only one person and a lazy, easily distracted one into the bargain.  Nevertheless I find it somewhat therapeutic and its pleasant to get out into nature albeit a rather messy part.

Today the sun was hot so hanging out at a river bank was a marginal improvement on hanging out at my flat.  I squelched through the mangroves picking up bits and pieces while birds hurled themselves into the river (more proof that there were fish unless the birds had just decided on a disgusting form of suicide) while from the golfcourse just above me came the sharp crack of club on ball followed by the traditional four letter cry of the golfer.  "Fuck!"  Followed by, "did anybody see where that went?"

With my bag full I left them to it and wandered home.  On a completely unrelated note if anybody needs any secondhand golf balls I am totally your man.

Silly After Action Report - Gladium Pro Patria e Rege

 Two troopers of the Lucca cavalry regiment stared in awe as the heavily bemedalled officer went by.  The colonnello's chest bore so many decorations that he clattered as he walked.  One of the troopers turned wide eyed to the other,

"Was that...?"

"Yep," nodded his comrade, "Colonnello Castanetti himself.  The hero of El Sod.  They say he smuggled himself out of East Africa on a submarine.  Then wound up in North Africa fighting with Rommel.  Although some vicious tongues say he passed out on a submarine during a party, fell overboard and was washed up in North Africa.  Everywhere our army has met defeat he has managed to survive.  He was at Alamein, he was one of the few Italians to escape.  In fact he managed to escape three weeks before the battle started.  That's how good he is."

"What a man."

"He's just the person to lead us against the Germans.  He knows all about them."


"Yes, he was a waiter in Berlin before the war.  And during the war actually, until they sent him to East Africa for spilling soup on Gauleiter Koch during a function."

The other soldier had stopped talking.  He couldn't help but notice that the colonello had got into a staff car and was now leaving the scene at an extremely high speed.  Almost simultaneously a shout came from a lookout, 

"The Germans are coming!"

"Amazing," muttered the first soldier, "how does he know?"

Dave Wilson very kindly agreed to play this scenario from LFT's Italian issue.  In Scenario FT246 - Gladium Pro Patria e Rege I shall command various elements of the "Ariete II" tank division.  Well you know what they say about sequels, they're never as good as the original.  It is 1943 and the Italians have surrendered but its very difficult to send an entire country to a prisoner of war cage in the rear with the result that the Italian army had to face their erstwhile allies who were somewhat miffed to put it mildly.

Making their stand for king and country are my brave troopers facing down the somewhat irate panzer grenadiers of the 8th motorised regiment.  To win Dave has to exit twelve VP off the north edge of the board between hexes vY1 and vGG5 while simultaneously ensuring that no tracked Italian AFV with a functioning MA has LOS to and is within six hexes of the original German set up area.

Standing firm in their path are my troops.  I have eight squads of elite Italian infantry led by a 9-1 with a pair of 7-0s making up the numbers.  They have a pair of light machine guns, a heavy machine gun, an almost equally heavy antitank rifle and a 75mm artillery piece.  Eight concealment counters help to confuse the Germans about the forces opposing them.  Either setting up or entering on turns 1-3 according to my personal whim are my armoured forces; two M15/42 tanks, four SMV75/18 SP guns and a single AB41 armoured car.  Dave's forces consist of a dozen first line squads led by four officers including his own 9-1.  They have four lmgs, two dismantled medium machine guns and an atr.  Hooked up to an unarmoured halftrack is a 50mm anti tank gun.  Six Opel Blitz trucks contain the troopers at start and adding a little punch is a Grille ie a siG38(t)M the chassis of the old Czech tank groaning under the weight of the 150mm howitzer improbably mounted on it.  Clattering on in support on the first turn are four StuGIIIG self propelled guns whose long barrelled 75mm guns made my Semoventes suffer from barrel inadequacy.

My problem (apart from my standard problems of laziness, stupidity, carelessness and lack of attention to detail) was that there were several ways that the Germans could approach the exit locations and I had to try and cover them all.  This led to a couple of stupid decisions in the set up.  I placed a M15 (with the armour leader no less) up on the hill to the right hidden in a very small orchard patch.  My intention was that the tank could cover the right if Dave tried an end run up the very right of the board.  In actual fact it covered nothing and died without achieving much.  Another problem was that my Semovente had difficulties penetrating the frontal armour of the StuGs while my armour presented no such issues to Dave.

I nestled another Semovente and the 75mm gun (by far my best chance at a tank kill) in the woods bordering the exit locations hoping for a side shot.  A couple of squads and an lmg also took up positions in the vicinity as a last forlorn hope.  My main defensive position was in the woods in the centre.  Here I placed my other M15 and another Semovente to cover the approaches with fire supported by ample squads.  The 9-1 with a halfsquad manning the hmg was HIP at the rear of this woods patch.  A couple of squads lurked in the trees on the hill mass to dissuade Dave (unsuccessfully) from clambering up that way.  Further south was a dummy stack and a unit with the atr.  These guys had one job, take out that Grille before it could commit any atrocities on the Italian infantry.  I kept back the armoured car and one Semovente to roll on as reinforcements on turn 3.  The job of these guys was simply to position themselves where they could prevent Dave from fulfilling the victory condition about no Italian AFV having LOS etc to the German set up area.  My final Semovente set up in woods on the right hand hill again guarding an approach it is fair to say Dave never contemplated using.

Set up, by SSR Italian AFV setting up in concealment terrain can set up HIP

Dave started by using his Grille to dump a smoke round (its last) in front of my troops in the south before sending the bulk of his troops north.  Dave hastened slowly through the wheatfield while I proudly held my fire.  There would be plenty of targets for my M15 and SMV to shoot at next turn.  The whole point of my centre position was to slow him down which meant lots of skulking and cringing underneath concealment counters.  There was joy in the South though as smoke notwithstanding my atr crew managed to get into his Grille (a poor joke but I couldn't resist it).   I had thus deprived Dave of his artillery support on turn 1 although its crew survived to my later annoyance.  Keen observers of the picture below will note the remarkable absence of StuGs from the field.  Dave completely forgot to bring his supporting armour on and, to be fair, I forgot to remind him.  At least that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

End German turn 1. Dave's Grille is gone, as for the rest of his armour they must have taken a left turn at Alberquerque

My own turn was modest in its achievements although I did manage to break overambitious squad moving forward.  I revealed my M15 hidden amongst the trees to take advantage of its machine guns given the vast number of Germans parading themselves for my delectation.  I managed to pin one of them.  On the other hand my sniper wounded one of his officers (although not the 9-1 of course).  None of Dave's officers would survive the scenario unscathed although some were more scathed than others.

Turn two saw Dave sort out his late running StuGs.  They swept up on the left and started getting acquisitions on the M15 and the SMV that I had in the trees.  I gave up the M15 as doomed but bought a turn or two of life for the SMV by reversing it into a clearing where the StuGs couldn't shoot at it.  The SMV took a shot at a StuG but had no HEAT without which those stubby 75mm had little chance.  My infantry defenders followed a pattern whereby the most conveniently placed would shoot then retreat while another concealed unit took their place.  Dave's infantry started to suffer casualties and in consequence began edging to the right avoiding the forest of fire in the centre.

My that's a lot of StuGs

Making up for their late appearance Dave's StuGs ruled the battlefield for the next couple of turns taking out the M15 and the SMV that had scurried out of their path although not before it had one brief moment of glory blowing away a stack of German infantry that got a little bold.  It had been my hope that by the time my reinforcements came on the battle (and most particularly the StuGs) would have moved on but Dave's late arrival scotched that idea with the result that the reinforcing SMV wound up nose to much longer nose with a StuG.  My infantry on the hill shamelessly abandoned their hidden comrade to its fate as Germans pushed up the hill and suddenly it looked like my right flank nightmares were coming true.

Dave's patented "drive directly up to the enemy tank and destroy it in the advancing fire phase" tactic is working well.

In the centre Dave slowly ground through my troops defending the woods but the real danger came to the right.  With my tree defenders occupied he filtered troops between the trees and the forest and started threatening to outflank my defenders.  Up on the hill itself a lmg team managed to stun a StuG that had been carelessly advancing CE but I was starting to feel distinctly nervous about the flank.  Then despair and delight occurred almost simultaneously.  Dave had pushed a StuG forward towards the exit directly in the line of sight of my hidden 75mm gun the only weapon I had with a decent chance of taking out the StuGs.  I took a defensive fire shot to gain acquisition for next time whereupon Dave rolled snake eyes in advancing fire and wiped out both gun and crew.  I howled in despair but what the dice gods take they also give.  Down in the south my reinforcing SMV found a HEAT round and nailed his rearmost StuG, I now had a largely unchallenged SMV within reach of Dave's set up area.  I say largely unchallenged, the crew of his destroyed Grille did jump into close combat with them but fortunately I managed to survive.

The agony and the ecstasy.  There is just a hole where my 75mm gun should be but check out the wrecked StuG

My M15 on the hill survived only as long as it took the StuG up there to recover from being stunned but on the other hand the gun killing StuG broke its MA which was a decided relief as there was a SMV sitting there trembling under its concealment counter.  With Dave's infantry filtering by to the east it was time for my 9-1 led hmg to show their worth.  I had kept these guys hidden the entire time while the woods defenders fought to keep the Germans away from their position.  Show their worth they did going on a couple of rate tears that carved up the flanking German infantry.  In fact they fired the barrel so hot that the machine gun broke but by then the damage had been done.  Dave's StuGs were moving with virtual impunity but his infantry had taken heavy casualties and the StuGs couldn't win it alone.

There are lots of trucks in the way but my hmg is starting to wreak havoc.

Dave pressed to the last pushing his StuGs forward to challenge for the exit locations and slowly grinding down the remnants of my woods defenders but he had no answer for the pair of SMVs sitting in the rear with access to his start locations.  Also while my infantry defenders were pretty much done a decent number of German troops were dead or broken a long way from the exit.  Dave gave the concession and I was able to chalk up a win for the Italians.  

One turn to go and Dave accepts the inevitable


I checked ROAR afterwards and there is a definite bias towards the Italians so I may have screwed Dave over in the selection of the scenario but you don't get too many opportunities for a German v Italian armour clash.  Just on a historical note I have read a number of histories of war in the desert that report the Italians being delighted with the arrival of the Semoventes as it finally gave them a chance to take on Allied armour on equal terms, wtf???  That stubby 75 can barely gain the attention of a Grant or Sherman crew.  Only the HEAT round allowed it to face off against the StuGs.

Many thanks to Dave for the game.  I let him choose the next scenario we played and in revenge he placed me opposite the Italians.  Coming soon, The Wolves Last Tooth.

"I got one," shouted the trooper, delirious with joy.  "Shoved a HEAT round right through the front armour."  He did a little dance on top of his Semovente which rocked dangerously.  His comrade, in smoke stained uniform and missing his eyebrows was a little less enthusiastic.  His own Semovente was in danger of starting a forest fire, some nearby Italian soldiers had already cracked out marshmallows.  

"That'll teach the Germans what's what," said the first refusing to be brought down despite the fact that the Semovente's armour was cracking under his boots.  A messenger arrived waving a sheet of paper.

"New orders from Colonnello Castanetti, we are to lay down our arms and surrender to the Germans immediately."

"Oh thank Christ," muttered the first soldier hopping down from the Semovente.

"Where is the Colonnello anyway," asked the second, "he must be back in Rome by now."

"Actually, the order is postmarked Canada," replied the messenger.

"Amazing, how does he do it?"

Friday, March 17, 2023

Travelling Pathetically - Firetrail Edition

 Things have been a little tense with my Blue Mountains correspondent ever since she let slip that she once had a house full of naked belly dancers and didn't invite me around.  Honestly, I expect a little more from a life long friend than that.  Eventually after repeated invitations I decided to visit so that I could express my displeasure to her face to face.

There were other reasons for my visit of course one of them being that her home is marginally more convenient to my parents place than my own which was useful as I was visiting them later the same weekend.  She dangled the carrot of a lift to my parents place once she got tired of my company (expected duration time, thirty eight seconds) and until then we could go to antique bookstores and possibly do a little bushwalking.

"Belly dancers," I suggested hopefully but got a decided negative.  I was starting to think the lack of an invitation might have been deliberate.  Still bushwalking and antique bookstores were a drawcard although the bookstore wasn't really an antique, just rather old.  On arrival I searched every nook and cranny of her house just in case there was a belly dancer lurking somewhere that she might have forgotten about (no I will not let it go) but I eventually had to settle for making conversation with her family.  Her family has recently (about nine months ago) been added to with a grandchild and I spent a certain amount of time being ignored by this young lady while attempting to converse with those who, for want of a better term, I will deem adults.

The next day we set out on an expedition that combined the literary (if sixty year old Biggles books can be considered such) and the natural (if a walk down a firetrail can be considered such).  Having exhausted the opportunities offered by the bookstore and having spent only slightly more money than I could afford I pestered my correspondent to go for a bushwalk.  My correspondent mentioned the tear in her achilles tendon that caused this to be problematic.  I rather snippily asked her if she tore it carrying a belly dancer out of sight before my arrival and she rolled her eyes and agreed to a small bushwalk although on her part it was more of a bush limp.

Given that the bookstore was in Lawson (one of a wide collection of unimaginatively named settlements in the Blue Mountains) we managed to find a bushwalk departing from that very location.   Frederica Falls offered a destination for our stroll and stroll it was as we weren't moving very fast in deference to my correspondent's semi crippled status.  The journey there although it only took about ten minutes was filled with drama as I had to keep getting out of the car and fetching the bits that fell off along the way.  I think more of the car wound up on the back passenger seat than was actually in its designed location by the end.

Nevertheless we came to the end of the street where vehicle access was blocked by an unreasonable number of trees.  Our walk could commence.

The entrance to our walk.  Definitely bush

We set off at a pace that could be described as gentle if you were feeling generous and moved slowly down a reasonably well beaten path.  There had been a map at the entrance and despite my repeated inability to read such things my correspondent seemed quite happy to strike out into the reasonably well known with me as a guide.  I say guide, what I mean was I was walking first except on those occasions when the aging hairdresser with the torn achilles overtook me.  Still the sedentary pace of our movement allowed me to take the occasional photograph like the one below.

A tree that my correspondent seemed inordinately fond of

As we walked my correspondent, who is rightly proud of her garden, pointed out various plants and trees to me, sometimes going so far as to use their scientific names.  I mentally labelled them all as "greenery" and moved on.  If you have ever wondered why generalisation and stereotyping are so popular its because it saves a heck of a lot of time.  Although even I would pause occasionally if nature tried really hard.

Nature trying quite hard

As we left the noise of the highway behind us we were greeted by the noise of the bush instead.  My correspondent drew my attention to one noise which she said was black cockatoos.  Black cockatoos making a noise like that meant that there would be rain she announced sagely.  The sky was a brilliant blue and there wasn't a cloud in the sky.  I smiled and nodded politely and we moved on, slowly.

After making our way through the bush we encountered a firetrail just as the map back at the start said we would.  I chose to see this as a brilliant feat of navigation despite the fact that there was literally no other way we could go.  It was at the firetrail that my correspondent called a halt.  I could see why, the path we had been walking along was relatively level but the firetrail plunged downwards and was replete with loose rocks and scree (to the extent they aren't the same thing).  Nothing less conducive to a dodgy achilles tendon could be imagined.  I stared longingly at the firetrail until my correspondent buckled.

"Oh go on," she muttered.  "I'll wait here," I set off, "but not for long."

With a deadline looming over me made all the more urgent by the fact that I wasn't quite sure what it was I hurried on.  A quick encounter with the scree persuaded me to hasten somewhat more slowly as my correspondent probably couldn't carry my mangled body back to civilisation.

The firetrail although in my experience fire doesn't need trails

With an imaginary clock ticking away the moments until my correspondent abandoned me to my fate I plunged forward giving the surrounding bush only the most cursory of admiring glances.  I wasn't sure if I would actually make it to the falls before I had to turn around but strangely I didn't find the tension dramatic or appealing.  From time to time I would pause and take a photo of the bush.  When that palled I took a photo of a rock.

A rock and, to be fair, some bush


I like taking photos of large vaguely menacing rocks.  Ever since I read The Nargun and the Stars at an impressionable age I have the suspicion that large rocks are just waiting for me to turn my back before they pounce.  I take the photos so that when my mangled body is discovered there will be a record of my killer.  The rock completely failed to pounce on me as I went by but it would get another opportunity on its return trip.

Time was passing as time tends to do when nobody is watching it and I was starting to think I would have to turn back before my correspondent reported me as missing and plundered the possessions I had left at her house.  The firetrail stretched before me and dropped even lower.  I'll just go to the drop I decided because it would be heartbreaking to turn around and later find that that drop was the last step to your destination.  Of course if you go on that drop is never the last step to your destination because when it comes down to it the world was largely created as a rather cruel practical joke.

So I went on and it turned out that that drop was the last step to my destination.  My faith had been rewarded although in the background I could hear the being I had faith in growling menacingly for right now I headed on towards the waterfall.  I couldn't really get close to the waterfall due to the danger of falling into the water myself but I did manage to take a photo of a modest stream of water flowing vertically in the direction of a pool.  This being more or less the dictionary definition of a waterfall I announced mission accomplished and turned around.

Frederica Falls, a modest and unassuming piece of scenery

More alert to time than ever I hurried back up the firetrail, giving the Nargun a wide berth as I panted back to where I left my correspondent.  In my mind I could actually hear the tearful speech she would make to the authorities to justify abandoning me to die in the wild.  Gasping because the day was hot and fitness was a brief concept I flirted with twenty years ago before abandoning it forever I desperately made for the rendezvous before all hope was gone.

Which turned out to be pointless because my correspondent had spent all of the time I'd been away chasing pokemon and seemed vaguely annoyed that I had turned up at all.  To be fair most of the people I know are more than vaguely annoyed when I turn up.  Eventually I managed to persuade her to tear her gaze from the pokemon long enough to start walking back to the car although I did have to go and fetch her occasionally as she wandered off into the bush after this electronic beast or that.

My correspondent emerged briefly from her pokemon induced oblivion to insist that I photograph the below piece of bush.  I believe she found it aesthetically pleasing or possibly there was a pokemon hiding under it.

To be fair it is quite an aesthetically pleasing piece of bush

All of the above only took a couple of hours and we emerged in time for lunch.  On arrival at her home we found that the population had increased as her son's partner was having her birthday and entertaining a group of friends to lunch.  Pleasantries were exchanged all round although I don't think a reason for my presence at her birthday lunch was ever given to the other guests.  One of said guests was a rather cute gamer boy slightly more punk than steam who made me completely forget about belly dancers for all of thirty seconds.

After a fungus free bushwalk I was able to photograph the Clare McIntyre memorial fungus clinging to a stool on my correspondents deck (which is a fancy word for verandah I think).

The surprisingly located Clare McIntyre memorial fungus

After the efforts of the morning there was nothing to do except sit around and wait for somebody else to feed me.  As evening came the heavens opened and rain poured down.

"Cockatoos," said my correspondent knowledgeably.

"Oh shut up," I replied.


Sunday, March 5, 2023

Travelling Pathetically - Manly Dam Edition

 For more than fifty years I have managed to go through life without realising that Manly had a dam.  Well no longer, half a century of ignorance has been redressed in one afternoon.  Manly, a suburb so close to the sea that sometimes it seems that a benevolent god will wash it into the ocean, has a hinterland and lurking in that hinterland is a dam.  Surrounding that dam, at a discreet distant, are a bunch of other suburbs providing an over inhabited shield behind which the dam and its adjacent bushland dwell unseen.  For the uninitiated there is simply a green patch on the map amongst the suburbs which, unaccountably has not been turned into a golf course.

Manly dam followed the usual progress for dams.  Drinking water was required, a dam was built, people poured run off into the dam, the water became undrinkable, a different dam was built elsewhere.  Seriously it would appear that the human race has two basic impulses when it comes to water supply, the first is to drink from it and the second is to crap into it.  At least I hope the impulses came in that order.  In keeping with a third impulse humans have relating to water which is to pollute the water, wait a decent interval and then play in it Manly dam or rather the lake behind it now hosts swimmers, kayakers and all those for whom immersion in a semi noxious soup is the definition of a good time.  Various animals also drink there because let's face it they have very little choice.

A walk around the dam's environs has been teased for more than a year but something keeps getting in the way; bad weather, inconvenient timing, sheer lack of interest.  Now however the walk would occur.  One of the friends I have been walking with before (not the psychopath, the other one) currently has a home which is quite convenient to the dam (and absolutely nothing else).  He invited me to wander around the dam with him and afterwards the bait of dinner at his house was dangled.  To sweeten the pot he waxed lyrical about the wildlife surrounding the dam.  Cockatoos, swamp wallabies, kookaburras and an air breathing fish that climbs up waterfalls would be just some of the animals I wouldn't see on our walk.

My friend, whose name is Jason incidentally, lives in Freshwater.  Freshwater is what Harbord renamed itself when the occupants decided to get a name appropriate to the burgeoning property values.  Nobody's going to buy an expensive house in boring old Harbord but in exciting, sexy Freshwater the sky is the limit.  From my home at the epicentre of the universe travelling to Harb, sorry Freshwater is like journeying to a third world country.  I knew I was getting close when I passed the lice clinic.  Have spent longer in travelling than I did on my last holiday I finally arrived at his door only about ten minutes late which I attributed to having to fight off an attack of native tribesmen along the way.

With tedious preliminaries like greetings and polite chit chat dealt with as swiftly as possible we headed damwards.  The endless vista of houses and golf courses fell away and suddenly we were in a valley full of water, said water being prevented from pouring into nearby dwellings by the somewhat geriatric Manly dam.

As threatened, Manly dam

It was a pleasant day and people were out recreating on the dam as the above photo proves.  Jason and I turned our backs on such irritating signs of human existence and plunged into the bush.  Actually what we plunged into was a series of steps leading upwards through what had been bush before the last hazard reduction got away from them and was now largely stumps and cinders.  The bush was recovering as bush tends to do if you leave it alone for a while and Jason promised that further down the path would be bush that looked more, well, alive.

Somewhat charred but definitely bush

Our journey would be a seven kilometre circumnavigation of the lake but rather than just wander around the water's edge like a pair of losers we would climb above the lake, wander through the bush, descend to the lake, ascend again before finally returning to water level at the end.  Our walk basically described a circular sine wave.

I had warned Jason that I liked to amble and take photos which he indicated that he was fine with.  Both of us are now in our fifties and vigorous exercise has a slightly different definition to that it might have had thirty years ago.  With the warning given and acknowledged I took full advantage to record my journey in pictures.

One of said pictures

A series of creeks feed into the dam (well the lake behind the dam) and we would pass over and by a number of them.  Jason waxed lyrical about the wildlife while simultaneously acknowledging that most of the wildlife tended to keep to those creeks that were rarely visited by humans.  This was wise although I couldn't see how it was possible given that the entire area was surrounded by suburbs but even in its somewhat incinerated state the bush was working its usual magic of making the rest of the world seem distant and almost imaginary.  Looking around you could imagine this going on forever whereas in actual fact in only went on until there was enough flat ground to build a golfcourse, or North Balgowlah.

One of the afore mentioned creeks.  We looked very hard but saw no signs of air breathing fish

As promised the bush became somewhat more lively and green started to outnumber black and brown as we progressed.  Jason told me when the best times to see bird, wildflowers and swamp wallabies were and it became immediately apparent that I had turned up at the wrong time in the wrong season but we were here now and there was nothing for it but to carry on.  Incidentally if Jason ever wants to give up his current somewhat dubious profession he could get a job as a tour guide.

Signs of life are beginning to emerge

We were now well above (a couple of hundred metres tops) the dam and Jason indicated that the time had come to begin our downward plunge.  This came as great news to those of us who had been smoking for thirty years and had been using the excuse of taking photographs to pause for a moment and make futile attempts to get their breath back.  Down we went into bushland that began to lose the definition seared and appropriate the term lush.

At least semi-lush

There had been recent rain and water was everywhere.  Not in annoying quantities but there were puddles and creeks trickled in a pleasingly stereotypical fashion as opposed to being a depressing collection of stagnant waterholes.  Even the rock outcrops got in on the act sheening with moisture, either that or they were sweating.  It was a rather warm day.

A sheening outcrop

The recent rain had another beneficial effect.  Contestants for the Clare McIntyre memorial fungus were thick on the ground.  Their presence almost made up for the complete absence of the much promised swamp wallabies.  The good thing about fungus and mushrooms is that they don't tend to hop away as you're trying to take a photograph of them.  If they do that's probably because you ate the mushroom first.  If you wish to vote for your favourite fungus/mushroom don't bother, I don't really care.

Contestant #1

Contestant #2

Contestant #3

Giddy at the proliferation of fungi and related products I started taking photos of random plant life that seemed appealing to me.  Actually a glance back at this blog entry seems to imply that that is pretty much all I did.  Still the more photos I insert the fewer words I have to type.  This is why they can sell "picture books" at an exorbitant price when they're really just glorified photo albums.  I stood on tiptoe and used my zoom lens to take a photo of a golden bottle brush then Jason pointed out there was one at eye level about fifteen metres away.  I took a photo of that as well but the magic was gone.  Then I was forced to use that photo when I discovered that I had cut the top off the bottlebrush in the first photo.

This bottlebrush was kind enough to pause for a photo

Suddenly we came to a halt.  Our downward trajectory had proceeded to a point where any continuation would put us in serious danger of drowning.  Before us stretched the waters of Manly dam.  Actually before us stretched an expanse of lilies and reeds but there was definitely water under there somewhere.  I took a photo (of course) angling my camera to make it look like I wasn't trying to photograph the small child in a kayak who was currently splashing amongst the water plants.

Water, apparently

With the water level reached we turned left and continued upstream following Manly Creek which is the main feeder for the dam.  Now we were in proper, unincinerated bush and possibly in deference to that fact we were using walkways that had been laid down so that the precious soil was not soiled with our tread.  A very modest waterfall (more of a water stumble really) presented itself as a harbinger of things to come and I obligingly took a photo of it because it was trying very hard.

A water stumble

Up ahead of us was a far more impressive waterfall (don't get too excited).  According to a waterfall blog I encountered it is one of the most exciting and attractive waterfalls in the Sydney region (again, don't get too excited).  Along the way Jason pointed to a small patch of churned up mud and announced it was a swamp wallaby footprint.  Well it was either that or a dog.  I made "I'm trying to sound impressed" noises and we went on.  Then we came to a rather pleasant pool with a single duck and a small but genuine waterfall as promised just a sentence or two earlier.

A somewhat more impressive waterfall

"There's a lizard," said Jason.

"Where?" I replied.



This went on for a while but eventually I saw the lizard.  Or at least I saw a lizard, it turned out that the local lizard population was single handedly trying to make up for the absence of other animals on our walk.  The lizard preened and posed while I fumbled for my camera and eventually I managed to take a photo.  Shortly afterwards about eighty thousand other lizards also presented themselves for my photographic attention.  They actually got quite aggressive about it and Jason and I had to flee with lizard curses ringing in our ears.  Again I cannot stress enough the importance of not eating the mushrooms.

Lizard photos and definitely not a psilocybin induced hallucination

We had come halfway on our journey now and Jason took me aside.  In polite and gentle terms he pointed out that he wasn't getting any younger and he would like to see his family at some point before he left this world make his peace with his maker.  I took the hint and agreed not to take any more photos.  A promise I only broke once.

With that established we headed away from the creek and began to climb again along what was apparently a mountain bike trail.  Fortunately there were no mountain bikes.  It was here that Jason admitted he had only been along this part of the trail once or twice and he was having difficulty finding the path that would lead us down again towards the actual dam.  With visions of dying of starvation within shouting distance of a golf course I commended myself to god (you don't want to know which god) and quietly promised bloody vengeance upon all that Jason held dear should I have an early meeting with the being I unwisely sold my soul to some years ago.

Fortunately Jason's confusion was more apparent than real and after some uphill panting and reintroduction to the more fried sections of bushland we finally began a descent again until in the fullness of time we again reached the water.  That almost proved embarrassing as there didn't seem to be any further we could go without getting wet but after some casting around Jason found the path and pretended he had known it was there all along.  We finished our journey by walking across the top of the actual dam.  I looked down and saw a crack, there appeared to be water leaking out.  We wondered if we should tell anyone but eventually decided we'd just watch the results on the news.

Many thanks to Jason for his patience and seriously mate, give this tour guide idea a little thought.  It's outdoor work with few actual qualification requirements.