Saturday, 26 July 2014

Breathtaking Broken Bay

Broken Bay (part one)

My apologies for the different font sizes that may appear through this. Sometimes these blog settings have a mind of their own!
The cruise/motor north from Little Manly to Broken Bay was a damp one, with low wind for a lot of the trip, so it was sails go up, sails go down, some sails go up and the engine turns on, sails go down, just run the engine, sails go up again, turn the engine off and start all over again. Swing your partner and do-si-do! It made for an interesting dance and one that, at times, is all too familiar.
On the way we again spotted whales on the horizon but nothing up close and we didn't want to chase them because chances were, if we came within cooee they'd dive and sod off anyway, which is another very familiar scenario, but I figure that we'll get a pretty decent, longer close encounter at some stage without having to chase them down. Besides, they can swim damned fast when they kick that tail out!
Coming through the entrance to Broken Bay, I knew we were going to be in for a treat. The lush bushland high on the slopes came down to the water's edge and surrounded us with absolute tranquility and beauty. It seemed a million miles away from the urban jungle and the sometimes stifling congestion of Sydney yet, by road, it was only a relatively short distance.
Approaching Broken Bay
We motored past the entrance to the built up area of Pittwater to our port side (left for the uninitiated) and ventured into the deep waters of Cowan Creek which is bound on one side by the Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park and by the Muogamarra Nature Reserve on the other. It was quiet and peaceful, the air was scented green and blue, the birds sent distant greetings to hidden friends and echoes drifted back across the waters. The only thing that spoiled the absolute quietude was the chug of our own engine.
Green to the water's edge
Our first stop was Refuge Bay, one of the many small bays, coves and inlets that make up the Broken Bay area. Refuge Bay was filled with a collective of mostly empty public moorings that looked like colourful, fat pink and yellow water lily buds bobbing on the surface of a pond. We chose a mooring fairly close to a waterfall, sat in the cockpit and breathed in the sweet air and silence. In summer the place would be packed and unbearable but because we had chosen the perfect time to visit, very few vessels were about and most of those that were moored left before dinner, which was fine by us. All but a couple of the boats moored were big stinkpots and even though we waved and smiled and yelled a hearty helloooooo at them, every single one chose to ignore us. I mean seriously, how rude they all were. In fact I would go so far as to say..... SNOBS every last one of them. The only friendly people seemed to be other yacht owners. When the stinkpot boat nearest the small waterfall that makes Refuge Bay so popular left, we quickly moved mooring spots and took that position. It was lovely and from the cockpit, the sound of the water trickling onto the rocks below was like an aural massage of the min

View of American Bay and part of Refuge Bay with some of the moorings
Venture moored in front of the waterfall at Refuge Bay
A little of the history of Refuge bay
The small waterfall at Refuge Bay

That afternoon we hopped in the dinghy and tootled across to nearby American Cove, another small inlet that was also dotted with mostly empty mooring buoys. There we went as far in as the gigantic boulders would allow and then tied up to a fallen tree branch and clambered ashore to explore. The climb, though not steep, was rocky and sadly my ever niggly knees objected so I sat on the smooth rocks like a stranded mermaid whilst Dave picked his way upstream just to see what he could see. From where I sat I could hear the water trickling down in small, clear waterfalls and rivulets through the crevices while within the green canopy that surrounded me, mystery birds tweeted, chirped and called. It was beautiful.
Dave doing his best Blue Steel impression at American Cove (it's funnier when he's drunk!) :D
Looking from the shore at American Cove back towards Refuge Bay
Back on board Venture, we relaxed and quietly rejoiced as one by one most of the other boats left until there were only 4 or 5 yachts intent on spending the night, spread out over the bay. Osprey, whistling kites and hawks swooped above the gums and occasionally large eagles silently charged the waters in search of a tasty morsel to spear. As the sun disappeared, the aroma of barbecues and the sounds of quiet conversation or the odd, disjointed laugh drifted across the still water.

Sea eagle (plus others we saw (above))
The following morning it promised to be a spectacular day and, being a Sunday, the bay saw a slow influx of boats of all shapes and sizes, from tiny yachts and motorboats to monstrous and noisy gas guzzling snob boats. The bay wasn't full by any means but it certainly gave a small indication of what it must be like during warmer weather. Dinghies, tinnies and small fishing boats buzzed about like annoying giant mosquitoes. Kids on stand up paddle boards drifted past. 
Rafted stinkpots nearby
It's da fuzz!!
Dad sat back while the little girl drove


Before too many people arrived we decided to go and visit the waterfall that was only about 50' from us. On the way over we stopped and chatted to the occupants of a yacht that was moored next to us, three lovely blokes, who invited us aboard for a cuppa. We watched from their cockpit as dinghies came and went from the small beach in front of the waterfall, and as kids, despite the slight chill in the air, played in the water that trickled down the rocks from the unseen stream above.
Our lovely 'neighbours'. They made a pretty decent cup of tea. :)
After all of the kids had had their fill of the beach, the rocks, the nooks and crannies and the trickling crystal clear water, we took our turn. While I was looking at the beautiful rock formations on the little beach, Dave, on a funny wenting in the bush, disappeared and then reappeared behind the waterfall. Awesome!! I carefully picked my way up the steep embankment and found myself in a small rock niche behind the water, looking out across the beach to the boat. Though it was seriously only a tiny waterfall, it was still quite magical being in there and I am quite sure that even my knee goblins were slightly impressed because they barely gave me a moment's trouble that day.
Looking through the waterfall
Refuge Bay gets the "Big Thumb of Approval" from Dave.
However, though beautiful, it was time to see other parts of Cowan Creek and so the following morning we moved on. We took a small detour just around the corner from Refuge Bay to a little beach area named Hallet's Beach. This lovely stretch of sand was recommended for its apparently numerous lizards that frequent the beach but I suspect that during winter they were likely all tucked away and hibernating as not a single one was spotted. Instead we saw a gorgeous little kookaburra that followed us up and down the beach, flying silently from tree to tree as we wandered along the sand. It was so cute and just sat there whilst we snapped its portrait over and over again!

The little kookaburra who proved to be a camera hog.
Back on board we set our sites for Waratah Bay, another small inlet with four or five public moorings (in fact, small groups of free public moorings were dotted throughout the entire waterway, making it so easy to just go from place to place and not have to worry about where to tie up.)

Once ensconced and caffeined up in Waratah Bay we once again hopped the dinghy and went ashore to follow the walking trail that ran a few kilometres through the national park to a carpark high in the hills. There was a LOT of up along a narrow path that, though well worn, was mainly rocks and holes. It was tricky but still a really nice SLOW walk/climb and all was good until the camera battery went flat half way up. Ugh! So typical! My phone also went flat within a few minutes of the camera so unfortunately we didn't get as many photos as I'd hoped but hey, what can you do huh? 
 Mystery birds again kept us company, their calls and trills echoing along the gully. After a couple of hours of managing not to break an ankle in the potholes and succeeding in not falling into the precipice that ran along one side of the path, and upon hearing traffic in the distance (there was apparently a car park at the end of the path), we retraced our steps and finally made it back to the beach. I know I may make it sound like hard work but it was actually a great and quite peaceful walk and the little bay was simply gorgeous. 
One of a few sea planes that were buzzing around.

Cruising towards Waratah Bay.

Venture moored in Waratah Bay
Old mussel encrusted footings

Old houseboat wreck on the bank

The next day saw us off again, this time to Castle Cove. We were expecting a lot from this small bay as it was apparently a historical site but unfortunately, after landing, there wasn't a lot to see or do. Basically there was a low sea wall, and some steps and not a lot else but the utter peace and tranquility made up for the lack of sightseeing stuff so we just stayed the night and experienced an absolutely wondrous sunset. What it lacked in history it made up for in awe.

Castle Cove reflections.
More of the reflections in the still waters of Castle Cove.
A most beautiful sunset.

The brave huntress exploring stuff and things


Location: Broken Bay, New South Wales, Australia
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