Monday, 4 August 2014

Trippin' the lake fantastic (Macquarie that is!) and WTF Park

4th August …. Lake Macquarie

(Again forgive the random font size and colour... I'm still trying to work stuff out.)
The trip from Broken Bay to Lake Macquarie was a good one, as far as I remember anyway. The sunrise was gorgeous and the winds were favourable but choppy seas, a close 2-2 ½ metre swell, a rocking horse of a boat and yucky tummy induced me to pop a Kwell after which, as usual, I went back to bed for several hours (I have now conceded that I absolutely need some Paihia Bombs!!).
Approaching the entrance to Lake Macquarie.
When I awoke, the seas had flattened and the midday sun winked brightly off of the wavelets caused by the very slight swell that remained. In the near distance we spied a couple of whale spouts and fins but again they were too far away to consider following. Instead, we watched pods of dolphins that shimmied past going the other way and later on our attention was caught by several sun bathing seals bobbing about with their flippers and tails out of the water. Some floated alone, others in pairs or small groups that totally ignored out presence as we wafted past them.
A little closer to the entrance and a glimpse of the beautiful interior of the Lake
The more I have looked, the more convinced I am that it's a very large shark fin.

Approaching the entrance to Lake Macquarie, we saw a commotion near the shore as a white bellied sea eagle came too close to a seagull colony on a large,flat rocky island outcrop. Gulls flew up en masse, flapping and diving and screeching at the eagle which soared nonchalantly away from the feathered flurry. Eventually the birdie brouhaha settled down and the gulls went back to doing what gulls do when they don't have chips.
One very large sea eagle being told what for by a whole flock of not-terribly-happy gulls
A short time later we motored through the entrance, took up a public mooring and waited along with another couple of boats for the bridge to open. Time to relax, have a cuppa and survey the surroundings for a short time.
Through the bridge (I really have to wash the clears sometime soon!

When the green signal came and the bridge opened, we followed another yacht through, which moved off quite quickly ahead of us at a much faster speed than was permitted, leaving us to putt-putt through his wake. We weren't in any huge hurry as we were going to be pulling into Pelican Marina which was not far from the bridge. The channel past the marina was exceptionally narrow and shallow and so care needed to be taken in order to turn around and tie up, especially since it wasn't high tide. Luckily we were tying up to the T-head and even though it was shallow, there was still water beneath the hull, which made it easy. Once we were in and tied up, we looked around only to see that the boat that had shot off ahead of us had not taken heed of the low tide or narrow channel and had run aground. I know we shouldn't have laughed but the guy had acted like an idiot and karma is a bitch sometimes. He was able to move off when the tide came up but I'm pretty sure he was a little red faced for the hour or so he was stuck there, especially since there were quite a few small boats that went past him from within the bounds of the channel. :)
And that's what you get for being impatient, rushing about and not heeding signs.
We were greeted at the dock by Bill and Al, the guys who run and look after the Pelican Marina, both of whom live aboard their boats there. We immediately felt like old friends and that evening we were invited to wander along to the outside deck at the marina and partake of a few ales and wines, all of which was supplied by the guys. We also met another couple of wonderful people in Jeff and Shelley who also live aboard. Many yarns were told, many drinks were consumed, many laughs were had and it was the most fun evening we'd had in what felt like ages. We both went back to Venture a little more tiddly than we had been several hours earlier. We were also amazed at the clarity of the water and the amount of fish that we could see around the marina.
Pelican Marina at, you guessed it.... Pelican. It may be small but the people there have huge hearts!
Just a few  of the many hundreds of fish swimming around the docks and boats at Pelican Marina.

The following day we were in need of a few supplies and so lowered the dinghy and headed on over to Belmont, which was a good few kilometres away. On the way we could see why that yacht had become stuck. The water was perhaps at half tide as we headed over and the sandy bottom of the lake was clearly visible about a metre to a metre and a half below, and the narrow channel was a snaking band of darker water. As well as the sand we also saw an abundance of fish of all sizes and some small rays. It was actually pretty awesome but even in the dinghy we had to be wary of how quickly the water shallowed off in places. Though the vast majority of the lake was quite deep, it certainly seems that complacency has no place in this part of it. 
The airport at Lake Macquarie right near Pelican Marina



Another beautiful  view, this time towards Belmont
A little Willy Wagtail sitting on a stump near the entrance to Cabbage Tree Palm Walk.
A lovely little swallow sitting on our safety rails whilst we were in Pelican Marina
The most beautiful corals and sponges attached to the walkway at Pelican Marina.
 After a little onshore shopping and a great coffee, we made the return trip, this time detouring through the many moored boats, some of which were truly lovely. Whilst weaving amongst the vessels we were suddenly surprised by a seagull that decided we had encroached on its territory and proceeded to follow us, swooping and screeching and generally seeing us off. I'd never actually seen a seagull behave like that but I figured that one of those boats was the squat of a gull family. It probably felt quite superior when we left. :)
One very pissed off seagull giving us a good seeing to.
Dinner that night was at the Pelican RSL which was walking distance from the Marina. It was a really brilliant and obviously exceptionally busy club and the Chinese food was just mouth watering. I ate far more than I should have but it was a nice change not to have to cook. I then had a flutter on the pokies and won enough to cover dinner and a bit more so I was a happy Terry. :)

The next morning we decided that we'd best walk off the Chinese meal and so we visited the Cabbage Palm Tree Walk which is right behind the marina. The walk is a cool, green and thoroughly peaceful retreat from the everyday hustle and bustle and, even though you can hear the sounds of civilisation, it feels a hundred miles away. We were almost sorry to get to the end. Back at the marina we met two gorgeously cute little dogs (whose names sadly escape me) and I had a little pat and cuddle fest with them for a short time. Dave wouldn't let me kidnap either of them. 

Puppy pats and furry snuggles.

In the afternoon we once again launched the dinghy and puttered over to Spectacle Island, a small sand island not too far from the marina. Though we didn't do a lot there, the views were lovely and getting my toes in the sand on the dunes was just lovely.


The following day at high tide we readied Venture to move on, left Pelican Marina and set sail for Pulbah Island, which is in the Lake. Even at high tide, the channel was shallow and despite trying to negotiate the deepest parts, we still touched bottom on a couple of occasions. It would be fairly tricky with a keel any deeper than ours (5' 8”) but not impossible because it's a soft, sandy bottom. Once out into the lake proper, it's a lovely open piece of water.

We sailed to Pulbah Island and by mid afternoon had pulled up a mooring. We were again amazed that, apart from a visiting maintenance boat with three or four crew aboard who were clearing lantana and other non-native vines from the island, we were the only boat there. Though it looked beautiful from the water, unfortunately Pulbah (or Poobah as we preferred to call it) wasn't all that spectacular. 
Dolphin in the Lake.
Moored in the peaceful waters of Pulbah Island on one of only a couple of public moorings.
When we went ashore, there were paths through the brush but many were choked with weeds or vines and so we ended up following a pseudo path that had been marked by the workers. We also followed the shoreline for a while which, if not for the rubbish that was along it, would have been quite nice. It's always disappointing to see that so many people are too lazy to take their rubbish with them. We stayed for 2 nights at Pulbah mooring before moving on to Wangi Wangi, which was made easy after we were told to look for the three chimneys.

Some of the garbage along the foreshore! :(

One of the better paths on the island
I am.... the moon!

A friendly little chap

Easing into Wangi District Workers Club dock was a doddle as they put us on a small T-head, making it easy peasy to not only tie up, but meant that we didn't have to stuff about trying to get around the back of the docks. It was also private, with no one walking past and with water as still as a mirror, it was perfect. The showers in the club left a little to be desired, having to battle between hot or cold water, with nothing in between, so it was a case of 'OwwwhothotHOT' and 'Ohmygodit'sfreeeezing' with the odd colourful interjection thrown in for the benefit of anyone within hearing distance. I'm sure the sudden temperature changes did wonders for my circulation.

The three chimneys. One of the landmarks on the Lake's edge.
(Above and below....)  A beautiful sunset over the Lake from the dock at Wangi Wangi.

After a dry off and a cuppa, we checked out the club and had for dinner the best wedges we'd had for ages. The whole time we were sat in the booth, a raffle was going on, and on, and on. It seemed as though almost every club member had won something by the end of it. The whole club had a really friendly, welcoming atmosphere and it was nice to just sit and enjoy it. Later on I once again had a very small wager on the pokies and walked away with $350. Not a bad investment for $20.
Named after Australian Artist William Dobell who died in Wangi Wangi in 1970 (LINK)

In the morning it was time to look further afield and so the bikes were unpacked, helmets donned and bodily joints tested for freakish weirdness. With nought but my normal niggly knee goblins present to give me any problems, we pedalled off along the foreshore bike track to the small shopping area for lunch before someone (who shall remain nameless, except that it was Dave) suggested that we cycle along to kind-of-nearby Lake Macquarie State Conservation Park, hereafter to be known as “WTF” (feel free to add your own interpretation to that abbreviation) Park. 
Feeling good before the trek from heck
Note the shorter walk... yeah that's not the one we took

It turned out that WTF Park was at the end of a very long, very steep hilly road, much of which we had to walk because the bikes have ridiculously small wheels for getting up slopes. On the flat... great! On inclines.... aaaaarrrggghhh!! We pedal/walked for kilometres before finally reaching the Park entrance. All okay so far, not overly tiring.... let's go.... along the shortest path only! Agreed? Agreed!

 Many hours later we emerged from the deep green interior after somehow ending up on the longest of the paths, with adjoining paths where there shouldn't have been and direction arrows absent from where they should have been. We had wandered hither and yon, up hill and down dale, along well marked paths and barely trodden tracks until we could barely walk another step. Every time we came to another unmarked junction a whimper of WTF squeezed out of my almost breathless body with the most vocal of moments being when I realised we had somehow walked in a huge circle. The only real compensation was that I hoped I was losing a little weight along with the gallons of perspiration that sprinkled the shrubbery surrounding me. Somewhere in that park is an unexplained green track of well watered plants. 

An Australian Wood Duck in all its ducky finery.

Another of those cute lorikeets.

A gorgeous little Silveryey.
Just another stunning gum tree. I just love the textures in these.

The sight of the bikes padlocked to the WTF Park fence was a welcome sight for sweat burned eyes. However, it was not yet over. We still had the return journey to make back to the boat, so a different road was decided on in the hope that it wasn't as hilly. Hopes were dashed when we rounded the peninsula past Wangi Wangi Park and found that, not only was the road hilly, it was much worse! It turned out that the round trip on from the club on just the roads, was over 10 kilometres, not to mention the many, many kilometres walked in WTF Park. Dave worked out through his phone tracker that we'd walked and ridden about 17 kilometres. We were well and truly F'd. 
The view across the lake during a rest stop in WTF Park.

One of the nice lake shore areas that surround WTF Park.

Finally back at the boat we didn't move except to go to bed. Next morning we left Wangi Wangi early in order to get in for a short time at Pelican Marina at high tide prior to leaving Lake Macquarie and moving further north to Newcastle.

We had negotiated the shallow spots and hadn't touched bottom on the return trip, so were feeling good about pulling in at the marina, except that the fast and furious tide had not yet finished with itself and we found ourselves caught in a huge eddy as we approached the marina. It was fast enough to jeopardise control and make our engines fairly useless for a minute as the whirlpool threatened to pull us in and dash us against the dock. Dave had to give the throttle all it had and do some fancy steering to prevent what could have been a really nasty time. Once we had finally tied up and our hearts had slowed down to a gallop, we relaxed until slack water and then made our way once again to the bridge. We will come back this way again because there was a lot we didn't get to do but as for exploring other parks? Well we'll have to wait and see. 

A daring young man in his flying machine just cruising over the lake.

Location: Lake Macquarie NSW, Australia
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