My week in Cronulla continued with a 3.5 hour scenic cruise of Port Hacking on Thursday and what an amazing experience that was. If Trip Advisor would let me type intelligible words into their comment box (no, it's not me and yes I have tried it when completely sober) I would give this cruise a 'MUST DO' review. The Cronulla Ferries website says you have to pre-book for this so I 'phoned them in advance to see if they had space for one. "Yes" said the receptionist, "we have plenty of space" so I lathered up with sun cream, took my litre bottle of iced water and set off for the ferry point. The 'Tom Thumb III' was moored up and ready to go and I took my place at the head of the queue and waited for the allotted sailing time. Well, joy of joys, the rest of the 'queue' didn't materialise (a large group cancelled at the last minute and their loss was my gain) I was the only passenger. Frankly I was amazed that they were prepared to go out but they are obviously subsidised and I had the full benefit of unlimited supplies of tea/coffee/biscuits and the full attention of the pilot and the guide. Weather wise it couldn't have been better and the water was beautiful. Instead of just motoring up the river as far as we could go, Steve, the pilot, did a superb job of manoeuvring us in and out of each little bay and between mooring ropes that were just inches away on each side. Apparently he used to be a 747 pilot but had to give it up after a motor cycle accident ruined his right leg 17 years ago and he still misses it every single day. His knowledge of the river is outstanding and I had the benefit of that and of Mal's (the deckhand/guide) intimate awareness of the land. The Port Hacking river runs into the Royal National Forest and Mal is an Aboriginee so I learned a lot about historic life within the Forest from him. He explained that it had taken him four years to get permission to do his job and that the delay was nothing to do with State regulations but that, as an Aboriginee from Western Australia he had to get permission from the local tribe before he was allowed to talk about their land and customs. He told me that for Aboriginees there are three kinds of 'business' - 'men's business', 'womens business' and 'sorry business' ((illness, death etc.) and he talked about some areas of the Forest that were specific to these. It seems that one of the beaches I loved and returned to more than once last year, Marley Beach, was a 'birthing place' and Aboriginal men are still not supposed to go there because it is a 'women's business' place. Fascinating stuff and I really appreciated having his undivided attention and being able to talk to him at length and in depth.
As we made our way up the river we passed an extensive area that is a children's outdoor activity centre where they can camp out and there were several groups canoeing and, what appeared to be, orienteering in the Forest. It was easy to imagine what a wonderful experience this would be for those kids.
We motored close by the 'Nimbus', built in 1883 it is the oldest boat in Port Hacking, and 'The Rocks' a very old house right at the waters edge that is still standing on its original foundations although it is hard to imagine how. The next surprise was a replica Spanish galleon that is actually seagoing and is regularly taken out. It seemed completely incongruous sitting alongside the fancy motor boats and yachts of the modern day river.
Just being out on the water would have made the ticket price worth it for me but on the return journey I sat up in the pilot's cabin with Steve and Mal and gained some amazing insights into the history /flora and fauna of the area. My trip just keeps getting better and better!
On Saturday I went house hunting with T&B an interesting experience. Most of the properties here are sold by auction which means that sometime before the auction date there is an 'open house' where everyone who is interested in looking around your home (whether with the intention of buying or not) gets to share a half hour slot. The estate agent stands at the door and takes names and contact details , and does very little else as far as I could tell, and everyone gets to dance around each other between rooms. On the day of the auction those with the wherewithal stand around (either in or outside the property) and the highest bidder wins. The 'guide price' (if you can prise one out of the estate agents) bears very little resemblance to the final price and the last one that T&B went to had a guide of $560,000 (2 bed/1 bath apartment) and the bidding started at $750,000. What made this particular sale even more ludicrous was that there was only one bidder and, after conferring between the auctioneer and the owner, they were pushed to increase their bid first to $760,000 and finally to $770,000 which finally won the sale. If this process makes the least bit of sense to you I'd be really keen to understand the rationale behind it. Answers on a postage stamp please.
After a very good brunch at a beachside cafe on Sunday morning I flew to Brisbane to start my second house sit but that's a story for another day.