February 4, 2008

Don’t pay the ferryman

Posted in Uncategorized at 7:26 pm by Chris

So, a while since I’ve written anything
travel-tourist-overseas-adventure styles on these pages. The Indian
wedding I was at on the weekend was pretty exotic and I shall hit
you up with some Flickr love as soon as it becomes available, dear
reader. But on a related note I’ve been up to Wiseman’s Ferry not once
but twice in the last two weeks (short version: reconnaissance mission,
stag night), and I found that blog-worthy.

If you’re not cognisant with the Sydney-speak (and why should you
be), Wiseman’s Ferry is the car ferry across the Hawkesbury River, up
the back of Windsor and Dural; in other words, in the middle of
nowhere. The only reason there’s anything there at all is that it used
to be the main route from Sydney to Newcastle, which just shows how
hard against it the burghers of Sydney were getting around the
countryside in those days. The terrain is not gentle. The area around
Wiseman’s Ferry is dominated by the extraordinary land feature that
underlies and defines Sydney: a continuous slab of sandstone that
starts near Wollongong, runs furrowed and magnificent beneath all the
city’s famous landmarks, and carries on up to the North where the F3
freeway cuts through sold cliffs of it.

Bondi’s trademark headlands are outstretched, rather battered fingers
of that same single slab of rock. The CBD is built on it, and many of
the historic buildings are built out of the quarried rock. At the end of
my street the Lane Cover river has sliced a furrow 100 feet deep out
of it, baring cliffs and ledges to which eucalyptus trees cling and
cockatoos circle and scream. Near Wiseman’s Ferry the Hawkesbury river
runs through a deep gorge that has cut right down the layer of
stone. The first day we were there was one of Syndey’s periodic bouts
of soaking wet. The valley was roofed with cloud as we came down
the steep, narrow, winding road that drops you from the plateau to the
level of the river. Drifts of cloud hung around the broad stripe of
orange rock exposed mid-way up each side of the valley. The view was
particularly striking from the balcony The Champs Delights, where we
took Devonshire Teas and bought pickles. Yes, you’re quite right, it
was rather civilised.

Calling Wiseman’s Ferry a car ferry isn’t strictly accurate; there is
a car ferry running there (two of them, actually), but there was a
ferry there before them, and I’m sure it’ll be called the Ferry after
they’re gone. The ferries themselves are free, which makes the title
of this post a bit of a smarty-pants classical allusion rather than
something topical, but I’m not prepared to let that stand in the way
of a snappy phrase. They also run 24 hours, and I can only imagine
that being a night ferryman would be a remarkably boring
job, no matter how interesting “Confessions of a Night Ferryman” might
sound. Rather more interestingly, Australia’s (alleged) oldest pub is
up the road from the Ferry, on the other side of the river. Not a
great road, it must be said. Not one of the highlights of the
Australian driving experience. Fortunately the rain had taken the bite
out of the corrugations and made the countryside all green and
pleasant in a manner almost, but not entirely, completely unlike
England.

I do recommend the pub, though. Just go up the other side of
the river so that you approach it across the bridge. I’m a tad unclear
on how the location of the pub on the old wagon route relates to the
modern position of the ferry 20km downstream, but then again it was
raining so we went into the pub instead of standing around outside to
read historical summaries.

The stag night? Missed out the pub entirely, went the other way to
Millers Creek camping ground. Saw a wombat (pretty cool, that was),
failed to persuade it to do anything compromising to the groom. Had to
chase brush turkeys away from the food at about 5 in the morning,
which I don’t really recommend as a start to the day. Didn’t see any
drop bears. I did take some photos of all this. Eyeball the Flickr
widget on the left there, they’ll probably go up eventually.

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