Of gardens and sand

I’ve wanted to visit the National Camellia Gardens in Caringbah for a long time and today we finally did. The grounds may not be large, but they make up for it in density, hidden stone paths curving through dense, almost tropical, groves of Camellias, Azaleas and many other plants. There are lovely streams winding their way down the hill towards the Hacking River below.

It was mostly Cliveas in bloom, their orange flowers in the undergrowth, and a few remaining Camellias and Azaleas. More abundant hanging off the trees were fruit bats, a large colony of them. Combined with the ducks and ibis, these flying animals were fertilising much of the land and the stench was evident.u

Still, the gardens were pretty enough that I should like to visit again when more flowers are in bloom. A meal at the Japanese styled (but not menued) tea house would also be nice.

Not content with that for an outing, we continued on into the Royal National Park. The winding road goes through eucalypt forest, across the river, beneath rainforest and up to the coastal scrubland of greys, browns and khaki. It felt like we could be anywhere in Australia, like we had truly escaped the city.

We turned off towards Maianbar, somewhere we had never visited before. It was a tiny coastal village near the mouth of the Hacking River, with a single shop and small park opposite.

Walking out on to the tidal plains and sandbar felt like a true escape from the lockdown of the city. The late afternoon light from grey skies shimmered off the shallow water, the shell encrusted sand crunching beneath our feet.

A cold wind blew, the miniature windbreaks of washed up seaweed sculpting windbreaks like stones in a Japanese rock garden, patterned waves appearing elsewhere. Along with the wind, the sound of waves coming in from the sea, a couple of windsurfers gliding across them.

I watched a couple of jets rise up from the hidden airport to the north, disappearing through the low clouds.

You might think that the enforced separation of a COVID lockdown would mean that I missed human company, but what I relished most was the sense of loneliness out there, the space between us and the few others who had ventured out. Only the houses that lined the cliffs to the north were a reminder that we were still in a city of millions.

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