Thursday, 29 September 2011

Going Down South - Day 6

We've been on the road long enough that we are sleeping well, despite any weather conditions. Gone are the days our children would remember well of wind or rain sending me out into the elements in order to keep the elements from my family. This often resulted in tarps being tied and re tied in the wee small hours while Sue reported on the progress of leaks. Now, we close our eyes and some of us snore and unless I'm hearing myself, it must be Sue.

Rain during the night gave us a spell to have breakfast, shower and begin the packup. Unfortunately, it returned for the final stages and I ended up wet. Nothing new about that.

Our first hop was a short one to Gerroa, which sits at the northern end of Seven Mile Beach. It's a stretch of beach made famous by Charles Kingsford Smith in the early 1930's when he used it as his launch pad for the first commercial flight across the Tasman Sea to New Zealand. He had flown the Southern Cross to the beach and after refuelling, took off at 3:00am for the crossing. This historic moment is remembered in a small memorial park high up in Gerroa, where a three quarter scale outline of the Southern Cross has information incorporated. Back down by the Crooked River, which flows to the sea at Gerroa, we had the rare chance to watch and photograph an Azure Kingfisher which was sitting patiently in a sheoak, looking for breakfast. after the lyrebirds yesterday, we were feeling like the proper birdos.

Our next stop was about half way along Seven Mile Beach, at a beach access provided by the NSW National Parks. This morning, it was made look very busy by a twenty kids struggling into wetsuits and carrying boards mostly twice their size to the beach, whilst instructors who looked only marginally older helped with zippers and sunscreen. We had happened upon a grommit school. One young grommit looked to be no more than seven but had the blond frizzy afro hair that would break hearts in ten years.

Further south west, was Coolangatta Historic Village - a grand name for a motel made of old buildings on the site of the first European settlement in the Shoalhaven district. It was here, high on a hill overlooking the Shoalhaven River and part of the Coolangatta Mountain, that Edward Woostonecraft and Alexander Berry built a large brick house in 1822 ... well, directed its building actually. The brick layer was an aboriginal who not only layed the bricks, but also dug and mixed the clay which it was made from. They began to farm the property and Berry married Woolstonecraft's sister Elizabeth five years later. The property was in the hands of the Berry's until 1946, when a mysterious fire burnt it to the ground, baring a wall and its fireplace. The current owners purchased the property in 1947 and have eventually restored the old out buildings and converted then into accommodation.

We stopped next just south of Nowra at the Fleet Air Arm Museum at HMAS Albatross. This was a great museum when we were last here when Sam was only ten and its even better now. The plans have been lovingly restored and displayed along with fascinating information. Even Sue became engrossed in reading information and examining all manner of displays. At $10, its one of the better value museums you will visit. It was open day at HMAS Albatross, so a constant stream of helicopters were up and down, giving joy rides to relatives and friends.

Lunch was taken in the grounds of the Lady Denman Museum but what followed was the real surprise packet of the day. The museum house the ex Sydney ferry, the Lady Denman, one of five ferries in the "Lady" series and was commissioned in 1912. It carried its last passengers on 14th June, 1979. When its end of service was announced, local enthusiasts requested the relevant Minister that they might be give n the wheel house to put on display in Huskisson, as she had been built in the town by George Dent. The Minister shocked all concerned by offering the whole ferry on the condition that they remove it themselves. The Navy came to the fore and attempted to use HMAS Snipe to tow it to Huskisson in 1980 but heavy seas nearly sunk her and the Snipe returned her to Sydney Harbour. Frantic repairs were carried out and she was deregistered. Maritime officials didn't want her in the harbour but wouldn't let her go. Then, in the dead of night in 1981, two fishing trawlers from Huskisson stole her from the harbour and towed her to Jervis Bay, where HMAS Tobruk came to the rescue when she got in trouble. Over many years, she was vandalised and almost destroyed by rot but eventually money was found to build her a drydock and then a developer gave $250000 to constuct a building around her. Its a great story of tenacity and passion and makes this a wonderful place to visit.

After have an excellent coffee stop in Huskisson, we drove on the remaining 100kms to Bateman's Bay and our home for the next three nights.

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