The trees on the Girrakool Loop had some interesting details. This one had stripes on it.
And this log had bark that was as red as the outback sands.
There were some wildflowers out, the most striking being this mountain devil.
Eventually, the track met up with Leask and Piles Creeks. These waterways run into the Hawkesbury.
As we made our way back uphill towards the picnic area, we encountered a few little cascades and cool patches of rainforest.
A nice little walk through the Sydney Basin bush.
After a light lunch on-board, we arrived at the waterside hamlet of Marlow, on the northern side of the Hawkesbury.
Once again, it’s a community with boat-only access – which means no town water or sewerage, although they do have power and garbage collection. Unlike Dangar Island though, it takes a bit more effort to reach this place, the nearest road access being via a track from the M1.
Nevertheless, there are some nice houses – some look quite historic.
There’s mail to be delivered and collected here, and the local dog to treat. Boots the dog (named because of his white paws) expects a biscuit every day.
And all too soon we are cruising back downstream to Brooklyn. A nice way to discover the Hawkesbury.
Pretty soon we were cruising past long stretches of bush and mangroves. With national parks on both sides of the river on this stretch, there was nary a house in sight. The landscape here has probably changed little in 200 years.
Being mid-week, there weren’t even many boats on this stretch of river, except for this fishing boat. Fishing and oyster farming used to be the mainstays of the lower Hawkesbury. These days it’s almost impossible to make a living from these industries. The oyster industry has been particularly hit hard in recent years due to disease.
Further upstream, we pass under the Pacific Highway/M1 bridges. Not so exciting as the railway bridge, but important bridges nonetheless since Sydney would be very cut off northwards if they were to go down.
Then it was cruising into the great Australian bush.
The Hawkesbury sandstone has been sculpted by the elements into all sorts of shapes here.
From Dangar Island, we cruised to the Hawkesbury River railway bridge.
When Sydneysiders think of bridges important bridges, they automatically think of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, but this bridge is actually on-par with the Harbour Bridge as it links Sydney by rail to not just the Central Coast and Newcastle, but to the rest of Australia.
Before the bridge, passengers (and goods) had to get on a steamer at Brooklyn and travel 3 hours across Broken Bay and Brisbane Waters to Gosford, hence it was important that a bridge was built, and built to last.
Unfortunately the first bridge constructed didn’t turn out that way. It was first opened way back in 1889, and at the time it broke all sorts of construction records, including the deepest bridge foundations in the world (at 49m below the water) and 4th largest bridge in the world. But by 1938 the bridge needed to be replaced due to severe cracks in the pier, among other things. The current bridge was constructed during WWII as a replacement and opened in 1946. The old bridge was taken apart, and nothing remains except for its sandstone piers and tunnel (now used as storage).
The new bridge hasn’t had as many problems as the old bridge (I guess they learned from the old bridge). It’s also good to see they’re still taking care of it in the 21st Century, since it’s still a very important part of Sydney’s transport system.
Our first mail stop was at Dangar Island, just off Brooklyn. It is a settled island with ‘facilities’ (electricity, sewerage, and garbage pickup) but no cars.
As you can see, all the residents (and pets) get around by boat. Some even commute to work from here.
The island’s public jetty has ferries to the mainland, and a rural fire service boat in case of emergencies.
The riverboat drops off and picks up not only mail but supplies as well. It’s a crucial service!
We’re back on the Hawkesbury again, this time on its lower reaches, and on the water with the Hawkesbury Riverboat Postman. Yes, it’s a cruise that also delivers mail to the river-only-access communities of the Lower Hawkesbury.
The cruise started and ended in Brooklyn, which has the honours of having a train station and a fully-fledged marina.
However it somehow still manages to remain a fisherman’s village. The harbour itself is more practical rather than pretty.
Well, the heat beat us. We wanted to stay three nights at Upper Colo Reserve, but after a 37C day, and with 41C predicted for the next, we decided to cut our losses at two nights and head back home.
On the way, we decided to go the long way home, and explore the lower reaches of the Hawkesbury. That’s where we found the car ferries.
We had been on the ferry at Wisemans Ferry, but we discovered others at Sackville, and the one pictured at Webbs Creek. All are maintained by the state and are free of charge. Makes any car trip bit of an adventure.
By mid-morning, the mist was long gone, and the river was turning into a warm bath. The air temperature was a maximum of 37C that day! The water temperature must have then be close to 30C.
Back at the campsite, we took advantage of every little bit of shade.
Bridie Beagle panting like no tomorrow. She enjoyed the heat, even if it completely drained her.
Even after a swim, she once again insisted on sunbathing. The saying about mad dogs (and some silly people) being the only ones crazy enough to be in the midday sun, is true where she’s concerned.
The Colo River that morning was misty and mysterious.
At Upper Colo, it’s hemmed in by sheer sandstone cliffs and dense bush.
By the water, it sustains more verdant species.
The river has its source deep in the Blue Mountains north of Lithgow in the valleys of Capertee and Wolgan. We visited the Capertee Valley a few years ago, and by road seems like a world away from Upper Colo.
The Colo eventually flows into the Hawkesbury, which drains in Broken Bay, so we’ve seen quite a few sides of this extensive river system.
In between, it flows wild through Wollemi National Park, until it emerges at Upper Colo, before meandering into the Hawkesbury at Lower Portland.
It reminds me of the novel The Secret River. Set by the Hawkesbury in the early days of New South Wales, it described the recreated the experiences of the first white settlers to the area. They saw the river and the bush as a mysterious, menacing creature that was just waiting to gobble them up. Sitting by the river that morning, I think I understood how they felt.