Ahoy, there be Whales!

Trip Start Jun 15, 2011
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25
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Trip End Jun 01, 2012


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Where I stayed
Fairlight beach
What I did
North heads

Flag of Australia  , New South Wales,
Thursday, August 25, 2011

I have to admit we've complained just a little about some of the weather we've had in the last couple of weeks BUT the weather today was absolutely perfect and the best we've had so far, not a cloud in the sky, the sea looked amazing and it was actually quite warm outside. We've learned that in the Aussie winter you have to spend as much time outside as you can because it's far colder inside than it is outside... Now I know why Ugg's are so popular here! Houses just aren't insulated like they are at home, and with no central heating it gets very cold. We now have an electric blanket, something I haven't had since we lived in South Africa! When I think of Australia, that has got to be the last thing I'd ever expect anyone to buy... but you kinda do need it when it gets cold at night!

Anyway there was no such problem today, and we both had the day off from work! So we packed a picnic and set off on a hike from Fairlight beach to the Sydney harbour heads (The entrance to the Sydney harbour aka Port Jackson). The North head is on our side of the harbour and there is a scenic coastal walkway which we took past Shelley beach and over to North head where we had our picnic lunch. 

The walk is brilliant, you start off by walking along the coast in Manly, then up through the bush and over a massive hill (where you get incredible coastal views) and the rest is through the bush along a walkway. Along the way you can stop to see some of the remains of the defenses from the second world war, there are a number of old buildings and gun posts of which the concrete still remains (the guns are gone), I imagine they were pretty keen to stop u-boats and ships coming into the harbour. These sites are a bit creepy because they're hidden amongst the bush and most of them were flooded and desolate, exactly the spot I'd expect to find some massive terrifying snake... but fortunately not today! 

The old Quarantine centre is also located on the north head, it was operated from the 1830's until late in the 20th century and was the first place that the fleets of ships would have to go when arriving into Sydney. When we were in Australia last year we went to the Quarantine centre and had a tour of how people would be quarantined, often for months before they were allowed to enter Sydney to prevent them bringing horrible illnesses that would wipe out the local population. That's what happened to a lot of indigenous people. The Europeans landed with their illnesses which the locals had no defense to and thousands died... hence the aboriginals hate everyone. We didn't go to Q station this time, although we walked past it, but we did come across a graveyard at the back of the site which we didn't see last time. I think quite a lot of people got illnesses on the long journey to Sydney and would sadly die there.

The sea views were the most amazing thing and you can see the long line of incredible northern Sydney beaches, the best of which being Manly beach (in my opinion anyway) where we are staying. Our picnic spot was overlooking the harbour where you can see all the way across the water into the city, just stunning! There is quite a lot of unique flora and fauna up at the north head including bandicoots, snakes, lizards and some amazing birds. We saw a skink and a sea eagle while making our way over to our picnic spot. This wasn't some lame picnic where you have a soggy sandwich and a packet of crisps... we had a feast with salad rolls, banana bread, strawberries, hummus and crisps! 
 
While we were having our lunch, a lady called Annie who works at the visitor centre came running over to let us all know that there were whales on their way past the heads. The humpback whales migrate north mainly in June and July to escape the cold waters and this year was apparently a very good year for seeing the whales as their numbers are increasing quite fast. They were hunted for quite a long time and ended up being in danger of extinction so there has been a lot of work done to protect them and replace whale products with other options... but so far we hadn't seen any whales which was getting annoying. So we quickly finished up our picnic and walked to the cliff edge where we could watch the whales. There were at least 3 of them near the whale watching boats and they were so lively. Usually we see the whales lift their tail as they go under the water or they may lift a fin, but these ones were jumping right up out of the water and crashing back down creating massive splashes that we could see quite clearly from the coast. It was amazing, we just wished we had been on one of those whale watching boats. If you want to see what we mean, some people on the whale watching boats took video of what we were watching from the shore and posted the video on youtube.
Perhaps when the humpbacks migrate back down in October we'll have to go on another whale watching boat... although we'll have to save up because the prices have gone up massively!

So it's been a good day, and now we're sat outside next to the sea drinking a glass of wine. The one thing we haven't seen yet this year is the Manly Fairy penguins. There is a colony (possibly  the wrong word) that lives next to the wharf and they come out at night. They're next on the wildlife list because we've now seen lizards, dolphins, whales, sea eagles and possums.

Can't wait for the summer to come and we can have even more days like today!  
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Comments

Phil & Ann on

Sounds like a great day out for late winter. You will both have to make the most of non working days.

Trevor and Berry on

That is our favourite picnic spot, with great views of the city and top of the bridge too - good choice!!

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