Exploring Barangaroo

I did a lot of walking today. This morning I went with my wife and Scully on our regular weekend walk, over to the bakery and back via a circuit route. We stop along the way to buy bread and my wife gets coffee, and then we stop by the water on a grassy area so I can throw a ball and Scully can chase and retrieve it. The route covers about 5.5 km.

After lunch, we dropped Scully off at the dog groomer for her wash and grooming session. With a few hours alone to do stuff, my wife and I decided to head into the city to check out the new(ish) Barangaroo development. Neither of us have been there before – it’s a former industrial site now converted to parkland, office, retail, and dining space. The park and a dining district are finished, but there is still construction work going on at the new casino complex.

To avoid public transport, we drove in. I found a park on the street, with metered parking at $4.40 an hour. We only needed two hours. The user interface of the parking meter started with a maximum four hours, and I had to press the minus button a few times to set the required time to two hours, then I tried to pay by tapping my credit card on the contactless payment pad. The screen informed me that the tap didn’t work, so please insert my card. I inserted my card so it could read the chip… but I hadn’t noticed that in between it had reverted back to the default four hours! So I ended up paying $17.60 instead of $8.80 for two hours parking! Very annoying.

Anyway, after parking we walked around the park area, which was very nice. It’s situated on a point facing north and west into the harbour, away from the city centre. This photo is looking north-east towards the Bridge.

Barangaroo Reserve

And this is looking north across the harbour to North Sydney.

Barangaroo Reserve

I expect on a normal Saturday this place would be packed with people, and many of them tourists. But at the moment there aren’t any tourists and locals aren’t really travelling around much either, so it was sparsely populated, although there were several groups of people out and about enjoying the fresh air and the warm winter afternoon. It definitely felt like spring was in the air, with flowers out and bees buzzing around.

Bee and pigface, Barangaroo Reserve

The park is nice to sit and enjoy the view, but there’s not much else there, so we walked south past the casino construction site to south Barangaroo, where there are lots of shops and restaurants. We tried to find a simple cafe to sit and have a drink, but everything that was open was a fancy bar/restaurant, with people having meals and glasses of wine. A lot of the smaller establishments were closed – I expect for lack of tourist business at the moment. So we just looked around before walking back to the park for a bit more and then back to the car to head home.

It was a nice outing, and I’m glad to finally have had a look at this new public space that hasn’t been open for very long.

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Pre-rain bakery walk

The forecast for today was heavy rain and strong winds, beginning from late morning. The early morning was nice and sunny, so my wife and I made use of it to take Scully on a long walk to the bakery. There was a long queue of people waiting outside at socially distanced 1.5 metres intervals, and I joined on the back. I bought a loaf of black Russian rye bread, and my wife wanted to get a challah but they didn’t have any today, so I got a loaf of fig and walnut sourdough, which makes a delicious fruity toast.

For lunch today, I decided to use some leftover buttermilk from the other day when I made mushroom pancakes for dinner, and made myself chocolate pancakes with banana and bush honey.

Chocolate pancakes with banana and bush honey

Bush honey is a blend of honey from various Australian bush flowers, mostly various species of eucalyptus. It’s the name used when the bees visit a bunch of different species of tree and they can’t really be sure of what’s in it. I prefer a richer, more complex and toasty taste in honey, to light floral ones. I usually try to get honeys made from trees like stringybark, leatherwood, or grey gum, but they are not very common or easy to find. Most people seem to prefer lighter honeys from trees such as yellow box, blue gum, ironbark, or red box, which are often easier to find in shops. Bush honey is a richer, more “unrefined” blend than these, so it’s okay if I can’t get the more intense flavoured honeys that I prefer.

Now that I’m writing this, I’m curious about what sorts of honeys are common overseas, and which are the lighter flavoured ones and which ones the rich and complex types.

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Exploring Hunters Hill

It was a rainy, grey Saturday morning. Weather forecasters are telling us that an east coast low pressure system is developing, and we’ll be experiencing heavy rain and gale force winds on Monday and Tuesday, and it seems to be ramping up towards that already. There wasn’t a lot of rain today though – just some showers interspersed with long breaks.

We decided to go out and find a new bakery to have lunch at today. I checked Google Maps for somewhere not too far away, and find a likely looking spot about 10 minutes drive away. My wife and I went with Scully and managed to get an outside table at Stoneground Bakery in the suburb of Hunters Hill. It seems like a nice bakery and we also bought a loaf of sourdough bread to take home and have with dinner tonight.

After eating, we decided to take a walk around a few of the back streets to give Scully some exercise and loop back the long way to the car. We passed a few interesting places on the way:

St Kevin's. Hunters Hill walk

This is St Kevin’s, an old sandstone cottage, now being used as a solicitor’s office. It’s listed on the NSW heritage register as a significant historical building. Hunters Hill was one of the earliest areas of Sydney to be settled by the wealthier free settlers in the colony, and there are a lot of old houses in the area.

St Joseph's. Hunters Hill walk

This was actually originally a school, known as “Toronto”, but it’s now been converted into the St Jospeh’s Aged Care facility.

Hunters Hill walk

Down the hill from here is Tarban Creek, which flows under the Tarban Creek Bridge (visible in this photo) into Sydney Harbour. The creek is rather wide at this point! You can also see how grey the weather was today.

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Flat Rock Creek walk

A friend contacted me this morning and suggested we meet up for lunch, at a Japanese place a couple of suburbs over from where I live. I walked there (3.26 km according to Strava).

Sushi Taro

I got there a bit early and was really hungry, so I ordered some gyoza to eat while I waited.

Gyoza

I would have taken a photo of my main dish too, but I forgot in my hunger to get started when it arrived! After lunch, my plan was to walk home the long way, via a walking track that I noticed a while ago on Google Maps, which I’ve never walked before.

And so I set off to the Flat Rock Gully Walking Track. I had a little bit of a walk to get to the starting point. The first part of the walk was paved, and seemed popular with locals out for some exercise.

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After crossing under a main road, the path became more of a bushwalk.

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The walk followed Flat Rock Creek downstream, which was beautiful in places.

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Eventually the creek spills into this cove on Middle Harbour.

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This was the ending point of the walk that I wanted to do, but I still had a long walk back home! All together, the post-lunch walk was 9.12 km, for a total walking distance of 12.38 km. I was fairly worn out by the time I got home!

In other happenings, a friend commented on our group chat that he was watching a YouTube video of “stuff that kids are taught that is wrong”, and told us that it mentioned chameleons, and that—unlike what kids are told—they don’t change colour for camouflage, but rather to communicate and find mates. Someone else pointed out that Wikipedia disagrees, as its article on chameleons says they change colour for camouflage as well as those other purposes.

This began a half hour discussion over whether Wikipedia or a random YouTube video is more reliable. Rather than just haggle over it, I decided to check the literature, and quickly found:

  • Stuart-Fox, D., Moussalli, A., Whiting, M. J. “Predator-specific camouflage in chameleons”, Biology Letters (2008) 4, 326–329. doi.org/10.1098/rsbl.2008.0173
  • Stuart-Fox, D., Whiting, M. J., Moussalli, A. “Camouflage and colour change: antipredator responses to bird and snake predators across multiple populations in a dwarf chameleon”, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society (2006) 88, 437–446. doi.org/10.1111/j.1095-8312.2006.00631.x

These papers indicate clearly that at least some chameleons do in fact change colour for the purpose of camouflage. I was awarded the win for the conversation. Not only this, but these papers also found another very cool result. The chameleons they studied are hunted by both birds and snakes. Interestingly, when a chameleon sees a bird, it changes colour for camouflage in one way, but when it sees a snake, it changes colour in a different way. It turns out that birds and snakes have different colour vision receptors and see colour in different ways. (Bird vision is very similar to human colour vision, but snakes have less colour discrimination, similar to dogs.) So when a chameleon fears a bird, it changes colour to match its surroundings in a way that makes sense to humans. But when it fears a snake, it changes colour in a different way, which seems less well camouflaged to our human eyes (and to birds), but to a snake’s relatively colour-deficient vision it is actually better camouflaged.

This would be astonishing is it wasn’t actually just a simple consequence of evolution in action. But it’s still very cool.

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Catching up on sleep

So I went to bed early last night, and slept in until about 8am today. With that nice solid sleep, I felt pretty good today!

I took things pretty easy again, although went for a drive with my wife and Scully to get some lunch at a new bakery we hadn’t tried before, about 15 minutes drive from home. While there, we walked Scully around the neighbourhood. It’s a place we’ve never walked before, so it was interesting to look at all the houses, which had a distinct style – it was clearly an older neighbourhood, but perhaps semi-rural when first developed, as many of the older houses were built of stone, which is very unusual for a suburban neighbourhood so far from the historical centre of the city.

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Block experiment

I tried an experiment today. I walked out the front door with the goal of walking around the block, defined as:

  • walk along the edge of a public roadway, keeping the road to one side (left as I chose) at all times, and
  • never cross a public roadway.

I knew the path I would trace, but I’d never actually walked it, in 20 years of living here, for reasons which shall become clear. I tracked my walk in Strava, and the statistics of a walk around my block are:

  • Distance: 2.82 km
  • Minimum elevation: 48 metres
  • Maximum elevation: 87 metres
  • Accumulated elevation climb: +67 metres

The path I walked looks like this (I’ve hand drawn it and not provided any street names):

block walk path

There are three dead end streets running into the interior of the block, so by my rules I had to walk into each one and back out along the opposite side of the street – something I’ve never done before in a single walk. The dotted lines mark pedestrian paths which provide short cuts that vehicles can’t use. Naturally, when I’m out walking I make good use of these short cuts, providing another reason why I’ve never had occasion to walk around the block like this before. The area I live in is very hilly, so there was a lot of elevation change as I traced this route.

Interestingly, I’ve long thought that if I just cross the street directly outside my place, I end up on a block of land that adjoins Sydney Harbour (as in, I can walk from that point to the shore without crossing a road – in fact have done so on many occasions). So if I tried to walk around that block by the same rules, I would end up having to walk all the way around Sydney Harbour, by a route encompassing various bridges (Fig Tree, Tarban Creek, Gladesville, Iron Cove, Anzac, and Sydney Harbour Bridges, for those counting). After doing the simpler block walk today, I checked Google Maps to see exactly what sort of route this enormous walk would take, and I realised that because of various underpasses that go beneath the bridges I was thinking of, I would actually end up either skipping some of the bridges and going even further around, further upriver (ending up crossing the river on Silverwater Bridge, of all things), or doing odd loops that cross a bridge then go around an underpass loop and then go back across the same bridge on the other side of the road.

Ultimately, I traced my path as far as the Sydney Harbour Bridge, which is the only way back to my place from the southern side of the harbour… only to realise that by my rules I would end up doing one of those underpass loops on the north side and then returning to the southern side… now with nothing to return me back to the northern side between there and the ocean. In fact, this “around the block” walk would take me all the way around the entire coastline of mainland Australia before returning to my home.

(In practice, you would be very hard pressed to actually walk this route as it encompasses several freeway sections where pedestrians are banned.)

But I was staggered by the fact that a simple rule mixed with the vagaries of the road system meant that my original assumption of merely walking around the harbour and across a few bridges was mistaken, and that instead it would lead to a grand walk around the whole continent.

If anyone else cares to try this, either with an actual walk, or tracing a route via Google Maps, please let me know your results.

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Last of the Sydney walk conversions

Saturday… the day I normally clean the house, except I skipped a couple of weeks with my hand out of action. But today I got back into it. The bathroom is now sparkling again.

Went for a walk with Scully, and finished the last outstanding conversion of Imgur album to web page for my Sydney photo walks: Crows Nest shops.

My wife and I have been working through the Roger Moore James Bond films over the past week, and tonight we had to bite the bullet and start watching Moonraker. Oh dear.

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Hardware and an unexpected acquaintance

I took a longish walk with Scully this morning, to the hardware store (Bunnings), which is a few kilometres away. I had a couple of things I wanted to buy, so it was a good excuse to take her for a long walk.

When I got there, there were police, an ambulance, and a fire engine, attending a crash that happened on the intersection right outside Bunnings. It’s a T-junction with the streets, with the Bunnings car park driveway forming it into a four-way crossroad intersection. Traffic lights control cars coming out of Bunnings, and there’s a pedestrian light controlling pedestrians crossing the driveway. I was waiting to cross at the pedestrian light to get across the driveway to the pedestrian entrance to Bunnings. The green “walk” signal came on and the “walk now” beeps went off, I stepped out into the driveway…. and a van waiting to go revved up and came right at me, screeching to a stop before it hit me….

Only then did I realise that police were actively controlling the intersection for car traffic, signalling them to ignore the traffic lights and go when waved ahead. Not driving a car at the time, I hadn’t been watching what the police were doing – rather I was concentrating on the pedestrian signal at the crossing so that I could cross safely. The police just happened to wave the cars in the driveway to go right at the moment that the pedestrian light went green! Fortunately there was no accident, and I scurried across with Scully safely.

I’ve been exercising and massaging my hand again today. The pain seems to be fading slowly, and the hand is getting stronger and more flexible again. I took a golf club (a wedge) and some balls over to a nearby park and hit a few shots to test out how the hand would hold up playing golf. It was a little sore, but I felt like I could hit fairly well. I might try a round with my friend next week.

The other notable thing today happened at another park a short drive away, where I take Scully for exercise and to socialise with other dogs. There’s a regular group of dog owners who assemble there around 4pm every day – mostly retired people, but a few younger owners. I’ve been going there for over a year and know all the regular dogs and their owners, although only in a casual manner.

Today I was walking with one of them and chatting, and they mentioned something about James. I didn’t know who they were referring to, so I said, “Sorry, James who?”

“James Wood, the Supreme Court Judge. You know, with Pippa.” (Pippa is a cream coloured poodle)

Me: “Ohhh! Jim! … He’s a judge??”

Not just any judge. New South Wales Supreme Court Judge James Wood, OA, QC, chair of both the NSW Law Reform Commission and NSW Sentencing Council, and Royal Commissioner of the NSW Police Royal Commission.

Wow, I had no idea.

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Making the hand better

My hand was a lot better overnight, as in easier to sleep without being uncomfortable because of the bandages. But it’s still very bruised and sore today, and I’ve been spending some time massaging it firmly as the doctor advised, which just makes it feel more sore. But there’s definite improvements in strength and flexibility since yesterday, so that’s good. I can do almost anything I could before, except things that require significant left hand strength, such as opening difficult jars.

I made some Darths & Droids comics today, and converted another Sydney Walk photo essay into a web page, this one titled: Artarmon, Naremburn, St Leonards grunge.

In the mail today I received a small bicycle light which I bought to try attaching to Scully at night, so we can see her. It turns out that the light is way too bright. Your eyes adjust to the light and it’s not possible to see Scully herself at all. I might try covering the lights with tape to filter it down a bit.

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Winter walking

My wife had stuff to do this morning and asked me to take Scully on a nice long walk to keep her occupied. I walked down to Greenwich Baths – basically this walk that I did a photo essay on a few weeks ago, although with some extra pieces and a minor changes. It was chilly, as the weather has turned quite wintry here in the past week.

And I was surprised when we got to the baths to see an old lady, must have been in her 80s, getting ready to go swimming in the water of the harbour! As I watched, rugged up in my rugby jersey and a jacket over the top, she descended the ramp into the water and proceeded to swim laps. I’m don’t know how she even got in there, as the baths are fenced off and closed during the winter months – either she sneaked past the fence somehow, or she has some sort of secret way to get a key.

Back home, I worked on another photo essay, converting into a web page – a shortish one I did of a round I played at a local golf course. Maybe not as exciting as all the cool historical architecture I’ve bee learning about in the other walks I’ve been doing.

My wife is getting into cooking with me unable to do so (easily) because of my bandaged hand. Today she made pesto pasta with asparagus, pine nuts, and parmesan cheese for dinner, and it was really good. I should get her to cook more often! 😄

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