Tuesday, 15 December 2015
At the end of the scenic road, along which we have dipped and dived into valleys and bushland; zipping round sharp corners that follow juts of sandstone, alongside rivers beneath canopies of gum leaves; past ‘bush fire threat level: high’ signs (a level I am almost certain is never dipped below); and after 20 minutes of barely seeing a soul and passing only one other road (itself a dead end further into the national park to the North), we reach sea level. Just before the sailing boats and seaside homes perched on the banks of this crenelated coastline, before the populace of the northern beaches and Pittwater impact the land, there is one last vestige of the Ku-Ring-Gai Chase: a picnic site, overlooking McCarrs Creek. Here, with a thin sliver of wilderness behind us (a vast wilderness before us), picnic benches sit in the shade of eucalyptus. The water is turquoise and transparent, and in it a chocolate Labrador, playing fetch with its human companion who stands on the shore along from us. On the far side, olive-green vegetation blankets a steep bank and rises high above us, held up by scrawny white-brown tree trucks and topped off by a cloudless sky. And over on that far side, only two sounds: bird song, and the constant chirruping of cicadas. In this beautiful spot are only a handful of people, including the Labrador and its owner, and three other souls: a mum, a dad, and Grace.
Today, Grace is five.
We know this because a makeshift sign on the road points party-goers this way. Next to the picnic benches a small gazebo has been erected, and from it float balloons, proudly proclaiming “5 today!” A feast is being prepared, perhaps even party games too. What a spot, I think, to be able to congregate and celebrate.
We are complete strangers, only stopping by on our way to Avalon and Palm Beach. Expecting this secluded spot to soon become rowdier – and as small people and pushchairs start to arrive - we decide it is time to move on.