Brogan wasn’t available today, so Lucas and I resumed the exploration of Hewitts Creek in Thirroul. We started from the mouth of the creek at Macauley’s Beach again. As we crossed the footbridge over the creek to begin the walk, we came upon a large group of walkers who had ambled from North Wollongong to Thirroul. We ended up in a conversation with a fellow from the group. He had a GPS in his hand and was quite excited – he explained that cartographically, the earth is divided into grids of 100 square kilometres and that it just so happens that the grid line which is the 00 easting coordinate intersects with the footbridge about two thirds of the way across the bridge. It was a momentous occasion for him, so we watched as he passed this significant point on the earth’s surface. Who would have thought?
We set off, trying to retrace our footsteps from the first walk. Soon enough we came upon ‘the loungeroom’ in the bush again. The furniture had changed a bit. There was no desk this time, but there were three office chairs. The surfboard fragment was still there. There was a bedsheet elaborately tied and taped up in the fork of a tree like a hanging basket, so I climbed up and pulled out the contents: a home-made bong made from a plastic drink bottle. Lucas took a photo, I replaced the bong, then we pushed on through the scrub and the tall grasses to the point where we thought we crossed the creek last time. It turned out to be a bit downstream of the previous crossing, so we had to bushbash to get up the embankment on the other side.
Walking behind backyards alongside the creek, we picked a couple of grapefruit from someone’s tree and ate them. There’s plenty of rubbish in and around the creek for the first few hundred metres upstream. Emerging from the first bushy, weedy section, we passed through a landscaped riparian zone that we guess the housing developers were obliged to implement. It’s quite a mix, this combination of tangled scrub, rubbish, old houses, new houses and neat landscaping surrounding the creek, which despite the development still supports ducks and other birds.
We followed the creek under the railway bridge, then up towards Lawrence Hargrave Drive. Just before the road we pondered a large vacant block of land that had some trees newly planted on it. Prime real estate with no house. It turns out that part of this land, the bit that had been planted, belongs to Dave and Cathy, who bought the house next to it and wanted to create a natural barrier. Dave was in the backyard and we recognised each other. He and Lucas and I chatted for a while about various things, including the ’98 floods and various bushfires. He had moved down to Thirroul after many years of living up the back of Coledale, where the sun disappears early in the afternoon. He’s enjoying the sunshine and not having to worry about bushfires any more.
We continued on and noticed another small creek branching off from Hewitts Creek right at the highway, so we followed that instead. It runs along the back of the houses on the south side of High St and up underneath Pass Rd which connects with the Bulli Pass. The creek was obscured by houses, driveways, culverts, roads and a park, so we had to trace it by looking at the topography. As we walked further up towards the escarpment, we picked up the actual creek again. Lucas boldly walked us around the back of a fancy-looking house. The owner came out and was very friendly. She and her husband have moved here recently, retiring from the Sutherland Shire. She kindly let us walk through her yard to gain access to the creek.
Heading back downstream, we had to plough through vegetation and clamber over and under various bits of rotting old infrastructure – fences, footbridges and retaining walls – a lot of it the crumbly, grotty unseen backyard bits that belie the neat facades of the house frontages. Eventually we came out on to a long battleaxe driveway which covers over the creek. This driveway led us back down to the park we had come from, the creekline visible only from the lie of the land. We called it a day and headed home in the late afternoon winter sun.