The silver river

Deerubbin – the Hawkesbury proper- doesn’t normally look like this: not when I’m there, anyway.  I’m used to the view out our back window: the valley full of fog, the hilltops islands in a foamy sea.

Hazy foggy view from deck

Mist over Sam’s Creek

You know the fog will be spilling across the highway as you swoop down from the ridgeline before dawn.  But when you reach the freeway bridge that stretches half a mile across the  Hawkesbury, the wind picks up and the mist is gone.

But not this Sunday.  The cloud was down and the river was silver.

Pixillated tinnie in distance

Fisherman in the mist

I’ve wrestled with this mist before.

I can say with confidence it’s not freezing fog, hail fog or upslope fog.  For all the salt in the air, it’s not coastal fog – moisture condensing over cool water – not with sea temps a balmy 24 degrees.  And is it valley fog? Damp cool air might slide down the hills in the night… but Sunday’s haze followed midnight downpours not clear skies.

Having thought about it rationally and analytically, I can only conclude that this was magical fog, sent to stop me paddling all way to the secret heart of this part of the Hawkesbury, Marramarra Creek.

Mist over over mangrove saplings for horizontal shorter

Big Bay

I’ve nearly made it there before, as far as Big Bay, with its great lagoon full of mangroves and the riverbed chocabloc with critters. No houses on the ridgelines, no way in except by water.  In the 1830s a surveyor’s wife didn’t think much of it: “these dreary solitudes might serve for the abode of a misanthrope so utterly are they secluded from all approach and so entirely destitute of all comfort”.  But I’m longing to paddle all the way to the source of the creek, through country with an indigenous past even I can read.

But this time it wasn’t just the fog and the march of time that stopped me.  The birds were in on it too, perching photogenically on the wayside oyster poles, feathery sirens luring me away from my upriver odyssey.

So I’ll have to come back to Marramarra.  Maybe next time I’ll bring our full flotilla of mismatched craft and camping gear and stay overnight halfway up the creek in the old orange orchard.  The noisy kids should to  scare away the temptations of the sirens… and, of course, the silvery silence.   So perhaps I’ll follow Odysseus and bring some ear plugs too!

Related posts – other paddles on the Hawkesbury from Deerubbin Reserve

Two sad islands, three whistling kites: a paddle from Deerubbin to Bar Island

Of gods and mapreaders: a trip up Kimmerikong Creek in Muogamarra National Park

A bridge fetishist paddles to Brooklyn: paddles up Mullet Creek and around Dangar Island

Broken Bay at low ebb: a short jaunt around the oyster beds near Spectacle Island at the end of Mooney Mooney Creek.

Two easy steps to make your warrigal greens thrive

We had a break from the back garden this weekend, camping at Twin Beaches in Marramarra National Park on the beautiful drowned river valley that is the Hawkesbury estuary.  The east-facing wooded slope up the back of the camp site was object lesson in how to use the shade-loving local plants I’ve been bringing back into my garden over the last couple of years.  Particularly gorgeous was the swathe of prickly rasp fern, tendrils fresh and pink after recent rain, appearing through the grass and the dianella caerulea along the path to the dangerously repellant pit toilet.


I haven’t yet managed to propagate a cissus vine – I am working on some cissus antarctica cuttings pinched from a nicely planted up children’s playground.  Since it is a national park and I am slightly neurotic, I would have felt guilty if I had snipped off some propagation material from the vine that wound its way through the trees – a slender young cissus hypoglauca, I believe.  Apparently you can cut the stems of the mature vine into sections and drink the sap that drips out like water.


But most impressive was the dense carpet of exceedingly healthy looking warrigal greens growing only a metre or two back from the high tide line.  I did end up picking some to stave off the scurvy likely to be induced by too much camping food.  However it was a bit of a challenge to find a satisfactory spot for my ad hoc harvest, since the most vibrant and sturdy patches of tetragonia seemed to be in just those  places – a couple of steps from the fire hole, around the base of a convenient tree – that a bloke might choose to relieve himself after putting away a couple of long necks.  This may be a coincidence of course.  But nettles and lime trees seem to favour human urine as a tonic so who knows, maybe New Zealand spinach is the same?  I know it’s sterile and Romans used it to wash their togas and all, but I’m not completely sure I’m going to try this particular high-nitrogen fertiliser on the salad greens at home.