|I took the 9.45am train from Sydney to the Hawkesbury River on Sunday morning. Tim insisted on taking the train with me as I had been feeling unwell the previous evening and been unable to eat as I had felt sick from a migraine.
The train journey is about one hour. I tried to contact Michele by phone to tell her I was on my way but her mobile was going straight to voicemail and the home phone was permanently engaged.
As the train snaked down the hill into the river valley and we caught glimpses of the river and yachts stacked up along the edges. It was quite an overcast but warm day. I still hadn't heard from Michele by the time we got off the train, so planned to get the next ferry over to Dangar Island, which was in another 45mins. I eventually got a call from a harassed Michele asking where I was, as they were now running late. She said she would come over and collect me in the boat to save time.
Tim and I watched the to-ing and fro-ing of lots of speed boats into the Marina looking out for Michele. Eventually we saw a tinny (a same metal boat with an outboard) cruising towards the ferry wharf with a jack Russell and Michele's partner and daughter. We waved them over and climbed aboard. We dropped off some of their luggage at the car which was parked further down the marina near some rocks. After helping with the bags Tim got out and said goodbye. He had decided not to stay over as he was concerned about getting to work on time from the island. We then cruised back to the island past the oyster lease farms, the moored yachts and a landing craft full of wheelie bins! We tied up to their mooring on the island and headed up to the house.
Michele gave me a whistle stop tour of everything and then we headed back to the tinny to take them and their remaining bags over to the mainland so they could get to Sydney to catch their flight to Samoa.
They asked me to drive the boat on the way over so I could get used to it. I managed ok, taking it slowly but it was a bit scary as the engine has a lot of power and it is easy to over accelerate. Once they had all left I went to move the boat out of the tight mooring stop- in front of the restaurants and cafes of the marina. I managed to whack it into reverse and hit the pontoon behind me! I tried to nudge it out and then a barge moored onto the fuel pontoon and blocked my exit. I was already moving so managed somehow to squeeze through the tiny gap with no incident- much to my relief. I then headed back to the island, nervously increasing the speed as I went.
The wind was blowing quite hard and the river was quite choppy so coming into the mooring wasn't entirely straight forward. I edged forward lifting the engine as I went, but realised eventually that I wasn't lifting it at all as I had my finger on the down button! I quickly adjusted it and the engine came up out of the water ok and I managed to grab the mooring.
I tied the boat onto the mooring line about 3 times, as I was concerned my knot skills may be a bit rusty! Then pulled the boat, back out into deep water on a pulley line which was connected to an anchor line further out. This required quite a lot of effort in the wind, and as soon as I got up to the house I realised I had left my watch in the boat. After a quick drink to re-energise myself I went back down to the water and pulled it in again to retrieve it. They always leave the keys in the boat, but I was a bit reluctant to do this so brought them with me.
Back at the house I wandered around to familiarise myself with the dogs and my surroundings. The 2 dogs initially hung out in their daughter's bedroom perhaps waiting for her to come back. In the end I decided to banish them from there, strip the bed and close the door so they couldn't get in and onto the bed.
The house reminds me a bit of the house where I grew up in Cyprus. It is quite old, with chipped and peeling paint everywhere, broken window covered in cardboard and millions of cobwebs. The entrance porch is dominated by a massive wooden chest- like a huge treasure chest which is full of sailing, canoeing and camping equipment. By the front door Michele's fire uniform hangs up ready for action. She is a member of the NSW rural volunteer fire service. There is also a huge stack of pedigree chum dog food for my wards.
The living room is dominated by a massive window which runs the length of one wall and overlooks the river. It has venetian blinds which look like they have never been let down, and are encrusted with dust and cobwebs. I did give them a wipe over with a damp cloth, but couldn't quite bring myself to let them down and do it properly in case lots of spiders ran out.
I asked Michele before she left where the keys to the house were. She said there aren't any- we don't lock it!
The bathroom looks like it is at least 60 years old. The toilet has a bluey black stain in it, which is not a reflection of cleanliness as I gave it a good scrub and it doesn't come off. I would have poured a load of bleach down, but they have a septic tank here and that would probably have disastrous consequences. There is a cute old porcelin sink, which has lost some of its whiteness, and a tiny little bath. Australia seems to go in for half size baths for some reason.
All around the house is surrounded by trees and plants. It almost feels like camping, as many of the windows don't shut and the doors are permanently open.
I went to investigate the food situation in the kitchen. It was quite dire! I couldn't even find any pasta (it later emerged I was looking in the wrong place). I was starving, as I hadn't eaten for about 24 hours due to my migraine. I found some tortellini in the freezer and ate that with a tin of tomatoes. It did the job.
I then decided it was time to take the dogs out. The island is quite tiny- probably only about 800m wide and maybe 1.5 km end to end. I walked them to the other side of island where there is a beach. There is a big sign as you walk down to the beach saying NO DOGS PENALTIES AND ON SPOT FINES OF $75 APPLY. I paused for a moment as I remember Michele walking them down the beach last time I visited. Armed with my plastic bags for doggy business I went for it. First excursion, I decided not to let them off the lead, so they got used to me and came back to me. I figured once I had fed them once, they would be more inclined to come back to me rather than run off. I was mortified when the smaller of the two stopped outside someone's gate and did a massive runny turd. I gagged as I had to clean it up, and recalled why we had never got a dog. I like the idea of dogs but can't bare the cleaning up after them! I learnt to take a bit of newspaper with me to scrape up the runny bits in future.
So dogs walked, then fed and everything seemed to be going well. My computer hooked into the wireless connection no problems so I was even able to talk to Skin and my niece back home on the webcam. Before I knew it, it was nearly bed time. I did some suduko to keep my mind going before I went to bed. And slept surprisingly well, not waking until late the following morning.