There are two types of buildings which fascinate me more than any others; castles and lighthouses. Both are amazing pieces of engineering developed in different times and for very different reasons, but in some ways similar in their strength, complexity and often incredibly difficult locations. There aren’t too many castles in Australia, well actually none that I am aware of, but there are an abundance of lighthouses and so I had already made it my mission to visit as many as possible, starting first with New South Wales and then further afield as the opportunity arises.
Sunday 17th May
No work today and no house issues either. Today was a day to relax and have a break. Today was a day to find a lighthouse!
When chatting in the office during my first week the guys had mentioned the prepaid Opal card for getting around on public transport. Same concept as the Oyster card in London, the difference being here you get both discounted, and even free, journeys. Previously my daily commute was costing $8, now with Opal it was less than $7. A result, but better still after you have made a number of journeys, eight I believe, the rest of the week is free and so my trip to IKEA on Friday, Chatswood and Sydney yesterday and Sydney again today havent cost me anything. But not only does this work on the trains, my ferry ride from Circular Quay and back was also free. What a brilliant system. So the lesson here is simply, if you travel to Sydney and are going to use public transport get an Opal card. You would be foolish not to.
Now back to lighthouses….
Having decided today was going to be a lazy one I needed to decide what I was going to do. I certainly didn’t want to sit around the apartment all day as the weather was just too nice and so I headed into Sydney. On the way I had a look at the map and picked a location which included a ferry ride.
As I have written previously not only are the trains great, but Sydney Ferries are brilliant too. Many people use them as a way to commute, but for me they are both a way of getting somewhere and a pleasure in their own right.
I picked Watsons Bay. A reasonable journey from Circular Quay, it ensured that I would enjoy the boat ride as well as the destination.
Once off the boat it was a pleasant and relaxed walk up to South Head and the Hornby Lighthouse. This red and white striped lighthouse was built in 1858 following the tragic loss of over 120 lives when British clipper Dunbar was wrecked during a storm the year before. It’s distinctive colouring was chosen to ensure that it wasn’t mistaken for the Macquarie Lighthouse 2km to the south.
As you follow the path to South Head you come across various concrete defensive structures as well as a large gun pointing back towards the city. My immediate assumption was that they must have been constructed during the last war to help protect Sydney from the threat of a Japanese invasion. Although they were used for this purpose, they were actually constructed much earlier, and for a very different purpose.
The first gun emplacement at South Head was recorded in 1788 and was used to signal the arrival of a vessel in the harbour. The fortifications that can be seen today were completed in 1854, although the guns weren’t actually in position until 1872. These were constructed to protect against various enemies; initially the French but then the Americans during the war of independence. Later the French were again considered the threat before they become allies against the Russians during the Crimean War. The defences were further enhanced during both world wars, but although manned constantly the lookouts failed to spot the three Japanese midget submarines which managed to enter the harbour on 31st May 1942 attaching a number of ships, sinking the converted ferry HMAS Kuttabul which resulted in the deaths of 21 sailors.
Returning back to Watsons Bay it was time to sit, write and generally enjoy the beautiful autumn weather. With several coffees and a bag of chips, I sat for a good few hours and simply enjoy watching the world go by. A really wonderful Sunday afternoon.