Sydney’s Awe-full Landscapes

It’s the landscape that makes people rave about Sydney. But if you go by such websites as TripAdvisor, it would appear that most visitors never venture out of the Opera House-Circular Quay-Harbour Bridge triangle. To get a broader take on Sydney’s hugely diverse range of landscapes, it’s necessary to go a little further afield.

In the boondocks/hinterland, or “boonland” of Sydney, each suburb defines itself by its own little part of this bewilderingly fractured landscape, carved out from  headlands, bays and peninsulas. Some localities virtually hang off sandstone cliff-faces, while other suburbs are broken up by narrow alleyways suitable only for cyclists or a rider on a very skinny horse.

Here then are just a few “hidden gems” of Sydney:

  • Auburn Botanic Gardens:  The nine hectares of gardens at Auburn come as an “amazing to find this here in Auburn” kind of surprise. Top features include a waterbird-attracting lake, the hugely-authentic   Japanese Garden, the Native and Rain forest Garden and a fauna reserve with aviary:

Auburn Botanical Gardens brick arch1 Auburn Botanical Gardens pavilion 1

  •  Wattle Grove:  Way out west near Holsworrthy (en route to Liverpool), the well-planned suburb of Wattle Grove feels just right. People actually USE the many facilities offered, including bike paths, landscaped walking trails and an ornamental lake:

The artificial lake, which lies within the Georges River catchment and is fed by Wattle Creek, is edged with brick paving and extensive plantings of Lomandra and other native species

  • Cooper Park:  The heritage suburb of Woollahra demands a visit on account of its one BIG asset – Cooper Park, home to the last remaining pocket of virgin rainforest in inner Sydney. This gully running all the way from Victoria Road, Bellevue Hill to Manning Road in Double Bay was gifted to the Woollahra Council back in 1913 by wealthy landowner William Cooper. With subsequent additions, the narrow park is now well over one kilometre long, covering more than 15 hectares. A natural creek flows through the gully, with walking trails (eg Grey Gum Walk, Angophora Trail) named after some of the native vegetation in the park. You might catch sight of a goanna sunning itself trailside, or of other wildlife hiding in the undergrowth:612-293

To get to Cooper Park, take a train from Sydney Town Hall to Bondi Junction station, from where it’s about a ten minute walk to the park entrance at the northern end of Adelaide Street, Woollahra. Take a picnic lunch and unwind a little!

Other places include the Wolli Creek Valley walking trail (near the International Airport), the waterfront gardens of Leichhardt Street in Glebe, and Lake Gillawarna in Georges Hall near Bankstown – an  important breeding ground for native birds.

So when the last car – including my taxi – disappears from our roads, Sydney could well become the perfect example of the post-automobile city!


Big Tobacco and other Weapons of Mass Destruction

One of the more odious duties of a taxi driver is having to ferry around people who should be crawling on their bellies rather than being driven. I refer here to employees of companies producing worthless or life-detroying products.

It’s a long way from the tobacco fields of Virginia to the leafy Sydney suburb of Pagewood. In Westfield Drive, near the Westfield shopping complex, stands an unremarkable complex of heavily-guarded buildings belonging to the British-American Tobacco (BAT) company. Fortunately, my passenger on this particular day is working on building maintenance rather than being a BAT employee – and he has no hesitation in speaking his mind.

“The heavy security is to disguise the fact that people just don’t like working for BAT”, he says. “The company has to pay huge salaries just to keep people here – even now that production has fallen from seven billion cigarettes a year to around one billion. Most of the few staff that remain have been working here for twenty or thirty years or longer – and they know that they couldn’t get employment anywhere else.”

So, as BAT draws its last gasp, maybe it will start to reflect on the harm it has caused to so many lives. But don’t hold your breath.

PS I’m please to say that, six months down the road from this post, the facility HAS CLOSED!

Not another taxi blog!

I never wanted to start a blog. In fact, I thought it was a crazy idea. “This has been done before”, I thought. And I was thinking, of course, of  the brilliant blog by taxi driver Adrian Neylan, going under the name Cablog (, now archived by the National Library of Australia.

It wasn’t so much that I’m worthy enough to follow in Neylan’s footsteps – or tyre-treads. But after encouragement by three people whose advice I respect – including a lovely lady named Caroline, whom I just picked up – who told me to “go for it!” I thought “Yeah, why not?”

Adrian Neylan’s blog was great. But he was a night-time driver. He didn’t have to deal with the daytime corporate world. And the corporate world, after all, is what the daytime driver is thrown into – along with all the excesses, the intrigues, but also the often-fascinating insights offered by members of the business community, politicians and those just hanging onto their humanity by a fragile thread.

And why “Scabby Cabbie”? Well, I’ve certainly been called worse. And even scabs can be cleaned up and sanitised – eventually.