St Hubert’s Island, Central Coast

My new found hobby of cycling is taking hold, and I find myself looking forward to that moment, usually on a weekend, when I can squash my hair into an unattractive helmet, and plonk my disturbingly large behind onto the disappointingly unpadded saddle. With the wind in my eyes and chilling my neck nicely, I can sally forth and bother the local traffic. We can even fit the bikes into the back of our little car – if we take the front wheels off – and go further afield.

This weekend we took ourselves off to another bit of Brisbane Water on the Central Coast; the area around Empire Bay. Oddly enough, one of the things I have learnt about cycling is that a road that looks nice and flat in a car, magically becomes less so when on a bike. Not only does it become inexplicably hillier, but rocks, boulders, broken glass and a huge variety of car-distributed detritus appears as well, strewn in the side of the road like so much bicycle accident waiting to happen. One look at the hills around Empire Bay made me realise I was going to be doing a lot of walking and pushing and not much riding, so we took a detour down the steep ramped street leading to St Hubert’s Island instead.

It is an island, despite being linked by a pretty un-islandy road to Empire Bay, and suffers a bit from that ‘we’re an island’ air about it. Bit up itself. The houses are larger, more ostentatious, than the ones just 100 meters away on the ‘mainland’, and crowd around the outer ring of the island, each McMansion huddled about it’s own mooring and pier.

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Public access to the water is limited to a couple of points, and we stopped at one to rest under the shade of a lovely paperbark tree:

Paperbark

It’s quite a view over the water towards Blackwall and Woy Woy, and there were plenty out to admire it – not only boats but jet skis, canoeists and a couple of paddle boarders:

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Despite being probably the smartest suburb in the area – certainly house price wise – there’s something a bit unlovely about St Hubert’s to my mind. It tends to the soulless. There’s nothing there but houses; big houses with neat as a pin front lawns and triple garages. No newsagent, no corner shop, nowhere to get a coffee or a paper, no community focus. Or, as was on our minds, anywhere to get a bacon roll. Which would be way too pedestrian for them anyway, I suspect. Oh; there is a Raine and Horne branch office, perhaps proving that the buying and selling of real estate is of paramount importance. If you didn’t live there, there would be no reason to go. Of course you can happily say that about a lot of suburbs; why am I hung up on this one? Maybe it’s all the display, it’s all about the show. The closer to the premium circle they get, the more they face outwards to the water, the grander the properties get; and it seems shallow somehow. That outward appearances are all there is here. Well, anyway, it sure as hell was flatter than the route we had originally planned so it was a pleasant enough diversion, cycling wise. We found nothing else to make us linger, so about faced and headed back again. That steep road down to the island was a bugger to cycle back up but I did it, after gritting my teeth and ignoring my screaming muscles. Did have to lean heavily on my bike, gasping like a landed fish for 5 minutes afterwards, mind.

After all that damn exercise a big pile of local sweet oranges was just the ticket:

oranges

And a bacon roll, obviously.

Caffeine and bicycles

Mr C has been extolling the virtues of cycling around Brisbane Water, on the Central Coast, for some little while now. He likes to be off out, being terribly active on his bike, whilst I have spent the resulting me time relaxing, perhaps reading a magazine, sipping a latte in the garden, and generally not getting any actual exercise.

Mr C would come home glowing and grinning from ear to ear after a ride, gushing with enthusiasm for the scenery round these parts, and generally making me feel quite….lumpen. I decided I needed to stop being a lardy bastard, and bought a bike.

This weekend was my first outing, and my first time on a bicycle for a good many years. One of the last times I got on a bike, I was cycling up a hill, going slower, and slower….until finally I reached a complete standstill and literally fell off sideways. If you can imagine this in a sort of slow motion, comedy slide into full traffic, so much the better, for so it was.

Consequently, cycling has not been 100% forefront in my mind as an ideal pastime. I am, frankly, scared of falling off. Plus, my hair would look terrible in those helmets.

Within half an hour of getting out there, I realised my fears had been groundless; there are cycle paths galore, and, it turns out, my hair is apparently tough enough for any helmety challenge. Plus it really is gorgeous around here.

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Oyster shack, Brisbane Water

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Wild Oysters by the cycle pathpelican

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Bird ‘fruits’ line the treesyacht

Boats out, enjoying the sun

Reaching Koolewong, between Woy Woy and Gosford, we stopped off at for a cuppa at Blend and Roast, opposite the station.

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They roast their own beans, and there, just inside the door, was a weird contraption, the like of which I haven’t before seen:

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I’d always thought coffee roasters were huge barrel like things taking up most of a room, much like the wonderful roasting room at Cafe Sant’Eustachio in Rome:

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But this one roasts a mere kilo at a time, with pre-programmed settings to ensure that particular mixes of beans roast at the correct rate. The beans go in small and green:beanscoffee1

and bounce around in this glass walled chamber, forming an hypnotic coffee fountain as they rapidly transmute from green, to beige, milky coffee, to dark roasted brown:

bean fountainbeige coffeemilkycoffeecoffee

Notice how there appears to be more coffee in the last photo; it’s the same batch, but – much like popcorn – the beans actually expand during roasting. This batch reached 240ºC and was done in a mere 13 minutes, so that there was a new batch on the go as we left. The husks collect in a glass hopper, to be used as mulch by the owners’ dad in his garden. All I know is it’s the first time I’ve drunk a coffee whilst watching the next one roast. Nice.