I've been reconnecting with my family and nature this past week and from where I'm sitting now, it's hard to believe that initially, I wasn't keen on making this trip. It all started at a rowdy yacht club function last November. To say we were skint at that time, was an understatement. If you remember, Mr Beach House had spent our last $5000 on pursuing his unachieved sailing goals in an international regatta in the USA and as a result, we were finding it difficult to put food on the table in the months subsequent to his folly. The government had suddenly stopped buying our sail training boats, as a result of spending cuts, and we needed time to adjust our own spending commitments. So this was not the time to put your hand up at an auction and buy a 2 day holiday package for $300. One that I might add, was quoted on the night as worth ahem, $240. Mr Beach House now says it was my hand that went up, but as you will also remember, if you have been coming here a while, November last year was a period in which I was madly trying to lose weight and wasn't really drinking, so I will swear it was his hand that shot up, not mine.
Anyway, roll forward almost a year and the holiday package to Pittwater Youth Hostel was about to expire, so it was booked in for the school holidays just past. I was joking to friends that we were going on 'holiday', very tongue in check. I mean I ask you, where's the holiday for a mum in having to prepare and cart all the food and linen, not being able to drive there or walk to a restaurant or a shop and having to carry all your stuff up hill for 15 minutes, once you alight the ferry? At that stage, it sounded more like a boobie prize to me!!!! Well folks I could not have been more wrong. And as Mr Beach House knows, on the very rare occasions that I am wrong and it is rare beach dwellers I can tell you, I will happily admit it. Shout it from the roof tops actually. This was one of the most enjoyable and relaxing holidays we have ever had as a family and it was all 10 minutes from home as the crow flies and just an hour from Sydney's CBD.
We were pretty organised. We managed to get 2 days worth of food for a family of 4, our clothes, life jackets, towels and sleeping bags (which by the way are not allowed at youth hostels now) packed and onto our trolley.
The 15 minute walk up to the YH was not difficult, but probably was more like 25 minutes with a whining 4 year old. But I made her walk the whole way herself and God love her, she did it.
On the trip over, I was hassling Mr Beach House to hold on to the littlest Beach House brat tightly, as she was sans life jacket. I was also promising I would be more relaxed on the return ferry journey. Mr Beach House just chuckled, patted the top of the balustrade and said "She'll be sitting up here on the way back."
Which she practically was, as you can see below. So much so, that the ferry captain came out and told us to sit her down. I told you our stay was relaxing.
The first evening, the little Beach House Brat asked me "Where's the television?" I told her there wasn't one and she nearly fell over in shock. She couldn't understand that it's possible for a house not to have a TV. I also purposely took no electronic devices for the kid or us, except my phone, but I did think to throw in a book for the big BHB. He enjoyed reading it to a new friend, out on the deck in the balmy evening.
When we got home I asked him whether he'd rather be on the computer or back at the YH. He said the youth hostel any day, as he loved having lots of other kids on tap to play with. They bush walked, ran around playing newly invented games, played Monopoly for the first time and swam together.
I tried kayaking for the first time too (no shots unfortunately as it's wet) and loved it. Initially I said to Mr Beach House, I would only hug the shore, as I was afraid of capsizing, but it wasn't long before we were having races across the bays of Pittwater from one gorgeous beach to the next. We found beautiful fresh water creeks and lots of wild life and I was slowly falling in love with the place as I wound down.
There was a sense of intrigue to our holiday as well. I am incredibly interested in politics and was fascinated to hear, that just a 20 minute walk from the Youth Hostel, is one of the safe houses the Petrovs stayed in for the first 18 months after their defection from Russia. Apparently there were others in George St, Avalon and also one in Palm Beach. Up until the 1970's, there was a very real threat that the Petrovs would be assassinated by Russian spies. Basically because Vladimir Petrov and his wife were Stalinist appointments to the KGB. Petrov was worried that those who had 'murdered' Stalin (although officially he died of natural causes), would also make him disappear upon his return to Russia. He defected 2 weeks before his wife and without her knowledge. She had more to lose by defecting and dismissed it when he had raised it with her at an earlier time, as she had family back in Russia (he did not). After his defection, Mrs Petrov had been kept under virtual house arrest at the USSR embassy and then boarded a plane back to Russia in Sydney with two armed embassy minders, to great protest at the airport.
On the orders of Prime Minister Menzies, she was taken off the plane at Darwin, as the Russians tried to take her back to Russia ultimately against her will, although she was very torn between staying in Australia and what her defection would mean for her family, back in the USSR.
Anyway this, is one of the safe houses they stayed in immediately post their defection. The home is known as Towlers Bay Cottage and she's an absolute beauty.
She's all Sydney sandstone and concrete, with beautiful French doors and a lovely NE facing terrace over looking Pittwater. What is completely criminal about this, is that the house was compulsorily acquired (prior to the Petrov Affair) when the area became a National Park and the policy of the day, was to extinguish private ownership in National Parks. Isn't it ironic that this despotic behaviour was what the Petrovs were escaping. Ultimately the government didn't resume many of the homes in this area, as they soon realised the expense involved for taxpayers.
This resumption is a classic example of government policy being made on the run, and inevitably going horribly wrong. The house is now boarded up and is how the government treats our national history. They usually take the least expensive option, no matter the outcome. I mean why resume it, if subsequent governments are not going to look after it?
The house was apparently occupied for state conferences and holidays by Neville Wran and other government dignitaries in the the 1970 and 1980's, but I am told it was thought not to be a good look that the new rich were now taking advantage of the property, as it had been compulsorily acquired from private hands, so it was abandoned.
There is a garage, even though there is no access via car to the area, apart from a fire trail, which is not open to the public. Perhaps those who built the house thought road access may come in the future. Apparently the National Parks once installed a care taker in the care taker's cottage, who used to drive in via the road from West Head, much to the disgust of the residents who otherwise let their kids roam free and were worried about him running them over.
The substantial wharf attached to the house, known as Towlers Bay Cottage, has also been left to decay.
And the boat ramp is now a jumble of broken concrete.
The care taker's cottage is falling down. It is such a terrible shame that governments allow this to happen. Why not put it out to private tender under lease for renovation, with perhaps some conditions about allowing some kind of public access, so the beautiful home and the history of her inhabitants can be preserved for future generations. It will only take one big bush fire to rage through the area for the whole thing to turn to ashes and it would have a much better chance of survival, if it was loved and cared for.
The bush is starting to overtake the care takers cottage, which has smashed windows and other damage. This kind of thing breaks my heart. Some serious vision is need here people.
Anyhow, with our 48 hours in paradise at and end and now being much more enlightened about our own backyard than when we embarked on this adventure, we wheeled our lighter trolley back down the hill.
Hoisted the red flag to let the ferry know we wanted to be picked up.
Agreed it was one of the best holidays we had ever had. Knew that we loved each other heaps and agreed to do it all again in six months or so. Most of the other guests were repeat visitors as Pittwater Youth Hostel is just such a fabulous place to be.
I thought the impromptu passenger library at one of the ferry wharves said it all. If you want to go back to a time where people connected with each other, let their kids run wild from dawn to dusk, where they slowed down and shared and simply enjoyed the moment, then the Pittwater Youth Hostel and her surrounds are absolutely and completely for you.
Oh and Mr Beach House was very appreciative of my efforts in organising the food and taking care of all the logistics for our break, that he brought me flowers. Seems he does like me after all.
Today I am linked up here