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Snapshots of Wollongong – Ken Ausburn Track

This post returns to the Snapshots of Wollongong Series. I haven’t done one for quite awhile! With lockdown still keeping us close to home in the Greater Sydney region, I went looking for some novel walks. I came across a short track that links to the Mt Keira Ring Track which I have featured in a previous Snapshot post.

The Ken Ausburn Track starts at the northern end of Northfeilds Ave, just near the big roundabout and the University of Wollongong. The track, although managed by the NSW National Parks and Wildlife, is on land owned by the University and BHP. It is named after Kenneth Ausburn, who was the first Head of Physics at the Uni and a keen bushwalker.

Just a short stroll

The Ken Ausburn Track is very short, only about 1 .5 km but it is fairly steep. There are several flights of wooden steps and boardwalks and other areas with steps made with treated logs. At the end of the trail you can turn right towards Mt Pleasant (a further ~0.5 km) or left to get to the Ring Track. This short section of about 600 m is well used by mountain bike riders so make sure you listen out for them. The track is narrow and it would be a close squeeze if walkers and riders ended up in the same section. The track is mostly bare compacted dirt. It would be a terror in the wet, so I’d recommend avoiding it on a rainy day.

Deer Deer!

You’ll see plenty of deer poop on the grassy lower sections of the track. Feral deer are a big problem in the Illawarra and their numbers are increasing. I have written a post about this which you can find in my archives.

Feral deer are a significant issue in the Illawarra

Accessible by Public Transport

The University is on the free city bus route. You could get off at the main Uni bus area (see map below), walk up Northfields Ave for about 400 m and join the track. The trail head is easy to find although it looks a bit like someone’s back yard. You could use this track to access the Ring Track which is NOT serviced by public transport. If you did the Ken Ausburn Track plus the complete loop of the Ring Track it would be pleasant walk coming in at under 10 km. If you wanted a longer walk you could add in the Robertson Lookout (another 2.5km).

Architectural treats

In addition to the pleasant walk, there are two architectural treats along the way. Firstly, the Lawrence Hargrave Memorial and then the Kermira Brick Ventilation Shaft. The memorial is a modern stainless steel sculpture depicting a flying creature. It was crafted by Bert Flugelman in 1988. There is apparently a small replica in the grounds of the Uni itself. A friend told me that she watched the sculpture being airlifted in by an army helicopter when she was still in primary school. On the other hand, the ventilation shaft is constructed from red bricks and is rather elegant. It was erected in the 1890s. There are several interpretive signs on the route which point out plant species and the history of the track. It was originally a rail line for getting coal down the hill and then on to the harbour.

Best views

The best views are from the start of the track, specifically on the first flight of wooden stairs. You need to walk up a very steep grassed section first. From here you can see the city laid out in front of you and to the south, the Nan Tien Temple. As you get up higher there are too many trees blocking the view. (Darn nature!!) There is a section marked as a lookout a bit further up but it is very overgrown and you can’t see much.

Logisitcs.

As I said, you could catch the bus to the Uni. If you do drive be aware that the parking is limited and most is only for two hours (even on weekends). The section near the Uni colleges is not time limited but I think it would be hard to come by a spare space in peak periods and during Uni session times. There are publicly accessible toilets at the Uni. If you choose to add on the Ring Track, there is a toilet at Byarong Park. There is a coffee shop at the Mt Keira Summit but check the opening hours as it is not very reliable, especially in COVID times. Byarong Park has several picnic tables and is a great place to stop. Take full advantage of being outdoors and carry a packed lunch.

Of course, take enough water. Don’t be lulled into thinking it’s only a short walk and you won’t need water. It is very steep in sections and will get you puffing. If you add on the Ring Track there is no where to fill up your water bottle.

Google it!

Furious Fiction 23 – September 2021

Furious Fiction banner

I’m sure I have said it before in one of these posts but the first Friday of the month comes around real fast! Here is my entry for September’s Furious Fiction Competition. Furious Fiction is a short story competition brought to you by the Australian Writers Centre. 500 words, 55 hours and a $500 Prize.

This month’s prompts

Each month there is a different set of prompts that must be incorporated into the story. The prompts are published at 5:00 PM Friday and the competition closes at midnight on Sunday. Sometimes you have to use the exact word, sometimes you can use a different tense or variant. This month:

The story must include

  • either an attic or a basement
  • include some kind of insect
  • have the words EARTH, WIND, FIRE and WATER or variations of.

Story Stats: This month the entry is 480 words. I started at 5:15 PM on Friday and worked on it for about 3 hours. I tidied it up a bit on Saturday morning and submitted at 10AM. I started off with the character’s name as Geoff and Jennifer but decided to call him Brad. A small tip of the hat to Pitt and Aniston. I had the bones of the story in my mind before I started typing. Initially, Brad was going to be injured from the fall, but that got a bit grim.

I didn’t have a photo of a cricket – so a cicada shell will have to do!

It’s just not cricket

Brad was balancing on the top step of the now obviously too short ladder. One hand held a torch, the other the edge of the manhole. The ladder teetered as he hoisted himself into the hole. His tippy-toe was just making contact with the cap tread.

“Can you see it?” Jennifer asked from below.

“Nope, can’t see it. But your attic roof needs fixing. There’s been a lot of water up here.”

He pointed the torch “You see? Water has been dripping down these beams.”

She couldn’t see because the ceiling was in the way, but he went right on explaining anyway.

Cheers, thanks for the mansplanation” she thought, but out of her mouth came

“Oh right…OK…I’ll get a roofer to come and have a look…”

“I could try and fix it. I’m pretty handy.”

And then… the ladder fell. There he was, head and shoulders in the roof and his legs dangling toward the earth. He kicked wildly mid-air, trying to get a better grip. It was a good three metres to the floor, far enough to get hurt if he fell, but close enough to jump if he was brave.

Brad wasn’t the brave type but he also wasn’t prepared to let Jennifer know that yet. It was only their second date.

“JENNIFER! Stop laughing and stand the bloody ladder up” he shouted.

“Right, oh yes right. Sorry, but if you could see your butt sticking out of that hole, you’d be laughing too!”

And then… it was too late. Gravity won.

Brad landed in an untidy pile. Jennifer tried to stifle her laughter but it was no use. She fell down next to him, grabbing her belly and chortling.

“Are you ok?” she asked between snorts.

He nodded, “I think so – just winded.”

For a long time, they both lay on the floor, laughing each time they looked at the open manhole or each other, simultaneously wondering how to recover this train wreck of a date.

Jennifer had hoped for a romantic sit-in-front-of-the-fire type date, but they had run out of small talk before they had finished the first course. For her, the relationship was doomed despite the fact he was an Adonis.

Thankfully, a cricket had come to their rescue. Its noisy chirps necessitating a search and destroy mission. It proved an effective cover for their lack of conversation.

Now, an hour later, they were lying close on the cold, bare floorboards giggling like children.

She reached out to touch his chest. “Are you sure you’re OK?”

“Yes, very.”

Jennifer drew even closer as he returned her caress.

“Told you I was handy,” he whispered.

Chirp, chirp chirrrrpppppppppp!

“Bloody cricket! It’s still up there!!” he said.

“It can stay up there for all I care. ” Jennifer kissed his full chiselled lips.

Maybe a third date was on the cards, the pest control could wait.


I enter this competition most months. You can see some of my other attempts by clicking on the links below.

Furious fiction 7

Furious Fiction 15

Old Habits Die Hard!

We’ve all heard the saying “old habits die hard”. Some habits take longer to kill off than others. For example, I have a kitchen broom which I keep in the space between the fridge and the cupboard. There must be thousands of households who put their broom in exactly the same convenient place. Nothing unusual there! However, in my kitchen, there is also a small railing which I use to hang up my oven gloves. Every time I get the broom out, I invariably knock the gloves off the rail and have to pick them up from the floor. 

Maybe not every time but eighty per cent of the time and it’s been like that since I moved in eight years ago! Talk about a habit being hard to kill off! 

In a bolt of problem-solving wizardry, I realised the fridge had two sides and there was a broom-sized-glove-free gap on the other side of the fridge.

Problem solving at its best!

I moved the broom.  

EUREKA! 

What a groundbreaking change!

Mind you when it’s time to sweep, I still automatically look on the glove side. D’OH! Eventually I’ll become habituated to the new habit and look on the other side as a matter of course. 

This may be a tongue in cheek look at my reluctance to change a simple process in my life that was not functioning well. A simple change that was glaringly obvious but not executed. 

I am very certain there would be many more things like this in the world that suffer from the “that’s just the way we do it around here” syndrome. Things that could be changed with little effort but pay big dividends, like working from home

Numbers of people WFH skyrockets!

The number of people working from home has increased dramatically during COVID lockdowns. Once COVID is under control and most of us are vaccinated the necessity for working from home will be removed. But there are plenty of good reasons for it to continue. 

Less commuting is one such reason with a triple win pay off. The employee gets more time in their day, the environment wins especially if it’s car commutes that are reduced and the employer wins because they could rent smaller spaces and hence save money. Not all jobs are of course suitable for working from home, but many “office” jobs are very much suited to it and employees are expressing their preferences.

Some companies are adjusting to a hybrid model where you can combine both working from home days with office days. Another bonus being the “extra” time now available to employees can be used for family or community-based activities enriching our lives. 

On the other hand, all those coffee shops and cafes in the city will have no customers unless they move out to the suburbs and then hey! Guess what? They don’t have to commute either. 

Let’s hope we keep these positive new habits of COVID in play. It will take some adjustment just like me searching for my broom, but it will be worth it in the long run!

a train station with empty platforms
Empty platforms are a part of Lockdown!