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!

Supplements

A bowl of yogurt with blueberries and banana

I have had a long aversion to vitamin supplements. There have been a few exceptions with other sorts of nutritional supplements. For instance, probiotics after a round of antibiotics, extra iron when I was pregnant and post-partum. For the past few years, I have been downing a concentrated turmeric elixir because there is some research that turmeric MAY reduce inflammation and hence reduce the risk of dementia. I am very keen on avoiding dementia!

But taking VITAMINS? No way! In my opinion, supplements just make for very expensive urine! You can get all the vitamins and minerals you need with a healthy, balanced diet.

Apparently not always, as I discovered.

Vitamins come from food, right?

Whoosh – Foosh!

Late last year, I fell on my outstretched arm when I was doing some volunteer work with the SES. The tree branch I was trying to move snapped sending me backward down a hill. Thankfully, I was wearing my helmet and although I struck my head on the pavement, no damage was done there.

The cinematic slow-motion fall took forever. “Don’t break anything at this age you old chook! That’s the start of the end!” I yelled to myself. Embarrassed and feeling like a real old lady, I jumped up proclaiming “I’m ok, all good!” to my colleagues.


At first, the injuries seemed superficial; a grazed hand and a sore bum. After an hour or so I could no longer deny the fact that every time I moved my arm it hurt. A lot. My team leader dropped me at the ER of our local hospital and I sat and waited.


The X-ray came back clear with no break but the radiographer said I should get a follow-up CT scan because breaks in wrist bones are very hard to see. The CT scan also showed no break. My GP diagnosed it as a FOOSH injury. (Falling onto an outstretched hand!). It needed strapping, rest and time and that was it.

A cascade of tests

The CT scan did show that there was a possibility of osteopenia – the precursor to osteoporosis. My GP sent me for a bone density scan and blood tests. Those results showed that my bone density was fine but that I had low levels of Vitamin D and B12. He suggested I take supplements and boost my calcium intake with extra dairy.

Cue scary music here like in an Alfred Hitchcock movie!!!
GASP!!!!!

VITAMIN SUPPLEMENTS!!!!!

Vitamin D and aging.

Vitamin D deficiency? How? I spend way too much time in the sun!

As well as ingesting Vitamin D from foods, your body makes it when your skin is exposed to UV radiation. In turn, Vitamin D plays a vital role in maintaining a healthy skeleton because it is necessary for calcium absorption. As you age the pathways for Vitamin D synthesis slow down and calcium absorption decreases.

Next, you end up with a decrease in your skeletal density, then osteoporosis, then breaks, then nursing homes and then death! That’s how I see it anyway!


Vitamin D supplements are cheap and easy to come by. But stick to the recommended dose! More is definitely not better when it comes to fat-soluble vitamins. (namely A, D, E, and K.) Remember those polar bear eating Arctic explorers?

Just like plants, you do need some sun.

Role of Vitamin D

Vitamin D plays a number of roles in the body apart from the maintenance of your skeleton including,

  • Maintaining a good immune function
  • Supporting a healthy nervous system including brain function
  • Regulating insulin
  • Regulating gene expression

Vitamin D levels are affected by our changing lifestyle. Staying in the shade and using sunscreen reduces our risk of skin cancer but it also reduces opportunities to make Vitamin D. Avoiding the sun altogether may lead to a serious Vitamin D deficiency. However, before you go out in the hot sun, slathering on the coconut oil as you go, note that you only need a little bit of sun! According to the Australian Cancer Council, you only need a few minutes, a few times a week in summer and just a little longer in winter. Using low-fat milk products could also contribute to dietary deficiencies of Vitamin D.

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is absorbed in the stomach after some preliminary chemical restructuring. Your stomach manufactures an intrinsic factor that binds to B12 allowing it to be absorbed further down the intestinal tract. Of course, the ability to produce this intrinsic factor decreases as you age!

Vitamin B12 has many roles in your body including,

  • Blood formation and prevention of several forms of anemia
  • DNA synthesis
  • Nerve function

Sources of Vitamin B12

Active sources of Vitamin B12 are only found in animal sources (or supplements). There is some Vitamin B12 in various mushrooms and nutritional yeast. But, these sources behave differently in the body and are not reliable.

small yellowmushrooms
Inedible mushrooms!

Vitamin B12 and climate change?

Reducing your consumption of animal products is cited as one of the key ways individuals can reduce their climate impact. This is especially true for those foods produced by intensive farming methods. Getting enough Vitamin B12 can therefore present a tricky compromise if you want to live a sustainable/ethical lifestyle. If you are a vegan, vegetarian or one of the increasing number of flexitarians, you probably need a B12 supplement.

This makes me wonder if humans are meant to be strict vegans. If veganism was our true state we would have evolved to deal with B12 in a different way. On the other hand, I do think we need to reduce our consumption of meat from an environmental point of view. I eat eggs and dairy but have cut my meat consumption to once or twice a month. My next step is to ensure this meat is from a sustainable and ethical source.



There’s no point fighting it! I am getting older. I want to stay healthy. My body is not able to do everything it used to and it needs some help. I’ll still rely on my healthy diet to give me a very strong foundation but from now on my morning routine includes taking the supplements and the turmeric potion. For the next few weeks, I am also experimenting with magnesium, AND because I took a dose of antibiotics 4 weeks ago the capsule is a probiotic! OMG, I’m positively rattling!

BTW: The bruise on my bum was SPECTACULAR! All the colours of the rainbow and covering the whole cheek!

A year without alcohol – tick!

Wentworth Emporium

Last year was a different sort of year for all of us. My year began with an intentional change that started well before COVID19 came on the scene with a year-long challenge called the “Year of Zero”. As part of the challenge, I planned to go a full year without alcohol. In my post, in May 2020, I said I’d report back on how I went. Here’s that report.

I won! I did ditch the alcohol!

I went the whole year without alcohol! It ended up being less of a challenge than I had thought.  The hardest part was actually deciding if I would start drinking again. I had concerns and doubts because I was feeling fabulous! No hangovers, no missed days spent resting on the couch, more money, feeling clear-headed, and all the benefits you’d expect to gain from not putting poison into your body.  My joints ached less; I had fewer cold sores. My gut was more settled. I slept better. A repeat liver function test came back with excellent results. I didn’t lose weight which I thought I would. I didn’t lose friends. In fact, my social life didn’t suffer at all! It’s a bit hard to get a good handle on this aspect because my dry year coincided with COVID lockdowns. 

My friends got over hassling me about drinking, although one actually said “welcome back” when I had a glass of wine with them.  There’s something a bit off with the state of the world if that’s the perception of giving up the booze!

I used the app Habit Bull to keep me on track.

I’ve starting drinking alcohol again.

As the end of the year approached, I spent a lot of my mental energy deciding what to do. Would I drink? Wouldn’t I drink? Was my obsession about making this decision proving I was or wasn’t an alcoholic or, at best, someone with alcohol abuse disorder. (Something I have only just discovered is a “thing”).

WHAT SHOULD I DO!!

In the end, I decided I would have a few drinks on social occasions.  Soon after “breaking the drought”, I overdid it and woke up with a horrendous hangover! One of the worst I’ve had. Even though I had drunk much less than I would have normally have had on a “big night”. Out of practice, I guess. I imagined my poor liver shrivelling up and keeling over. It was scary. 

After that night, I had a stiff talk with myself and set down some rules. I would only drink when I was out. I wouldn’t drink at home alone. Ever! And then I would never have more than two.

It didn’t take long before I started to argue with myself and the internal dialogue was very persuasive. 

You’re an adult and you can have a drink when you feel like it!  Relax! You’re on holidays!

Robyn’s brain!

I quickly fell back into my old habits, albeit with more moderation.

Giving alcohol the flick for good?

In the vein of “when you’re ready to learn, the teacher will come” platitude, I have noticed more and more articles both in print and on the net about people being sober-curious and stepping back from our alcohol-laden society. I know I am not alone in this state of confusion about what our culture deems normal and acceptable and consideration for our own health. The stigma of being a non-drinker is nearly as bad as being a heavy drinker! For example, look at Charlie Hale’s article in Wellbeing’s Issue #190 about mindful drinking.

Charlie Hale writes about the new ‘sober-curious’ movement in Wellbeing.

Sober Curious

The term sober curious was coined by Ruby Warrington in her books Sober Curious and the Sober Curious Reset. The book’s marketing blurb describes exactly how I’m feeling – without the green juice!

It’s the nagging question more and more of us are finding harder to ignore, whether we have a “problem” with alcohol or not. After all, we yoga. We green juice. We meditate. We self-care. And yet, come the end of a long work day, the start of a weekend, an awkward social situation, we drink. One glass of wine turns into two turns into a bottle. In the face of how we care for ourselves otherwise, it’s hard to avoid how alcohol really makes us feel… terrible.

How different would our lives be if we stopped drinking on autopilot If we stopped drinking altogether Really different, it turns out. Really better. Frank, funny, and always judgment free, Sober Curious is a bold guide to choosing to live hangover-free, from Ruby Warrington, one of the leading voices of the new sobriety movement.

Booktopia’s blurb about the Sober Curious Book

What next?

I’m ready to have a good talk with you Alcohol!  You’re not working for me anymore! 

Having the whole year off the booze and then three months drinking alcohol again, has been like completing a controlled experiment. The results of the study show that I prefer the no alcohol condition. I’ve decided I don’t need booze, and although I do really like a glass of wine, I’ve learnt it’s better for me not to “break the seal”. I have ordered Ruby’s books, and I’ll write a review after I have read them. In the meantime, I know I am not a moderator and do better at abstaining.

So abstain I will.