Tell your story walking

Posted: April 4, 2007 in Uncategorized

I am both impressed with and grateful to the Sydney public transportation system. The idea of travelling from one end of Sydney to the other, into other towns across bays and into the far countryside, all on two tickets and for less than $30, is impressive enough. But the buses, trains, and ferries are also on time and *spotless*. It’s like some kind of magical transit system running on fairy dust and funded by leprechaun gold.

Despite all this, I damn near walked my feet off exploring over the weekend. Saturday started at 4:30 AM, which is an absurd time of day to be waking up regardless of where you are. Since I had no hope of going to sleep again, I caught up on work for the next hour until the horizon started to show signs of daylight and made my way to the waterfront to watch the sun come up over the Opera House and light up the Harbor Bridge. The quayfront was blissfully empty as I wandered around, seagulls screaming at each other and the few passing people like a bunch of little flying Sam Kinnesons. After I’d satisfied myself with an absurd number of photos, I headed back to the hotel briefly for a shower, then tried to decipher the bus system to Bondai Beach. Of the whole system, this one seemed to have the only real shortcoming, and that was the fact that half the buses that went by weren’t even listed on the schedule, as if the drivers were tired of their boring usual route and decided to start making up bus numbers and going somewhere new and exciting, like Oxford Street. On arriving, the beach struck me as an odd mix of LA, and the Mediterranean; sunbathers and surfers milled past the shops densely lined the beachfront, while at either end pink and white stucco houses looked down from steep hillsides. I immediately headed for the water, taking off my shoes and wading shin-deep into the crisp but still fairly warm water, watching the surfers ride the casual shorebreak. More and more this has become something of a ritual whenever I go somewhere on the ocean; I have to feel the sand of a new beach under my feet and the temperature of the water on my legs. Satisfied, I dried my feet off, put my shoes on, and walked the coast, passing more beaches and cliffs lined with houses and even a cemetary. Having gotten my fill of the southeast coast, I jumped on a bus back to Circular Quay and immediately boarded a ferry for Manly.

Manly has the air of a small, tourist-ridden summer destination, like the little town in the movie Jaws, only without Roy Scheider and a crazy Scotsman singing sea shanties and leering at people. Stopping for some fish and chips, which a seagull promptly stole a piece of, I started walking again, heading south along the coast and into the Sydney Harbor National Park at the end of the peninsula. Unfortunately the trails and side roads kept ending at locked gates, so eventually I gave up on finding the cliffs overlooking the entrance to Sydney Harbor and headed back towards the ferry. As chance would have it, I met up with Steven, a surf fisherman from Adelaide scouting new fishing spots and walked and talked with him for a while about everything from the latest surf reels to the welding trade. Spotting a bar on the beach, he immediately suggested he buy me a beer, which I really couldn’t even begin to argue with, and we spent an hour or so waiting for the ferry and trading rounds. The day came to a close with the sky fading to orange and violet behind the outline of the Harbor Bridge and the Opera House, and I watched the daylight leave almost the way I watched it come in as the bow of the ferry cut its way back into the aptly-named Circular Quay.

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