Manly to The Spit.
On Sundays in Sydney all travel is capped at $2.50. So from Annandale we caught a light rail, a train and a ferry to get to Manly. We stepped right off the ferry and followed the path to the left as we’d been told by our hosts that there was a nice trail along the coast where you can see good sea views and Aborigine carvings. We began walking and saw some signposts that let us know we were on the right track. It was a little overcast earlier that day so we’d been prepared and worn jeans and brought an extra layer incase it got windy. …we didn’t know what we were in for. We saw signs for ‘The Spit’ and were unsure what that was or meant but carried on walking as it was along the coast and followed the edge along the gorgeous harbourside homes. We carried on walking until we reached another harbour, everybody in Manly must own a boat. We followed that bay around and walked until we reached Reef Beach. Along the way were many photo opportunities, and thanks to self-timer we made the most of them. By now it’s around 3pm and the sun has burnt away all clouds in sight and we, in our jeans, are baking. Flip flops should not have been the footwear of choice, I think we failed to recognise the scale of this trek. It’s a lot less tourist friendly than any other walk we’ve done around the city. There is no paved path, but instead, only deep stone steps, dirt and the occasional wooden beam that looks as though it didn’t quite make it to where it was heading. We finally saw a sign for ‘The Spit’ again and it stated we were still 5.5km away. Resolving that we were now almost half way we had now committed to the whole trek as we might as well continue forward for the same distance on a route we hadn’t already seen.
We weren’t disappointed. Minus the vertical steps that seemed to keep coming, we made it to a lookout spot that had views of Manly bay, across the water to Watsons bay and everything in-between. We saw the ferry that we’d caught making trips back and forth to Circular Quay to pick up more tourists and bring them to the area – most were likely the smart ones heading to relax on the beach. We surged on, finding water dragon lizards wherever we stepped. I spent a good 3 hours being jumped out on by the 4 legged friends. You’d hear a thump, freeze not knowing which direction it was in, then be met with a running lizard that had no qualms with humans and would run towards or away depending on its preference – away if you’re lucky.
We reached the Aboriginal carvings and at first weren’t sure what we were looking for – having not researched the trail at all we were walking aimlessly towards these carvings with no clue at which point they would feature, or if they would be worth the 7km walk to see. They were. Though somewhat protected, surrounded by wooden beams, the carvings are faint and difficult to make out. There are signs which point out the direction and shape of the carving and once read you can see most of them.
At last another sign. It let us know we were making progress, but we were still nowhere near this ‘Spit’ thing that was being mentioned. Another 3.5km to go! It took us a while but we realised the consensus for walkers is that you walk from The Spit to Manly, not Manly to The Spit (which we learnt was because waiting for you at Manly is a beautiful beach, shops and life). However, we were now mostly waking downhill – all the other suckers were walking up! That was the only solace at this point. We didn’t know where we were walking or when it would end. We walked and walked and found cool things along the way. A little delirious, even trees became interesting and quirky.
We were seeing more water, and thought maybe ‘The Spit’ would reveal itself soon. …alas still 2km away! But at least it was pretty. Time for a pose.
We then arrived at Clontarf Beach and felt rescued by the soft sand. It was nearly deserted, apart from some small children playing with their dog; civilisation! Though now once again overcast it was perfect weather to recover and walk along the waters edge. I swear I heard our feet sizzle as they hit the cold water. As we walked around the bay we came to a park that was full of life. Locals who were throwing birthday parties, having BBQs and lots of children enjoying the climbing frames. At last a little cafe – we’d walked for 3 and a half hours and not eaten for over 5. The cafe was an oasis. 1 cold bottle of coke and a ham and cheese toastie later we were ready to continue. We thought that maybe this was ‘The Spit’, though there was no sign that signalled this so we asked the guy at the cafe. Turns out the Spit is a bridge and the end of the walk is signed by the arrival at sed bridge! Not quite what we were expecting, but we could see the bridge. Yes, this took us 3.5 hours to reach! After 20 minutes, and a walk that took us back around another little bay, we arrived!
There’s a wide range of people at Bondi. Our new host defined it perfectly as a playground. There is something to do on every inch of the beach/boardwalk/grass/rocks/trails.
There are paparazzi Chinese groups who spend their day taking photos of themselves in their signature poses next to all iconic buildings or backdrops…even openly taking photos of people they don’t know just because it’s something new or different to their culture. There’s a funny acceptance of this, whereas normally if a stranger was taking a photo of you in your bikini you’d question their motives, but chances are it’s just because you’re blonde. There are surfers both on and off the beach – the connotation of being a surfer is apparently universal and all are dressed the same regardless if you’re at Bondi/Venice beach or even Perranporth. All day there is a hive of activity – there is definitely a lot of unemployed tourists hanging around, but there has to be a significant number of locals who also have time off midweek, the beach is busy no matter what day of the week (though having caught up on a few Bondi rescue episodes this early Autumn month is nothing in comparison to peak summer).
At around 5pm the fitness club starts and all those that are lucky enough to live nearby and have an interest in health are pounding the concrete boardwalk or the wet sand at the edge of the water. It’s good to see that there is a variety of shapes, sizes and ages – and sports fashions – that take part. You can see a clear difference between those that come here after work every day, compared to those who have just started and run quite clumsily through the crowds of beach goers. It’s funny to think that people do actually live here full time and that as a tourist you are just part of what they usually see whilst they do their daily workout. There are skateboards, bikes, surfboards, and a strange air wheel that 1 bloke is standing on and steering magically – so many easy ways to exercise that just become a way of life, it’s hard not to be active when there is no excuse not to be.
Adam is up and out the door at 7:30am every morning and runs down to the outdoor gym at the beach and back again. By the time he’s back I’m usually just about awake so we have breakfast, get our swimmers on and we walk the 2km, from the apartment we’re staying at, to the beach every day. We lay out our travel towels (worst wind resistant towels ever created) and immediately we start wedging all possessions around the edge. Everyday Adam spends his entire morning placing his towel back to being flat again, and wiping the layer of sand off, before deciding there is no point and remains sandy for the rest of the afternoon. I seem not to have such a problem – highly due to always cunningly placing Adam as my wind shield.
We vary our position on the beach to maximise excitement in people watching. Backpackers Rip is a highlight where you can be entertained by the foolish tourists who enter the water nowhere near the flags and continue to be bashed and thrown under in the strong waves until they finally reach their feet and climb out again. It’s almost like they want to stare death in the face – have they not seen Bondi rescue?! We watched one older guy, who was running along the edge of the water listening to his iPod, totally get swept up by a wave and lose his balance. In he went for a dunk, iPod and all. We couldn’t help but feel sorry for him (RIP Adam’s iPod that died the same death in Portugal last summer) but only after a little chuckle. His running partner didn’t know where he disappeared to. One minute he was beside him, the next minute he’s 3m back and drenched head to toe. He played it cool and popped back up and continued to run whilst slowly peeling his soggy headphones from his ears.
After spending a week of lying horizontal in the sand we decided to actually see the area and planned to walk from Bondi to Coogee beach (9km each way). It was such a beautiful and hot day we only made it as far as Bronte Beach (3km each way) but were more than happy with our efforts – the temptation to stop walking and enjoy the beaches was overpowering and we are fickle. We were rewarded when we turned the first corner at Marks Park towards Tamarama beach.
There’s a wide lookout point on which you can sit on the wall and overlook the Pacific Ocean. We sat and just looked out for around 5 minutes before noticing some movement – first putting it down to waves or maybe a school of fish but on closer inspection it was a pod of dolphins and lots of them! On ultra zoom my camera managed some ok photos to get evidence of our find! More (or less) surprisingly no other tourists stopped long enough to notice that there was life outside the beaten track. Most people stopped for a quick photo of the ocean and quickly continued about their business.
Tamarama Beach was much smaller than Bondi and very sports-orientated, Volleyball courts set up everywhere and surfing a priority. It was quieter and seemed more friendly for locals as there was a huge park with about as much grass as there was sand. BBQ’s and dog walkers were out in full swing.
Bronte beach had a wider crescent than Tamarama but a lot less sand! Here we swam in the famous Bogey hole…yup that’s right (an Aboriginal term). It’s a cool natural pool that is in the bay of Bronte, where the walls are made up of rocks that break the waves early on so you can swim relatively wave free! A Calippo ice pop (or Calypso as Adam prefers to say it) and a stroll around the bay started our return towards Bondi where we sat in the late sun and I slept for an hour whilst Adam enjoyed the free entertainment on the beach whilst cautiously watching the tide moving closer and closer.
When booking our accommodation for this week we chose to stay in Rose Bay, which happens to also be one of the most expensive postcodes in the country. Staying again through Airbnb we are paying around $60 per night for both of us, so not half bad. It boasts a beautiful wharf which is even better at sunset – though only 7km from the CBD of Sydney, the best way of getting to Rose bay is via the water as you can see all the bays along the East suburbs of Sydney.
We have enjoyed being able to be amongst the hustle and bustle of Bondi in the day, but returning in the evening to a quiet and safe neighbourhood. Quiet comes with a pinch of salt – the squawking of the once ‘infamous’ Cockatoo now wakes us up each morning around 7 when they seem to enjoy a good showboat.
The Rocks & Watsons Bay
We made the most of the $2.50 transport cap again today and caught the ferry early over to Circular Quay where we enjoyed the markets at The Rocks and sampled all that the local marketers had made, cooked and painted. It was good to speak to some locals about their own travels and learn how they’d ended up where they are, selling what they’ve crafted from those experiences. We also stumbled upon Mark Wilkinson busking at the market, rivalling all street performers and most successful artists.
We walked around to the opera house through attraction to the biggest Cadburys easter egg you ever did see. There was chocolate in abundance, free chocolate everywhere. We ate our weight, and then double it, unable to resist when the event workers came round with baskets full of eggs offering more. It seemed you didn’t really have to approach them, they were more inclined to come to you. Though, it is funny how when something is free people tend to higher their expectation and have a chip on their shoulder. Adults were commonly thrusting a hand into the girls faces demanding an egg without even muttering a word, then on receiving an egg they just marched away. The big egg was cracked after about an hour of us being there – in-between times there were acrobats and magicians and the easter bunny. As you can imagine the leeches surged forward and didn’t abide by any event regulations – despite there being enough chocolate to feed the population of Sydney twice over they couldn’t help but be greedy (even stealing blankets and chocolate cube plastic stools). It was very cool to just stumble upon it though, it’s helpful to not really have plans after all!
We caught the ferry back towards the Eastern suburbs and got off at Watsons Bay. Initially we were going to try and walk the coast back down to Rose Bay but we got lost amongst the residences so followed the since for a beach. Down some steps that were the width of Adams shoulders (he had to turn sideways to walk down, hench!) and out a little white gate we found a small private beach that only a few people knew about. There were about 4 houses that backed onto the sand, each with their own pools and beach houses for their boats. The beach was one of the only beaches that allows dogs on the sand and there were two black puppies playing like they’d never played before. It was cute and quaint and quiet. Perfect.
We gave up on the coastal walk, deciding the habitants of Watsons bay were very rich and all owned private land on the shore so it would be impossible to follow the water, and instead headed back towards the ferry wharf and towards the opposite side of the water to the ocean. ‘The Gap’ is a lookout point where you can see where the two points of the land stop (Manly point and Watsons Bay point) and the ocean start.
We cheated and took the bus (still capped at $2.50 so we’ll walk nowhere) and jumped off on sight of a lighthouse!
Jumping back on another bus we got off in Rose Bay and explored the beach it offered where we found a beach party where a guy was playing the saxophone to Jubel by Klingande (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b6vSf0cA9qY). We sat and listened before heading home for some homemade spaghetti carbonara, yum!