In Sydney we stayed with friends we made while on our Amazon cruise last year. On that adventure we observed that Australians are like the Midwesterners of international travel – willing to talk to anyone and very friendly! This couple was great on the cruise because they were great explorers and had fantastic stories. When they heard we were looking to do an extended trip to Australia they immediately offered us a place to stay when we came to visit. Well, little did they know we would take them up on it! Not only did they generously open their beautiful home to us, they made time to show us some of the local sights. In fact, on one 2 day period, we got a guided tour to “what the locals do” from our hosts that included several coastal walks and pub stops galore.
The first walk, originally planned as an afternoon coastal/pub walk, ended up being a two day trek as we got caught in a big rainstorm early on and decided to make it a pub stop! This walk was the Coogee to Bondi Beach walk. The walk is in the visitors guides and is about 6 kilometers. It takes you from beach to beach along the pacific and during whale migrations you can see whales from the path. Obviously a well used and loved trek, the path moves from sandy beaches, parks and coastal neighborhoods with great views along the way. Our guide stopped us often to take us into the neighborhood pubs, including the local Legion club where he is a member. While there – avoiding some of the rain – we watched women’s rugby on TV and finally had someone explain what was going on for us! Rugby is fun! We also walked by a lawn bowling club set right on the edge of the cliffs overlooking the ocean. Bowls is a popular game in Australia.
At the next beach area we observed some clouds over the water and a rainbow. While we marveled at the lovely sight the rain came roaring in and we were quickly soaked. We decided to head to that neighborhood’s pub and call for a ride to dinner. At dinner, at the DOG (Duke of Gloucester – when mentioning the restaurant one host said “I don’t know why he calls it DOG, it is the Duke of …. Oh….” They are so charming!) Anyway, we sat outside on an upstairs balcony and noticed some large birds flying around that looked a bit off, but then again, most of the things we had seen were not familiar. Then we realized they were Flying Foxes! Much bigger than the bats we are used to at home. There were a lot of them, and we were happy to see them. Alas, as it was twilight, we weren’t able to get any photos, but we will keep trying!
We woke up the next day to much better forecasts and set out to finish our walk to the famous Bondi Beach. Again, the walk does not disappoint. The ocean was still very big, so there was a lot to see between the waves and the coastline. At several of the beaches, including Bondi, they have the baths that are built right along the ocean and get the sea water pouring in and waves crashing along the edges. People were swimming laps and just standing near the edges as waves and spray refreshed the pool water.
Our host explained that Australian kids get swimming lessons in school and there are many programs that bring them to the sea and teach swimming and aquatic safety as well as fun. Given the rip tides and dangerous sea life it is essential. And, the amount of people braving the currents with surf boards or just to swim in the water shows people are very willing to use those skills.
After we finished the ocean side walk, we headed to the other end of the peninsula on which our hosts suburb is located for a walk along the Harbor. This walk took us by a number of Bays in the harbor full of sailboats. There is a great deal of public green space in the Sydney region and much of it is along the water. We passed several harbor beaches as well, with much calmer water but with “shark fencing” to allow swimming. We were assured that no one had been killed by a shark since at least the 70s, but none of us ran out to grab a swimsuit and take a dip. We ended up in Watson’s Bay, an old fishing area now home to some nice bars and restaurants. There, after a great lunch and some much appreciated Australian cider and beer, we looked at some of the small “fisherman’s cottages” in the area. These are now very valuable real estate and it is a charming neighborhood.
We needed to catch a bus to get back to the car without having to retrace our several hour walk. But, 2 of us (not Dan) had failed to grab our Opal cards. After some discussion at various points on the walk and at lunch we decided to us a cab, we called for said cab, but were told it would be a while. At that point, our guide (the one who remembered his card) said “well, I have several extra Opal Cards, let’s take the bus.” We all looked at him “why didn’t you say that earlier?” “you didn’t ask…” was the reply. After that chuckle, we headed for the bus and proceeded on with our day, which in keeping with the incredible generosity of our hosts included a great meal in their home where we were joined by their daughter and her partner who had even more great advice for us and the rest of our adventure!
There really is not enough time or room in this blog to share the great sights, wonderful people and experiences we are having! But, here are some more photos!