Australia - 2005/02/10 to 2005/02/11 - Manley and Bondi

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Sydney provides a number of nearby attractions that are easily reached by foot, train or ferry. I spent a couple of days visiting Manley and Bondi before striking out to the parks of New South Wales.

Week 1 - Day 4

The next day dawned cloudy with scudding clouds and brief periods of light rain. I decided to buy an all day ferry pass and pass the entire day on the ferry. Clever eh?

The main ferry terminal is located downtown between the Old Town quay and the Sydney Opera Houses. The ferries come in next to the Opera House and dock right underneath the large skyscrapers of the downtown business district. It is also next to the Old Town quay where the QEII had yet to leave port. There is also a high speed river catamaran that plies the river up as far as Parramatta. I decided to make a run on the cat as the weather looked less than inviting and I wanted to save the trip out to Manley for later in the day when I hoped the weather would improve.

The river cat ferry leaves the terminal and heads up under the bridge past North Sydney near the amusement park. It stops at closely spaced docks and picks up or discharges a few passengers at each stop as it makes its way miles up the river. While interesting, i would not recommend this trip if you are pressed for time in Sydney as it is less picturesque than any of the other ferries that leave the main terminal. At Parramutta I took a short walk along the shore which was lined with the austral version of mangroves before I reboarded for the return trip down river.

The Manley ferries are large green hulled ferries with bows and bridges on both ends. You can't tell one end from the other. The "bow" is just whichever end is going forward. manley is a sea side town of surfers and kayakers with a decidedly yound flair and a surfer ambiance. The architectural style reminded me of southern California in the U.S. a mixture of Spanish and modern with bright colors. On Manley beach there was a large surf club with surf boat teams practising in the surf. The downtown area was composed of asian food and vegetarian restaurants, hostels and small apartments and beach wear shops with a new age flair. I walked down the main street to the beach and along the shore side park which reminded me a little of South Beach 20 years ago or Venice in Los Angeles from maybe 40 years ago.
Immediately south of Manley beach is a nice little bay with homes perched on the high shore. I walked past that to the start of North Head park, a large reserve that preserved the high clifs and overlooks of the penninsula forming the north side of Sydney's water approach.

The sandstone here was the same as that which made the pretty patterns and layers of the blocks used to build Government House, which made sense as they were quarried here. The Tasman Sea beats hard upon this high shore all winter. Even now there were some swells rolling in from the south east sending spray up along the rock benches found at water level.

I walked down a hiking trail that would eventually lead out to the point itself. But I was stopped along the way by the totally different foliage I was walking under. Leather skinned leaves and strange forms and shapes were at every turn. Banksia sporting large phallic flowers where lining both side of the trail. Bright colored parrots, which looked to me like escapees from an exotic bird shop not bird to be casually found outdoors, hopped around in the branches harvesting seeds from the banksia cones. Road signs urged caution for things I had never heard of.

I walked for several hours covering a large per centage of the trails out on North Head. I caught the bus back into manley and spent a good hour sipping a brew at a pub along the beach. Shortly after quaffing my draft, the sun came out and the surf club began practicing, running in iand out repeatedly through the surf. Also on the beach were many surf skis, more than I had ever seen aat one time anywhere else. The brightly colored long hulls were very good at running in and out on the surf and it looked like great fun.

I walked back to the ferry terminal and caught the ferry back. It was dusk as the boat approached downtown with clearing skies behind the Sydney skyline. By he time the ferry docked once more at the terminal night had come to the city. The Opera House was awash in light and looked even more spectacular at night than it had by day. Even the "Old Coat Hanger" looked friendly adorned with lights, softened by the gentle swayng of the floating pier at the ferry terminal and the long exposure required to catch the night scene. I walked back to the hostel and fell instantly asleep after the long day.
Week 1 - Day 5

The next morning I walked past Darling Harbor and its docked fishing boats. The skies were filled with light puffy clouds. It looked like it was going to be a nice day weatherwise. I was off to a very early start as I wanted to see the Sydney fish market. As with all fish markets it gets a very early start.

This one certainly was fascinating. Buyers from restaurants all over town made large purchases for their businesses and a few individuals also strolled up and down the many isles. It was about as big as the Lexington Market back in my neighboring town of Baltimore, but it was dedicated almost exclusively to seafood. There were all manners of fish and shellfish most of which I had never seen before. Colorful things with colorfull names, Bondi Bugs and yabbies. After converting Australian dollars to American dollars and kilos to pounds, I concluded that the seafood here was slightly cheaper than in America. But what a selection there was here. Trout and small fish with noodles of all kinds. The Asian influence in Sydney was very apparent in the selection of noodles, exotic fish, octopi and squid available here. It was a great experience walking around looking at the produce.
After the walk back from the fish market to the hostel, i went to the central train station and caught a train to Bondi. This is a small community to the south of South Head. it is the mirror complement to manley to the north of North Head. These two headlands form the portal into the bay tha lies just to the east of Sydney.

Upon leaving the train station I was deposited into a small street vendor market filled with local produce. I purchased a golden mango, which I must say was the best mango I have ever tasted. I walked about a mile from the station, up and down the hill to Bondi beach, the famous top optional beach on the shore. There were several shielas sunning sans benefit of suit and most were quite stunning. Some of the men had on suits that were more properly described as G-strings and although they covered everything, they certainly did not hide anything. There was definitely an air of hedonism here, but also of sand, sea, sun and surf. The Bondi swim club had two spectacular sea side pools with low edges that allowed the surf to roll into the pool providing fresh water in a reduced wave environment for serious swimmers. I have seen this type of pool before in Hawaii and it always made a great deal of sense to me. There was a smaller public version of this tyoe of pool at one end of the beach.
After about an hour of people watching here I walked back to the train terminal and got back to the hotel. That night I headed out to Darling Harbor for a great Thai dinner at one of the waterside restaurants. I capped off the night with a stroll along the harbor under the lights of the city. The air was cool and refreshing. I had spent three days here and I enjoyed it thoroughly. I had gottne a flavor of the place. Certainly I had seen only a small part of what Sydney had to offer and I am sure it would be easy to spend weeks here. But now it was time to go. There was more adventure to be had and I was ready to get started.

More Blue Mountains to Jervis Bay...............




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