Independence Day

Woke up early on Tuesday. 5am or so. Yawn on the fourth of July 'n that. Rather than try and go back to sleep as I have been doing, this time I had a nice chat with Helen back home. This was to be my first solo day since I landed, so I solicited suggestions for things to do, only to disappoint her repeatedly by emphasising just how hard it is to get anywhere by public transport from here. It's a 3hr+ journey to get to somewhere just 34km north, for crying out loud. Load of nonsense.

Since I'd barely seen them on Monday, the girls - well, Harry in particular - had made me promise to spend some time with them on Tuesday, so much to Sally's startled surprise I made my way up to the kitchen at about 0630. Obviously this meant I interrupted breakfast and just generally was the reason/excuse for their faffing instead of getting ready and being packed off to day care and their elongated play date for today. Kevin had already buggered off to work some time earlier, and I was left to my own devices by 7.05am, as the sun rose. Dawn on the fourth of July. What to do?

Well, there's a cleaner coming at some indeterminate point between 0800 and 1300 and I didn't really want to still be in bed when they got here, so instead I took the next most relaxing option and went for a run. That bike/walking path with the flying foxes on it forms part of a route from hereabouts all the way to Queenscliff at the top of Manly beach, via the lagoon, and is just a touch over 4km. Run along the Steyne for a bit and that's a doable 5km, best of all it's almost entirely downhill so I was hoping for a fast time.

The start.
The finish.

Moving time of under 28 minutes. I'll have that. Strava is more aggressive than Garmin and gives me a much quicker time, so that's the one I choose to believe. But, what the hell am I meant to do now I'm knackered and sweaty (though not too sweaty, as it happens) next to the ocean? I guess I'll walk along a bit further, wander through the town and get a bus back.

Well, or not. Manly is lovely and I take a few more pics - all of which I've probably taken in each of my last 4 or 5 visits here, tbh.

The main pedestrianised drag from beach to ferry wharf is called the Corso. At the beach end is a Starbucks, not yet open at 0840. A couple of doors away is a kebab house, which is open. Does Manly have its priorities right?

At the wharf I venture in to buy an Opal card, which is Sydney's equivalent of Oyster. Machines don't sell them, and anyway they only accept notes or cards - neither of which I have. No matter. Kevin's been at work for 3 hours by now and is amenable to popping out for a coffee, so he and I head to the Interpolitan Cafe where he gets some horrid drink and I demolish a large Spanish omelette. While I'm there someone asks for a "four shot cappuccino" which seems a bit unnecessary.

Kevin left me with a vague idea for a non-main-road route to walk back, shorter than the route I ran here, but I'm still intending to buy an Opal card, achieving success alongside a Diet Coke at a newsagent. Then a bit of a detour onto the east esplanade because everything's looking bloody lovely.

The idea of trekking up hill and around to North Head quickly goes away, and I go back past the wharf and start the Manly Scenic Walkway, the one that goes ~10km to The Spit which Kevin and I walked in reverse in much worse weather last year. To do the whole thing really is needlessly ambitious, but if I just do the first section and then come inland I can have a fairly decent walk home.

First, though, the pathway of Olympians

Also, penguins. Though I don't see any real ones.

It's a ridiculously perfect winters day. There's not many other people around, mostly women walking dogs. I keep finding it weird that the locals speak English, due (I think) to having taken such a large amount of trips to non-English speaking countries in the last 18 months.

The water is calm and the sky is blue.

The street furniture is well placed, though they could do with trimming the vegetation a bit.

A tame butterfly comes for a chat.

At the next bay there's a large grassy area, populated by a group of schoolkids throwing rugby balls repeatedly at the one who can't catch well and then bullying him about it. It's a bit meh. By the time I'm here I've already gone off my intended course, and rather than clamber over the rocks on the far side to continue the scenic walkway I climb the steps up to the nearest street, intending to get back to the main drag to Seaforth.

I fail. Turns out I'm quite a long way away from where I need to be, and spend the next half hour or more strolling the very hilly and extraordinarily well to do streets of Balgowlah Heights. My heart rate goes through the roof as steep road after steep road eventually leads me to a summit, from which I stare back down at what I've just done. This, I think, is why I'm not that bothered when I see people using the bus for just one stop at a time.

At the peak I resort to using my phone's map, and discover I've made a wrong turn. Doubling back then zigzagging a few streets, all of a sudden I know where I am: round the back of the RSL we ate at on Friday. 5 minutes later and I'm back, being greeted by the hound.

By now it's just shy of midday, I've been out for 4 hours. That was an accident. In the house, the cleaner is here so I get out of the way by sitting at the desk in the guest room and writing up Monday's walk. Published that, cleaner gone, it's time to shower and get into civvies and go make good use of my Opal card.

A bus takes no time at all to arrive, and I sit in the back seat furiously deleting photos from 2012 and 2013 to create some space on my phone. Before I really realise, I'm over in Sydney CBD and it's time to start supplying selfies to Helen of the big hitters: opera house, harbour bridge, statue of a man on a horse (hat tip to Madrid).

That's really it, though. I've no other reason to be over in central Sydney today, plus I have to be back for 5pm. So with time to kill, I figure I'll grab a beer at the Opera Bar and sit outside, looking at the bridge and house at the same time while enjoying a pint of their own beer.

Just as I finish that, it's 3pm. I tell Kevin I'm intending to get the next Manly Ferry, only to see it leave as I'm typing. They're at xx00 and xx30. OK, well half an hour to kill gives me a chance to knock back a small glass of White Rabbit Dark Ale before the boat back across the harbour.

Once onboard there's no space outside, so I sit near an open window and take a few more shots that are exactly the same as countless shots I've taken of the harbour bridge on all my previous visits. It just doesn't seem to get old, for me at least. Maybe those of you who read this are sick of it.

My phone signal is shitty and podcasts aren't working well, so I try and get on the free wifi. It's a fucking mess. They don't accept postcodes or phone numbers which aren't Australian, so I put in mobile of 41000000 and some random 4 digits starting with 2. But that's not enough to get online: you then have to accept or turn down the chance to be contacted by marketing folk from funeral insurance companies, then fill out a 4 question survey, in order to finally be told that you've got an hour left of your 45 minute allowance. This is a half hour boat ride.

Once I'm finally connected I still can't stream a podcast and anyway we're about to reach Manly. What a waste of effort that was. Seems to me I could do with another beer; handy then that 4 Pines have a brewpub and keller door just over the street.

I ask for the imperial coffee stout, which at 7.5% is honestly one of the weaker "imperial" drinks I've seen, The barman says he hopes I'm not driving; I tell him beer like this is one of the reasons I never even learnt how to. Perching at the end, I send Kevin a message on facebook telling him where I am in case he runs past. The message goes unread, and 30 seconds later he runs past, glancing in, seeing me and grimacing with jealousy. He's got the kids to pick up. We're kind of in a race as to who'll get back first.

I have a small taster of the habanero beer and it really does have a kick. As I leave I ask which ones I can buy to take home, he says go to the counter upstairs. I do, it's unmanned and I can't be bothered to wait so head off to get a bus back to Seaforth. This is needlessly complicated; there are 3 different stops to get buses that way from, on 2 different streets a good ten yards apart. The two stops which are on the same street are not adjacent, so I have to loiter suspiciously between them ready to pounce when one comes to either.

Soon, there's a 144 and I'm on it, back through the hills I walked this morning. My watch is very impressed with my recent progess in terms of steps per day, since getting off those flights that now seem a hell of a long time ago. Perhaps this has not been the non-exhausting day I claimed to crave. Perhaps such a claim was bullshit?

Back at the house and I've won the race: no-one else is about except, of course, for Pepper. As always, attempts at selfies in which she'll stay still for even a microsecond are hopelessly in vain.

I'm still playing with her when everyone else gets back a couple of minutes later. It's time to play octopus catch, except not octopus but first kitty catch (nb: not real cat) then chocolate catch (nb: not real chocolate). With the rules in a constant state of flux I still manage to lose 4 games, the girls winning 2 each. And then it's dinner time, which involves a lot of fish fingers. I make the machismo bravado "mistake" of using hot English mustard instead of margarine and consequently am in hilarious tears of nose-imploding pain while I eat.

The fire is extinguished with yet more self-assembly cheesecake, and the routine into which I've clearly now settled completes: say goodnight to the girls, sit on sofa in direct line from the heater, doze of stupidly early and go to bed at 9pm - though not before making plans for Wednesday. No spoilers here, though.

Created By
Darren Foreman
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