Millions of beaches, beaches for free Bondi-ing for a pint

Hmm. For the flight from London to Jakarta (including Heathrow etc) I made 6 pages of notes from which to write my blog. For yesterday's day out I wrote just 5 lines. This means I'm going to have to rely on my memory, aided by a cavalcade of same-y photos of same-y things taken from same-y angles. Obviously(?) the 5 lines I wrote were related to the stuff I/we did at the start of the day, so this entry may start strong and finish badly, like a booze crawl round Brookdale.

Yeah. So. Monday. Kevin had the day off work. I got up late, with only adults in the house 'cos the nieces had been sent off to day care already. Sal was working from home, Kevin waiting for me. All I really did was pop my head upstairs to say hello, I'm awake, now I'm gonna go write a blog post then have a shower and then we can go.

Go where, though? Well, we had a plan. Last year we failed dismally to play table tennis at all, regularly forgetting to take the bats and balls out until the day we did so and the tables down in Manly were all in use. So this time we'd made a concerted effort to find indoor venues - the forecast was for 60% chance of rain - in the city where we could get a game. Step forward, Coogee Pavilion.

Coogee is miles away. It's all the way beyond Sydney proper, since we're living up north and it's down south (though, more of that subject later). Quite a trek to get there: bus from Seaforth all round the houses in Balgowlah Heights and to Manly Wharf; the world famous Manly Ferry to Circular Quay; bus to Coogee. We got off early, because we don't know the area and everyone else got off so we panicked a bit. Never mind, just a short walk to the front. Here's a beach looking moderately bleak thanks to all the clouds 'n that.

There's an 'orrible looking boozer, apparently one with a reputation for being 'orrible. There's some public loos with a lot of NO ALCOHOL ALLOWED ANYWHERE signs, and there's a Crowne Plaza hotel and a Subway and, look - there's the Pavilion.

Inside is basically a big creche. We knew it had a large "games room" with giant scrabble (on a wall, you use a ladder to place the letters), giant petanque, and 3 table tennis tables. We waltz straight on and start to warm up, trying not to swing too wildly lest we hit the kids running all around. It takes my eyes a bit to get used to the light, and my arms a bit to get used to the awfulness of the bat, balls, and tables, but it feels good to be playing again. Mauro, take note.

Kevin hasn't played in like a hundred years or something. I play fair, barely using any spin unless I really have to to resuce a point. Only once or twice do I do a "proper serve" and he's not impressed. But I'm not totally going easy, since he's far from awful and throwing in a few proper shots with vicious angles and that. Even so, I win the only game we play 21-14, and then I try not to be such a patronising wanker any more. Chuffed to beat him in 2 sports this week though. Next up: competitive eating!

Well, I say that, and I said it at the time, but I didn't mean it. We were hungry though, and felt like we should probably pay this place some money since we just used their facilities for half hour or so. Thus we grab a seat at the bar and order beer and pizza. The eating did become a bit competitive, not to mention painful, as my "Hell's Bells >>for serious chilli lovers only!<<" pizza was by far the most brutally painful and hot pizza I've ever had, and that includes the Diavolo I had (twice) in Stuttgart in 2006. I had hiccups very soon, and throughout the entire ordeal my lips and throat and tongue were burning and I was sweating more than I do after parkrun. He had one slice and nearly died, I powered through the lot. Ouch.

My notes end there. Perhaps I stopped writing because my brain was mush after too many habaneros? Or maybe because once we went back outside again it started raining and I didn't want to write in the rain. I dunno. Anyway, time to walk off what we just ate and walk to Bondi Beach.

This is a properly designated coastal walk all along the "Eastern Beaches". I have a problem with them being called the Eastern Beaches. In fact, I have at least two problems.

  1. All the beaches here are on the east. Sydney is on Australia's east coast.
  2. The ones north of the harbour are referred to as the "Northern beaches". Why aren't these the Southern beaches?

Harumph. I might write to whoever's in charge of Sydney-beach-district-naming to complain. However, I do like the fact that they are (almost) in alphabetical order, with only Tamarama getting in the way of a nice OCD set.

I like badly positioned street furniture, but there's really not much of it in Sydney because pretty much wherever you face it's pretty. Coogee makes up for it by having a bench that's too high to sit on, and tough to climb onto because even if you use the side as a ladder, there's nowhere to rest a foot round front to actually swing round.

Walking first on pavement through a park, then venturing onto cliff-edge rocks, we're treated to a far from spectacular set of views out to the pacific. Everything's grey and a bit crap and I think it's awesome. The is-it-injured-it-looks-unhappy bird briefly dampens the mood more than the rain.

Perilous rocks and boring skies, see?

North of Coogee is Gordon's Bay. I'm not allowing this to ruin the alphabetical order, since I'm only applying that to beaches and this bay is not a beach. It is, however, the location of an underwater nature trail - a long chain you can snorkel or dive your way round to witness a whole bunch of fuck knows what. Even though I'm a confirmed landlubber I recognise this as an excellent idea, spoiled only by the tale of how one guy pitched up, went under, attached himself to the chain and threw away any means of getting free. That is a particularly grimly successful suicide attempt, that.

Clovelly next. This was the first seaside place I ever visited in Sydney, I think, back in 2006. Today the weather is much worse than it was back then; the water is very high, and waves are regularly crashing in to the rocks at the front to kick up some impressive spray.

11 years ago you couldn't get an alcoholic drink at a cafe on the cliffside here. You can now, but we don't, instead working our way past the kids playing rugby on the beach and up to "shark point" before the prime real estate rugby pitch and bowling club on the next cliff round. The sun threatens to come out, and in the trees are 4 noisy birds. Yellow tailed black cockatoos, according to Kevin. We watched them for a bit, getting a proper earful from all their squawking and zero (at least on my part) usable photos.

See? Sunshine.

Next, continuing our descent of the alphabet, is Bronte. It's a bit of a walk this one, because there's a giant cemetery in the way and what's more, 13 months ago some terrible storms destabilised the coastal path so we have to divert right through the middle of it.

Out in the water there's a couple of whale watching boats, and every so often we catch a splash or two. Pretty cool. No sign of any dolphins though; the marine life we see most of throughout the walk are surfers failing to surf. Even when decent waves come in - and decent waves are coming in - most of them are just riding over them and not even attempting to stand up. Though, every so often someone will and the scarcity of effort makes it more impressive, doubly so when they manage to take the wave all the way to the shore.

There are random sculptures en route.

The next beach is Bronte, after which the aquatic reserve in front of us plus the next piece of the walking route is named. The heights around here may or may not have been wuthering. I have no idea what 'wuthering' means. Then Tamarama, the less said about which the better (still annoyed by it ruining the alphabetical order).

And then, finally, we're at the world famous surfer resort of Bondi Beach. It's way bigger than all the previous beaches and even though we're out of tourist season, way busier. I guess it's just a way busier town, and most people are locals. The weather is still grim though the rain stopped a while ago, and there's a ferris wheel going round too fast to be a leisurely "check out the views" attraction, but too slow to be a hair-raising adrenalin rush ride. No idea what they're playing at.

This has been a pretty fair distance of a walk, as it goes. Think we're approaching 8 or 9km, and it's not been flat: at each beach, cove, bay, etc we've had to descend the path down to sea level only to ascend immediately again to round the next cliff. It also marks the end of today's anthology of selfies which I'd been sending to Helen, as a delightful present for when she wakes up on Monday morning back home.

Earlier on I'd mentioned to Kevin that once we got there I'd fancy a pint, but now we'd arrived I was genuinely thirsty too. Good job, then, that Bondi has nowhere to get a fucking drink. Seriously, this backpacker surfer heaven is almost entirely devoid of watering holes. There's a horribly sterile hotel with a bar near the main road which we don't like the look of. We go inland, briefly entertained by the queue of people who've been literally camping to get into a pop-up Louis Vuitton store, and check Google maps: it has no recommendations other than restaurants. Well, not quite, it does say there's a Bavarian bier cafe, which feels like a last resort and when we reach it the only clientele are homeless folk. It's not enticing, so we carry on walking.

Just as we turn the corner at the start of the hill out of town, a rainbow threatens to break out.

Kevin reckons there's a pub just up the way. "Up" is correct, because this road we're now on is an almost never-ending hill. There is a pub not far away, but it looks terrifyingly hostile and awful so we skip it and keep going... and going.. and going. Eventually - and it's all constantly uphill - we add another 1.5km to our walk, passing plenty of restaurants and takeaways and vets and chemists but not a single pub or bar. I'm finding it pretty hilarious, but for the fact I'm really thirsty now. And my legs hurt.

This was not a run. Fuck that.

The top of the hill is where civilisation starts, by which I mean a giant Westfield shopping centre and a train station. This is Bondi Junction, and surely there's somewhere to drink around here, right? Google says there's an Irish pub which reviews badly, but Kevin reckons there's somewhere else and he's right: the Tea Gardens hotel.

The art deco font is the best thing about it. The Guinness is the second best. It's a typical "hotel": room full of fruit machines, countless sport TVs and betting slips, tables full of raucous rowdy drinkers, huge smoking area. But it'll do, because it has to do. This here paragraph I'm writing seems way more miserable than I or it was, I think the intervening 19 hours since the experience has made it feel a bit more sour. Come on Bondi, can't you open up a few pubs with wide beer choices etc? Bah.

Pint done, it's time to go home: train from the Junction to Martin Place, subterranean passageway through to Wynyard, wander up to some other street and instantly onto an express bus all the way to Seaforth. Excellent. According to Sal the kids have been bitching about the lack of me being around, but once I get home it takes Harry a full 20 minutes to notice because she's so engrossed in whatever was on TV.

There's loads of food in the fridge, comprising leftovers of all previous meals I've had here. So my tea consists of a slice of quiche and a big bowl of self-assembly cheesecake. It's fantastic. The kids head off to bed just after 7pm, and the adults watch some naff TV until an even naffer film: xXx: The Next Level. It's dreadful, but I can't keep my eyes open to reach the end so once again I'm taking an early night. Why is everything so exhausting? It's meant to be a holiday, perhaps I should find some time to be lazy.

Created By
Darren Foreman
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