It was the first day of spring and there was not a cloud in the sky. The sun shimmered on the water as the city of Sydney retreated into the distance. Tourists gathered at the railings to take pictures of the Opera House and Kirsten and I sat at the bench enjoying the view and the warmth. We knew we had chosen the best day to go to the suburb of Manly.
When we embarked, we encountered a relaxed beach town—complete with chain stores, tourist shops, local cafés, and plenty of bars/restaurants. Determined to take things easy after the long days we had earlier in the week, we slowly made our way around the town center, stopping at shops and watching the various tourists and locals go about their day.
Lunch was taken at Bare Naked Bowls, a health food café specializing in acai bowls (thick acai berry smoothies topped with fruit and nuts), a recent obsession of Kirsten’s. We sat in this off the beaten track café, soaking in the sun and watching kids play around on their bicycles.
Once full of nutrition, we strolled over to Manly beach. More realistic than Bondi beach with sand not as impossibly fine and soft and clean, the shore stretched into the distance as tourists and kids alike walked and played amongst the waves. We could’ve easily spent all afternoon on that beach, but we deiced to move on. There was more to see.
We walked barefoot to the neighboring beach, Shelly Beach, before putting our shoes back on and heading up the nearby peak. Through scrub and brush we went, following the sounds of other backpackers laughing at the top. After a couple missed turns, we were finally atop the rocks, looking out at the sea with the sun at our backs.
I took out the map and pointed out the recommended scenic walk to Kirsten. It would take us through Sydney Harbor National Park, up through North Head, and then to a city outlook. Thinking it would be as short and simple as the North Head in Devonport, NZ, we decided to check it out. But like everything else in Australia, North Head was far bigger than we expected.
We quickly found ourselves hiking through expanding fields of brush and blossoming flowers. Our feet silently moved through the sandy paths as the warmth became heat. There were better prepared yet fewer people out here. So we strolled in silence, listening to the sporadic calls of birds and the distant burb of frogs. Occasionally, we encountered ruins left over from more WWII outposts. Silent concrete sentinels left to their own devices in the encroaching brush.
After a while, thoroughly exhausted and sweaty, we made it to the information center more than half way through the park. From there it was another 15-30 minutes to the outlooks, but we looked at each other and knew, there was no way we were going to do that. And an even remoter chance that we were going to walk back to town, easily a 2 hour trek.
So defeated, we took the bus back to the wharf and the next ferry back to Sydney.