Friday, September 10, 2010

Bondi to Clovelly Coastal Walk

Things I like about Sydney No. 33: The Bondi to Clovelly Coastal Walk

Everyone and their dog should do the Bondi to Clovelly coastal walk if they come to Sydney. Natalie and I did it yesterday on a rather gloomy, grey day with Sniff tagging along. It was bracing and rejuvenating. Highly recommended.

We started at the world-famous Bondi Beach at about 11 in the morning. At this time the sun was still pretending that it was going to shine all day long and groups of teenagers were hanging about taking endless photos of each other in a narcissistic orgy of self-reflection. A few foolish surfers were out in a rather flat sea, occasionally gliding into shore on a less than impressive wave. They're more fun to look at on shore frankly, walking down to the beach with their youthful healthiness and their wet suits rolled down to the waist. This can occupy you for a couple of refreshing minutes before heading off on the walk, or alternatively you can buy a cup of coffee from the strange Spanish doughnut shop (or rather, as they would have it, a chocolateria) opposite the car park as Natalie did. Churros I think they're called (the doughnuts that is).

Avert your eyes from the disaster that is the coastline to your left - hideous rows of hideous houses built with complete disregard for aesthetics - and head off to the right down the well-trodden boardwalk up towards Icebergs, a fancy club/restaurant where, if you hadn't just started your walk, you would be wise to sit down inside its fancy glass-walled bar and drink a couple of glasses of sparkling wine whilst drinking in the view. (It's not as expensive as it looks. Or was that just because when I was there my friend Fry from San Francisco was paying...most probably). You can see the entire beach, as below.

If, like us, you have only just started and it is still too early for a cocktail press on. You're headed for a small white sandy beach called Tamarama. According to Daniel, Tamarama used to be the gay beach. He sunbathed there when young and beautiful. According to Natalie, it is now the beach where the models and soap stars hang out. So still for the young and beautiful but now they're straight. This just goes to prove that it's us homosexuals who always get there first...

On the track to Tamarama you pass some brilliant rock formations on both sides of the track. I was too busy talking to take any photographs of them so you'll have to take my word for it. I managed to take this photo of the sea. (I should mention that the sun had now disappeared almost completely, never to reappear, and that the wind was rising, which didn't unfortunately give rise to bumper waves. We ran into the owner of Natalie's gym who was out with his board and he told us that the surf was distinctly poor. I would of course like to pepper this blog with lots of surfing terms but find that I don't actually know a single one....).

You'll realise that lots of buff bodies are constantly jogging past as you continue your leisurely stroll. So this is where they all are, you think to yourself. They certainly don't look like this on the streets of Greenwich....Hmmmm....perhaps it's time to move.

You'll also realise that the buff bodies are often accompanied by aggressive dogs. It seems that it's not enough to look butch, you have to have a butch-looking dog to reinforce the macho image (and we're not just talking the men here). This necessitates the constant recalling of Sniff in order to put him on the leash so that he doesn't get his head ripped off by a pit-bull. And there were at least two dogs that were more than happy to decapitate him given half a chance.

Because it was out of season all the beach facilities - the small cafes and surf shops - were closed as we made our way round the track. Bronte, the next destination, was looking particularly forlorn. A group of foreign teenagers, about twenty in all, stood in absolute silence, staring out at the sea, as Natalie, Sniff and I meandered past, as if 'glamoured' by vampires (True Blood fans). Decidedly eerie.

Despite the high density of housing along this walk, building after building clamouring to get some of that waterfront view, and despite the high density of foot traffic along the path, we spotted three Superb Fairy Wrens and a New Holland Honeyeater darting in and out of the coastal bushes, neither of which I ever see in the reserves around Greenwich.

Bronte has a few cafes up the road from the beach and we decided to stop for lunch. Which was fatal really because once we'd eaten the mammoth portions Australia thinks is lunch and once the sky had become even gloomier and the temperature had dropped we decided to return to Bondi rather than to carry on round the coastal track. We wimped out, folks.

If we had continued we would have walked through Waverley cemetery which is a magnificent place to be buried. Buffeted by sea winds and spattered with sea spray, the Australian poet Henry Lawson lies here alongside an aviator pioneer called Lawrence Hargreave. It was established in 1877 but you can still be buried here (as long as you have shedloads of cash). I took the following pictures of Waverley on another trip down the coastal walk with Daniel (pre Sniff).

And once beyond the cemetery you will find yourself in Clovelly, which is a fabulous snorkelling spot and the best place for lunch.

The only problem with the Bondi to Clovelly walk is that, unless you have some poor sap willing to drop you off at one end and pick you up at the other, there is nothing for it but to walk back the way you came. You certainly aren't going to brave those waters without a fleet of lifeguards on your tail. There were two shark attacks within one week at Bondi last year and one of them resulted in some poor surfer having nothing but a bit of skin connecting his left hand to his arm...

Let's play spot the shark:

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