Once I no longer wanted to vomit…

23 Aug

I had a great time in Manly. Josh (an American colleague who just relocated to our Sydney office two months ago) and his fiancée, Malia, live in Manly, so they graciously offered to meet up for lunch when I arrived.

Manly is a peninsula with one side facing the harbor and the other side facing the Pacific Ocean. The ferry brings you in on the harbor side, but it’s a very short walk across a pedestrian area to get to the ocean. When I first landed, we walked a bit along the harbor side before shuffling along The Corso (pedestrian area) to the ocean.

Even though it was winter, and despite a “no swimming” sign stuck in the middle of the sand, the waves were large, the water dotted with dozens of surfers. Apparently it is – as Outback Steakhouse and Fosters commercials would lead you to believe – the national pastime. I love well-founded clichés.

We grabbed lunch (fish and chips, which – if you believe the guidebooks – is probably actually shark and chips) at a café next to Shelly Beach, and then got on the topic of the North Head and the Quarantine Station, both of which were just up the hill from where we were sitting.

The Quarantine Station appealed to my fascination with the morbid since it was where they quarantined people with the bubonic plague or the flu after WWI. Apparently they do a mean ghost tour up there in the evening, but  – still scarred from my ferry crossing – I had decided to hop the boat back to Sydney before sunset so that if we did end up dog-paddling around in the bay, the helicopters would be able to spot me. Alas, that ruled out the ghost tour.

[Side note: I don’t think of myself as an anxious person, but maybe my doctor was onto something when he prescribed me Xanax for the flight?]

After lunch, we hiked up the hill and bushwalked around the North Head, at times on a raised metal trail meant to prevent us from stepping on wildlife. They were kind of vague about what we might step on, which was fine by me. I kept imagining snakes and was grateful (ha!) to have something between us.

I did keep an eye out for their endangered bandicoots (which look like DC-sized rats) and saw nothing. Maybe they need to open a restaurant up there to help them thrive.

All told we probably walked for two hours, soaking in stunning views – the cliff’s drop to the ocean, Sydney’s skyline across the harbor, the “hanging swamp” (which the park guide had simply explained as, “an ecological phenomenon, really”), and the Quarantine Cemetery (boasting an impressive 240 burials).

When we hoofed it through the hanging swamps, I asked, “Anyone think crocodiles could get this high up?” And before I could even posit my own theory Malia, said, “I’ve just been thinking that myself. Let’s hustle!”

Hustle we did, pounding a retreat back down to the wharf, where we grabbed a beer and nachos, assuming that’s what all BadAsses do after a bushwalk.

It was the type of day that summarizes why I love traveling: I had my breath taken away by sites that were uniquely Australian; I went just off the beaten path enough to render a guide book useless; I’d had enough of a touch of fear to make me feel like I was truly on an adventure; and in a few short hours, relative strangers had become friends whom I would happily host at my home if ever they make it to DC.

It would’ve been an absolutely perfect day, if only…

(Stay tuned for Part Two, in which I go to the doctor.)

4 Responses to “Once I no longer wanted to vomit…”

  1. Barbara August 23, 2011 at 6:21 am #

    Really? A cliffhanger?? Not fair!

  2. whatimeant2say August 23, 2011 at 6:55 am #

    I love the suspense!

  3. skippingstones August 23, 2011 at 9:02 pm #

    Very cool – I’m so jealous!

    • skippingstones August 23, 2011 at 9:03 pm #

      You know what? I think I already said that on an earlier post. But I keep feeling jealous, so I guess I’ll keep saying it. I hope you don’t mind repetition.

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