Manly-Spit Coastal walk

Monday was the Queen’s Birthday, a public holiday, and so I wanted to make the most of my day off by doing one of the “Must Do” walks in Sydney, the Manly-Spit Coastal Walk. Being the cool kids we are, we decided we wanted to do the walk the opposite direction (Spit Bridge to Manly), enabling us to get an earlier start since bussing it to Spit would only take us about an hour, versus nearly an hour and a half to Manly via bus and ferry.

That morning I went down the street to buy a new bus pass while Oscar finished packing up our lunch for the day. On my way back to the apartment I was upset to see the bus we were supposed to be taking downtown fly past. When are the buses around here EVER on time? Of course, only when you are running a bit late.

When Oscar came down I was trying to suppress my despair that the entire route I’d planned was out the window, as the next bus that would come by would arrive downtown too late for us to catch our second bus up to Spit, and I had no idea when the next one would be. I was anxious to get to the start of the walk so we would be able to take our time and still be finished before sunset. We ran through our options. Walking would take too long. A cab would cost too much. Our only hope (though small) was to walk to Redfern and take the train to Wynyard. We were fairly positive we wouldn’t make it in time, but it was worth a shot.

Relaxing off the path

Our train pulled into Wynyard exactly four minutes before our bus to Spit was set to depart. We ran through the station, up and down stairs and escalators, scanning for signs for the buses and shouting to each other to go this way and that. We finally made it out to the buses area and ran around the stands, finding that we were on the wrong side of the station. Back down stairs, up the other side, and out to the other row of stands. There our bus was, at the end of the street, and we ran shouting and waving in glory of catching the bus. We jumped on just before the driver pulled away (again, on time, or perhaps even a minute early — what’s the deal?) and high fived at our luck, joking that we now know what it’s like to be on The Amazing Race.

Perfect lunch spot.

Twenty minutes later we shuffled off the bus at Spit Bridge, admiring the nice boats and even nicer houses adorning the water. It was time to begin the infamous 10km Manly-Spit Coastal walk. And I can say right now it is definitely worth all the praise it receives. For the next few hours we meandered along gorgeous forest paths, taking side trips down to beautiful beaches, rocky outcrops, and incredible outlooks.

Oscar made delicious chicken wraps and we did a two-part lunch, one sitting on the rocks at a secluded beach, attracting the attention of a couple curious seagulls, and another at a prime spot on the walk, a huge throne-like rock with an incredible view. (We got a lot of comments from passers-by that we’d secured a primo lunch/relaxation location!)

I spy a fairy penguin!

After spotting a small waterfall on one secluded beach Oscar decided he felt like he was on LOST, especially carrying around our backpack (“like Jack”). So for the rest of the day we reenacted various LOST scenes. We took one side trip to this lighthouse (“Jacob wants us to go to the lighthouse!”), and on the way passed a creepy kid just standing on the side of the trail (a la child-Jacob appearing to “Locke” in the final season) and passed some cliffs resembling those in LOST as well. It made for some fun photo ops!

Another highlight was something I’d been dying to see but wasn’t all expecting to. The area is home to fairy penguins (also known as blue penguins or little penguins), which are the smallest penguins in the world. They only come into shore at night, though, and apparently pretty rare to see even then, so I wasn’t even hoping to see one at all. But wow did we get lucky!

I had stopped at a random point along the walk to take a photo and Oscar was next to me. Then we saw (though if you ask him he will insist he saw it first) a penguin swimming down below! It was so cool. My very first thought was “No way could that be a penguin, it must be a duck or something.” But there was no mistaking it, it was definitely a penguin.

Beautiful beach as we neared Manly

I managed to grab one photo while he had his head above water, then he dove down below and, thanks to the gorgeous clear water, we watched him zip along as only penguins can, swimming along the shore. Not only were we so lucky that the penguin even was near shore at that time of day, but because we were up on the cliff a bit above, we had a really great view of him, as we probably wouldn’t have even seen him if we had been down on the shore below.

The day was so sunny, warm, and beautiful I had to pinch myself to remember that this is winter. The past few weeks it had been more obvious — cold and rainy — and talking on Skype with my parents and seeing them in shorts and t-shirts was sad. But this was a perfect day. And being a public holiday, everyone was out walking or running the trail, relaxing on the grass admiring the views, or having big picnics and get-togethers by the beach. The second half of the walk was filled with happy families, adorable dogs, and a hovering feeling of fun and joy in the air.

It’s times like that when I can’t help but think that living in Sydney, it really is the life.