Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Walking Coogee Beach to Bondi Beach

We’re up for a bit of exercise so hubby and I opt for the coastal walk Coogee to Bondi. We arrive Coogee Beach about 8:45 am. It’s overcast and forecast for showers. Very rough seas and most beaches yesterday were closed. Same is expected today. We have no trouble parking down by the beach in a 4 hr slot and set off. Coogee is an attractive beach with a nice mix of landscaping and trees and no shortage of nice well kept cafes and shops across the street. Indeed there doesn’t seem to be much else besides eating places of all sorts of cuisine. IMHO Coogee is easily the nicest eastern suburbs beach. Coogee beach is actually open. We head off up to the north of the beach. The paved coastal walk is clear but not sign posted. We stick as close to the headland as possible for the views. The walk itself stays well back and the views could be better at this point. The terrain is undulating with reasonably steep inclines or stairs up and down over the course of the walk. We seem to have headed in the right direction in this respect. On balance we seem to have slightly more downhill than up. We leave the path to get the following shot looking south from the cliff edge.

Just around the headland we pass through Gordon’s Bay (photo below). The local volunteers and the council have done a stirling job of bush regeneration around this bay, which is taken up with slips supporting the tinnies (small aluminium boats) of the local fishing and volunteer sea rescue club. No sand. No swimming here. Flocks of new holland honeyeaters play and chase eachother through the vegetation chirping happily all the while.

Our next beach which we reach via the headland - mostly covered in a big parking lot - is Clovelly. The headland around the car park is a bit manky actually and you don’t gain much by venturing around across the rocks. Pools of stagnant water a bit smelly, bits of rubbish here and there. Plenty of crabs in the crevices though, and they creep away as you approach. Clovelly is nicely landscaped, with grass and trees and gardens. It is a deep inlet and calm water this beach is very protected and is open for swimming also. My daughter loves Clovelly as she finds the snorkelling the best she’s found around Sydney. There’s a large area of concrete on both sides of the bay, it has access for vehicles, and spoils the natural effect of the bay. I guess in the days this beach was established smothering everything in sight in concrete was seen as progress. I assume the landings must be used in rescues or something.. The water doesn’t look too inviting to me, lots of bits of weed and detritus from the rough conditions further out. We push on and climb the next headland and along the way take the photo below.

The paved walk cuts across the in from the ocean a distance with Burrows Park a bit of a grassy wilderness stretching out to the cliffs and ocean views. Sticking to the path therefore seems a bit pointless so we cut across the park and stick to the cliff edges and the rough track to maintain as much sea view as we can. Fairy wrens are calling from the scrub that lines the park. A male in his spectacular metallic blue and black perches high and calls briefly before flitting down into the protection of the undergrowth. The bushland right along is degraded and infested with weeds and invasive grasses. The further we go the more the flora is featured by all those pesky imports that diligent councils around the state once planted and are now trying to eradicate. Bitou bush, invasive grasses, lantana, morning glory, all a bit neglected and wild. This is consistently the case for the rest of the cliff track really. The native birdlife declines accordingly. Quite disappointing. There are no fences along this area and caution is needed, no doubt a reason why the paved walk travels in around the built up area. The views along the walk reach up and down the coast to the headlands reaching out to the pacific. I find the development that crowds them quite intrusive. We come to Waverley cemetery (photo below) and we travel along the narrow path between the white ocean side railing and orange construction fence supported by star pickets. The reason for this ugly orange barrier is unclear. Perhaps they just want to keep the numerous walkers out of the cemetery? Totally uninspiring.

Beyond the cemetery we are obliged to walk out and down a road cutting to Bronte beach. The least attractive beach so far, due to the degraded vegetation round about. We are in Waverley Council area now. They need to pull their finger out on the vegetation front I think, but at least it is featured by a large grassy park behind the beach. The conditions here are very rough and the beach is closed. Even the rock pool is closed.

Heading north from Bronte the quality of the walk improves considerably. No doubt this is why this section gets more promotion than the stretch to Coogee much of which is a like walking down a dingey back alley with water views on one side. Along this Bronte – Bondi section pieces of exercise equipment are conveniently placed. At intervals there are interpretative signs. The walk here is bordered by the attractively eroded sandstone of the cliffs on one side and the ocean on the other. Next stop Tamarama and we cut across the beach where they have a beach volleyball net set up. Tamarama is very small and quite pretty. I can't help but think how beautiful the area must have been before European settlement. That's so true of most of sydney. Understandable but at the same time rather unfortunate that the first settlement was selected on what IMHO is the most outstandingly beautiful harbours, and coastline on the East of the continent. At one of the beaches, I forget which, a sign marker along the walk explains that people originally were attracted (in part) by a lovely waterfall up behind the beach. We don't explore but I wonder if it's still there. Probably not I suppose. Many people congregate on the next headland. We were puzzled as to why, but I guess they are just admiring the scenery. There’s a helicopter hovering for ages out to sea a bit but finally it swings away.
Along the way we pause to take a photo of the scenery to the south.

We round the point and views of what must surely be Australia’s ugliest beach - Bondi - dominate. We stop in a viewing bay for an interpretative sign that makes it clear with photos from 1875 and 1930 just how they managed to turn what was a stunningly beautiful beach into the next best thing to an eyesore. What an achievement. All in the name of business. Once upon a time they built all the infrastructure and erected hessian screens and charged entrance to the beach.

There's still a way to go yet though and we climb up and down the hills around another rocky little indent in the coast. There's something mesmerising about waves crashing against a rocky shore...

We climb up and around Bondi Icebergs, famed for mid winter swimming devotees, then down and around the promenade to north Bondi where a surf carnival is in progress. It’s lightly drizzling now. We buy a fundraiser sausage sizzle roll, with onion and tomato sauce. All very much a cultural tradition. Finally we wander over to find the departure points for the beach runner bus. This we find leaves on the half hour from Bondi and for 90 cents will deposit us safely back at Coogee. Walking along Campbell parade I am drawn by some interesting calls and a moment’s investigation reveals a cuckoo chick being fed by a poor long suffering brush wattle bird. Now I didn’t expect to see that here! It's clear that the local council are doing their best to try to make the area more attractive. Norfolk Island Pines have been planted, but have a way to go yet. I wonder if I'm correct in recalling that some time back there was a proposal to remove the large parking lot from the beach, but there was an outcry and so it remains. They could do so much with the area to beautify it if the huge car park was removed. A legacy of the environmental vandals of early last century.
You get a good view from the Bus actually and this would make an alternative to the walk for those less mobile or energetic. On arrival at Coogee the contrast to Bondi is stark. Coogee is so much more attractive. The whole walk plus wait for the bus and return has taken us about 3 hrs. 2 hrs actually walking.

No comments: