Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Riding the Manly Ferry

When visitors to Sydney ask me what to see and do in the city, my answer is always the same: go to Circular Quay and take the ferry to Manly.

The ride is cheap, the harbour views are unbeatable, the ocean beach at Manly is beautiful, and for those who like walking there is a waterside path following the harbour shoreline all the way to Middle Harbour.

We had already planned that we would make this journey at least one more time before leaving Australia. Tuesday seemed like the perfect day : clear, sunny but not too hot, with temperatures in the mid-twenties. We took the train to Circular Quay. Looking down from the elevated platform, we could see our ferry arriving.

This is the slow ferry. Those in a hurry prefer to take the HarbourCat, which does the journey in about half the time. One was just leaving as we boarded our boat.

The Sydney Morning Herald recently ran a summer poetry competition on the subject "the Harbour".
The winner, just announced, took these two ferries as her theme, riffing on Robert Frost's famous poem The Road Not Taken. It sums up our own feeling about the experience.

The Ride Not Taken

by Tina Matthews

Two ferries moored at a harbour pier -
Knowing I could not ride on both
To get to my place, it was clear
The fast, new ferry would get me there
A ferry to Progress: first stop - Growth!

But I took the other, old and fair,
And sat outside with the sun at my back,
Travelling to I-don't-know-where,
With iPod commuters who couldn't hear
And would rather have ridden the HarbourCat.

I heard the sea and I felt the spray -
Oh, I know folk throw their rubbish in!
But a subsidiary of the STA
Casting this fine old boat away
I proclaim to be a greater sin.

On land, in water and in the sky
Pollution mucks up every sense.
Two boats converged at a wharf and I -
I took the one that delights the eye,
And that has made all the difference.

We too sat outside with the sun at our backs, and watched Sydney's well-known skyline recede in our wake.

We passed Kirribilli House, the Sydney home of Australia's Prime Minister, which faces the Opera House across the water.

The country's previous prime minister, John Howard, refused to live in landlocked Canberra, the nation's capital, preferring this abode and commuting at taxpayer expense. Hard to blame him on a day like this.

Halfway through the voyage, we crossed paths with the other ferry on the Manly route, heading for the Quay.

Manly itself is on a narrow spit of land between the harbour and the Pacific Ocean. Disembarking at Many Wharf, we made our way with other beachgoers along the Corso, the pedestrian mall thatlinks these two bodies of water.

If you look closely at the first image, you can see the small, white jets of water in the pavement that continue all along this strip to the great delight of children.

A pub on our route provided an opportunity for a mirror shot:

The ocean beach, like many beaches on the east coast,  is lined with huge old Norfolk Island pines.

We sat on the grass in the shade of these to eat our picnic lunch before moving to a bench in the sun for a little while.
Michael surveyed the swimmers...

or was it the sunbathers?

There was virtually no surf on this day, although the following day saw many of the beaches, including Manly, closed because of the dangerous swell.

Back on the harbour side of the peninsula, we set off on the coast walk, passing a group of children in their characteristic sunhats frolicking in the shallows. School uniforms are worn by most Australian schoolchildren and the sunhats, in whatever the school colour might be, are regulation wear for outdoor activities on sunny days.

The path was wide and level, affording us views back towards the ferry wharf,

over marinas,

and down into secluded bays.

Strategically placed benches provide walkers and locals with spots to  sit and contemplate the scenery.

Not wanting to make it a really long day, we left the path about midway along its length,  hopped a bus back to the city, and another to home again.

No comments: