By Vita Forest
On the way to Shelly Beach
Last weekend, Lucy and I met some of my old high school friends and some of their children for a day out. Heather, Venetia, Gemma and I (the adults) were keen to do a big walk somewhere beautiful. The children (Ava, Jasper, Bob and Lucy) were not so keen on the walking part, but came anyway with the promise of icecream. We settled on the Manly to North Head walk and met at Circular Quay to catch the Manly ferry.
When we arrived, we walked through Manly to the surf beach. It was a beautiful Spring day and the beach was busy. Before walking to Shelly Beach, we checked the sunscreen situation. Bob was prevailed upon to apply some more (he hates it so much that he has been known to wear long sleeves in Summer just to avoid it). The females admired the ocean waves, the surfers and the clear blue sky, while Jasper and Bob turned away from the beach and admired the real estate. I pointed out to Lucy the small child-height statues dotted along the rocky wall that she used to toddle between as a two-year old.
Sculpture of a snorkeler, Shelly Beach
We climbed higher and looked out over the ocean (making a slight detour when a water dragon appeared in our path, cocking its head and waiting to see whether it had to run. It did not). There was some confusion as to whether we could walk through the bush, Venetia’s instructions were via the streets, so through the streets we went. (Apparently you can walk through the bush, but it was not well sign-posted). Up the hills we went and entered the Sydney Harbour National Park at North Head. We didn’t see any bandicoots but we did see this sign.
We didn’t see any bandicoots, they are nocturnal after all.
The bush there is thick, dense scrub. You can’t see far into the distance on the track, but all at once you feel a cool breeze, and the vegetation suddenly breaks open and you are standing looking along the cliff line. There are some old military sites to explore, including observation posts cliffs facing out to sea.
Ava collected a good solid stick that she swished about as a wand (she had just watched Harry Potter). At one lookout, another child came over. She held it out to him to inspect and to her astonishment, he snatched it and ran off! Luckily there were plenty more wands to be had. After that, we were on the lookout for wand thieves.
The view North
Signs indicating the distant existence of a café pricked the interest of the girls, who were deflated to learn we had brought our own lunch. They chewed on snacks as we stepped along the mesh path over the Hanging Swamp. The spring flowers were putting on a fine display – flannel flowers, grevilleas and bottlebrush. Ava wanted some spells for her new wand, preferably one that would help us fly and so avoid the walk in the hot sun. She asked Lucy if she knew any. (“Not Avada kedavra,” I instructed. “Or Sectumsempra!”) The girls settled on Wingardium levisoa and Obliviate. Ava tested this last one by giving her Mum a small punch and then using the Obliviate spell to see if Gemma would forget her naughtiness. Unfortunately for Ava it did not work…
The Path through the Hanging Swamp
After stopping for lunch (outside the cafe), we visited the Quarantine station cemetery. It was was brimming with wild flowers which dwarfed the crumbling monuments that stood on the hill looking back towards the city. Heather even found one grave for a Edward Kelly (a not so famous one we presume). We continued past the Quarantine Station (“Ghost tours!” said Jasper) and on to the lovely Collins Beach, into penguin territory. After a brief paddle it was back to the ferry wharf where we were herded on to a ferry back to Circular Quay.
Wildflowers in the cemetery
Lucy and Ava waved to the passengers on passing boats, and Gemma reminisced about doing the same with her sister on car trips when they were children. If anyone waved back, they were “allowed” to come to their birthday parties! Gemma always collected more waves than her sister. Jasper closed his eyes but opened them a crack when Ava gleefully announced that her brother was asleep. By this point, we were all grateful to be sitting down.
At Circular Quay, we all indulged in the long-awaited reward of gelato before Lucy and I had to say farewell and rush off to try and make the kids’ 5pm handover.
We all slept well that night.