Along the Away

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Posts Tagged ‘ coastal walk ’

We intended to spend our third day in Adelaide making the most of the city’s free bike program, which is open to everyone, everyday. Free bikes are located all around the city at places like tourist attractions, education centres, and hotels, and can be hired for daylight hours just by providing ID. It sounded like a great way to enjoy more of the path by the River Torrens, especially as the path runs all the way from the CBD to Henley Beach via the Linear Park Trail (more information is provided on the SA Trails website and on the Bikely website).

Unfortunately, despite our grand plans it was not to be. Free bikes can’t be booked ahead, it’s first in first served so we decided we better get in early. We walked to one of the university campus bike hire locations but sadly temperature restrictions kicked in! Bikes won’t be hired out on days forecast to reach over 38 degrees. This was a disappointment as we thought we’d be able to handle the heat considering we were starting so early in the day, however it is good to have safety precautions for the Australian heat.

We decided to get the tram to Glenelg Beach and walk along the coastal path there instead of cycling. The tram was easy enough to navigate to using the Metro trip planner again. Glenelg is at the end of the line so it was obvious when we arrived – especially the fresh salty air and beach greeting as right at the tram stop.

Glenelg to Henley Beach Walk Glenelg to Henley Beach Walk

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In general, work/life balance for me is not an evenly dispersed kind of thing but more like all-consuming-projects punctuated with an annual travel adventure when I disappear overseas for four weeks. I used to want to balance it all out, but now I accept that I actually like life being ‘all on’ when I’m hooked on a project and then changing track and escaping somewhere else when it’s done. Something I could do better is managing my wellbeing across these times. I tend to burn out, thinking I’ll sleep/breathe/recharge later. Well… I really don’t really want to sleep/breathe/recharge once or twice a year. I’d rather that be an all of the year thing.

So I started looking after myself better. I cut down on chocolate (I haven’t eaten any since the 28th June 2015 actually). I didn’t let my morning bush walk slide off my schedule when I was busy, it has become a non-negotiable. I started a regular weekly yoga practice after years of patchy attendance, and I sat down to daily meditation. I’ve kept to it all pretty faithfully and the result was that at the end of a pretty big work project last year I needed some time out for sure, but I wasn’t an exhausted shell left barely standing. I had energy, so after my work trip to Singapore I hopped on a plane to Koh Samui and straight to Vikasa Yoga Retreat. I stayed for 15 days.

I found Vikasa through a Google search, it sounded promising with great Trip Advisor reviews and plenty of travel blog trip reports.

Yoga paradise at Vikasa Yoga Retreat

It is set into the cliffside on the west coast of Koh Samui, with the cafe/reception area sitting up the top and everything else – accommodation, yoga shalas and swimming pools – cascading down the cliff. That means steps – and lots of them! I didn’t find this a problem at all, though I’ve seen some complaints on tripadvisor about them. I think if you’re there to do yoga then a five minute walk up the stairs should be within your ability to manage. And where there’s a climb there’s a view – and this one is worth the effort!

They have multiple accommodation options which is a great way to make the retreat possible for yogis of all budgets. I contemplated the options but after my hard work I decided to treat myself to a balcony facing the ocean with the Ocean Room. My first impression of the room was that it’s a lot smaller than it seems on their website, and also nestled quite close to the other rooms/bungalows either side; the balconies line up next to each other with no privacy from your neighbors, you feel like you need to keep your window curtains closed for that purpose as well. It would just be perfect if they were more private, but having said, they were clean, had aircon, an outdoor shower, and as time went on and I became friendlier with my neighbors privacy was not such a concern.

One curtain I always kept open was on the window facing the ocean so I had a front row seat in the morning when the sun rose over it right in front of my bed! I’m an early riser anyway so when my eyes flicked open in the mornings and caught sight of the horizon changing color I always jumped out, made a cup of peppermint tea and sat out on my balcony for an hour as it rose.

Vikasa Sun Rise

Vikasa calls itself a yoga retreat, I would describe it as a yoga resort, a subtle difference, but resort more accurately infers the freedom you have regarding how much yoga you do. There are three outdoor yoga shalas; the weekly timetable of scheduled yoga and meditation classes for guests are all held in the White Shala which is large and breezy. It’s entirely up to you what classes you attend – if any, no one keeps track of you, there are no expectations.

White Yoga Shala Vikasa Yoga Retreat

I tried to do at least one meditation and one yoga class a day, though sometimes I managed all classes (which was up to 6 some days). I found this freedom great as the first couple of days I took it easier as I adjusted to the heat, but by the end I craved going to as many as possible, though sometimes skipped some due to exploring the island or just physically needing a break.

Practising during the afternoon and evening tropical storms was a real treat. The rain thundered down and skittered under the roll-down shutters on the wind to land on my skin as I sweated away. The thunder boomed and the lightening sparked, it was magic. It rained probably half of the days I was there (September) but getting to practice yoga during the storms made up for the lack of beach time on those days. That and being curled up on a beanbag with a smoothie and a book in the cafe.

My favorite teachers were Simon, a South African born but now Koh Samui local who has a brilliant sense of humor and a very relaxed approach to practice, and Christian, a visiting London based yoga teacher who was more dynamic. The other teachers were all good as well, but as in life you click with some people more than others, which was the case here too.

Yoga Class at Vikasa Yoga Retreat

I came to Vikasa alone with no worries as I travel solo a lot, however I will admit that on the second day I had a moment of doubt. I hadn’t yet clicked specifically with any one, most of those I met were there on the teacher training group and were already in close groups. On the second night I started chatting to an Aussie girl after class though and we had dinner together. Then I met a Danish guy, then a Singaporean girl and an Aussie guy, an American girl and a Dutchman… I was set! The group of friends I made and hung out with each day at mealtimes and inbetween classes really made my holiday. I had such a fun time then, yoga was rewarding in itself but bonding with like minded yogis was the best.

Together we took taxis to beaches on the other side of the island- to Chaweng Beach for drinks and junk food, to Bophut for delicious Thai food at the Happy Elephant. We walked to Crystal Bay to get massages, and went on a jeep jungle safari in the rain and mud (so much fun clinging onto the side of the jeep and being flung about) which also stopped at some jungle water slides plus a few other key Koh Samui attractions. We did the Just Jungle tour which avoided all animal attractions, something I feel pretty strongly about not supporting.

I spent some time exploring on my own too. I got a taxi to the far side of Chaweng and walked the length of the beach, which was a feat in the heat but I was really missing walking by then. The roads in Thailand do not make for a pleasant stroll as the motorcycles travel along the kerb as well. It’s tempting to walk with an eye constantly over your shoulder to make sure they see you. Chaweng is a long flat beach so I was able to get into my walking headspace and chill out, stopping to swim or lay down and read along the way.

Chaweng Beach

I remembered when reading about Vikasa, that there was a gym across the road – Sky Gym – where Vikasa guests can go for free with tokens given out at reception. So I checked that out as a walking option. An energetic music playlist was always pumping when I went, and there’s pretty much everything you need there, for me that was just the treadmill so I could walk! The cardio equipment is all lined up next to windows that give the gym its name – there is a fabulous view on the blue sky days, but even on the cloudy days like when I took this photo it’s pretty nice to workout in front of!

Sky Gym

On my last night, a group of us who were all on the verge of leaving Vikasa went to Bophut for drinks on the beach at the gorgeous CoCo Tams, which has swing seats at the bar and big beautiful cushions around low wooden tables on the sand by the water. After a few drinks we wandered around the markets buying random finger foods (I ate a deep fried cricket…!!!) and taking in the atmosphere with new friends who felt like old ones.

I returned back to Sydney feeling happy, healthy, stretched out and sun-kissed.

Selfie in Chaweng

It was a feeling that stayed with me a long time, in fact I have maintained a yoga practice much more intense than I ever have before, averaging 3-5 classes a week even 5 months later. If I ever get the chance to return I will. I just hope that when I do, I meet just as lovely people as I was lucky to meet this time.

Heart Buddha Vikasa Yoga Retreat

If you are wondering why my post is a lot lighter on photos than usual, it would be because about 24 hours after getting home to Sydney, I was walking along the beach and drowned my phone in a failed but spectacular leap of enthusiasm over the lagoon channel… I sadly lost all my holiday photos, all except for the four I had allowed myself to post on Instagram while I was there and the few I sent on Messenger to my Mum. It just goes to show, it doesn’t pay to have a complete social media break while away… Hope you enjoyed this reflection on my blissful yoga holiday.

Chaweng Elephant

It was the beginning of 2014 that I set myself the challenge to walk all 37 coastal walks from the Coastal Walks Sydney book… I did 6! But luckily they’re not going anywhere, so I’m still ticking them off in 2015.

I just came off a BIG work project and after weeks without a day off I had five days stretching out in front of me. It’s the end of winter at the moment but Sydney was boasting that gorgeous feels-like-summer weather that often dazzles us at the end of the cold season. I was craving some outdoor time after too many long weeks in the office so the book came off the bookshelf and I did three coastal walks over the next five days.

Spit to Manly walk

First up was the Spit Bridge to Manly walk which is a very well known coastal walk in Sydney. Obviously it can be done in both directions, but I prefer doing it from south to north so that I end up at the beach – and judging from the people I passed it seems to be the most popular direction!

It is a truly beautiful walk, the water is alongside the track almost the whole time, except for a section that heads upwards. It’s fairly steep but nothing a reasonable level of fitness can’t handle. Where there’s a climb, there’s a view – and this one is amazing.

Spit to Manly walk

I was so happy to be back in my natural habitat under the sunshine, amongst the trees and beside the ocean. Nature is a great healer.

Spit to Manly walk

The walk is about 10km and according to the Coastal Walks Sydney book should take about 3.5 hours. Once again, similar to other walks I’ve done in the book, I took much less time to finish – about 2 hours and 40 minutes. I did that with plenty of stops along the way, probably about 20 minutes worth. I’m a pretty brisk walker once I get going!

There are a number of toilet blocks along the way and water bubblers/taps to refill your water bottle. I recommend filling up at every tap you see as they are not as frequent to chance that you’ll see one when you need it. When I did the walk in summer I struggled in the last 30 minutes with an empty water bottle, so this time I topped up at every chance.

Spit to Manly walk

Once I walked into Manly I wandered around looking for a brunch spot to refuel. I discovered a new cafe called Bare Naked Bowls on Market Lane. I was heading to the Swedish Fika Kitchen which is a fave, but Bare Naked Bowls caught my eye. I wandered in to look at the board and on recommendation from the waitress decided to try the Chia Bowl – it was delicious, as was the coffee.

Once nourished, it was time to relax! The glorious thing about coastal walks is that once the hard work is done there is a beach to relax on, which I did… for about three hours! I may have even fallen asleep on the sand. Considering how stunning the weather was I was surprised how quiet it was, I’ve never seen Manly beach this deserted – I guess that’s the perk of being there on a weekday when most people are at work.

Spit to Manly walk

In regards to transport, the walk is fairly easy to get to, coming from the lower north shore I drove to the Spit Bridge and parked in a side street just north of the bridge. There is a timed carpark there but it can be costly, I have always been lucky to get an untimed spot on the road. Once I was in Manly I got the bus back to the Spit. It was a bit tricky as I didn’t realise the footpath stops before the bridge on the north side where I got off the bus. I had to chance my luck across the road and then walk up the steps and around the suburban roads – all without a phone thanks to my battery dying. Next time I will get off south of the bridge where the foothpath extends… or else get the bus the whole way.

Time for another Coastal Walk! To refresh your memory I have set myself the challenge to walk all 37 walks in the Coastal Walks Sydney book in 2014.  This walk is #18 in the book but #5 for me (confusing? yes.) Yikes, only 5, I better get a move on. I walked this one solo on an early Sunday morning, keen to get out into the beautiful day. I started on the track at Waverton, walking in the opposite direction as directed in the book, but it all turned out OK.

The walk is studded with plaques and information notices about the history of the area. North Sydney Council has a handy online reference to this  one of their ‘Plaques Walk‘. The amazing BP Park offers fabulous views of Sydney Harbour as a bonus, but the best part is the feel of the repurposed site. In the 1920’s BP established the site with massive storage tanks for fuel that would come in from the ships. It was decommissioned in the 1980’s and the North Sydney Council transformed the site into something the views deserved.

A framework of steel walkways navigates visitors through the sandstone and concrete, it has such a cool atmosphere.

Moving on, this ‘Coastal Walk’ took me away from the coast for a little while, crossing the train tracks and then back again.

Sawmillers Reserve sits right alongside the train line. It was the site of a sawmill in operation from 1880-1980.

It’s neatly paved and offers a large grassy area perfect for picnics and BBQs.

There are ruins left behind and a ship-wreckage nearby in the water! Full of surprises on this walk.

Blues Point Ferry Depot And here I arrived at McMahon’s Point for this glorious view. As the book points out, it’s the only point where you can stand across from the bridge for a view opposite it’s arch (though I stood a bit further around reserve when taking this photo). Sydney Harbour Bridge from McMahons Point

In a shock turn of events, a long weekend in Sydney dawned clear and sunny, with a brilliant blue sky and toasty warm sun rays slicing through crisp fresh air. It seems like too often our recent public holiday long weekends have been dogged with cloud and rain, so this one was a treat, a perfect day to take on another coastal walk. My twin sis joined me on this one so we decided to pick one fairly local to the both of us – Mosman Bay to Taronga Zoo.

Although starting at the Mosman Bay ferry wharf, almost immediately the walk heads to the street (firstly going up up up) but once you’ve endured this bit of effort then the rest of the walk is a dream with plenty of pretty vistas.

There were a few other people doing the walk but it wasn’t busy. There were more people (and four legged pals) enjoying the sunny afternoon at Little Sirius Cove. Is there any happier being in this world than a dog playing at a beach with other dogs? We stopped to watch a few having the time of their lives running and swimming together. I have a soft spot for Samoyeds (the big white fluffy ones with the permanent grins on their faces), they are such a joy to watch.

Just past Little Sirius Cove is Curlew Camp an artists’ camp that was established in 1890 by a guy called Rueben Brasch who lived there with his brothers and a number of other plein air artists. They lived there in tents painting outdoors and teaching art classes to support themselves. An artist called Arthur Steeton moved to the camp in 1891 when he was 24 years old. He recalled in an interview when he was 73 that they “had half a dozen tents between them and there was a dining tent, a dancing floor and even a small piano.”

There’s more interesting info in this Wikipedia article, I love reading about days gone past in Sydney. These quotes are by Julian Ashton who lived at the Balmoral artists’ camp at the same time:

“I saw Streeton fairly often at this time. He lived in a camp at Little Sirius Cove, Mosman, where he was joined later on by Tom Roberts. He used to do the marketing, and on arriving at the Musgrave Street wharf had to walk around the point and blow a whistle for the boat to come across from the camp. To see him returning on Saturday nights, laden with parcels of bread, beer and beef, and as merry the while as a boy at a picnic, was a delight. In those days the painters’ material wants were few, but their hopes were unbounded.” – Julian Ashton, 1890

“Around the tent climb the Begonia and Clematis and Sarsaparilla the rough winds broken for us by an exquisite fusion of tender gum-leaf. Honeysuckle (like the trees of the old asters). Cotton plants heath and a wild cherry (bright green at our tent door) and the beautiful flood beneath. All is splendid.”

“Tis now 11 O’clock. My tent stands like a quiet glowing lamp on the deep black hill – the sombre night all round – a southerly gale sweeps over the bay the boat bumps against the pier below. All alone in the camp tonight.” – Julian Ashton, April 1891

Seeing as the Sydney Harbour Bridge was not built until 1923, the view across the harbour would have looked so different to the artists in the late 19th century. It would have been dark and still at night, not the glittering, iconic skyline we see today.

There are spectacular 180 degree views at Little Sirius Point; you can sit on the ledge there and soak it all in.

And snap away too of course, such a picture perfect day :-)

The track was so beautiful; nothing beats being surrounded by nature on a gorgeous day.

A heart in the pavement :-)

The walk took us less than an hour one way, that was even with us chatting as we walked and stopping along the way. We had left our car at Mosman so we walked back again which took even less time. It was about 90 minutes return.

And being Good Friday we drove to Balmoral Beach to have fish and chips from ‘Bottom of the Sea’ – the crowd was crazy, we were order number 453 and they were still serving the 390’s when we joined the wait.

Ah well, it was worth it to sit in the sand for a warm Autumn evening’s feast :-)

at Balmoral

What a spectacular part of Sydney foreshore this is! The Cremorne Point walk seemed perfect for a Sunday afternoon stroll as I read in the Coastal Walk book that it’s paved the whole way. I had been having a super lazy Sunday morning but the sight of the blue sky outside beckoned me to get out and do something – this was a good low-energy, high-reward compromise.

I drove over to Cremorne and parked on Milson Rd and walked along til I found an entry to the track. I couldn’t help but pine enviously at the view these houses have.

Cremorne Point Walk

The afternoon was hazy, dreamy, beautiful.

And here it starts, a nice neat triangle route water-side most of the way.

Footpaths most of the way made it super easy.

Can we stop for a moment to admire this totally awesome sideways leaning tree?

The path is lined with grassy picnic worthy spots, I’d only been walking ten minutes but it was too tempting to stop and lay down under the trees for awhile.

Usually I take photos of this view from the other side – it looks just as good in reverse right?

A lighthouse sits pretty at the triangle tip.

A community garden lines the eastern side, there is a plaque there dedicated to the local residents who maintain it.

This walk took me about two hours including an hour laying under the trees time (ha, I told you it was a lazy Sunday kind of day!)

I awoke early one Saturday morning and decided on a whim that the day called for exploration – time to tick off another Coastal Walk.

I hadn’t heard of this walk before, and certainly wouldn’t have expected to find a coastal walk in what I vaguely consider the mid north shore, but after studying the map I now realise that the coastline extends inland quite a bit with a series of bays and inlets south of the northern beaches.

The Harold Reid Reserve is named after a well respected town clerk who served the local area in many functions for over fifty years in the mid nineteen hundreds. It’s located in the suburb of Middlecove and consists of a circuit track around ‘The Sugarloaf’ headland.

I drove to Middlecove, parked my car at the end of Sugarloaf Cres and hit the trail.

Harold Reid Reserve Walk

Harold Reid Reserve Walk

Yeah! This was a good decision for 7am on a Saturday morning!

Harold Reid Reserve Walk

Harold Reid Reserve Walk

I think this may actually have become my favourite walk (but perhaps I will say this after each of them? Possible).

It has everything; well maintained tracks which still retain their natural bushy vibe (I don’t particularly like walking on man-made track structures when bush walking unless they make an impossible walk possible); signposts; spots to sit and admire the view; and friendly locals saying hello (two legged and plenty of four legged ones on leads).

And shadows. Always with the shadows.

Harold Reid Reserve Walk

I’m becoming truly obsessed with light. Early morning and dusk walks are my favourite, the light is ethereal, such a treat.

Harold Reid Reserve Walk

I love how this challenge has revealed more dimensions than just getting fit. Striking out on unknown tracks have awakened the explorer in me. And the artist as I snap photos and attempt to record the beauty before my eyes. And the worshipper as I experience overwhelming awe and gratitude.

Harold Reid Reserve Walk

Harold Reid Reserve Walk

Harold Reid Reserve Walk

On the west side there are mangroves, where the water ripples shades of blues and greens and browns, and the trees stick out of the water giving the distorted impression of a flood zone.

Harold Reid Reserve Walk

I found a rock to perch on and sat beside the tranquil scene.

Harold Reid Reserve Walk

Water rippled past. Fish appeared and vanished. Voices wafted from a nearby boat.

Harold Reid Reserve Walk

Laughter rang from a father and son kayaking north. The cicadas and crickets roared. The kookaburras let loose.

Harold Reid Reserve Walk

There is no doubt about it that the Australian bush has been embedding itself deep into my psyche all the more as the years past. I have always loved getting outside for a walk in nature, but lately more than ever I find great peace and connection being surrounded by it.

It’s my happy place :-)

Harold Reid Reserve Walk

Look at this bumpy tree branch, so strange, so beautiful! I hugged it – eek! I’m literally a tree hugger, goodness!

Harold Reid Reserve Walk

I followed the sun rays.

Harold Reid Reserve Walk

I drank in every view, resisting the urge to jump into the water.

Harold Reid Reserve Walk

Funny how the water changes colour so; the picture above and below were taken in the same spot.

Harold Reid Reserve Walk

Being at the water’s edge is good, but so is the climb up worth the effort.

Harold Reid Reserve Walk

Harold Reid Reserve Walk

Shadows, oh my heart…

Harold Reid Reserve Walk

The track circling the coastline of the headland eventually led me inland towards this roadway which mirrored the coastline loop on higher ground around The Sugarloaf.

Harold Reid Reserve Walk

Drape your shadows over me trees!

Harold Reid Reserve Walk

There’s always a reward waiting at the top.

Harold Reid Reserve Walk

Life on the edge. I’m not afraid of heights but I am extra cautious and move a hell of a lot slower when standing at the edge of extremely high things. I totally felt fine here until I heard the sound of paws behind me and a dog owner wildly calling two dogs to leave me alone. I turned slowly to see two Labradors bounding towards me all happy and joy! At any other moment than one where I’m perched on the edge of an extremely high rock ledge I would be all enthusiasm. Hello puppies! Let me hug you! But I could see only one scenario playing out in that situation. I froze and braced. But luckily the Labs took heed and slowed it down. The owner arrived looking a little frantic, I’m sure she also thought the two of them were going to pitch me off the edge!. But I survived, so all good.

Harold Reid Reserve Walk

I sat down after that. Just to be safe, yo.

Harold Reid Reserve Walk

Less of a threat is the log lizard that basks permanently in the sun at the lookout :-)

Harold Reid Reserve Walk

I followed the roadway around until I found the track to take me back to Sugarloaf Cres. The path featured this super cute mid-rock stairway which I just squeezed through.

Harold Reid Reserve Walk

And that was the end of the beautiful Harold Reid Reserve track – definitely one to do again (and again).

The very first coastal walk in my 2014 challenge was one nice and close to home – #27 Greenwich.

I went in the afternoon after work, starting at 6pm when the golden sun was throwing long shimmery pools of light across the water – oh how I love that time of day!

Sydney Coastal Walk - Greenwich Walk Track

I walked to the walk (as strange as that sounds) from Wollstonecraft so that added an extra 20 mins to the walking route outlined in the book, which took me an hour just as it indicated it would. That was with some stops to sit and ponder as I suppose those lonely looking benches facing out at the water are calling for.

Sydney Coastal Walk - Greenwich Walk Track

The water was in sight almost the whole way, and there’s much to watch.

Sydney Coastal Walk - Greenwich Walk Track

It’s an easy walk; partly bush track, some roadside, a few steep stairs but all clearly identifiable and easily done in thongs/sandals or joggers.

Sydney Coastal Walk - Greenwich Walk Track

I watched the ferry leaving Greenwich wharf.

Sydney Coastal Walk - Greenwich Walk Track

And took every opportunity for sitting and pondering.

Sydney Coastal Walk - Greenwich Walk Track

Sydney Harbour was in glorious form. There is no getting tired off this beautiful sight, especially with so many vantage spots to see it from.

Sydney Coastal Walk - Greenwich Walk Track

Sydney Coastal Walk - Greenwich Walk Track

I discovered Greenwich Baths – I will remember this on hot days when I fancy a quick swim but not the drive to the beach.

Sydney Coastal Walk - Greenwich Walk Track

Sydney Coastal Walk - Greenwich Walk Track

Sydney Coastal Walk - Greenwich Walk Track

Sydney Coastal Walk - Greenwich Walk Track

Sun light does brilliant things to the nature so that it changes all day every day, from one to the next and every time I notice something new. This tree’s branches caught my eye – so graceful.

Sydney Coastal Walk - Greenwich Walk Track

Sydney Coastal Walk - Greenwich Walk Track

The kookaburra found me along the way as it so often does (more on that another day); it perched high and proud against the brilliant sky, cackling that chorus so attuned with the close of the day.

Sydney Coastal Walk - Greenwich Walk Track

I always inevitably become obsessed with shadows when on a walk – maybe that’s why they take me so long?

Look it’s me!

Sydney Coastal Walk - Greenwich Walk Track - Shadows

On the wander home, outside the local school, I looked down at my feet and found a D. I looked around and found the rest of the alphabet and then numbers 1-20, but it can be no coincidence that it was D that called to me right?

Sydney Coastal Walk - Greenwich Walk Track

I had had a tumultuous day but the pent up energy and uneasiness I had carried home shed from me as I wandered along. Sometimes solitary walks are just right.