‘Emma take 23 left, Amanda 23 Center. Lily go with me to 24, I’ll take center you sit left.’ We break the huddle, line up at scrimmage and HIKE! The four of us move as quickly as we can to occupy as many rows as possible.
I can see on my seat map this section of the plane is empty, and if we are aggressive, we can get full rows of three seats each.
The flight attendant comes back, looks at Amanda and the girls and starts asking questions. ‘What’s your regular seat? How many are you?’ ‘Good’ I think. ‘Amanda has a cheery face and people like to treat the girls well.’ Better talk to them than than me, the grumpy old man with grey hairs and tattoos.
It works! The flight attendant smiles, takes a few notes and says ‘Lucky you! Enjoy the long flight.’ The Creekmore’s occupy 12 seats, a row each to themselves. And long the flight is – 16 hours, our longest ever. Having entire rows to sleep will be enormous. We call it ‘poor man’s business class.
We enjoy a pleasant flight – especially for economy. The girls sleep soundly. I watch a few movies and get enough sleep of my own. It does not feel like it’s been 16 hours when we see the sun rise over the wing and the Australian continent below us.
Sydney passport/customs is a little convoluted but the lines aren’t that bad. We suffer our only bad luck and exchange money at the airport at a rate that should be illegal.
But the weather! It’s the dead of winter her, and we expected cold and rainy. Instead it’s bright and sunny and pleasantly warm. We see no clouds as the taxi driver takes us to our Darlinghurst AirBnb. More good luck comes to us – we can check in very early. It’s 9am and well before normal check-in time. I wasn’t sure if that would be ok, but it is. A quick trip to the Aldi grocery store and there is coffee and eggs on the table in 30 minutes.
I didn’t know how wrecked we would be and expected lousy weather so I left today open, thinking we would make it downtown for a look around and maybe get a bite to eat somewhere before we come in from the chilly rain and collapse from jetlagged exhaustion.
But we are feeling so good after the restful flight and the weather is so nice that I boldly suggest Sydney’s best hike – Split bridge to Manly Wharf. It’s a 6 mile hike along the northern coast of the harbor with a lot of up and downs but on a well maintained trail.
The Uber driver takes us over the Harbor bridge so we can see the Opera house. We’ll be back to see that a few more times. At the Split Bridge we get out and find the well-marked trailhead. The next four hours of hiking are glorious.
This hike is part of the Manly Senic Walkway, itself a series of short walks each with it’s own ecosystem, harbor views and charms. The 6 miles from Spit bridge to Manly Wharf is considered the most scenic but it continues another 10 km. It’s neither as as good as the Amalfi coast ‘Walk of the gods’, nor the Napali coast, Hawaii. But damn, this is in the middle of a 4 million person city!
Have I mentioned the harbor views? They are spectacular as are the natural bushland, little inner harbor beaches and the cool fern covered glades. There are thousand year old aboriginal carvings of whales and sun fish and other animals.
I’m proud of this group. We get off a 16 hour flight and hike for four hours. We are looking ragges when we reach Manly wharf where we get coffee and french fries. The trip back on the Manly ferry is as they say, much like the Staten Island Ferry, a good cheap way to see Sydney from the water.
The opera house is worth it’s reputation. Amanda and I stand on the bow of the ferry, arm in arm, quietly watching as we curve gently around the building so we can see it from all sides. It’s really just beautiful to look at. We will spend more time there tomorrow.
What do we do after a long hike? We hike more. It’s still early and our feet hurt but if we get back too early, everyone will just fall asleep in the apartment. So we keep walking, up Macquarie street where the government buildings are, through Hyde park and finally to our little flat.