Sunday, November 16, 2014

11/16/14: Running Through Australia

Last week I was in Australia for five days for work.  It was a crazy, exhausting week with back to back meetings, so I didn’t have too much time outside of work.  But with the time difference I was up early each day (between 4 and 6am), so I used the early morning to lace up the shoes and do some exploring.

I landed on Tuesday morning and spent time exploring Sydney on foot Tuesday afternoon and early Wednesday morning.  On Tuesday I covered 10 miles running through the Royal Gardens, near the Opera House, and then out and back along the coast towards the east. 

Wednesday morning I went up to the Harbour Bridge, crossed over to North Sydney, ran around there a bit, and came back over.   Both runs were excellent, and the late spring time weather was quite nice.  I truly love exploring a new city on foot, and there is nothing like it to see lots of the sights and really get a feel for the city. 

Wednesday I flew over to Melbourne for meetings on Wednesday and Thursday.  I had an unusually longer block of free time on Thursday morning, so I spent a bit more time and managed to cover about 13 miles.  I did a lot of running up and down the river and did a couple of laps around the Royal Gardens as well.  While it was cloudy in Sydney, it was a bluebird day in Melbourne, and I was treated to a beautiful sunrise. 

I was amazed at how fit people in Australia are.  I was out there bright and early around 5 or 6am every day, and the Aussies were out in force and were running, swimming, and rowing.  I have also never run anywhere on earth where more people were passing me while I ran.  I wasn’t exactly doing a workout, but I was easily running 7:30s or 7:45s, and I was getting dusted left and right.  It was great!  Love seeing such active people hammering it in a beautiful place.

On Saturday my flight out was at 3:25pm, which meant I had the whole morning to get into trouble.  There was a national park far out on the northeast side of the Harbour, and I am always a sucker for a good national park.  You could take a 30 minute ferry out there and back, but where is the adventure in that?  Between my running the previous days and a bit of research, I cooked up a plan.  I figured I could string together three different long walks.  Two of them seemed like decently well-traveled routes and one seemed like something that basically no one would ever do (Harbour Bridge to Spit Bridge).  All told it looked like it would be about 13 hours worth of hiking.  The plan was to navigate this tricky 22ish mile route in the morning, catch the ferry back from Manly, clean up at my hotel, and then catch my flight. After breakfast at the hotel I set out at 7am with a water bottle, a credit card, and one gel.  What could go wrong?

Well I had a glorious time!  I love the simplicity of just traveling from one place to another on foot and taking in the sights along the way.  Navigating was a bit tricky, but I more or less just tried to hug the coastline (which did make for a longer route), and used my phone as needed for the tricky parts.  I found some beautiful hidden gems that I suspect few tourists see such as the Cree, the trails through the National Park, etc.

The route was filled with exotic and aromatic springtime flowers, crazy birds making crazy noises, tons of coastal beach views, and some nice forests.  I even managed to spot a bunch of rather large lizards and a few pelicans!  I did reach a point close to 3 hours in when I saw how far I still had to go and started to get slightly worried about being on foot very, very far from my hotel with an impending international flight.  But as the Australians say, “no worries.”

The last 10km stretch from Spit Bridge to Many was the best, and most of it went through the National Park.  I cruised into Manly a bit after 11am right on schedule.  Happily I popped out right near this good looking little restaurant on the beach and treated myself to a smoked salmon focaccia and orange soda.  Not a bad life. 

I hopped the ferry, ran the 1.5 miles back to the hotel from the ferry terminal, and then hurried up to get myself out on time.  It was a pretty awesome last day and a great way to see tons of sights with some adventure sprinkled in.

Sydney Day 1

Royal Gardens.  It was late spring with the beautiful purple flowers in bloom. 

Skyline view from the ocean 

Opera house! 

Sydney Day 2

Running across the Habour Bridge 

View back over from North Sydney


Building where one of my meetings was.  Not so bad ... 

Sunrise along the river 

Royal Gardens in Melbourne 

 Sydney Day 3
It was much sunnier this time around in Sydney 

Sydney Day Four - Downtown to Manly Beach

Harbour Bridge 

Getting further away from the city now

Trail through the National Park 

 Lots of  nice beaches along the way

In the way, way distance in the middle of the picture is downtown Sydney, where I started my run.  I still had ~5 miles to go. 

First view of Manly towards the top left.  I was very excited for lunch! 

Manly Beach 

Huge Pelican! 

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