This is the touristy part of the trek. This is the stretch that welcomes visitors, offers them food and fun, and invites them to empty their wallets.
The pleasant consequence is that today’s 10.7km stage was along the water all the way; almost the entire foreshore is open to the public.
The day was bright, warm but not too hot, and the harbour was at its sparkling best as I started at Circular Quay by toeing the Writers’ Walk.
Plaques stuck in the ground were recurring features of this leg of the trip. From the Sydney Opera House, past Circular Quay and the Museum of Contemporary Art, they honour writers, Australian and visitors, who’ve had something interesting to say about the harbour.
I like Joseph Conrad‘s contribution: “one of the finest, most beautiful, vast and safe bays the sun ever shone upon.”
And from Thomas Kenneally (author of Schindler’s Ark/List) “a freshwater stream flowing out of a low hinterland among the cabbage-tree palms, native cedars, the strange obdurate eucalyptus trees of a type which occurred nowhere else in all Creation.”
Jacarandas have replaced the obdurate eucalyptus now, and there is no longer a freshwater stream, but a few cabbage tree palms are still there.
The above-pictured Sea Shepherd was moored by the Overseas Passenger Terminal. Save the Whale activists were collecting donations and talking to passers-by about their work, attempting to disrupt the Japanese whaling fleet. I was happy to make a modest contribution.
I hate the hypocrisy of ‘scientific whaling’. If it really is necessary to kill hundreds of whales to analyse the contents of their stomachs, let’s then keep it scientific and make it illegal to sell the whale ‘by-products’. My guess is that the Japanese scientists would suddenly find other research more interesting.
I walked on, passing under the Sydney Harbour Bridge. A wedding was about to be celebrated, in some style.
On the west side of the Coathanger, a series of old wharfs have been put to excellent new use. Pier One has apartments above and smart restaurants below.
In the forecourt outside Pier One, famous Australians have placed their paw prints in wet cement. Dancer/choreographer Sir Robert Helpmann is there, as is artist Pro Hart and racehorse Gunsynd.
The next pier around I know very well. The Wharf Theatre is home to the Sydney Theatre Company (now directed by Cate Blanchett and Andrew Upton), the Australian Theatre for Young People, Sydney Dance Company and the famed Aboriginal dance company Bangarra.
I’ve enjoyed working in this building very much. I love the feel of the theatres, and there’s no better place to eat your lunch during rehearsals than out on the wharf. It was an inspired decision to convert the old building into such a buzzing arts venue. Across from it, plaques in the Theatre Walk celebrate some of Australia’s leading theatre artists, notably the late Richard Wherrett, first artistic director of the Sydney Theatre Company in the Wharf.
There’s a sculpture that always makes me smile on the road outside the Wharf Theatre too.
The next part of the walk took me past the highly controversial Barangaroo development. A massive new building project began this year to erect a series of shops, apartments and hotels between the city and Darling Harbour, with a small park at the end of the peninsula. For the moment, it’s a 2km uninterrupted walking and cycling route. Please, please let it stay that way!!
Of course it would be brilliant to turn it all into beautiful public parkland, but money will win. Sydney needs to stop sprawling and get used to higher density apartment living. My hope is that Barangaroo (shockingly clumsy, hard to remember name) will do this well.
Darling Harbour was also a controversial development of the 1980s, but it’s been very successful in making itself one of the ‘must do’s’ for visitors to Sydney. The shops and restaurants may seem designed to cater for the tourist trade, though we enjoy the occasional visit to the Sydney Aquarium, Wildlife Sydney, Imax Cinema and, my favourite, the Australian Maritime Museum.
Behind the Maritime Museum, I came upon an attraction I’d never seen before – the Welcome Wall.
Over six million people have come to Australia as migrants, many of them disembarking from the ships that berthed on nearby Darling Island. The Welcome Wall lists the names of those whose relatives or descendants have paid $105 to have them included, but also displays moving and often entertaining first impression quotes.
Not all migrants to Australia were convicts, refugees or impoverished peasants hoping to get a new start in a new country. Many were, however. They’d be amazed to see how affluent Darling Island has become.
My new boots were getting a bit softer, but my feet were sore. There was a little pain behind my left knee. I watched my shadow keeping pace with me in the late afternoon sun. My shadow was limping slightly as I rounded the bend in Pyrmont.
Today’s walk – 10.7km
Total walked to date – 37.1km
Total still to go – 279.9km
Coming up soon – Sydney Fish Markets, Glebe, Balmain.