Trip Start Nov 06, 2003
Trip End Jan 24, 2004

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Flag of Australia  ,
Sunday, January 18, 2004

Sydney's ferry service goes almost into the open South Pacific en route to Manly. The boat takes on a persuasive roll as we pass between South and Middle Head, then after a few minutes we're tucked in behind the North Head and looking at the shark nets around Manly's calm harbour beaches.

The town is less than 30 seconds wide by world-class sprint standards. Just two blocks from this protected inland cove, the open ocean is sending nice big curlers onto Manly's eastern shore. The town does, of course, stretch a bit further in the other direction. In the few blocks we wander, it's obvious that Manly is a backpacker haven. Hand-drawn signs at all the Internet Cafes offer their hourly access rates. The idea of these cafes, which have existed in every small town we've visited, will seem quant in just a few years, I think -- the notion of a shop where you pay to sit and surf. In a wireless world, they'll seem so much like this era's fleeting technology: the 21st Century's telegraph office.

We stop for a relaxing lunch of Lentil burgers and tabouleh at Candy's, then make our way over to the ocean side of the town, where Emma is excited by the topless women basking in the sun. Being the great dad I am, I help her count them as we stroll down a beach full of volleyball nets, surf classes and lifeguards. By the end of the jaunt, Emma has realized a truism -- the most forbidden things, like nudity, become ho-hum experiences once enough people do them. Out in the surf, no one seems concerned about sharks -- I mean, no one's actually died from a shark attack in a long time -- so I cavort in the waves along with the hundreds of other swimmers bunched together on the stretches between the flags. Rips have no sense of decorum and even at a popular beach like this, its best to stick in the lifeguard-sanctioned areas to avoid being pulled out to sea. Still, it's rather funny to see this immense stretch of water with us all jammed into a few little channels.

The return ride to Circle Quay is uneventful -- the ferry stays too far out from all the coves to get a good look at the shoreline, so I resolve to take a more languid commuter ferry some time this week and get a better feel for the harbour. Although the following ferry back around to Darling Harbour is lovely, it is also time consuming. By the time we've had a rest and swim at the hotel, we're cutting it very fine indeed to make Shakespeare on the Beach. When we reach Circular Quay it's clear we'd be lucky to see the second act. Instead we return to the Opera House so everyone can witness the lights on the bridge.
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