Most cities have a signature walk. I’m not referring to the strut of its residents but the exploration trek unique to that city which every newcomer or tourist has written on their checklist waiting for a tick.
In Sydney, we have the Bondi to Bronte. Winter or summer, the coastal walk is packed with locals wearing cute neon Nikes, buff lifeguards on their morning run and later in the day tourists who want pictures standing perilously-close to the side of the cliff overlooking the ocean. Now, I’m not insinuating to the National Trust that I discovered the Skyline walk, but in my eyes, it’s brand new territory. The purpose of my column is to rejoice in all the wonders of your city through the prism of a foreigner. So, please take it or leave it, but the next time you decide to do the ‘Skywalk’, remember my stories and the lessons I learnt...
I remember the very first time I embarked on the Skywalk. The sun was out and it had rained the night before so the meadows glistened as the light touched the blades of grass. As soon as I hit that first peak, which overlooks the city, the sun injected my post- winter skin with Vitamin D, and suddenly, I was overcome by an irrepressible urge to throw my arms out and twirl like Maria in The Sound of Music (you know the scene). The only thing stopping me mid-flight were the perfectly normal people out walking their Labradors, tennis-ball-throwers in hand.
Before I knew it, I had glided, worry free through two Buttermilk fields, taking pictures on my iPhone to capture the beauty to send back home. I passed through two gates.
Then came the mud. Of course, the deluge the night before meant my stroll quickly descended into mudsliding, accompanied by frenzied twig-grabbing.
The glorious sun hadn’t had time to dry out the steep slopes so I took the headphones out of my ears, TLC’s No Scrubs wasn’t aiding my determination to get back into town without a wet arse or broken thumb. I quickly realised despite my black and white (now off-white/ brown) Nike Free road-running shoes looking sport-luxe with the rest of my carefully- coordinated white ensemble, they are in no way suited to this terrain. I made it out, alive.
First lesson learnt: dress like you’re on Bear Grylls: Mission Survive and wear solid hiking shoes if it’s rained, fashion will understand.
The second time I tackled the Bath Skyline I decided to take a team. I ran out of the house at 9am, sacrificing breakfast for an extra 20 minutes’ sleep and shower, wearing all-black and suitable footwear to beat the muddy terrain. As you all know, every team has a leader – and a map. Two-and-half hours of gossip-and-walk, what looked like a rainforest and 50 cows later I had completed the real Skyline Walk. I’d also discovered why seasoned bushwalkers carry backpacks and take walking sticks. By midday, I was dehydrated, weak, starving and seeing spots.
Lesson two: hydrate and nourish before the trek, and if you commit to the entire walk, there’s no turning back.
Feeling pretty good about my knowledge of the mystery of the rolling meadows that lie above the city, I decided to show off and take my other half. Nourished, hydrated and dressed appropriately we set off for our romantic stroll in nature...
Lesson three is a quick one: if you are taking a male on the Bath Skyline, pack snacks. Also, encourage him to take a football to keep him occupied and the flowers safe. The wonder of nature lasts about 30 minutes before “are we there yet?” wears thin. And no, there are no shortcuts.