Forgoing my normal morning bike ride at six o’clock and the terror of Phuket’s daily road mayhem, one recent chilly and misty dawn, I found myself wolfing down a bacon and egg roll and coffee at a little Rose Bay café on the southern foreshore of Sydney Harbour. Nothing unusual about that you might say, until you notice that I’m wearing waterproof shorts and a spray jacket and that my knees are knocking uncontrollably together.
The view from the top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Photo: Baz Daniel
“Right, you ‘orrible lot,” shouts Geoff, our Sergeant Major-esque trainer, “Into the kayaks and let’s get out there and do some paddling.”
It seems that Sydney-siders, like most Australians, have two great obsessions these days… looking like sculpted Greek Gods and Goddesses on the beach when the next summer arrives and trying to do something about the plague of global warming which is having such a dramatic impact upon their lives.
Inventive as ever, they’ve come up with the idea of ‘kayak commuting’ as a means of killing both birds with… well, one paddle. Hone those abs and pecs to polished perfection, while removing the carbon footprint from your journey to work. What could be trendier?
We run down the beach and leap, or in my case wriggle and struggle, into our waiting kayaks. Then we launch ourselves into the oncoming waves and we are off, paddling up the harbour with the glorious sight of the “old coat hanger and clam-filled piano” (the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House) rising out of the morning mist.
Commuter passenger ferries and huge departing cruise liners pass us by, sending up big bow waves for us to slalom down as we grimly strain every sinew to keep our balance. Gulls and Guillemots swoop around us and look on with an alarmed ferocity… surely some infringement of their territorial rights is going on here, they seem to be screeching.
We pass multi-million-dollar harbourside mansions, one with a maid in a primly starched cap and apron hanging out washing while a brace of school-uniformed children play Frisbee before leaving for their lessons. Then the naval docks at the wonderfully-named Woolloomooloo hove into view on our left with towering grey warships brooding in menacing silence at anchor. We paddle onward, past the Botanical Gardens, feeling somehow superior and more daring than the land-bound joggers and Tai Chi exponents doing their morning workouts.
Finally, after about an hour of sinew-busting paddling, we arrive at a little wooden jetty right below the creamy wings of the Opera House, with Circular Quay and the massive metallic arches of the Harbour Bridge vaulting skyward in front of us.
We shakily disembark to be reunited with our city clothes and briefcases, which have been carried by a waiting minivan for us. And so, we daring aquanauts miraculously transform like Super-men and women, back into common-or-garden dentists and advertising executives and rejoin the daily commuter throng.
All through the day no-one can take away from us the warm inner glow of our well-worked muscles or the sense of achievement and camaraderie that ‘kayak commuting’ instilled in our cheery group.
In fact, so energised was I by this amazing way to start my day, that the same evening saw me conquering the Sydney Harbour Bridge climb… and here’s the picture to prove it!
‘Bicycling’ Baz Daniel has been penning his Blazing Saddles column, chronicling his cycling adventures in Phuket and beyond, since 2013.
Source: The Phuket News