Tuesday, 4 November 2014

20 minutes of love: is this the best urban coast walk in the world?

I've walked the path from our place to Kings Beach 100s of times. At least once, typically twice and not unusually three times a day when I'm home. Every time it is wonderful. This entry is to record 20 minutes of love ...

1. The esplanade deck.

From our apartment balcony we look over the resort next door’s swimming pool to a wooden deck promenade that is designed for fishing, sitting, picnicking at covered tables, walking and chatting. We love waking up, wandering to the window and surveying the early morning goings on on the deck, and watch the constant stream of walkers and runners.

We pass idle daytime hours time sitting on the seats here and watching people walk past. We take food down to the covered tables and feel comforted by the calm blue water of The Passage.

Across the road is The Edge, our local-est café, where Johanna works and we know everyone by name.

I love that deck.

2, Bullcock Beach

The wooden deck winds past a small park where people sit on the grassy slopes, to the smallest surf life saving on the Coast. Past the weatherboard building, the rightside of the paths opens up to a European style bathing beach. Being on The Passage, there are no waves, only swift tidal currents. I think of it as European because at this beach people bathe rather than swim. Activity is usually limited to getting up from your towel and walking to the water. The soft white sand is welcoming.

It attracts holidayers from the resort across the road, but it is also a homely beach. After their daily morning dip, a familiar group of senior citizens sit in the morning sun and chat the morning away, uniformed in their faded green floppy hats.

This is where we go to sit in the late afternoon. The soft light of the setting sun washes over slow moving beachgoers as they eventually shake their towels and take themselves off the sand, often to one of the cafés or restaurants that overlook the beach.

For us there are two regular spots. Friday nights we often find ourselves at La Dolce Vita, always the same order including a vegan pizza for Johanna. Maria and I also frequent Drift where we perch for lunch on high outdoor tables and talk about life.

I love that beach.

3. Happy Valley

With Bullcock Beach behind us we zig zag to one of my favourite places, the aptly named Happy Valley. Families and groups gather here in happy activity. Playgrounds for happy kids. Larger shelters for happy outside functions. A permanent cricket pitch for happy family games. Loads of grass for picnic blankets. Lots of trees and shade. Seats on which to happily watch the passing parade. Wedding ceremonies, which also tend to be happy.

Happy Valley is also where kite surfers, windsurfers and long boarders gather. The grassy expanses between the single row carpark and beach invite people to lay their equipment down in the sun, to share stories as they prepare and pack up. The rocky drop from the park to the beach is via a couple of sets of wooden stairs. Depending on the time of year the beach might have 50 metres of sand, or none.

I love that park.

4. The boardwalk

At the end of Happy Valley, The Passage becomes the ocean. The set of stairs that punctuates the paved path from the elevated boardwalk ushers board carrying wave-riders who typically focus more on the surf than the steps below them, scanning for the spot most likely to offer a ride.

The boardwalk swings around the rocky outcrop and offers front row viewing to the broad sweep of breaks that attract long boarders and stand up paddlers alongside mobs of kids and others learning the craft.

I pause often along this stretch to watch. I share coaching analysis and commentary (to Maria) which is pretty laughable  given how poor I am at executing my own advice. Maria is gracious enough to listen without comment.

I love that boardwalk.

5. Kings Beach.

At the end of the boardwalk the wooden boards turn back into paving and on the right is a superbly designed area where people sit and watch the reef break beside a rock groin. The swell sits up off this reef to form incredible barrels. Groms live here, it is body boarding heaven.

There is a little viewing station, beside which a set of stairs go down to the southern end of Kings Beach.

Kings Beach is an iconic Australian Beach. The southern half (two thirds really) is designated for boardriders. Vans sit in the few car spots with their back doors open. Their owners and a mob of mates settle in for the day.

Half way along is a cluster of cafes which includes Coffee Cat, our Sunday morning breakfast place of choice. Sometimes we sit in the shade, more often than not on concrete steps designed for people to … sit and watch the goings on on the beach. On Sunday morning the beach is partly cordoned off and hundreds of kids in pink lifesaving tops go through their little nippers paces. Parents drink coffee and lay out picnic baskets.

At the northern end of the beach, the Surf Club sits regally above the sand. Pretty much every time we do the walk, I jump in the water and frolic in the surf for a while.

I love this beach.

Then we get to walk home again and do it all in reverse. And then later that day, we’ll probably do the walk again. Then again tomorrow.

Joy. Sand between our toes, salt air in our lungs, lapping water in our ears. Wellbeing.