“Its hardly Ballyholme, but it’ll do” – Bondi Beach, Australia

“Its hardly Ballyholme, but it’ll do” – Bondi Beach, Australia

As a visitor to Sydney it was slightly obvious that in the first week we would go to the famous Bondi Beach. The weather wasn’t amazingly hot during the first 7 days however, but the night before the 8th day, we were led to believe that next day would be the ideal day to “do Bondi.” We were out the night before with the folk from Chilli Blue Hostel. It was an interesting night, we were entitled to a free drink in the World Bar at King’s Cross. In there, Daniel and I teamed up with some more of the hostel crew, including two Finnish girls, Sofia and Carolina, and two German guys, Viktor and Simon. After a free schooner of VB (Victoria Bitter) in there, Daniel calls me down the stairs and alerts me to get the girls, we’re going next door for yet another free entry to a club and another free drink!

This sort of thing happens a lot in Sydney. There are free entry and free drinks to be had every night. The club next door was Candy Club and they had their “Disco Disco” night on. There was a queue to get in outside, the queue was of backpackers from the hostel “Globe Backpackers.” So the 6 of us casually joined the queue and pretended we were part of that hostel! By doing this we got free entry and a free drink voucher. It was through Viktor we had found out about this. Viktor had forgotten his ID and so he went back to the hostel. When he returned he couldn’t remember which bar the free drink was in (World Bar or Candy Club), and he ended up in Candy Club. Once inside Candy Club, the 6 of us all got our free drink. I chose an ice cold bottle of Toohey’s Extra Dry. It was my favourite beer in Australia up to that point.

After drinking those and having a short dance, Simon came running over saying he had gone out of the bar and got back in again, getting another free drink token. We were up for trying it again, so we did! We all left the club, queued up again after a short break, walked past the bouncers who strangely didn’t recognise us, even when asking again for ID. We had also rubbed off the stamp that proved we were already in there. Soon we were inside the same club again, with a second free entry, a second stamp and the same Australian bar lady was issuing me with my second ice cold free Toohey’s Extra Dry. 3 free drinks, 2 nightclubs and talk began of Bondi Beach. The girls both wanted to go, and Daniel and I agreed to get up early, waken them up and go to the beach.

The next morning I was up enjoying the free breakfast in Chilli Blue Hostel (it was just tea, coffee, milk, cornflakes and toast with jam…but as a traveller anything free is a bonus and I took full advantage). I then knocked on the Finnish girl’s door, but couldn’t get them up! We tried a few times, and also invited Natalja to the beach. Nobody seemed up for it, except for me and Daniel. But we were all set. Towels, sandwiches and bananas for the day, sun cream and swimming trunks. From the hostel finding Bondi Beach would be easy. There were 3 options, to walk it (1.5 hour walk), to bus it or to train it. Our hostel was on Victoria Street, the same street as the entrance to King’s Cross underground station. A return to Bondi Junction station was just 4.40 Australian Dollars. The short train ride took us east, passing first Edgecliff station (which totally isn’t anywhere near the edge of a cliff) and then arriving at Bondi Junction, the nearest train station to Bondi Beach.

Once out of the station it was a bit of a downhill dander to the beach itself. Using my map, our common sense and asking a local, we made our way onto Oxford Street, where there was a shopping mall and a corner of a busy main road. The locals seemed confused as to why on earth we would want to WALK to Bondi Beach! It wasn’t exactly very far, and why would two travellers get a bus in this sort of heat. We did see a few number 38 buses go past – they were all heading direct to the bus stop opposite Bondi Beach. Walking down also gave us a chance to see the Bondi area of Sydney. At the next corner we took a right onto Bondi Road, a road which leads down a big hill until you see the beauty of Bondi Beach right at the end. It was indeed, as forecasted a scorching day, the hottest since our arrival in Australia 8 days previously.

On the walk down to Bondi Beach, I noticed three main things. Firstly on Castlefield Street, a side street to the left, Bondi Presbyterian Church was advertised on a road sign pointing down. We wanted to get straight to the beach, but I told Dan I’d pop by for a look on the way home. I always do that when I see a Presbyterian Church (from one in Hamilton, New Zealand to one in Tailuga, Taiwan). On the right hand side further down there was, bizarrely a “Hungarian Restaurant” featuring specialities from the land of Magyar. It made me think of Noemi once again, I stopped for a photo and reminisced of fond times spent in Hungary. It seems Debrecen and “Jo Reggelt” will never leave me, and I’ll never want them to. As travellers on a budget, we resisted the temptation of pricey food, whether Hungarian or not and we headed back down the hill towards the beach. The area was Waverley Council, as we saw the council building as well, on the same main street. At the bottom of the hill there was a backpackers hostel.

We stopped and checked the prices and what have ye, thinking ahead there was always the chance that we would spend some time in Bondi. It was a blue painted building and called “Noah’s Backpackers”, we considered staying there for 7 nights, as the 8th night was free. I was still waiting on confirmation if I had the job at PJ Gallagher’s Irish Pub in Parramatta, so we didn’t commit to anything. Then right opposite we had the delight of our first sighting of the beautiful Bondi Beach. It was golden sand and glorious blue ocean, as advertised and as seen on TV and in magazines. It looked every bit the part. Before walking on to the beach, we walked down hill to a vantage point, a lookout point with railings and were posing there for photos. Out of the blue a guy says “do ye want me to take a photy of youse two?”, recognising immediately the Ulster accent, I said to this guy, “haul on a minute were are ye from? Norn Iron?!”. He was, and not only that but he was from Bangor! And this guy was the same age as me, 29. It was such a coincidence I couldn’t believe. We’d had Presbyterian Church, Hungarian Restaurant  and now a guy from the same part of the world as me. I never used to like the term “it’s a small world”, but yet time after time its so relevant. I got a few photos with him, with my Northern Ireland fleg (the fleg, currently hung up in my new flat, one which has travelled everywhere with me). He had just arrived a few hours ago, by plane from New Zealand.

He was also a chef and would be working in a restaurant by Bondi Beach. We caught him with his jet lag, but swopped e-mail addresses, phone numbers and facebook contact details. We chatted about Bangor, Australia and New Zealand. We also shared some mutual friends, and he knew Jim, the chef from my old pub job back in 2001, when I worked in the small bar at McMillen’s (The Steamer Bar, The Black Boat or The First Port as you may know it…). The Bangor friend was off after that and Daniel and I were ready to join the hoardes of sexy bikini clad ladies and hardcore surfer dudes on the world famous sands of Bondi beach. It was worth the journey!

Celebrities such as Kylie Minogue have been spotted in the past on Bondi beach, and there was me dressed ridiculously unfashionably in a green “Ash” t-shirt and baggy tracksuit bottoms (stolen by a mate, John Hart from the Iceland national team back in 2007, in Reykjavik), taking my first steps on the golden sand. Already I saw some pretty ladies, many with their breasts on display. A far cry from my home town’s Ballyholme beach, where I used to walk sometimes on my lunch break while working at Steenson’s (the butchery counter). On Bangor’s Ballyholme beach you’d never see a pair of tits! It wasn’t cold, the sun was glaring down, the surfers were out jumping the strong constant waves.

Artistic graffiti lined the beach walls behind, with images of surfers. A mixture of locals, tourists and travellers lined the beach as Dan and I found a wee spot to rest, close enough to the sea. First up was sun cream city, where I put loads on, clearly learning from the time I got sun burnt at Caesar Cove and Kenting Beach in Taiwan. I didn’t take any risks and the sun cream was smacked on all over. Before this I had to change though, as I brought my swimming trunks in my bag. For a few seconds only I was bottom half naked on Bondi Beach. Then I could relax, listen to iPod, get a sun tan and relax.

Dan and I took it in turns to go in for a swim. He went first and said “the current there is strong.” It took me by surprise, on entering this part of the Pacific Ocean for the first time, I was almost swept away! The current and waves are very strong, and the tide confuses you, from having no water at your feet suddenly you’re up to your neck in the freezing Bondi water. I say freezing – it was so cold! This was Spring time at Bondi, for the Aussies. Dan didn’t seem to find the water as cold as I did, but then I was remembering my time swimming in Taiwan just a few weeks before, where the South China Seas and Pacific Ocean water was roasting! Bondi was a comedown. It was hardly a disappointing discovery to learn that the water at Bondi was cold. It just caught me by surprise, as did the saltiness of the water. And especially that strong current, that almost knocked me for six…on a clam day. Yards ahead surfers made surfing look easy, I daren’t go in so far. Lifeguards around made it feel safe, and a sign saying “Strong Currents” was there as an alert. I didn’t want to get head-butted by a Bondi Surfer. The water was a mixture of blue, murky sandy brown, cold, salty and fast moving.

The two Finnish girls said they would go to Bondi and we had been unable to waken them, so I had a quick look around in vain. Bondi Beach is quite small, much smaller than you’d imagine, I’d guess. But yet it was busy and would have been hard to find anyone you knew there. I saw plenty of topless ladies again to fuel my male sex drive yet again. Lunch was orange juice (cheap stuff from Coles, which turned out to be concentrated, so we had to mix it with our bottled water) and sandwiches. We had chicken, cheese and ham sandwiches. Lunch at Bondi for less than 3 dollars each. Plus a bag of Doritos which we had brought. We had another swim later on, spent about 4-5 hours lying in the relaxing sun.

After that we walked up to the main Pavilion. I bought a couple of postcards there and checked out the maps and facilities. For some reason the Pavilion area reminded me of Weston Super Mare in England. Perhaps because there was a Pavilion, a beach and more interestingly a bar called “Nick’s Bar”, presumably the Weston Super Mare bar had named itself after this one, in a poor attempt to emulate the beauty of Bondi Beach. You can’t emulate it. It stands on its own. Its still special. It should stay that way. Daniel had gone to the toilet, on the way out by coincidence he met Carolina. We had met the Finnish girls after all! But they had slept in and only just arrived. We were already deciding to head back to the hostel, so we said Hello and Goodbye (see you later for a drink at the hostel) to them. I bought the 2 postcards from a stand off a Scottish guy, who had been living there for 6.5 years! Nice view from his office window.

I also thought of Bournemouth Beach at the time, I spent 4 summers working right by the beach selling ice creams, cheeseburgers and drinks. I thought of working somewhere near Bondi for a second. Then I re-thunk and decided I was much more keen on the Irish Pub job. It was kind of a dream of mine. To work in an Irish Pub in Australia. Now the dream has become a reality here in Parramatta. Then it was time to bid our farewell to Bondi Beach, head up the steep hill back to the train station at Bondi Junction. On the way stopping for a drink (I had a Dr. Pepper) and the visit to Bondi Presbyterian Church. The church was closed, but I walked around and got my photo took outside. That Protestant, Reformatisch element of my life is always with me. I’m not your typical religious type. I’d surprise quite a few people to know I still keep my faith. The sun was going down and we were walking up the hill.

It was hardly a long walk, but a peaceful, relaxed enjoyable one. It was unusual that Natalja hadn’t wanted to come with us – I was sure she loved beaches. But we had a great day out. It was kind of one of those “have to do” things while in Sydney. We had done it, hardly any reason to go back there, for now. Maybe next time we will try Manly Beach, supposedly larger, better, just not with that famous international appeal that comes from the golden sands, blue sky and gloriously strong ocean waves of Bondi Beach. Been there, done that, took off my t-shirt.

Who went? – Daniel Evans, Jonny Blair and separately the two Finland ladies, Sofia and Carolina

Transport Used – Sydney Underground: King’s Cross to Bondi Junction (return)

Nationalities Met – Northern Irish, Scottish, American, Finnish, Australian

Sightseeing? – Bondi Presbyterian Church, Bondi Beach, Waverley Council Building, Oxford Street, Hungarian Restaurant

Key Song – Oasis – Its Gettin Better (Man!!), if only for the stupidly intelligent line “people here on life’s beaches wish upon a wave that hides the sun”



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