“Let’s do bushwalking at Royal National Park”, Hery’s WhatsApp message read when I told him I would stop by at his place over the weekend. I have never done any bushwalking before. So this would be my first experience.
Just before nine in the morning, I was already at Central Station from the airport. Going through custom and immigration was easy. Buying a new sim card even took a much longer time before I got on to the express train from Sydney airport to the city. I pushed my big luggage from the platform looking for the main concourse. I looked at the big capital letter of Central Station.
“That thing is still up there”, I said to myself.
The sight of this old station was familiar. Its golden concrete walls at the main concourse have not aged a bit. The place was not as busy as I expected. I needed to find the baggage storage service store. Google map showed me that it would be just around the corner at the main concourse.
“Alright, everything is set! You may come back and pick up your luggage again before five in the afternoon. Just show this receipt and your identification card.”
The lady at the baggage storage store was very kind and efficient too. Some people were lining up to store their luggage also. Lucky I got here early. I stepped out of the store and started looking around. The place was getting crowded now, people were hurdling around, a typical morning at Sydney Central Station.
I sat outside a Lebanese bakery store across Penshurst station, overhearing the conversation and enjoying a slightly warm sunny afternoon in Sydney suburb. I took a small bite of bread and sipped a cold coffee from the bottle. Hery should be here at any minute. He said we would meet here at this station around five in the afternoon after he got off from work.
“Yea, we just opened about a month”, the lady at the counter smiled at her customer while handing over her pizza. She then went on for about ten minutes discussing the firewood oven the store used to bake the pizza. It was a fascinating story for me hearing the explanation of a firewood oven in Sydney.
“You are on the other side. You can go to the Bridge street side. I am here”.
Apparently, I had been waiting on the other side of the station. I pushed my luggage up the ramp and walked across the station. Hery was there smiling.
Hery and I went to Macquarie University here in Sydney about twenty years ago. I moved to the same house where all the other guys were residing then. During Olympics time, I used to go home late around midnight, and that was around the same time Hery returned home from his part-time job at Lane Cove area, if I could remember correctly. He worked in a restaurant and sometimes would bring some leftovers, which we accepted delightfully. Our principle was simple – “never refuse any free food”.
Hery is among the people that I admire in life. His kindness, compassion and spirit to live are inspiring. He went through an extremely difficult moment in his life that no one could ever imagine. God gave him a second chance in life and I don’t think he has disappointed Him since.
It was around eleven pm in the evening, I could hear the soothing sounds of insects outside the house. I better get some sleep because I didn’t really sleep during the six-hour flight from Jakarta to Sydney. From the airport, I went straight strolling around at Macquarie University and touring the city, so I was pretty knackered alright. I could barely hear Taka’s voice, the lead singer of One Ok Rock in my earplug as I fell asleep.
On the dot around nine o clock, Ratna, Hery’s wife dropped us off at Watamolla parking space. The plan was to walk along the coast from Watamolla to Bundeena, a portion of the vast 151 square kilometres of Royal National Park, located about 29 kilometres south of Sydney. Google map said we both could conquer the ten-kilometre bushwalk within two-hour walk. The bushwalking guide book said it should be about a three-hour hike. With our age, we both were realistic. It would be great to finish it within a four-hour mark, even that still sounded too ambitious.
We started walking slowly and immediately got distracted by the views, plants, insects, animals and flowers we saw along the way. Half an hour passed and we just reached the Watamolla fall. We knew we wouldn’t be able to hit the three-hour mark.
The weather that day was beautiful. It was quite cold in the morning, but soon enough it warmed up and got really hot by noon. What amazed me was the track that the government provided for the visitors. The walking trail went all the way from Watamolla to Bundeena.
“The contract for this project must be expensive. How did they bring the materials all the way up here?” As if we were the experts of walking trail construction, we both bent, crawled and checked the trails. It’s not made of iron but cement-like materials in the shape of brackets that allows plants to still grow underneath. It’s a brilliant design! We continued our walk and enjoyed the fresh air and breathtaking views all the way.
When we were crossing this Marley Beach, both of us walked too close to the beach. A big wave hit the shore and soaked my shoes. Hery was pretty quick though to run away, so he wasn’t wet at all. We decided to stop for our lunch break, and I took off my shoes and let them dry under the sun. It was midday, and the sun was scorching hot already. Each of us brought two bottles of water, so we were okay.
By around two o’clock in the afternoon, we both reached Bundeena. So roughly we needed almost five hours to finish the track! Well, that included our constant stops along the way to take photos and nearly an hour rest to dry up my shoes at Marley beach. We both were tired, and Hery seemed to have sprained one of his knees, so another half-hour walk from the park to Bundeena wharf was quite excruciating. When we got to the waterfront, we just missed the ferry and had to wait for another hour. We then went to get a sandwich at a local restaurant and ate it by the beach while waiting for the boat to arrive.
Bundeena is a little town by the bay with a population of only 2,000 residents (2016 census). The most convenient public transportation would be by ferry to Cronulla across the bay. Twenty minutes before four pm, Hery and I lined up along with other passengers. We surely didn’t want to miss this boat as this might be the last ferry for the day. From Cronulla, it was just a short train ride to Gymea. We ended our day, exhausted but fulfilled! Our next target is Blue Mountain trail. I just hope we could do it before we both are in our fifties.