I will still be attending South Pacific Private for three days a week as an outpatient. Before I went away I gave Nick back his car. Last night I found myself sucked into an internet frenzy, trying to figure out how to get from Watson’s Bay to Curl Curl by public transport. I searched. I looked at maps. I printed out lengthy timetables. Here is the S.P.: If I get on a bus at Watson’s Bay at 6.48 a.m. I can connect with a ferry from Rose Bay to Circular Quay. Then, if I elbow my way through the throng to be the first to leap ashore from that ferry I can leg it down the quay and scramble aboard another ferry departing for Manly. Then it’s one more bus ride to Curl Curl, arriving at 9.04 a.m. Two hours and fifteen minutes. The return journey will be the same thing in reverse only it will take longer.
I am seething with resentment at the very idea of it.
In the soft early morning I walk to the bus stop at Watson’s Bay. The bus departs on time and swings right towards the harbour. I catch my breath as the vista of Sydney opens up before us. The water is smooth and green. The city towers reflect the gold of the rising sun. The Opera House sparkles like a diamond in the early light. The bus meanders down through the leafy streets of Vaucluse. Between ranks of luxury homes I catch glimpses of yachts and water. We progress up the hill to New South Head Road. As we sweep down the S bends towards Rose Bay there are a couple more spectacular panoramas to enjoy. I stand in the sunshine on Rose Bay Wharf for a few minutes. A sea-plane glides elegantly onto the bay and then roars into the terminal beside the ferry wharf. A twin-hulled white ferry approaches and I climb aboard with the early morning commuters.
I take a seat outside on the upper deck. This ferry is fast and sleek. We speed past the grand villas of Point Piper, cut across Double Bay and skirt the expensive high-rise flats of Darling Point. Rushcutters Bay is crammed with yachts. I strain my eyes towards Elizabeth Bay, trying to catch a glimpse of the apartment block where I grew up. We pass close by the Naval base at Garden Island, bristling with grey battleships, and the redeveloped Woolloomooloo docks. In the foreground is Fort Denison, otherwise known as ‘Pinchgut’. This is a tiny fortress-island where unlucky convicts were once sent for a punishment of solitary confinement and starvation. A perfect spot for a rehab, I muse to myself. Finally we skim beneath the soaring white sails of the Opera House. With the magnificent structure of the Harbour Bridge looming on our right, we glide into Circular Quay. I dash for the gangplank.
In minutes I am seated on the front deck of Queenscliff, a fine old, green-and-gold Manly Ferry. The deck seats are of varnished wood. The thrusters thrust and we churn back out onto the harbour, retracing the route to the east and North. Some time later the ferry passes Watsons Bay, where my odyssey began over an hour ago. I can see the hotel, the famous Doyle’s restaurant and the strip of white sand at Camp Cove. We sail right past and onward, the ferry now dipping and rising on a gentle swell that washes through the harbour mouth. I gaze through the Heads at the Pacific Ocean and the distant horizon. We could chug right out there and just keep going. I remember that the Manly ferries of my childhood originally came under their own steam 12,000 miles from Glasgow. They plied the harbour from Circular Quay to Manly for nigh on fifty years. So we could do it. Next stop Santiago, Chile. Will I survive the journey on a soy latte and half a sausage roll?
The ferry turns north and soon we are tying up at Manly wharf. There’s time to buy a pineapple, mango and fresh mint juice before boarding the bus. This route takes me along Manly beach with its boulevard of tall Norfolk pines. We skirt the delightful Freshwater beach and then round the headland to Curl Curl. A sweeping view of surf, sand and spray stretches on for a kilometre. I alight the bus and stroll the last fifty metres to South Pacific Private.
This has to be one of the most glorious commutes on earth.