Paddling in time of lockdown

Friday 17 April, 2020

Our COVID-19 pandemic restrictions here in NSW sees exercise as a “reasonable excuse” to leave home. A quick decision to paddle. Loaded the gear and kayaks into the car and drove 5 minutes from home to Rodd Point on the Parramatta River to park and launch. The Harbour Bridge is a dividing line, to the east is Sydney Harbour, to the west is the Parramatta River.


a magic moment, with the bridge in sight

With blue, sunny skies, a warm day and the promise of some sou-westerly winds we took off pretty much on low tide. It’s a regular paddle for us, though we hadn’t done it together for a while – out of Iron Cove, under the Iron Cove bridge, past Cockatoo Island and turning east around Yurulbin Point, under the walkway bridge to the new-to-us Birchgrove ferry wharf, and on past the eclectic assortment of watercraft moored in Snails Bay. Nearing Goat Island we agreed to continue eastwards and crossed the channel towards Blues Point. Avoiding a fisherman and his line, a random couple on the waterfront beckoned us in and asked if we knew Phil – nope, didn’t think we did. The sea kayaking community in Sydney is small, but not that small we thought. Until we rounded the point and met two kayakers. “Who’s that?” one called out. “Dee”, I replied, immediately realising that he was our mate Stewart. And of course, Stewart was paddling with Phil, who we did know, having kayaked to the Tollgate Islands with him just last month … small world, our kayaking community. A few photos of each other, a few pleasantries exchanged and we continued on east, now contemplating Stewart’s suggestion of a takeaway coffee, at Thelma and Louise’s café in Neutral Bay.

Under the Bridge, always a thrill and a moment of pause and reflection, while carefully keeping an eye on what all the ferries and rivercats are doing. A sense of Freedom for having passed under the Bridge, for using our right to “exercise” to be on such a spectacular waterway. Onwards past Admiralty House and round into Neutral Bay. Stewart’s vague instructions “Go past Kirribilli and go right and there’s the beach with the steps to the café” were clear enough for us to find our way. However the numbers of folk gathered on Hayes Street Beach made us pause and decide not to land. Odd, how the NSW restrictions are policed, this number of folk on a beach, clearly not exercising would be unacceptable in other parts of Sydney. A quick chat with a swimmer and we learned about another café near the Ensemble theatre. Onwards, past Australian Border Force we found the Flying Bear café and landed, managing to get the kayaks ashore despite the slippery concrete ramp.

Here was lovely Milson Park, a whole world away from the terrors of the SARS-COV2 virus and its attacks on New York and London cities. Sunshine, people lazing (safely physically distanced from each other), takeaway coffee and food available … quite a headspin to compare this to how so many others in the world are coping with the pandemic. A trip to the public toilet, a visit to such facility that can be achieved without directly touching any surface is a personal triumph, followed by our coffee, muffin and croissant from The Flying Bear while sat in the sun, appreciating our amazing good fortune. Where else in the world would anyone want to be during this pandemic?

Relaunching, we wandered back past the waterfront homes, marinas and yacht clubs, approaching the Opera House and Harbour Bridge again. Watching the ferries carefully, criss-crossing with a yacht under sail, we made our way from the harbour back to the Parramatta River and up into Iron Cove, all the while into the W/SW headwinds of 10-15 knots. It felt lovely to pass the little beaches, the sandstone outcrops, the spreading fig trees before landing back on the little sandy beach. Happy and grateful for the ability to have an outing like this, we packed up and drove home.  20km done.

17 April paddling path