It’s been a long time coming but it seems that summer has finally arrived in Sydney. Watching the cricket on the telly, consecutive days of blue sky, sun and blessed summer heat. We’ve had uncharacteristically cool weather, more changeable than usual, more like Melbourne than Sydney weather really. Skies that have been clear in the morning have yielded to rain in the afternoon with the clouds sweeping in between one look and the next, only to clear off with the evening.
The days have been steadily getting longer though and the sky dawned bright and clear this morning. Perfect for a trip to the beach. And I had a specific beach in mind. Trying to beat the back-to-work traffic I jumped into the car, heading to Vaucluse for my morning run. Ten minutes into the drive it occurred to me that I’d left my runners at home and had to turn around. So much for an early start.
After the false start I eventually found myself navigating the winding roads that lead to the eastern suburbs. I don’t often head out this way and every time I drive New South Head Road I fondly remember Heartbreak Hill and the poor souls who toil up it each year on the City2Surf run. Such a joy to drive but hell to run.
I set myself no such gruelling challenges for my run, keeping a leisurely pace past some of Sydney’s most glamorous and expensive real estate with views of the city back over the waters of Port Jackson. Arriving at the top of the steps leading down to Lady Bay Beach I pause before descending. To the right, down the beach are two men: one in boardshorts; one in a blue body suit. To the left, lying on the boulders is another man. Wearing nothing.
This early in the morning there is no direct sunlight on the western facing beach; the only sun is on those big rocks. Nothing else for it, I started clambering over the rocks. This was my first time to a nude beach but I figured communal shower etiquette applied: Eyes above the waist. Since I had to jump from rock to rock my focus was on my feet which I think is also acceptable.
Making my way to an empty boulder I lay down my towel and again I pause. Well, when in Rome. Having participated in the No Pants Train Ride, the sensation of removing one’s shorts in public was not entirely new to me. If anything that was more daunting given the location and the audience. I immediately came to new appreciation, however, of the Scottish attraction to the kilt and its breezy construction.
A couple of boats fished just offshore, while on the path above, the occasional morning runner made their way past with a decent view of the beach goers. I was reminded of seals sunning themselves on the rocks.
I got a bit of a shock when I glimpsed the flicker of a shadow coming over my shoulder. Looking over I saw a new arrival on my rock. Casting my eye around to the other fellow he seemed content to mind his own business. It seemed etiquette did not include casual greetings even when coming into close proximity. It seems that nudists carry an invisible box around them. Personal space. No entry.
Ever mindful of Australia’s harsh sun I only wished to even out my tan a little while chalking up a new experience for the New Year. Lying on the rock I eventually realised the source of an itching sensation and managed to kill a few mozzies but in the end I was prompted to gather my things.
Picking my way back across the rocks I passed an amusing branch of wood carved in the image of a phallus. How very appropriate. I strolled down the beach and took a quick dip; after all it’s not a trip to the beach if you don’t right? After that I dried off and rejoined clothed society.
It’s still a beautiful summer day and getting hotter. I might start regretting that wish for a blazing summer but that will still be better than one where you can’t depend on a day of sun for a trip to the beach.