Village One: Milsons Point Village
I walked quickly through North Sydney towards Milsons Point.
Fortunately, most of the way it was downhill.
I ate two of the two chocolate bars I’d bought on impulse the night before.
As I passed through North Sydney and entered Milsons Point, I saw a few other people who also looked like Walkers heading in the same direction.
Finally, almost twenty minutes after I’d hurried out of the Rydges North Sydney, I made it to Milsons Point Village a few minutes before 8:30am.
Hundreds of Walkers were crowded within the Burton Street underpass that led to the stairs up to the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
I put some chewing gum in my mouth, entered the underpass, and got my Event Passport.
A moment later, the Walk began for 8:30am starters.
I joined the huge mass of humanity making its way up the stairs to the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Bridge One: The Sydney Harbour Bridge
Since 1996, I’ve walked across the Sydney Harbour Bridge hundreds of times – or maybe it’s more than a thousand times, now.
But I’d never crossed when the walkway had been packed like this.
As far as I could see up ahead, an almost solid mass was moving south across the Bridge.
Yet again, it was amazing to behold the variety of people walking the Walk.
The atmosphere was quite pleasant.
Except for the few jerks who, to my utter disbelief, were slowing up the crowd here and there because they were looking down at their fucking smartphones.
I overtook them whenever possible.
I also tried to keep left wherever I could, to be considerate of the few non-Walkers who were coming the other way with disgruntled look on their faces – but unfortunately, like the jerks with the smartphones, some of my fellow Walkers weren’t that considerate.
As I neared the southern end of the Bridge, a non-Walker very angrily blew his stack at the situation before continuing on.
Apart from that tense moment, I crossed the Bridge without incident.
Just after the stairs that led down to ground level near Argyle Street in the Rocks, I got my Event Passport stamped.
Shortly after, I glanced at the time on my iPhone.
It was around 8:50am.
One Village reached and one Bridge crossed, six more of each to go.
Vilage Two: Barangaroo Village
Along with many other fellow Walkers, I headed west along Watson Road and then Argyle Street into The Rocks.
Soon, we turned north into Dalgety Road and followed that to the northern entrance of the Barangaroo Reserve.
The walk through the newly-built Reserve was quite pleasant, and flat. Its pathway took us along the foreshore around Millers Point and south into Darling Harbour.
Just after the southern exit from the Reserve came the next stamping point for my Event Passport – Barangaroo Village.
It was also where I took my first toilet break. There was quite a line-up for the Portaloos there, but fortunately the queue moved quickly.
After I was finished, I looked at the time again.
It was around 9:15am.
As I’d done back in 2014 during my first attempt at the Walk, I recorded that progress in the notepad I carried in my travel vest.
Back in 2014 I’d also used an official Walk app to record my progress, but this year I’d decided to just use my notepad.
I changed my chewing gum and resumed walking.
Two Villages reached, five to go.
Bridge Two: Pyrmont Bridge
Hundreds of us continued south out of Barangaroo Village and down Hickson Road into the north-west edge of the Sydney CBD.
The Walk route made a turn up a long and narrow flight of stairs to Kent Street, and then headed south again until it turned west down Erskine Street to the King Street Wharf.
This was once familiar territory that I hadn’t walked though for a few years, especially after one of my all-time favourite restaurants near King Street Wharf had closed back in 2013 – Genghis Khan Mongolian BBQ.
The Walk continued south along the Darling Harbour foreshore past Madame Tussauds and the Sydney Aquarium to the eastern end of the Pyrmont Bridge.
Many of us headed up to the Pyrmont Bridge via escalator, and then crossed to the western end to get our Event Passports stamped once more.
I checked my iPhone.
It was around 9:40.
Two Bridges crossed, five to go.
Village Three: Pyrmont Village
Barely five minutes after Pyrmont Bridge came Pyrmont Village, where I decided to take my first break.
After I got my third Village stamp, I took my empty water bottle out of my backpack and filled it from one of the free taps provided.
Then I saw something as equally wonderful as free water, but more hard to come by at the Villages – a seat.
I sat down, took off my travel vest and jacket, and relaxed with my water and two more of my chocolate bars.
It was quite a warm day, but I saw for the first time that unlike the bright and sunny Walk day back in 2014, today was partly overcast.
Back at the Rydges North Sydney, I’d left behind the small umbrella I usually carry in my backpack to reduce travelling weight – but now as then, I thought that it would be no big deal if it did rain. I would already be soaked here and there with sweat, and the hat would keep water out of my eyes.
Physically, I wasn’t feeling bad at all – and so far, there were no problems with my Doc Martens.
It was good to be doing the Walk again.
Just before 10:00am, I got myself ready and resumed Walking.
Three Villages reached, four to go.
Bridge Three: The Anzac Bridge
Like the walk around the Barangaroo Reserve, the next 25 minutes of walking around the Pyrmont peninsula was flat and pleasant.
After Johnstons Bay and then Jones Bay, many of us arrived at the Anzac Bridge.
Just before the large spiral walkway that leads up to the Anzac Bridge was the next stamp point for our Event Passports.
I checked the time.
It was around 10:25am.
I headed up onto the bridge and then across it.
As I was descending on the western side, it felt like my left sock was bunching a little within my left Doc Marten – which could lead to blistering. I quickly pulled over, spent a minute or so adjusting both my Docs and socks, and got walking again.
After the Anzac Bridge, the Walk entered the narrow and twisty streets of eastern Rozelle.
Along the way was Easton Park, where I felt like making another toilet stop.
There were no Portaloos there, though – just a unisex public toilet with only two stalls and a queue. Fortunately, like at Barangaroo Village, the queue moved quickly.
After Easton Park the narrow and twisty streets continued, but now up some steep slopes as well. They weren’t too bad, though…unlike the horrors waiting up north a few hours away.
Soon the Walk reached, and then crossed through, Callan Park. At this stage, there were still many Walkers of all ages.
Finally, we descended to Iron Cove where Rozelle Village awaited.
But before I got my next Village stamp, I saw a vacant seat that was right on the water’s edge with a nice view, so I decided to rest there first.
It was now 11:15am.
Three Bridges crossed, four to go.
Village Four: Rozelle Village
Like I’d done back at Pyrmont Village, I took a 15-minute break.
I drank the water still left in my bottle from Pyrmont Village, looked at the nearby Iron Cove Bridge, relaxed, and thought about my legs.
They were starting to ache a little.
That wasn’t worrying at that moment – but, of course, I thought back to those last agonizing kilometres through the Lower North Shore back in 2014.
I decided to start preparing myself now to blunt what might be similar excruciating pain in a few hours’ time, so I took some Nurofen.
I also changed my chewing gum again, and just before 11:30am I set off again.
Just before I left Rozelle Village, I got my next Village stamp.
Four Villages reached, three to go.
Village-wise, I was now more than halfway there.
Bridge Four: Iron Cove Bridge
Barely 10 minutes later, I was across the Iron Cove Bridge and getting my Event Passport stamped again.
Four Bridges crossed, three to go.
Bridge-wise, I was also now more than halfway there.
It was around 11:40am.
I’d been walking for just over three hours.
And the toughest parts of the Walk still lay ahead.
Like my former vertigo-inducing nemesis, the Gladesville Bridge.
And worse than that, the nasty incline from Burns Bay Reserve to Riverview.
And worst of all, the last six kilometres of the Lower North Shore.
I kept walking.
TO BE CONTINUED