It’s funny how one thing can lead to another.
For Christmas 2013, my young nieces and nephew gave me a $50 Sizzler gift card that was valid until 17 December 2014.
Although there are many Sizzlers in Queensland, where my nieces and nephew live, there are now only three left in New South Wales (there used to be many more, but in the late 1990s for reasons I can’t remember almost all of them closed down). Fortunately, though, those three NSW Sizzlers are also in Sydney and the closest is only 30-40 minutes away by train and foot in Kogarah, whose most famous export is Clive James.
Several times throughout this year I thought about getting down to Kogarah once or twice and enjoying a meal at Sizzler, but I never got around to it – until a few weeks ago, because time was running out for my gift card.
Because I had $50 to spend, and I didn’t know if I’d be able to get to Kogarah twice before the 17th, I decided to indulge myself by having both lunch and dinner in the one visit.
Sizzler permitting, of course – and fortunately they did, so on Saturday 6 December I spent a very pleasant 6-7 hours there.
Apart from the very yummy food, what also made that double-visit enjoyable was re-reading most of a book I’d enjoyed very much a few months before – Bill Bryson’s A Walk In The Woods, his classic 1998 account of hiking most of the Appalachian Trail with a friend.
As well as having enjoyed other Bryson books like Made In America and The Lost Continent, I’d been inspired to read A Walk In The Woods by my long-walk experiences early this year. Although my walks certainly don’t compare to hiking the Appalachian Trail, and at present I only have minor interest in rural hiking, the idea of spending several months doing nothing but walking sounded wonderful.
What inspired me to re-read A Walk In The Woods was another book about a long journey by foot that I’d recently enjoyed, Cheryl Strayed’s Wild.
So during that Sizzler double-visit I once again enjoyed A Walk In The Woods – and while there at Kogarah, it got me thinking again about my own long-walking.
I was planning to go long-walking again in January 2015, when I would be on a month’s leave…but as I sat there in Sizzler and thought about Bryson’s and Strayed’s books, I began consulting information online and came up with an idea.
Why not do one last long-walk for 2014, and use Sizzler as a starting point? It would be a good excuse to go there for lunch again, and give me a lot of fuel for my journey.
But a journey to where?
In the end, I decided that my destination would be the inner-west suburb of Newtown, about 13 kilometres away if I followed the Princes Highway. Not only is Newtown not far from where I live, but its dazzling variety of restaurants gave me something else to aim for – a tasty dinner.
So not only did I leave Sizzler that evening having thoroughly enjoyed my double visit, I also had something – actually, several somethings – to look forward to next weekend.
Sunday, 14 December 2014.
Like the weekend before I caught the train to Carlton, which has the closest railway station to Sizzler, and at 11:30am lunch began.
At 1:30pm, I decided to get going and made a last visit to the toilet.
I had no idea how long this walk would take, but I was pretty sure that I would make it to Newtown by 5:30pm where I was planning to meet up with a friend for dinner.
If I followed the Princes Highway, I would be fine – and from memory, there were no dreadful hills ahead.
As well, it was a very bright and sunny day.
At 1:45pm I bid farewell to Sizzler and began my journey north.
Roughly 45 minutes, two suburbs and six kilometres later, I stopped for my first break at a service station in Banksia that shared an intersetion with the Banksia Hotel.
Fortunately, as I had hoped, it had been a mostly flat walk along the Princes Highway through Kogarah and Rockdale.
I bought a 600ml bottle of water and enjoyed it very much until around 2:45pm, when I set off again.
The next 45 minutes or so of my walk took me another four kilometres north, through Arncliffe and Wolli Creek to Tempe.
Here the terrain became hilly, but not unbearably so.
I had thought that when the next break approached, I would grab another bottle of water from another service station or a convenience store…but as 3:30pm approached, an unexpected opportunity presented itself.
I went into the massive IKEA at Tempe.
Although I’m an IKEA fan and it had been a while since I’d been to one, I restricted myself to a quick visit to the food hall and then a nearby vending machine – where due to mechanical error I wound up with both a 600ml bottle of water and a small bottle of fruit juice.
I sat down and for the next 15 minutes or so and enjoyed both drinks.
Shortly after 3:45pm, I hit the road again.
I continued north from Tempe into St. Peters.
Overall, this walk had been the easiest I’d attempted thus far. Although slightly hilly in places, it was nowhere near as bad as the dreaded Lower North Shore.
As well, the Princes Highway made for a good trail to follow.
In several places, though, it was the least attractive walk I’ve done thus far.
Like Parramatta Road and Victoria Road, the Princes Highway can be an ugly old Sydney main road. A lot of its surrounding environments were shaped around it, rather than the other way around; in several places there were a lot of abandoned and semi-abandoned properties; and although in other places there were new apartment buildings, the idea of living right up against the grim and noisy Princes Highway was very unappealing.
But as I approached St. Peters and Newtown on the last leg of my walk, the mixture of gentrified and restored sights got better.
Soon, I crossed the major intersection near St. Peters railway station to the mouth of King Street at the southern end of Newtown.
I continued up King for another 5-10 minutes until I came to the restaurant where my friend and I planned to meet for dinner when it opened at 5:30pm.
Outside Smash Sausage Kitchen I officially declared my walk over – although it was still only 4:30pm, so I couldn’t go inside to celebrate yet.
Instead, I walked a little further up King until I came to a pub and sat down with a nice big cold glass of diet cola.
Including breaks, it had taken me two hours and 45 minutes to walk just over 13 kilometres from Kogarah to Newtown.
It had been another enjoyable achievement.
But my long-walking for the day wasn’t over yet.
Shortly after 5:30pm I headed back down to Smash, where my friend soon joined me for a pleasant and very tasty dinner.
A couple of hours later, we headed up King to a favourite old cafe and spent another couple of hours enjoying dessert.
After that, and a short visit to the famous Gould’s Book Arcade, we made our separate ways home.
I know that the walk from my place to downtown Newtown is some distance, so after getting home I looked at just how far I’d walked from the restaurant.
It was just over five kilometres.
So altogether, in a way, I had long-walked about 18 kilometres.
It had been a very enjoyable and rewarding day indeed, filled with walking through Sydney and good food.
Until next time, stay well and take care 🙂