Today I almost acomplished a long-held childhood ambition – to cycle all the way from my home to Kurnell. It has been a dream of mine ever since I began exloring the Cooks River cycleway as a novice primary-school-aged cyclist. Today the dream only just eluded me – finding myself at the intersection between the route to Kurnell and the route to Cronulla, I tried to push on to my goal, but I had to turn back and head for Cronulla instead because of the pain in my legs. My decline in fitness as I have grown up is really distressing. But even though I was in pain, I did manage to get to Cronulla in an hour and 45 minutes, which is faster than I expected!
The ride sort of happens in three stages: the bit along the Cooks River, the bit along Botany Bay and the bit through the Shire, culminating in a beach at your chosen destination. I really love this route, because you see a lot of the green urban space – the bits where people have been trying really hard to restore some sort of ecological balance. And in some stages, it’s actually suceeding.
Locals have been attempting to restore the Cooks River since the 1980s and there is finally some fruit from all this work. There are water birds and fish in the river, restored wetlands and corridors of native plants. I glory in it every time I go down to the river for a walk or a ride. The river has always been in my life and it is an absolute joy to watch this river, the most polluted river in NSW, turn into something living again.
Botany Bay is also a pretty gross area with the sea port and the airport at one end and a giant Caltex oil refinery on the other. And a new desalination plant being built down there too. I’m not really sure how I feel about the desal plant yet, but I was very impressed to see that Sydney Water finished laying pipes in the north of the bay and put lots of effort into regenerating the area.
The bay itself is always beautiful to ride around. Planes are constantly taking off and landing, the sand is a beautiful colour, the track is flat and smooth. As you get further south the air gets clearer and the bay starts turning into Georges River.
Coming down off the Captain Cook bridge and hitting the shire, I noticed that this section of the track is not as environmentally loved as the other sections. Where the track was surrounded by vegetation, there were lots of weeds mingled in with the natives, most of this track, however, was on the road. I rode past the factories, warehouses and business parks and I was suprised at the smells. The soft drink factory smothered out all other smells, filling the air with the scent of syrup and making me cravy raspberry lollies. Someone was baking muffins en masse. By the time I got to the ocean (at Cronulla – not Kurnell!) all the smells of the ride were blasted away by the salt spray in the air. Mmmm.
It was a very good feeling to stand on a beach on the fringes of Sydney and realise that I had got there on my own steam. But I was too tired to cycle home again – I bailed and caught the train back.
One day I will get to Kurnell – AND cycle back home again!