While tourists flock to Bondi for the beach and cliffside walks, I’m looking forward to discovering more about this famous suburb. Of course, I’ll walk cliffside and along the beach too.
Dodging the stream of commuters at Bondi Junction, I walk to the corner Oxford and Bondi Road. Beside me, ropes hang from a tall high rise. Way up from the roof of the apartment block, a bright yellow helmet appears as a window cleaner starts his descent.
Across the road the spaced-out face of a young boy stares out from the side of a metal traffic box. Closer inspection of the artwork by NotNotCamScott, reveals the words “Slide to power off” printed over the boys eyes.
Buildings and a Waverley Park
Passing weathered sandstone gateposts with timeworn decorative features, I notice a narrow, tired looking terrace from 1881. A string of semis, probably all built at the same time faces a row of two storey terraces with closed in upper verandas.
A little dog’s lead jingles as he trots along on his daily walk. A motorised wheelchair passes at speed startling me. The work of twelve-year-old Polly Starr, featuring a tall multi layered burger in soft blues and greens decorates another traffic box.
On the footpath outside the entrance to Waverley Park, a young man wearing a hoodie sits cross legged on the cold footpath, a skateboard, small grey backpack and hard black suitcase beside him. Something about him tells me that he slept rough last night.
While I’ve observed this part of Bondi from a window seat of a bus, I’ve never walked down Bondi Road. Today, I take my time noticing small details. A porthole window, flower mouldings on a terrace wall and flags hanging from a filigree balcony.
The constant traffic noise stops suddenly as vehicles pull up at the traffic lights. A bird tweets and then the traffic drone resumes.
The Shopping Strip
A woman sitting on a stool with her little dog waits for her coffee outside Bennett Street Dairy. I take a seat at an outside table enjoying the passing parade and my coffee and generous serve of Bircher muesli.
Russian and Hungarian Delights
Cafés, bakeries, restaurants, a gym and even a Motor Scooter store make up the shopping strip along Bondi Road. The woman behind the counter at Russkis Deli is happy for me to wander her shop inspecting the wares.
Jams, pickled vegetables and biscuits come from Russia, Poland, Ukraine and Latvia. The deli display includes pierogi, cold meats, cheeses and baked goods. My husband (he has Polish heritage) would enjoy the herring.
Over the road, Bondi Cosmo offers Hungarian Cuisine. Further on, amongst the cakes displayed in the window of Wellington Cake Bakery, I discover slices of poppyseed cake. Bronek will enjoy a slice after dinner tonight.
When I compliment the Hungarian man behind the counter, he replies “Thank you. We try our best.”
There are over 4000 people of Russian, Polish and Hungarian descent living in and around Bondi. No wonder there’s a great Russian Deli, Hungarian Cake shop and Restaurant.
Further on there’s a butcher, a fishmonger, a specialty art supply shop and a Kosher supermarket. A woman with four little people watch transfixed as a forklift retrieves a tray of goods from the back of a truck.
A girl wearing a wetsuit, the arms tied around her waist carries her surfboard towards the beach. Looking up, I’m excited by my first view of the sea in the ‘V’ formed by houses and trees on either side of the road.
Bondi Coastal Walk
Descending sandstone steps to a section of the coastal walk, I read “S. Harrison”, “ENID” and “J. Torpy” etched into the sandstone capping. In the distance I can just make out Waverley Cemetery amongst the homes hugging the rugged coastline.
Background reading mentioned Aboriginal carvings near here. I step off the path to look for them under the rocky overhang. Perhaps it’s for the best that I don’t find them. If the steady stream of people walking this coastal walk were all to discover them, the carvings (if they are still there) may not survive.
People from all over the world walk the coastal walk from Bondi to Coogee. I hear French, German, and Spanish as well as English and American accents. Looking out at the expansive sea, I search for signs of a whale. No luck today.
An information sign mentions more Aboriginal Rock Carvings, but again I am unsure of where to look or even if they still exist. And fencing discourages further exploration.
Referring to the fisherman standing on a rock platform, waves splashing up to his knees, a man tells his son “He probably has a chance of catching some really good fish”. The fisherman also has a good chance of being swept off the rock.
Having watched swimmers braving the cold water at the Bondi Icebergs, I head for Bondi Beach where preparations are well under way for the City to Surf. The beach is relatively quiet on this sunny winter day. Surfers float behind the breakers while visitors soak up the sun on the grassed area above the beach.
Bondi Beach Graffiti
Bondi Beach Graffiti Wall often displays works with thought provoking messages. The work by E.L.K. is a case in point. Twenty-four Border Force Officers represent the 24 suicides in immigration detention facilities since 2010. (Two days after my visit the work was painted over).
Meeting a Street Artist in Bondi
The names and style of some of the artists is familiar. I find works by Mulga The Artist and OxKing as well as EggPicnic whose work I first discovered when walking through Sydney CBD identifying various Billboard Artworks.
Further on, an artist works on a blue and white dot painting. I first saw Zachary Bennett-Brook’s work in Caringbah and stop to chat. Going by the name of Saltwater Dreamtime, Zach started updating an earlier piece only this morning and “thought it must already be late afternoon”. It’s only about midday. He’s working fast.
Leaving you to discover the other pieces for yourself, I step through the arches of the Heritage listed Bondi Pavilion. Historic photos, an Aboriginal floor mosaic and newer tiled artworks decorate the central area.
Surprisingly, there are very few people North of Bondi Beach. The views from here are spectacular. On a low wall in Sam Fiszman Park, a credo etched into the concrete states “I am better than no man and no man is better than I”.
Having enjoyed the views from Benn Buckler Point (still no whales), I head inland past large expensive homes with ocean views.
The Bondi Golf and Diggers Club stirs memories of my first (and only) radio interview at a studio there. Fellow blogger Katie Mayor interviewed me for her program Wanderlust on Bondi Beach Radio. A community radio yes, but still one for the books.
There’s a foul smell in the air. It must come from heritage Bondi Sewer Vent and Bondi Sewerage Treatment plant. The smell soon dissipates and I watch a golfer play his shot before walking safely past the Sewer Vent (on the grounds of the golf course) to the cliff face, looking for more Aboriginal Carvings.
The only marks I can make out are names and initials. One line may outline a whale but more likely is just a feature of the rock. I’m not going to find Aboriginal Carvings today. What I do find is a colourful mural on the back wall of a shed facing the sea.
A large black dog bounds towards me from the off-leash area at Hugh Bamford Reserve, its owner desperately calling it back. Water seeps through the sandstone wall of the rock-cut stairway. I make my way along Murriverie Road, surprised to see Sydney Tower in the distance.
Quarry sites turn up in the most unexpected places. Here in Bondi, a high sandstone cliff, the remains of an early quarry site, shades homes on the northern side of Clyde Street.
Old South Head Road is noisy and busy with traffic. The heritage shop on my list is some distance away, so I put my head down and walk, passing the Synagogue with its security cameras on each corner, a Bondi Vet (not the one of TV fame) and almost get hit by a cyclist on one of those green motorised share bicycles.
The Spanish Mission style shopfront on Old South Head Road retains original features including decorative mouldings and a shield. I’ve noticed a few similar shields other homes in the area.
Disappointingly, the heritage items I hoped to see in suburban Bondi are either of little interest or have been demolished (at least I can’t find them). But, it’s not all about heritage.
People interest me too. A man practices fly fishing in a local park. Hopefully his diligence pays off.
Bondi has some impressive Art Deco Buildings. I discover an original Bushell’s Coffee Sign painted on a glass shop window and a great book and coffee shop – Gertrude and Alice.
There’s a buzz at the junction of O’Brien Street and Hall Street, a local haunt. I discover a Bills in Bondi and a Gelato Messina. And there’s great clothes shopping in Gould Street. Ending my Bondi Discovery with a walk along Campbell Parade to the bus stop, a couple more features catch my eye.
Summarising a Bondi Discovery
My Bondi discovery has taken all day and I’m tired but content. Knowing Bondi so much better, I’m keen to return to enjoy more than just the beach. I want to shop at a great Russian Deli, relax with a coffee in Gertrude and Alice and shop in Gould Street for that special something.