Monday, November 30, 2009

Bent's Basin

I love the smell of cool freshwater on hot rock. Bent's Basin is a great freshwater swimming hole in the Nepean River in Sydney's west.

Bent's Basin

I enjoyed circumnavigating the water on the day I was here, lazily breaststroking, the only person swimming (though others were picnicking). The water was cool and the sun was warm. Afterwards, I lay on a rock, like a lizard, until I got too hot, and jumped back in for another ten minutes float.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Swimming In An Onsen

The last week or so, temperatures in Sydney have been incredibly hot, and it's been great to swim in the ocean and the harbour in cool saltwater. On Sunday it reached 41 degrees Celsius, and we complained again and again about the heat (except when we were splashing about in cool seawater).

I was remembering a holiday in Japan during their cold, snowy winter. We spent quite a lot of time (especially after skiing) soaking in onsens (volcanic thermal mineral springs). These baths, indoor and outdoor, are always over 40 degrees - precisely the air temperatures we're grumbling about here and now. Still, they felt rather special after the snow.

Most onsen, and outdoor rotemburo, were small, deep baths, with just enough room for a couple of people to sit comfortably. Sometime, they were large enough to do a bit of floating. But in Beppu, there was an onsen complex, Kitahama Termas Onsen, with an outdoor swimming pool sized hot spring. This was just great to swim around in, then we would vary this routine with the huge outdoor spa, the hot waterfall, the mist baths and the (very) cold "squall" shower and bath.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sydney's Heat Wave

It's been so hot in Sydney these past few days. I work out in the west (where it's always hotter than the city during the summer), and it's been in the high thirties (Celsius) for days. Friday, it reached 41 degrees in the west. The coast had temperatures in the high thirties, so I went to Coogee late on Friday night and swam in the ocean until I was shivering. I've spent a lot of time in the ocean at Mahon's Pool and in the harbour at Balmain Baths over the hot weekend (again trying to stay in the water until I can't stop shivering - but getting too hot again within minutes of leaving the water).

Today (Sunday) it was 41 + degrees Celsius across the metropolitan area. We went to swim at Yarra Bay on the north shore of Botany Bay. There's an old dock area there where you can walk along a wall and jump (or dive) into a very deep channel. There were queues along the wall today, as the kids lined up to jump off the wall.

These photos were taken at high tide. There's usually about a metre's difference at low tide - a more exciting prospect.

It's about 10 years since I've jumped off the wall. I'm not sure if these brittle, old bones would be up to it these days.

We left the channel to the kids and swam from the rocks near the beach. The water felt really cool. Sea temperatures are about 21 degrees at the moment, but that's twenty degrees difference to the air temperature.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Great Harwood Baths

The very place I learned to swim. Though I'd been to Wigan Baths before I came here (and to Accrington Baths long before that), I was a non-swimmer down in the shallow end clutching a kick-board. Great Harwood Baths opened in April 1967, and in July 1967 I spent much of the school holidays teaching myself to swim. My (swimming) friends were all down at the deep end, dunking and dive-bombing each other when the pool attendant's back was turned. Eleven year old me was left feeling sorry for himself in 3 feet of water. I had to swim. I managed to stay afloat and made slow forward progress using my own version of the dog-paddle. Struggling, spluttering and wheezing my way up to the 6 feet end, I was promptly sent back by the attendant. I had to modify this stroke to make it look more like front crawl. This was accomplished by flinging arms out of the water and making large splashes. Apparently, this was an acceptable stroke because I was allowed in the deep end with my friends.

Back at Wigan Baths, however, the school swimming class instructor was having none of my unconventional approaches to swimming, and I was put back into the non-swimmer group to learn breaststroke.

Great Harwood Baths

Photo © Copyright Mike and Kirsty Grundy and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Mahon's Pool

I went twice to Mahon's Pool today. First in the morning, at high tide, with surf crashing into the pool. I was swimming along the east wall, so I was getting rolled around a bit as the bigger waves hit the pool. I absolutely love it though.

The second time I swam there (it's been a hot, hot day) was at low tide. The pool was calm and I spent more time diving under the water than I did swimming lengths. I love all the rock pool life - the different seaweeds, the small fish, the anemones, the sea urchins and the starfish. While I was over by the wall at the deepest part of the pool, I realised that someone had built a small cairn underwater. It was only five flat rocks tall, but unmistakably a cairn. I couldn't resist diving down and finding a small, flat white stone to add to it. Some time later, when I was shivering and ready to leave the water, I found a small black stone at the bottom of the pool and placed that on the cairn as well.

Later I started thinking about Richard Long and his art made while walking across landscapes. It should be possible to do something similar underwater, in a cove or a bay perhaps, as you swam along or across it.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Another Lazy Swim At Balmain Baths

What a way to spend the morning. Lazing in the early sunshine after swimming slow lengths in the cool seawater. I can't believe I didn't try Balmain (Dawn Fraser) baths before last year. It's one of my favourite swimming spots now.

I was lazing on the old wooden deck on a beach towel sipping a mug of tea. I could watch the water for hours.

The tide is ebbing and you can almost see the "beach" where the little kids play in the summer.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Wigan Baths

About a year ago now, Wigan Baths closed down in preparation for the demolishing of the old pool and the building of a new swimming and leisure centre. I read about it about six months ago when I was searching for photos to post on this blog. We spent many a Saturday afternoon at the baths when we were kids, both before and after we could swim. School swimming lessons were also at the pool.

I didn't actually learn to swim at Wigan Baths (I taught myself at Great Harwood Baths - a splashing, struggling doggy-paddle, at first), but I spent a lot of time swimming here as an eleven and twelve year old. So I was a bit sad to hear they'd drained the pool and demolished the baths.

We used to throw a penny into the sixteen foot six end of the baths, then try to dive down to the bottom to get it. I can't remember any of us actually making it to the bottom. I do remember feeling the pressure as I swam down.

We all used to go up on the diving tower and steel ourselves to jump (never dive) from the second stage. The top stage was always roped off.

Wigan will be getting a new baths in a couple of years. Strange to think that these baths would've been new and modern when I first went to them.

Photos posted by Brian at