We have decided that the collective noun for pools should be ‘splash’ as in a splash of pools. We have a full splash today with four pools on the horizon just north of Wollongong. The pools of Bulli, Woonona, Bellambi, and Towradgi beckon.
Four pools in a day does require some planning so this is what I would recommend – tides and weather permitting. Start at Bulli, a lovely little pool protected by a small headland. You descend past the Bulli Beach Café and take the waters in the pool. Then, walk across Bulli beach with the wind in your hair to get to Woonona Pool. Take the waters again and then dry off before heading back across the beach for lunch at the café. Both pools are solid cement pools with good facilities – Woonona has the added interest of being the first spot where Captain Cook attempted to land on Australian soil from the Endeavour. The wind and the waves repelled him, sending him further north. The rest of the story we know.
After lunch, check in to your local residence. For us this is the Towradgi Beach Hotel, newly renovated, but still requires you to check-in at the on-site bottle shop. It’s hard not to admire a place that makes you pass through the bottle shop before you can get to your bedroom. Rest up to miss high tide before venturing forth again later afternoon for Bellambi and Towradgi.
I like both these pools. They are what I term ‘working’ pools, in that they work for their community. It is nearly 5pm when we arrive and the locals are circling in and out of the area to surf or jump in the pool to wash off the day. These pools look to be loved and well used by their community and these are the best kinds of pools.
There are all types of people there using public space to its best advantage. We hide so much of who we are by venerating with private spaces, large houses with no frontage, big garages that we drive into act as a portal to hidden lives.
Public spaces are sacred spaces. Where we can gently show each other who we are, what we like, how we are with our families and friends. At Towradgi, as I move toward the steps of the pool to climb out, a little boy is stuck there – his family trying to get him in while he hesitates. “There’s a lady that wants to get out,” they tell him, but I tell them it’s no matter and float around to give him the time to make the big jump. Which he does, to much acclaim and love.
I dry off and make my way up the slope, heading back to the car. A family has been sitting on the concrete bleacher steps, conversing under the sky. The older gentleman stands and gestures to other family members out on the rocks. There is a little commotion, some conversation, and a younger man – the son – walks over the rocks to join him. Then three of them stand and walk a little bit so they can kneel and pray on the hill. The younger man stands in front of two older men. In his solid assumption of private duty in a public place he is heartbreakingly handsome.
My daughter asks me what this is, and I explain that it is Asr, the afternoon prayer of the Islamic faith. I find it curious that she lives in Sydney, the big multi-cultural city, but here at Towradgi Beach Pool is the first time she has seen Muslims pray. The public space is a sacred space where we can gently, but resolutely, show others who we are and what is important to us. Let’s keep it that way.