I often go for a bike ride around the harbour on a weekend. On Mardi Gras party weekend (the Mardi Gras for the first time had the parade and after party on different nights, due to a booking mixup), there were the usual wedding parties everywhere. I’d love to see a gay wedding on Mardi Gras weekend, but all I saw was painfully trendy young male couples, wearing their about town gear (saving the party gear for later that night).
It’s a lovely cycle ride, and on a blue sky day like today, enjoyable even when you are dodging the traffic. There is always something to see and take note of, and lately I’ve been trying to do that with my dodgy iphone camera. So here are some highlights from today’s ride.
First, the Sydney Harbour Bridge cycle path. It’s a reasonably well signposted path on both sides of the Harbour Bridge, and was rated 9 out of 10 by Fairfax’s Sydney Magazine recently. But I can’t see how you can possibly rate it any higher than 6 out of 10 if you have to climb three flights of stairs in the middle.
Next, we have the Walsh Bay sculpture walk. This one is my favourite, because it is so real. I’ve lost count of the visitors I’ve taken past it without comment, who are absolutely shocked at what has happened to the car.
And a moving memorial to the Irish Famine. Between 1848 and 1850 several thousand young women, some no more than 14 years old, sailed from Ireland on an ill-fated emigration plan to hiring-out depots in Sydney, Adelaide, Moreton Bay and Port Phillip. Many were illiterate. Most spoke English. Few had domestic training. Known as the ‘Irish orphans’, they had been handpicked by government officials and removed from county workhouses grown horribly overcrowded as, year after year, the Irish countryside sank deeper into poverty, misery and disease.
This memorial at Hyde Park Barracks is in their honour, and in the honour of all the people in Ireland who died in the Great Famine. Sydney has a very strong Irish history, with one historian estimating that 25% of all people who came here in the 19th century were from Ireland, or who had Irish ancestry. It’s a subtle memorial, but I particularly like the empty bowl on the table – a reminder of the terrible hardships that would send people half way around the world from everything they have known.