Australia, Beach & Coastal Walking, Hiking
Comments 6

Walking with the Devil in the Turtle Graveyard

“To walk anti-clockwise is the Devil’s way.”~ John Merrill, ‘Turn Right at Land’s End’

Ordinarily, I’d agree with Mr Merrill — an anti-clockwise loop just feels…well, maybe not evil, but, er, wrong. I’d already walked Moreton Island clockwise, however, an undertaking of great wretchedness, so doing it the other way couldn’t be any worse.

Turns out it was actually a lot better — readers disoriented by the complete absence of pain and suffering in this account should find the author restored to his miserable self in a future post.

AUGUST, 2009

Late winter is perfect for a circumambulation of the world’s third-largest sand island. Moreton takes shape in the ferry window, my excitement building as I drain my coffee and trim my pack:

There are many things I dislike about the 4-wheel-drivers who have free reign to fly along most of the beaches on this supposed National Park, and one of them is having to wait for them to storm ashore, D-Day-style…

..before I can safely exit the ferry…

..and take off southward, past Tangalooma and towards the foot of this very, very long isle. Nasty cloud races inland, towards the mainland, as I hotfoot it south, making up time after my midday start:

Last time, heading north, I was already in pain when I passed these wrecks. But today I’m bursting with joy…

..as I near the Big Sandhill. Resting at its base, I meet an old sailor who’s anchored offshore and strolled across the low-tide flats. He shows me where to find the WWII-era water pump I never knew was here.

I fill my bottles with yellowish but drinkable H2O…

..as the sailor begins his climb up this fabulous mountain of sand:

I get my least-favourite section out of the way, trudging the soft-sand road past tiny Kooringal township, with views of distant Brisbane across the Bay:

Brisbane, greatly magnified through my zoom lens

I’m trialling clothes and my newly constructed pack for the sand and sun of the southern Pacific Crest Trail next year:

The locals couldn’t care less:

Rounding Moreton’s foot, a view across treacherous, choppy, sharky South Passage to North Stradbroke Island, once the main entry point for Moreton Bay-bound shipping:

A few hours of walking have brought me close to the ocean side. A long stretch of skeletal tree trunks and I set up my tarp in the trees near Mirapool Lagoon:

A pleasant camp, and dawn finds me grimacing as I ford a waist-deep channel that wasn’t here last time. Sunrise is even more glorious than on my first journey here…

..and the chill evaporates as I begin the interminable haul up the ocean side…

..with its unbroken border of pounding surf and Cape Moreton so far off, it’s lost in the morning haze. Mt Tempest is visible on the left:

This was the easternmost limit of Brisbane’s defences during World War II…

..and each visit, I find more to explore in the bunkers, pillboxes, and soldiers’ quarters:

Camera-flash illuminates some profound cave art

Breakfast in the pillbox, gazing through the slit at a pacific Pacific:

Back in the trees, quarters I didn’t find last time:

Maybe it’s all the military history, but with the sun in an unforgiving mood, I don some appropriate attire:

Beach Bushido

But what’s this? Tyre tracks, and a fellow pedestrian, rarer on this National Park than humpback whale sightings. I lift my speed to catch up, and after half an hour…

..I reach another hopeless, human-powered romantic…

..a retiree who’s rigged up a pneumatic-tyred beast of burden in his own attempt at a long-dreamed-of Moreton circuit:

A brief rest, some comparing of notes, and I leave him behind, as Cape Moreton, and its convict-built lighthouse, gradually — excruciatingly gradually — take form:

Full zoom again -- the cape still hours off

Signs of another pedestrian…

..and the remains of some vanquished swimmers:

A long side-trip up a sand road brings me to Honeyeater Lake. I stop for a snack…

..and contemplate a swim…

..but it’s so pristine, the insectivorous sundews at its edge so gorgeously delicate, I feel like I’m befouling the place just sitting here, so I move on…

..and camp among the grass-trees, totally alone:

Up early, and I backtrack to the beach beneath the moon that tormented my sleep through the sil-nylon…

..reaching the ocean as the sun floods its surface beyond the sad remains of another sea turtle…

..and the relentless trudge towards the lighthouse resumes:

A squall moves in, but like its predecessor yesterday has more urgent business on the mainland:

The capricious sea has been busy, but careless with its spoils:

For countless millennia it’s sculpted, embellished and then pounded down the coastal defences stretching to the Cape…

..which I reach and climb at last, to look back at my day’s labour…

..and ahead from this one rocky section, from which convicts extracted the sandstone used to build the lighthouse:

I rest, eating lunch at this lonesome, windswept spot…

..before another hour’s walking, interrupted by a chat with a patrolling ranger, back to the western shore, and another long, long amble along this sheltered, surf-less side:

I’m losing count of the turtle corpses, but I think this is number four. I can only hope their deaths were natural. The ranger described seeing hundreds from a helicopter, in the pellucid shallows along the island.

I’ve always wanted to use that word, pellucid. Thanks, Ed Abbey.

Cormorants admire the view southward:

A find among the flotsam — I name her Flossy — fits nicely on my stick. I’m starved for company…

..and we get to know each other as we pass the slumping WWII-era Fort Cowan Signal Station:

She guards my camp tonight…

..as I settle back to watch the sun set over distant Brisbane. We’ll be back there tomorrow…

..but let’s not spoil the mood thinking about that…

~ And that’s all the Goat wrote

Next post: muddy, rugged, beautiful Vermont

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6 Comments

    • SW, you’d love Moreton. If you can put up with occasional speeding yahoos in Toyotas, it’s a magnificent island walk. And thanks for ‘caprine’ – I’ll ‘ave that!

    • Ha, I think it’s just some typical bogan (our version of a redneck) parochialism — “This is OUR historic site, so we will trash it as we see fit but you’re not welcome”, etc. And the defences were actually aimed at the Japanese. They had several subs off the coast and did sink a hospital ship offshore, the Centaur, in 1943, killing 268.

  1. A couple of things here. One is ‘flossy’ is looking slightly demonic, but I do like the way you’ve jammed it on your trekking pole like some sort of head hunters trophy.

    The other thing is when I look at those war defences, I think of the blokes who used to man them and all I can imagine is the sheer boredom they would’ve felt pulling shifts staring out at the ocean!

    Great write up as usual and I loved the bloke with the trailer 🙂

    • Thanks, mate, yeah the walker-with-wheels was a lucky meeting indeed. Really admired him for using some imagination with his “grey nomad” lifestyle. As for the defences, boring perhaps, but idyllic compared to some poor buggers!

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