Australia, Beach & Coastal Walking
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Beachcombing for Fun & Profit

Lately I’ve been swept up by a paper storm of guidebooks, photocopied Wikipedia articles and maps, planning my Top Secret rambling campaign for 2012. Weekday mornings invariably find me on the waterfront, stretched out on the grass with a latte, a delicious baked item* of some kind — and said planning aids:

After that, it’s on with the daypack and away we go. I get a few very pleasant hours of daydreaming and walking in before, with sinking heart, I head homeward to start rendering myself employable. This jagged snarl of blue lines represents my working week of journeying between station and school:

Depressing, isn’t it?

Now, if that was the sum total of my week’s activity outdoors, I’d be pretty starved for material for this blog: you’d be enjoying a lot of shots of traffic and the bloke selling ‘The Big Issue’ outside the station; you’d be suffering through endless rants about people putting their feet on the train seats, ignoring the “Quiet Carriage” policy, and blowing smoke in my face as I trudge towards the office…

Fortunately the lines representing last week’s pre-work rambling are much more pleasing to the eye — there are some graceful curves, even, as I try to vary the scenery and the route: 

It’s a challenge walking the same area each day, so I try to mix in some urban trail-blazing to keep the scenery changing. It’s not exactly pioneering a new route up K2, but for the last few weeks I’ve averaged about 60 miles per week of Extreme Strolling. Since I not only love it but need to get in shape for next year, I’ve given myself the challenge of a thousand miles by Christmas Day.

Not too difficult, admittedly, when you live a short, fast stroll from this:

MID-SEPTEMBER, 2011

At last my perambulatory predilections coincide with low tide and glorious early-spring sunshine; I have a week or so of extra real estate to traverse, countless hectares of the stuff. Sometimes I share it…

..but mostly I have it to myself. Well, almost — today there’s an interloper in “my” tree…

..as resentful of intruders as yours truly:

Two interlopers if you count this barnacled, Bambi-esque simulacrum:

It’s a pleasure to take the shoes off, hang them round your neck, and feel the hard, wave-corrugated sand underfoot. Nothing like a good foot massage:

Just before the tide turns and begins its own inexorable journey coastward, I traverse the vast, constantly changing tidal arteries of the mudflats…

..a keen eye open for the scuttlings of hermit crabs…

..and retreating armies of soldier crabs:

Every day, rewritten watercourses, and a new crop of flotsam — the organic…

..and the man-made, both benign…

..and sinister:

But my favourite discovery recently has been the rocks at the northern end of the Sandgate mudflats. My Thin Blue Line, again, charts my fascination:

I don’t know why I’ve never explored them before. Well, they’re often submerged, it’s true…

..but as the tide turns, an intriguing half-way world of tidal pools briefly emerges. Barefoot, I (cautiously) explore over several days:

When wind and tide permit, this area is a magnet for kite-boarders carving froth from the shallow waters of Bramble Bay. Floats and flags warn of the perilous rocks:

So absorbed am I in my exploration, I don’t notice my sunglasses drop into the weedy murk. After half an hour of searching, my walk in danger of degenerating into an episode of Hiking Fiasco

..a probing toe discovers them, well-weeded but still serviceable:

One morning the sunny weather is gone. I head out to the rocks beneath a darkening sky that poets might describe as “glowering” but which I’ll call bloody miserable:

Some hurried shots of wise old sea-rocks…

..and a sprouting mangrove…

..and the first fat, cold drops hit home. No umbrella, and the rain’s getting heavier. But I enjoy hiking in the rain, so barely quicken my pace…

..till I’m engulfed in a fully-realised downpour. Distant kite-boarders haul in their kites and hunker down in the water…

..as some riders flee in a very cinematic gallop:

I’m already soaked, and my camera is waterproof. What’s more, I love this, even (especially?) as a ferocious wind belts the mudflats from the west, driving the freezing, stinging rain into my eyes:

Liquid Force, indeed (see the boarders huddling in the distance?):

This is one reason why I walk:

When I reach the shore, a smile frozen on my face (sorry about the unsettling image), storm-water drains are funnelling megalitres of rain onto the beach:

I get home chilled, and exhilarated, with a saturated wallet and half an hour to suit up for work. The adventure is over, for now…

The wind sticks around for a couple of days, but the sun is soon back. Leaves ripped from the waterfront figs are piled along the seawall…

..and as my low-tide window is swamped by Moreton Bay, we humans retreat to the security of the high-water line…

..where the best flotsam of all waits, ready to be plucked up by this very satisfied beachcomber:

Footnote: My learned colleague Professor Wikipedia has this to say on beachcombing:

The first appearance of the word “beachcombers” in print was in Herman Melville’s Omoo (1847). It described a population of Europeans who lived in South Pacific islands, “combing” the beach and nearby water for flotsam,  jetsam, or anything else they could use or trade. When a beachcomber became totally dependent upon coastal fishing for his sustenance, or abandoned his original culture and set of values, then the term “beachcomber” was synonymous with a criminal, a drifter, or a bum.

Guilty as charged.

* Or two. What the hell, I’ll burn ’em off.

~ And that’s all the Goat wrote

Next post: Time for a spot of poetry!

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2 Comments

  1. ‘The thin blue line’, very good! A bit of video as well which is entertaining. Your urban hiking is looking a lot more interesting than mine, plus your picking up a bit of cash at the same time! Thanks for the link as well. If that was true ‘fiasco style’ you would have broken the glasses by stepping on them in the water…

    • Greg, I paid a small fortune for the video upgrade, but it worked well, and I have a ton of little snippets to spice things up — nothing quite Oscar-worthy, but fun to play with.

      The urban walking is very tiring when it’s tacked onto a day job (well, evening job). And the writing output has suffered a bit. I need to find a happy medium…

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