I headed back along the sand-summit ridge, and crossed — delicately, since I didn’t want to speed up the weathering process — the rust-coloured Martian landscape of ironstone. Not really rock, apparently, it is some sort of mutant, mineral-rich sand:
A glance back at the Sandhills. You can just make out my tracks to the left of the tree:
Ironstone forms weird, molten shapes in a brittle metallic crust, like something from the slag-heaps of a long-gone foundry:
Aiming vaguely ocean-coastward, I was suddenly buzzed, repeatedly and with increasing agitation, by an unknown bird which presumably had a nest up there. It was quite disconcerting — I was still sensitive to bird attacks after enduring the early-Spring orneriness of the magpies and butcher birds back home: two strikes in the head from each. But it’s been an all-round Season of Bad Bird Weirdness for me, with that daytime owl encounter as well…
And now this. It circled and swooped, whooping at me to be gone, and I was afraid to turn my back on it. And then when I tried to video it, Murphy’s Law — or what I might call Goat’s Corollary to said law, came into play:
The time when your need for a functioning camera is at its greatest is the time the low-battery light will start to flicker, rapidly.
And then everything went black:
But it got weirder. I swapped batteries, one eye on the sky, and then:
Who would have done this? And why? And when? It would have taken hours:
And count the ‘arms’ on this cross, or whatever it is. Eight. I recalled my little shell-assemblage of a few hours earlier:
Was somebody or something trying to tell me something? I’m not easily freaked, but I’d put this at around 8 on the 10-point Freakout Scale. And with that bird giving me hell, I got going, leaving its warning screeches behind as I descended into a great, sandy swale…
..which petered out in the scrub. From then on, I improvised, trying to steer close to 130 degrees, following what seemed to be tracks but probably weren’t, and steeling myself for when they inevitably ran out.
Looking back, and my tracks again:
Clear rainwater lingered in this pool:
And then the bush, and the unpleasantness. I really don’t like bushwhacking — or as it’s known over here, bush-bashing. One day, a GPS might cure my unease, as occurred in the Sierra last year on multiple occasions thanks to a couple of GPS-carrying friends. But at least I knew I was on an island, and if I stayed on course I’d inevitably hit water.
But staying on course was problematic. Dense scrub kept stymying my progress. Branches and bushes to go over, under or around. I was (mercifully briefly) in a swamp, thinking about how unpleasant a deadly brown snake-bite would be at that point.
At last I could make out the encouraging crash of surf — but it didn’t seem to be getting louder. I’d never seen elkhorn ferns on Moreton…
..but their magnificence was forgotten in the excitement of another Weird Bird Encounter (WBE): a disturbance in a tree, above, and suddenly rainwater cascaded down from a shaken limb, as another big, white owl took off and flapped through the canopy, oceanward.
I draw your attention to Goat’s Second Corollary to Murphy’s Law of Outdoor Photography, which states:
After changing batteries, your second incredible encounter with a freaking owl in broad daylight will occur, like the first, while your camera is safely stashed deep in your pocket.
But these owls, maybe they’re trying to tell me things as well. I followed the bird, and when I reached the banksia zone…
..I knew I had to be getting close.
Have you read Joe Simpson’s Touching the Void? Do you remember how our wretched hero, after smashing up his leg, high in the Andes, dangling over a cliff in the freezing dark for hours, having his rope cut, falling into a crevasse, and then somehow crawling out and down the whole bloody mountainside — do you recall how his suffering was exacerbated by having a godawful song (Boney M’s Brown Girl in the Ring) on extended replay in his head?
Well, I wasn’t in that zone yet, but my subconscious, which evidently has a sense of humour (as well as great taste), suddenly chucked The Kinks’ fabulous Sunny Afternoon onto the turntable, and for half an hour or more it continued:
But I love to live so pleasantly
Live this life of luxury
Lazin’ on a sunny afternoooooooon…
Even Ray Davies, though, was losing his appeal, when at last the surf crashed clear and close, I emerged into daylight…
..and was grateful indeed to be crossing dunes smothered in beach spinifex…
..and squelching across wet, white sand towards the surf:
I love it over here. Miles and miles of unmarred beach, the clean, vital scent of the sea, all this space…
I draped my clothes on a log and had a refreshing and cautious dip at the edge. Then I bounded south, alive and happy about it.
I know you’ll appreciate this coquille, Solitary Walker — a recurrent symbol on the Camino de Santiago, and here on our Camino de Moreton Bay as well (though I believe it’s an orange cockle, not a scallop):
The sun was calling it a day beyond the far side of the island…
..and an hour of tiring stomping through soft sand was enough. I could see anglers and cars down near the bottom of the island, and not desiring their company that evening, I turned into the casuarinas, fired up a potful of yellow water…
..and set up camp in the last light upon a soft, springy bed of she-oak needles:
It had been an incredible day, and I still had my favourite stretch of beach waiting for my morning stroll…
~ And that’s all the Goat wrote