Australia, Beach & Coastal Walking, Hiking
Comments 11

Crossing Over to the Spinifex Coast

OCTOBER, 2011

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…

..nor staghorns…

..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

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11 Comments

  1. I initially read this blog in my email-inbox, and the pictures didn’t come through for some reason. Thinking this was intentional, I read the post, and without the photos to anchor the text, it was a terrifyingly bewildering Blair-Witch-like read. Highly recommended.

  2. EW Phreak says

    You wrote the whole blog without once stating the location you mysterious little devil. Was that Switzerland again?

  3. You’re pumping out the entries. It’s great! I’m having a cup of tea and a donut with Erich von Däniken later today. Do you want me to confirm that you’ve come across credible evidence of ancient astronauts and the bird swooping was a new type of government predator style brain intercept device? You should take your alfoil helmet out walking more often. What does your freak scale go up to? Ten or are you more of a ‘Goes to Eleven’ type of bloke?! Great adventure and look at the surprises you had when you’re off the beaten track! You’re rapidly becoming the ‘go to’ bird guru bloke. Echidnas are my speciality and yours is daytime owls. WTF?!

    • Hey Greg, say hi to Erich — and Uri Geller if he’s there as well (don’t let him near your silverware!). Yeah, I don’t know much about birds but am always curious. And I have a theory that walking a lot opens the gates of possibility, so you start noting connections everywhere. That’s as New Age as I get, unfortunately.

  4. Well, you’re right about what walking does to expand the mind. On some walks my brain is going a million miles an hour from thoughts of where I fit into the universe to what I might have to eat when I stop!

    I’ve done some owl research for you and Aboriginal culture views the owl as a messenger of secrets. You’ll love this quote I found for you regarding owl’s being present in your life,

    “…You are being called upon to open your eyes, ears and mind to the truth of a situation. To listen to the wisdom deep in your heart and soul. That still small voice is trying to reach you in some way. To assist you or help you in a current challenge you may be facing. Tap into the power of the owl by calling on your own intuition, listen to your own wisdom for there is something you need to see or hear…”

    There you go my friend. Start tuning in and you’ll find your direction 🙂

    • Cheers, Greg! I must tap into my Inner Owl! I do love owls, they’re magnificent beasts. And who knows, maybe that one on Moreton was pointing me at the ocean. “Its over here, stupid!”

  5. I can imagine how a GPS would be reassuring on a long trail-less hike. Not having done much of that myself, I’d rather brush up on my map and compass skills and keep the GPS for checking against.
    Maybe what you really need is that USB GPS for digital cameras – it logs where each photo was taken. Useful when you can’t be bothered taking notes.

    • I’d rather stay on a trail. I like pathways. I suppose one of those camera ones could tell me after I got home just where I screwed up!

  6. Pingback: Close Encounters of the Bird Kind « Wild in Japan

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