Australia, Beach & Coastal Walking, Hiking
Comments 8

A Trophy in the Sand


It rained briefly in the night, destroying my third or fourth Moreton map, which I’d left outside the tarp. No worries, I could almost draw one from memory now. I slept quite soundly on my casuarina mattress, and woke early to put the kettle on and stash my gear.

The sun crept over the surf and the spinifex…

..and I got going, out onto my favourite stretch of Moreton, the southern tip of the ocean side:

I was heading towards Mirapool, the lagoon frequented my jet-setting coteries of waterbirds on their travels, and wanted to get there nice and early. Dawn flooded the foamy sand with soft light, rendering even the four-wheel-drive tracks attractive:

Although I was in a hurry, my inner beachcomber was constantly finding excuses to stop and scavenge:

I cut across the wide, desert-like ankle of the island, which was windswept and trackless. The little dunes and sandhills were colonised here and there by hardy creepers, holding them intact against the ravages of the elements:

I’d never got such a good look at Mirapool. The browns and olive-greens bordering the lagoon recalled autumn foliage in the Northern Hemisphere:

There were a few pelicans cruising, and the cries of the odd shorebird, but most of the flocks seemed to have headed off to work before my arrival:

I left the lagoon…

..and almost immediately struck beachcomber-gold, the plastron, or breast bones, of a loggerhead turtle, half-buried in the sand:

I know it’s from a loggerhead because my Wild Guide to Moreton Bay tells me that green and loggerhead turtles, which both frequent the Bay, vary in “the number and arrangement of spines” — and the picture in the book, from a green turtle, shows quite a different configuration.

Here’s my trophy on a casuarina carpet:

I was now on the section described on the map as “impassible to cars” due to the hundreds of dead trees. I washed the plastron, which resembles a fearsome medieval shield, and dried it in the sun while I made breakfast…

..and did some laundry:

Strapping my prize to the pack, I set off again. Across sparkling, sharky South Passage: North Stradbroke Island. I always enjoy this obstacle course, and with a high tide lapping at the trunks, and fishing boats negotiating the sand bars in the channel, I aimed at the “inner” side of the island:

I got through the last of the trees…

..just as the small ferry from Stradbroke landed near Kooringal:

Nearing the village…

..I approached a small group fishing at the water’s edge. Two men were in the water, while on the bank a pregnant woman was struggling with her line, wailing and squawking about being snagged.

She turned and saw me. “Hi!” I offered, digging out my friendly face.

She paused, looked right through me for a few seconds, ignored my greeting and resumed squawking.


She’s going to make a sensational mother.

The creek there was full and deep, and I backtracked, gratefully, looking for a place to cross. The creek petered out into a mangrovey lagoon…

..and I waded across it, thinking how pleasant it was to live in crocodile-free southern Queensland:

Kooringal was quiet; it was still early. People over here need to be self-sufficient:

Priorities are readjusted on an island:

Some island humour:

A woman greeted me from a house — one of the two ladies in the ute I’d met yesterday. This next section is my least favourite, an hour of monotonous sand-road walking, though this was the easiest journey yet as the rain had hardened the sand. I passed a few old Aboriginal shell middens, and two dogs lunged out at me from one of the oyster leases.

“I’m sorry!” a woman called out. “They’re not used to walkers!”


The road parallels the mangrove beach…

..and I was happy to emerge at last at the Little Sandhills…

..where I waded out into knee-deep water…

..till the Big Sandhills came into view…

..and a wary tribe of pied oyster-catchers kept their distance:

The view looking back over a bed of seagrass:

Returning to the beach…

..I still had several hours till my 4:30 ferry home, but the sun was out at full strength today, as I passed a turtle corpse…

..and a dead dugong, north of the wrecks I’d stopped at for lunch yesterday:

Great armies of soldier crabs — smaller and darker than the ones at home — fled as I ambled dreamily across the sand flats:

..and I began passing families picnicking near their cars and boats.

The disheartening sounds of tourists cavorting on jet-skis and speedboats and attached to parachutes, and an approaching helicopter signalled my arrival at Tangalooma and the end of a weekend of complacent solitude.

See the figure on the beach, below?

He was taking pictures of his companions in the water; as I neared them, he walked towards me and without even a greeting or an “excuse me”, he said:

“Would you have a lighter?”

“Huh? No.”

He looked crestfallen, like I’d just told him there was no Santa.

“No?” He mimed the action  of lighting a cigarette. “No lighter?”

Of course I had one in my pack. Maybe two.

“NO.” I pushed past him, dumped my pack and my turtle-shield at the resort’s only shop, bought some overpriced junk food and watched a convoy of tourists on Segways — surely the most pointless form of transport ever invented — do a “tour” that consisted of languorous laps of the beach.

At last, my ferry, and the journey back across the Bay:

The dream was over.


The turtle bones weren’t the only souvenir I brought home. The next day I went to scratch a persistent belly itch and discovered I’d transported another little bit of Moreton with me as well:

~ And that’s all the Goat wrote



  1. I LOVE the sound of the little crablettes scuttling. I am disgusted by your tick. As always, a well narrated and documented journey!

    • Thanks, Fidgit. I actually find the sound of a million scurrying crablings a little disturbing. Agreed about the tick — I had no idea it was so far in till I saw the photo. And my dad’s suggestion was to BURN THE BASTARD OFF WITH A SOLDERING IRON. It still wouldn’t come out so I had to…well, use your imagination…

  2. You’re like the ‘bone guru’. That turtle shell will look good next to your whale bone! I also think you’ve cornered the blogging market for ‘daft transportation devices sighted whilst hiking’. Segways?! I thought they were out of favour since the Segway boss sent himself into orbit with one?

    Good to see you got a good photo of that tick trying to bore through your body instead of ripping it out straight away!

    There’s some good photos in this entry and I like how you get really low to the ground for some of the snaps. I should bend my back and do likewise as all my photos are generally from the same height! Beautiful looking place even with the 4WD’s…

    • Yeah Greg, this place is starting to resemble a charnel house (wow, I’ve never, ever written those words before!). I don’t get the Segways either – “Let’s go to an island! OK, we’re here — now let’s do loops on the beach on a pair of wheels…”. Huh?

      I am fond of getting down low with the camera, but with my little touch-screen, it’s very hard sometimes to see anything. Lots of guessing. I actually love the idea of that tilting screen on the new Sony NX5.

  3. I don’t understand tourists who travel to incredible places nothing. It’s just another place to sit, just a different view.

    This has got to be my favorite set of photos so far (excluding the tick). Stunning area, and I’m in love with spinifex.
    Mirapool has made the list of places I want to see.

    • Thanks Samantha, I really liked these photos too. Spinifex is amazing, it really holds the dunes together. The plant most Australians know as spinifex, however, covers much of our arid inland — our version of tumbleweeds perhaps — though it is not a member of the spinifex genus at all. I never get tired of photographing the real one when those heads detach and roll down the beach.

      And yeah, just another EXTREMELY EXPENSIVE place to sit. But to each their own…

  4. Your shell – was it a cowry shell? I think they get a decent price polished up.
    Sad about the turtle and dugon – I suppose they could have been natural deaths (storms, age, starvation) – but something deep down tells me otherwise. Did you contact your local museum? They are often interested in collecting the bones, and may get some some kind of autopsy done.
    And just another dark thought – maybe one day you’ll come across the skeleton of a segway and its rider..

    • Andrew, not a cowrie, I believe it’s a Banded Helmet, Phalium bandatum. As for the turtle and dugong, I agree they could be natural deaths or boat strikes. Also, the floods did some damage to the seagrass beds and also put a lot of rubbish into the Bay, but that was some time ago now. On one Moreton trip a couple of years ago, I think I found four or five dead turtles. However a ranger told me he had seen hundreds of live ones from the air…

      As for the Segway-driver skeletons: there’s a place reserved here in my dusty museum of curiosities…

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