29 August 2010

winter beach wanderlust

We headed south along the coastal road from Brisbane,
clutching a map and our weary souls. Excited not to have a destination. And to be taking our first holiday together. ♥ We spent nearly three weeks swagging, mostly in national parks. Oh, the beauty. Spectacular! And places I hadn't heard of. Bundjalung, Yuraygir, Crowdy Head, Hat Head and many more. 

What I loved? Being present for dawns and dusks. Open fires and woodsmoke. The chill, clean salt air. Horizons. The endless magnificence of sky. Its shifting constellations. Observing the passage of time by the moon, from new to full. Watching dunes dance with coastal heathland, wetland dance with the beach, playing out a milennia-long negotiation of habitat borders. Wildflowers coming into bloom. Everywhere, the heady scent of Acacia longifolia. Banksias so fulsome, like baby echidnas up trees, bristled snouts pointing skyward.

I positively lusted for the subtlety of colour in the landscape. The windswept coastal daisy, bloom and foliage so pale as though its colour's been blown out of it. Driftwood like dirty snow. Creamy paperbarks and late afternoon ice-pink rockpools. Opalescent shorelines. Midnight blue lakes and barely-purple dune shadows. Amber-rimmed pandanus and casuarina silhouettes. The cool molten twilight sky.

We saw whales - indeed we were close enough, from a headland in Hat Head National Park, to hear one breathe. Saw another crashing its fluke amorously into the water. And met one poor fellow, long dead and washed up on a beach at Lake Arragan. Came face to beak with a coastal emu. And stumbled one night by the campfire directly into the gaze of a tawny frogmouth. Watched pelicans coast. Dolphins surf. Saw a turtle poke its head up for a fleeting minute in our world. And magpies, perhaps the most polite of the sociable birds (and who uncannilly seemed to be named 'Michael' everywhere we went), would join us for breakfasts, sometimes chortling a morningsong.

We slept and rose early, calmed by the never-sleeping surf and the whispering breeze through casuarinas above our heads. Watched meteors slip cross the sky from our swag. Found mystical middens, their powder-white-and-purple shells, mosaic-like amongst water-rippled dunes. Picked up heart-shaped rocks. Saw an eternity of designs in the humble shell. Our quiet insignificance, witness to ancient rhythms.

We didn't venture far from the coast. But mused much upon the ubiquitous concrete abominations to nature, sprawling low brick mansions with kept lawns and sparkling four-wheel drives. Huddled together. Ugly, inward looking, and utterly out of place. In ironic denial of the coastal landscape they intrude upon.

What we relished, simple scenes of oyster farms, dirt tracks and fibro shacks. Our little lunches of sardine sandwiches. Billycan dinners. Unlatching ourselves from clocks and computers. After nearly three weeks, our bones chilled by aberrant north-westerlies, our souls renewed. Toes numbed by dawn and dusk wanderings across cold sand, hearts alive. 

The days went quickly. We got as far south as Hawks Nest, on the northern shores of Port Stephens. We'd love to have gone further, and would have - indeed will, in time! As much as 'we love camping' (our catchcry every time we fumbled with crud in the back of the car), we were happy to return to our cosy little house at the 'Hill. With a renewed appreciation of the present. And a scribbled note to self, which, amongst other things, aims to remind me to take greater care with the work/life divide, including taking holidays more often.

As for photos, well, there are a few. I've been kicking the wheels on a few Wordpress themes, and thinking about a photoblog. But perhaps, given my awesome decision-making prowess, I'll start by upgrading my neglected Flickr account.

One more week of holidays. To dream and do. Til next time. Which won't be so long.

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