Down the East Coast

What a month! 

I know that this site has been a bit quiet lately, put it down to kilometres and everything speeding up.  Right now, I’m sitting in a café in Rainbow Beach at the tipping point of familiarity. 

Reaching the edge of the Sunshine Coast, I can tell that I am well and truly in the orbit of Brisbane and the busyness of Australia’s Eastern Seaboard. Driving down from Cairns, the emphasis on appearance has ballooned.

As a rule of thumb, the further south I’ve ventured, the less connected people are with nature. Instead, the number of Australians with ‘smart’ phones glued to their hand and fancy clothes has grown along with the creeping nature of the suburbs. 

I’ve found it challenging to be pulled into a busier tempo. After spending September and October venturing into the heart of Australia and up to the Gulf of Carpentaria, crossing back over the Great Dividing Range has been jolting. 

Anyone who has lived in Australia will know how huge it feels here. Over the last four weeks, I’ve driven 4,000 kilometres to claw my way back to a stretch of coast where well over half the country resides. 

In two weeks, I’ll be home in Melbourne: another adjustment all together.

But with realities sinking in, I feel I’m catching my breath. 

This country is an ancient land – and as we’ve set-up these huge port cities on harbours and rivers across the continent, it’s so easy to forget the complete blip that European settlement is on Australia’s timeline. All too often, the tens of thousands of years of Aboriginal culture are overlooked and the fortune of having so much pristine environment doesn’t rate much of a mention.

I find this disconnect with nature one of the most perplexing parts of the Australian conversation. Take Sydney as an example, there you have a city where if you hop on a train for an hour North (to the Hawkesbury River), South (to the Royal National Park) or East (to the Blue Mountains) you will find yourself in the middle of your selection of one of the world’s best National Parks. 

From my time living in Sydney, I know this proximity isn’t part of the psyche. And while it might be a bit more a drive in Melbourne and Brisbane – incredible nature is only a stone’s throw away. Instead, Australians on the Eastern Seaboard speed up to a point where they can’t look beyond the quilt of suburbs that shape their lives and the CBD that structures them. 

With two weeks along the East Coast to come, my time in the ‘outback’ has sadly finished for 2020. Instead, I’m going to have to find that balance between the stimulation and creativity that stems from cities and tapping into the incredible environment that surrounds them. 

Only three hours out from Brisbane, I’ve made a start on that today.

Twenty-two years ago, my Granny and Grandad took my cousin and I to this beautiful patch of Australia. I remember skipping along Rainbow Beach and feeling its magic. 

I’m 30 now and that magic is still here. 

Sometimes I have to pinch myself to realise how fortunate I have been to imbibe this country over the last half a year. Sitting at the edge of the Carlo Sand Blow on the Cooloola Coast was one of those moments. 

Walking through about a kilometre of sub-tropical forest, past the magnificent array of Pandanus trees, I was struck by an enormous sand dune that splits the path. Looking to the right, there is the wonderful Great Sandy National Park etching towards Noosa. To the left – it’s the Pacific Ocean. 

Drawn to the water, I sat myself on one of the sandstones that formed over thousands of years. Gazing over the beach, I was swept away with the enormity of the coastline. With the view framed by Tin Pan Bay and Double Island Point, all the senses came to life. 

Amidst the sound of cicadas and their heat driven hum, waves breaking and the absence of anyone else nearby – I was treated to the concerto of the sea. With a fantastic ensemble, it was a soundtrack that opened my eyes to all the patches green and grey that shade the Pacific’s royal blue. 

In the sky, I counted three hang gliders chancing their luck but more spectacular were the Rainbow Bea-Eaters that soared. These tiny little pots of colour were riding the wind like a master surfer. 

When I look for tranquillity, I look and listen for birds. I think about the wonder of their different conversations and journeys. The Bee-eaters are definite adventures, migrating from tropical Australia, Papua New Guinea and Indonesia to spend the summer further down the coast. Their stories take me well beyond where I am.

From my lump of sandstone, I heard a solitary Bee-eater with its proud call perched on a Tea tree branch about 50m away. It looked tiny against the coast. And yet, whenever it felt the moment was right, it would gather its strength, ride the wind over the cliff only to loop back to its favourite branch. Each time it returned, it would let out a bold little pip as the sun shone against its yellow and green head. 

For that short window, I was sharing my morning with an intrepid international explorer. With a slightly extended call, he bid me farewell and flew off over the dune. Moving on and along, just like me.

As I drive south, I’ll keep reminding myself of how lucky we are. And if I forget how much, I’ll just wait for a feathered friend to pull me away from the glass, steel and concrete.

(View from the Carlo Sand Blow, December 2020)

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