Although the air was still a little cool from the night I could feel the warm sun on my skin. The calm water was so clear, little fish were easily seen swimming in front of the gently breaking waves. With hardly a cloud in the sky, the sun, already halfway to its highest point, sparkled off the water like fairy dust. I am a beachcomber and nothing brings me more joy than contemplating life’s wonders while wandering beside the ocean. I spent a month combing Far Beach (Mackay, Queensland, Australia) and the experience was truly inspiring.
People could always be seen walking along this beach, some relishing the gentle waves with feet in the water, some scattered further up the sand. On this vast expanse of shore it never felt crowded. I could only see a handful of people at a time, more than a few walking their dogs. The dogs were so happy, you could feel their smiles! During one walk I found myself watching a man who had a fishing line in the water, (rod butt stuck in the sand) as he casually threw his net to catch bait fish. His brown border collie madly ran up and down the beach, FLAT OUT! It would run, run, run just along the water’s edge, then stop, turn around and run, run, run back to the fisherman. I also witnessed a young boy laughing at his huge mastiff. The boy repeatedly pointed out fish in the shallows and that big floppy puppy would try its hardest to catch them, sticking its head under the water and coming up shaking and splashing water all over them both! The pure joy of these canine companions becoming contagious as I emotionally joined in their fun.
Each morning I visited this beach the tide appeared lower, exposing more sandy beach. One morning, I couldn’t help but notice tire tracks in the sand, someone had been having fun! I saw more lovely dogs playing in the ocean, some new and some returning visitors. While beach combing along with some shells, drift wood and a feather, I found a fantastic little blue and red Hot Wheels car, but on this day another car seemed to have washed ashore! It was a huge four-wheel drive Jeep! It was this Jeep that had made the tire tracks, and obviously the driver had a little too much fun! Although tipped on its side with a smashed windscreen, you could see it had been a nice vehicle. The puppies in the area didn’t give it much attention at all; the ocean was far more interesting and fun!
I kept walking along and spotted an older fellow collecting yabbies, (a tiny crayfish), to use as bait. You do this by sticking a tube pump into the sand and sucking them out with a syringe like action. Then you push the sand out of the tube and pick out the yabbies. I went up to have a look at the yabbies and have a bit of a yarn with ‘Old Mate’. As I was chatting away I noticed another truck out in the surf. My new friend, Rod, said it had been there for at least 12 months now! They can’t get it out!
“Crazy hoons trying to go out too far and got stuck in the sand,” he suspected.
Rod was 80 years old and fished on this beach often, and you could tell he knew his stuff! You wouldn’t have guessed his age and I told him so.
He responded with a blunt “No, you wouldn’t.”
He had his yabbie plunger slung over his back and over his shoulder a small bag to put his fish and extra tackle in. With fishing pole in hand he headed down to an area that forms an inlet which looked like a river but, Rod said it doesn’t go in far and has no fresh water. I was hot on his heals! Just call me Liz-tag-along. Rod was happy to have me along and said we would have to be fast because the tide was coming in, stating, “It’s a big tide and it will be on us in no time.”
No word of a lie, he caught a nice sized whiting on his first cast! Brilliant! The water was getting higher, “we’ll have to be quick and move back in soon” he said as he cast out a second time. BAMM… he hooked a big brim! Go Rod! By then the water was up to the bottom of my shorts. So, we started walking back in. I made the mistake of walking on his right side (you need to be on the left side of a right-handed fisherman). He cast out again and hooked my hand!! Bloody hell! – SHEeeEEW – I pulled it out quickly and hid the tiny spot of blood. He joked that it was the first time he’d caught one of my species!
I said “No, you didn’t catch me. I’m the one that got away.” I told him I knew it was my fault letting him off the hook twice! Rod said tomorrow would be better because it wouldn’t be such a big high tide. Today however, the tide kept coming in so, I took my leave, both of us saying we’d look for each other tomorrow.
As I was making my way back to shore the water rose to above my waist! I hadn’t expected that! As I sloshed back home I passed a few more playing puppies. A lady was using a Chuck-It to send a ball far out into the ocean for her border collie. She said she wanted to be a dog in her next life, HA! If you’re going to be a dog, be a beach dog! I made my way back past the crashed jeep which was now being swallowed by the tide.
Another day as I walked to the beach, the ocean appeared to have disappeared! OK, it was there but, I’m telling you, the water was a very long way out! It was clear to the horizon. Talk about contrast; I was amazed at how flat and wide the shore had become and the beach was almost deserted — very few people, very few dogs. I could see far out in the distance some dedicated dog owners who had ventured to the shoreline.
I walked along the beach taking more notice of the trees along the bank. Windswept and full of character, these old trees must take a beating at times. My observations were soon called back to the flat sand that had been revealed with the receding tide. It looked as though artists had been creating masterpieces and the sand was their canvas. Billions, I’m not exaggerating, billions of little balls, of rolled up sand dotted the beach for as far as the eye could see. The intricate patterns looked like oceanic fireworks!
I spotted my mate Rod, he was sucking yabbies. I was excited to see just how this was actually done. After a friendly greeting I joined in the fun, Rod would suck out some sand, dump it out and I helped pick up the little critters.
“Watch out, you’ll feel it if they get you with their nippers” he warned. Rod said I was saving his back, poor old fellow, that’s a lot of bending down. In truth I was trying to earn a fish or two, maybe someday? Not that day sadly, because he didn’t catch any fish while I was with him. He did tell me who the sand artists were, turns out they’re solder crabs. He sucked one up with his yabbie gun and handed it to me. Apparently there are heaps of them and he told me if I look for them as the tide first starts to recede I will see millions! “That’s when you should see them.” he assured me. I’ll be doing that, I thought!
That day a man was in our fishing spot. He made me giggle, in his blue ‘budgie smugglers’ (Australian for speedos). He shared a story with us about fishing in that location.
“I use a kayak to get across after the tide comes in, now…” he explained, “I use to swim across but, the last time I was swimming with about twenty whiting and a bull shark grabbed them and was pulling me back out. I had to let them go,” he said calmly. FAR OUT! I would think so! He didn’t mind a chat, telling story after story. Looking at the water coming in so fast it was like time-lapse photography I decided it was time for me to go! I made it back with dry shorts this time. I was thinking I should dress in such a way that I don’t mind getting wet. As long as I beat the sharks to the shore I’ll be all right! Right?
The tide kept coming in erasing all the crab created masterpieces. More people and more dogs started showing up. They must have a tide chart! I managed to get an up close photo of a bigger crab on shore, but, was quickly photo bombed by a cute little puppy, which was just as curious about this crustacean.
I could write a story about this beach every day and no two stories would be alike. The tide continued to come and go, at times withdrawing as far as a person could expect to walk in one day. Along with the tide, the people and the dogs vary, scattered about the sand and surf. I wonder if they notice how magnificently different the shore line creates itself each day.
The Jeep disappeared, leaving no evidence of its wild moonlit ride. Waves from the changing tide had already started to separate its pieces and the salty water of the sea had begun to rust its metal before it was removed.
One morning I was pleasantly surprised to hear bagpipes playing! It seemed they were being played just for me. In truth I think the bagpiper was trying to coax the water back to shore, it was an extremely low tide! He was playing a musical sonnet ‘Return of the Waves’.
I took Rods advice and was delighted to see swarms of Soldier Crabs clicking in regimental style, making their little sand balls in the receding tide. Looking like blue hard-shelled bubbles scurrying away as I approach.
Unfortunately, I didn’t see my friend Rod again. The last time we spoke he shared with me the story of his career with the railroad. “I worked for the railroad for forty-nine years, six months and thirty-nine days” he said proudly and with a mischievous smile he continued, “I didn’t quite make it 50 years.” I find myself wondering just what happened and why he didn’t cross the fifty year line. He started out as a porter, then became an engine cleaner and worked his way to driver. “I have driven steam engines, diesel and electric trains,” he explained. It fascinates me talking to older people, hearing how the world has changed around them and they have been able to keep up with it. I told this story to my mother on Skype and seeing her face shine from another hemisphere halfway around the world, I was grateful she has kept up with modern technology.
Towards the end of my week of beach walking, I begun to see single delicate blue butterfly wings resting on the sand. I wonder if they are from butterflies that have ventured across the ocean from another land and fell dead in exhaustion just before reaching the tropical paradise only meters away. My wings, unlike the butterflies, are still strong! I have flown across the ocean with the aid of modern technology, no heroic adventure making the crossing in a rickety plane or dangerous tail ship. A privilege granted to me by the ‘older people’, like Rod and my mother who have come before, not only keeping up with but, creating a world advancing with new technology. I am free to explore the beaches and venture inland to a tropical paradise that promises new discoveries and exploration.
I hear adventure calling me in the breeze; though not much remains undiscovered, it will be new to me! The need for new encounters and new destinations is part of the makeup of every traveler and I am one of them! Filled with excitement, both Lynne and I, the Global Wanderers, will strive to spread our wings journeying, seeking and reporting on new discoveries during our explorations!
Thank you for reading the ramblings of my beachcombing ~ Travel On!!
Travel On! Join us as we travel into the unknown.
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