In true mildly extreme fashion, I waited until I was driving along the motorway before deciding if our exploration would be to northern rainforests or southern beaches. Day trips with my grown up daughter are rare these days so I am a little obsessed with making sure they provide the most fun for both of us. The weather, my dislike of driving through city traffic, whether it’s holiday season, the presence of ticks, the amount of sleep I’ve had the night before and our general mood all come into play. Sometimes I can make detailed plans and on the actual day we do something entirely different. When it comes to leisure time with my kids, I try not to feel bound by plans. Too many other aspects of life offer no choice and I’ve had a tendency in the past to be a slave to routine.
As the coast road exit loomed, our Thelma and Louise road trip dreams entered the discussion so we opted for the southern choice. For a few years we’ve dreamed of making a spur of the moment girls’ road trip south along the Pacific Motorway. We’ve dubbed it our Thelma and Louise trip but hope it will be devoid of any of the tragic elements from the movie.
Every time we approached a sign which said how far it was to Sydney we mused about not stopping. Minor details including work, lack of funds, no bags packed, and an ancient dog at home that needed feeding meant we had to curb our desires. Instead, we focused on visiting a few beaches on the way to Ballina.
It was still a fantastic day out though and I got to introduce my daughter to the simple pleasure of eating fish and chips at the beach. Having spent most of her life away from the coast in outback regions, she’d missed out on this iconic Australian experience. I was horrified to learn I had deprived her of this right of passage. The experience was made more memorable by unexpected feathered guests. More on that later…
The first stop was Pottsville, a small seaside town. After seeing the crowds on the beach we got straight back into the car and headed to Hastings Point. It was here that I discovered that my daughter has never been to a beach that has much on it besides sand. Her interest in the shells and other oddments at this late age was a surprise to me. Most of the beaches I visited as a child had plenty to discover – soldier crabs, rock pools, shells, driftwood, cuttlefish and so on. I revisited one place called Shelly Beach at Hervey Bay only to discover that it’s now bare of the thousands of shells that it had originally been named after. Where are all the shells? Have they been collected in vast numbers for commercial purposes? Has the marine environment changed?
Hastings Point is a dedicated marine science reserve though, so it is a haven for wildlife and a great place to explore at low tide. On its beaches were the shells I remembered from my youth.
I was also surprised to come across vast areas of pumice stones. In some rock pools at the Point there were rafts of them floating. Apparently after a volcanic eruption, large rafts of pumice can float around the ocean for many years accumulating growths of marine organisms that may end up in other countries where they could be a marine pest or a harmful invasive species.
Our visit to Hastings Point started with sunshine…
But as often happens at the coast, the weather rapidly changed.
So we left to explore a few beaches further south near Lennox Head. Our plan was to return to Hastings Point for the much anticipated fish and chips lunch and to see more creatures at low tide.
Boulder Beach near Ballina lived up to its name.
I know I’ve included banksias in other posts but they are a favourite of mine. My children used to make stories up about the dried flower heads and call them Banksia people. Here are a few from Boulder Beach.
From the headland we watched some surfers braving the waves at the beach around the corner.
I’ve never been surfing. Being pounded by large waves , lacerated by sharp rocks and munched on by sharks doesn’t really appeal but I do admire their skill and fitness level.
Sharpe beach with its large expanse of smooth sandy shore was indeed a sharp contrast to Boulder Beach.
There are no pictures of me in a bathing suit (or swimmers or togs depending on where you live) as I refuse to be the target of litigation because I’ve permanently blinded and psychologically scarred people with my glaring white flesh. I may assault you with pictures of spiders, ticks and other creepy crawlies but I’m not cruel enough to expose you to my glowing fluorescence!
Hunger pangs had us driving back to Hastings Point for the culinary delights of a seaside café. Nervous about more sunburn on our lily white flesh, we sat on towels under a pandanus tree to enjoy our “gourmet” meal. So there we were – relaxed, comfortable, eating our delicious, salt-encrusted, heart attack inducing, oblong-shaped potato delicacies, and oohing and aahing over the beautiful view.
Then the first visitor arrived. Some of you may remember that I am a fan of seagulls and had a companionable birthday sunrise with a solitary one. So I wasn’t particularly disturbed by this one joining us. My daughter on the other hand looked at it with distrust. “Mum, I’ve grown up learning to be slightly wary of all creatures no matter how benign or cute looking.”
After living on farms, I guess she has seen the cruel side more than most children – goats that viciously bully others in the mob, hens that de-feather those lower in the pecking order, crows that peck out the eyes of sick stock animals, ants that eat an animal while it’s still alive – nature can be cruel sometimes.
Our move to a city suburb hasn’t helped build up her trust in birds as the magpies in our area become extremely territorial during breeding season. Cyclists adopt some rather strange head apparatus and techniques to avoid having their necks and faces pecked as they ride. Walkers are less able to escape as fast and my daughter has had a number of nasty encounters. None of the magpies on the farms we lived adopted this behaviour. It seems to only be where there is a more human contact that they do. On one memorable ride a magpie got its claw caught in my long hair braid while I was flying down a steep hill. Its flapping and squawking and my squealing and wobbling would have made a good video but alas I cannot afford a GoPro.
Another seagull arrived and my daughter frowned.
I’ve never had one come very close though so I assured her our lunch would not be disturbed by feathered marauders.
Tough Cookie continued to be sceptical though. Look at these adorable faces! How could she doubt their intentions and my wisdom?
I’m sure all would have been well if we hadn’t had a slight accident with the gourmet food container. It was at this point that Hitchcock’s The Birds came to life for my daughter and her squealing joined the raucous sounds of a hundred evil-eyed greedy gulls fighting over a few chips spilled near our legs. As a dedicated blogger I caught a few shots on camera while leaving my poor daughter to escape this avian nightmare on her own. At least she’ll never forget this special treat we shared.
After that excitement, we ventured out into the blazing sun to find a few other dangers. Covering many of the rocks, oyster shells threatened to slice my balance-challenged body.
The rocks alone were bad enough. These were not your smooth boulder types but textured with knife edges.
The risk of bleeding to death and a smashed skull were worth it though to discover a few creatures my daughter has never seen before in real life.
I recently read an article where UK engineers claimed that limpets’ teeth consist of the strongest biological material ever tested.
Within the rock pools were sea anemones and variety of other creatures. My inability to balance on rocks while holding the camera still, means you miss out on these delights though.
After risking life and limb it was time to head back to suburbia.
The promised Attack of the Killer Seagulls post has now been delivered. I may have hugely exaggerated its excitement value in the lead-up so I do apologise if I had anyone hanging onto their seats in anticipation. There was no blood loss involved in the onslaught – just an “I told you so!” from an indignant daughter. Tough Cookie was not really harmed in the process though and readily consented to being used in my blog if it alerts others to the dangers of innocent-eyed seagulls. She’s a very good sport (and is enjoying her bribe.)
For years I thought I had been a responsible mother by feeding nature documentaries to my offspring, however Tough Cookie reminded me after the seagull incident of how gruesome they sometimes were. Full of life, death, violence and sex, David Attenborough documentaries could be a harsh, albeit realistic introduction to nature. Her words were, “I learnt early on to be a little suspicious when cute little animals were born, as we inevitably witnessed them being torn apart by a predator later in the program!” She hasn’t turned into a psychopath just yet though, so perhaps it hasn’t done her too much harm, although it can be difficult to tell what’s going on behind those dark glasses.