I say it every year but never do it. Never. It's my coastal mantra which rarely eventuates, "a long beach walk, the length of the coast". Maybe once, at dawn; with my niece and young son, watching him drag his troll-like toenails across the sand; the colour of cake batter. Today, I am out of excuses, and drive to a quiet place where I can access the beach without the hordes of tourists watching.
It’s not that I am shy; I don’t want or need the company.
A soft-sanded walkway invites me to explore the beach of the northern end of Maroochydore. Entrance 148 it exclaims. I begin to walk south, my black sarong flapping around my thighs; the beach seems a little empty today. One good thing about the coast here, you can pick and choose your beach for the day. Too windy from the east? Try the river with its quieter waters, but watch that current. It’s fast and tricky! Blowing from the south? Go to The Spit, it’s always sheltered, facing north with small waves ideal for toddlers and old folk.
Glancing to my right, I can see it’s mostly women and older couples on their towels, rubbing brown shoulders with coconut oil (I can smell it) and laying flat on their backs. Like a lizard, although I’ve never seen lizards lie on their backs. A few young teens frolic in the water. Today the temperature is just about perfect and I remind myself that I will not, I must not swim, as my car keys are tucked into my togs and they’ll get wet. I must not, but the pull and lure of the waves is irresistible, and I paddle shin deep in the incoming tide.
Sets of waves stand up like wedding cake tiers, all froth and bubble, but underneath I can see a churning brown of fresh water. Wind against tide, the water pushes to the beach and retreats south, always retreats south. Stronger surges force me to tred carefully as I reach the coffee rocks, an area of old volcanic rocks, easy to carve, easy to erode. Although named coffee rocks, you’d be wrong to think it’s the colour of them; indeed the rocks are jet-black, Indian ink black. Coffee rocks perhaps, as in the texture of coffee, nothing more. Bright green seaweeds reside in tidal pools; looks stunning against the blackness. Nature’s abstract art.
Here, a mangrove leaf the colour of sunset sits in wait, kept company by white rounded marble rocks. The shells are familiar, the grey of Chinese hats, the orange of others, and the pure white smoothness of those, near the water. I don’t pick any up, must be getting old; our beach house is bulging with shells collected from previous walks.
There’s been erosion here; slabs of concrete lay like slain soldiers, perhaps this was a walking path once? Layers of dark grey and sand are exposed; the beach needs years to recover, and the sand dunes rebuilt. It’s heartless, the wind and tide.
As I walk in the tidal contours, my feet kick up the warm water, scattering a thousand comets and stars ahead of my footfall. In an instant they are gone, walked over, to begin again with the next push of a wave.
Turning back, time to go home.
I hear it first, the dull chop chop of a helicopter, when suddenly it appears like a gun-metal grey wasp. The doors are closed and I can see no signage on it, it’s not a coastguard chopper or even a rescue chopper. For that we can be thankful. Past the Surf Lifesaving Club, past the pokies and the bar smelling like spilt beer, past the other walkers on the beach with Australian flag designs for boardies, past the bandaid and cigarette butt on the tidal line, towards my car park. Up through the soft, slattered walk, the coast becomes a softer murmur, replaced by the wind’s sigh through stands of banksias and casuarinas.