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australia

Postcard from Moreton Island - beaches and birdsong

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Postcard from Moreton Island - beaches and birdsong

From the Moreton Bay ferry, there's a one-way track east across the island, daunting sand hills at times... then narrow and winding, powder-soft, bumpy or deeply rutted. How one bloke tows a trailer is a mystery, and it's a welcome thought that we'll meet nothing from the opposite direction on this leg. 

On our first day an old timer warns that some get bored out here. "There are no possums mate, no kangaroos or koalas either. Never have been." He tells us tales of "blackfellas befriending local dolphins" to help with the herding of fish, and living mostly off seafood. "And there are middens in track cuttings mate, that go back thousands of years."

On the east coast our truck nestles among ocean coastal dunes with sublime sunsets on a lagoon of a lake just a short walk inland - our camp with the constant roar of surf and the calls of birds that flit and roost in rolling surrounds of casuarina and  banksia bush.

Our daily ritual starts with sunrise, a swim in the lake, the fresh water chilly, the air balmy but still. Next is breakfast: Innisfail red papaya, muscatels, banana and pot-set yogurt, the smell and taste of fresh-brewed coffee - hot and black - the last of a treasured gift from Costa Rica.

Down by the surf the waves pound even louder. A pair of Brahminy Kites are white and russet red, flight feathers extended like fingers. They drop and soar on unseen thermals, and a stiff Pacific breeze laden with the smell of salt - where a single morning walk can last forever on a beach of a highway that's mostly empty, awash, shiny and flat under a morning sun.

From the beach we gaze south to the profile of Mt Tempest - the tallest vegetated sand dune in the southern hemisphere.... then for the length of the coast until shrouded in sea mist, the weekend abode of long rods and wishfull ocean fisherfolk. Another sandy track leads across the bottom of the island back to the west coast and the sheltered waters of Moreton Bay, with Shark Point home to dugongs and giant turtles.

We turn north to where a distant lighthouse sits afloat a faded promontory in early morning light - an Antipodean dreaming... or maybe-memories of a Mediaeval Mont Saint Michel.

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Postcard from Lanjanuc – Mt Alexander, Central Victoria

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Postcard from Lanjanuc – Mt Alexander, Central Victoria

This is our first road trip in the new truck.

We head north on the Calder for an hour at the start of this southern Spring. It's Kyneton for coffee, and baguettes for later.

Another half hour and we leave the Harcourt Valley towards Sutton Grange, then off again northward to the mountain where the truck grinds upwards, and where we finally pull over to the side.

A tartan, rubber-backed blanket is spread over a mammoth granite slab, our sitting spot framed by trees with scars of black; their burned bark a reminder of savage summer infernos from years gone by, rushing up from 350m below, those same rolling plains now a painted panorama of pastoral green. 

Television towers cast shadows over us, straddling grey eucalypts and grey ragged boulders; shadows the Jaara Jaara folk never saw as they sought out tucker of Black Wallaby, ringtail or Eastern Grey. There's a shimmer in the leaves, the breeze slight and from the south, the smells all eucalyptus and earthen. They called this place `Lanjanuc', those first people; a 370 million year-old granite and bush-covered outcrop, a sacred place of solace and observing their ancient but suddenly changing world. 

In our world, the late lunch baguettes are welcome: of eggplant, chicken and crusty French bread. It's 12degC, the sun warm on our backs, Bendigo somewhere to the north. 

It's getting late when we head onwards and downwards, but there's something else here to see: something odd and strangely out of kilter.

We follow the western slopes south, cockatoos and corellas grazing in a paddock; sidling past sprawling orchards of apple and pear. Then on a red, rutted dirt track once more up, in the north-west foothills now, classic Australian bush both sides.

Until just ahead there's a change, no Manna, Wattle or Box just here; and not the ubiquitous dark spread of plantation Pine. 

These trunks are tall and straight, the sweeping bows wide and still winter bare, while on the ground lay a wild crossbreed jungle of suckers that defy the last of winter, a riot of large green leaves - classic Oak. So, this is `THE OAK FOREST' - the 20-acre, planting a mix of Algerian, bristle-tipped, English and cork. Planted in 1900, there were grand plans to use the acorns in the leather tanning industry.

Looking back down the hill, the truck sits silent at the bottom of the track in the last of afternoon sun and surrounded by a forest more in keeping with Medieval Europe than in the walkabout wilds of Central Victoria. We're 150km north of Melbourne, an Antipodean-European city just 180 years old.

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