|The beautiful view from half way up the trail|
So, I decide on a bit of a whim, to try out this walking track called Coral Beach. Well it turns out the aussies like to use the term ‘track’ pretty loosely. I got the bus all the way down to Shute Harbor, and walk up the steep stairs to a road that I think leads to the track, but my map skills being what they are, I hailed a passing car and asked the woman driving:
Me: “Am I on the right road for the coral beach walking track?"
Woman: “you’re going alone are you?”
Me: “erm, yeah”
Woman: “What shoes are you wearing?
Me: *cue to do the vertical splits to display my sensible walking shoes through the window of the 4x4*
Woman: “Ok, *hesitation*, well yes, you are on the right road love, but this time of year, y’know, just make
sure you walk with heavy steps and carry a stick, look out for snakes.... and..., does someone know where you are?”
Me: *cue to text wendy to tell her where I am* “yeah I’ll be fine, thanks very much”
Woman: *looking gravely* Bye love.
So with this woman’s words of warning still ringing in my ears, I approach the entrance to the trail and am reminded of a quote from Bill Bryson’s Down Under:
In fact, Australia has more things that can kill you in extremely nasty ways than anywhere else: sharks, crocodiles, the ten most deadly poisonous snakes on the planet, fluffy yet toxic caterpillars, seashells that actually attack you, and the unbelievable box jellyfish (don't ask). The dangerous riptides of the sea and the sun-baked wastes of the outback both lie in wait for the unwary. It's one tough country.
I approach the metal box which contains leaflets about the walk, and observe the large sign, with a brief account of the walk, and some safety guidelines:
Ensure you have enough water – Check! Infact I bought 2 bottles – clever me! I’m made for this!
Wear sturdy walking shoes – Tadaaa! I am on a roll! Already shown off my millets hikers once today!
Protect yourself from the sun with sunscreen – Always do – I am P20’d up to the max.
Wear insect repellant – Cue me to whip out the Deet Simon gave me (which is handily in my rucksack) and spray liberally.
Wear suitable clothing, long sleeved shirt and trousers and a wide brimmed hat. – Oh. Shit. I’m wearing my denim hotpants and bikini top and all I thought to bring was my graduation shortsleeved T-shirt.
Well, it will have to do. I never saw Steve Irwin (God rest his soul), wearing long trousers and full length sleeves! ...Come to think of it, I never saw him don a bikini either, but sod it, I’m here now.
Heeding the wise aussie ladies words, I immediately find myself a good stick, The one I like is a little long so I snap it with the sort of bushwalking expertise I imagine a native to have. Like all good hikers, I am immediately chuffed with what I am sure is the best walking stick ever. It is perfect in length, rock solid unlike a lot of the sodden deadwood about, and even has a spike at the bottom to skewer murderous creatures, and a nodule of wood at the top to stop my hand slipping down.
So armed with a stick (what the fuck am I supposed to use the stick for again?), I proceed along the, not so much track, as vague clearing of rainforest. Stomping loudly to scare the snakes. Maybe 3 meters in, I walk through my first (of what would become many many) spiders webs. Letting out an audible yelp and frantically spitting, wiping and shaking myself free of the silk-like stuff, I quickly devise a second use for the stick.
This involves on my first step (left foot), raising the stick above my head in a wielding manor and bringing it down diagonally across me (right foot), to stomp loudly on the ground to keep scaring the snakes. Thus clearing webs that obstruct my path, whilst still threatening all the things that are lying in wake to kill me. Be careful not to wield with too much vigor though, or you will simply bash the low-hanging branches and foliage, disturbing many creatures that may kill you. It’s a tough technique to master. But after 20 minutes I’d mastered it.
I was now proficient in what I am sure is an often used method to avoid death-in-the-bush. Although from a distance, to the untrained eye, perhaps I looked more like a crazed sweaty girl, brandishing a stick, spitting and yelping my way along a sort-of track.
I came to a clearing which turned out to be coral beach itself, with an encouraging sign indicating the continuing trail along the cost to the viewing platform (and also a picture of a crocodile in a red triangle – not sure what that meant). I was so proud I’d made it through the jungle I took a photo of myself (with stick) on the beach, then continued to find the ultimate Beak Look-out.
I wasn’t even disheartened by the solitary flipflop, lying on the shingle, not another human in sight, looking forlorn like the palimpsest of a former amateur bush-walker. (I did let out another of my audible yelps when a locust the size of a rat bounced and sporadically flew around me).
|Made it to Beak Lookout!|
I hiked with gusto up and up and up until I saw ahead of me the wooden steps up to the beautiful Beak Look-out. What a site. I was pouring with sweat, gasping for water, and shaking with adrenaline. I sat and contemplated the beautiful view, and thought of the irony of wearing a T-shirt displaying the year, which, had I died in some horrific bush-accident, would be a mocking emblem of the year of my death. An epitaph that I unknowingly chose when I grabbed a top out of my backpack to take with me. (although it would probably be inside a snake, so the poetic symbol would be lost on you all!)
|Not-so-lucky: One who didn't make it!|
When I emerged at the little tin box where I had taken my leaflet, the very start of the trail, I breathed a sigh of relief and pride. I grabbed my biro, jotted a note for future hikers, and slid the leaflet back in the box, leaving my stick propped against it for the next bikini-clad novice!
Tomorrow see’s me on a 2 island luxury tour with full use of the spa and bar facilities on daydream and long island. I think I deserve a bit of Whitsunday R&R!