This is the final one of three postings relating the changing flavour of summer days at the beach for me over time.
A Day at the Beach – 1982
Back to camping in a tent. This time with my wife and 3 and 2 year old daughters. One income for the family means a tent is once again in vogue for holidays. Luckily we love it, especially the girls, for whom sleeping on air mattresses, living out of an esky and cardboard boxes of food, and playing in the shallow waters is something close to heaven. We put our watches away and have our lives governed by the sun, stars and tides for a week or so.
Holidays on a budget. Plenty of others are feeling the pinch too apparently as the camping area is always full each summer. We usually camp with several other families: all from our daughters’ play group back home. Large evening gatherings sitting on camp chairs under the stars or lit by gas lanterns. Often we take the kids possum spotting by torchlight. Card games or Trivial Pursuit bring laughter long into the night after the children have gone to bed. In the afternoons we sometimes go on walks full of laughing and chattering to various places. These often turn into endurance feats for parents as tired children beg and wheedle to be carried home.
We are camping on the shores of Lake Cootharaba, a shallow lake fed and drained by the Noosa River, not far from the ocean. Sometimes we hire a dingy with an outboard motor to cross the lake and explore the Noosa river, above where it flows into the lake. This is an area known as the Noosa Everglades. A vast unspolied National Park of fresh water, reeds, water lilies, birds, and turtles.
A Day at the Beach – 2014
I pay a return visit to Lake Cootharaba and the Noosa Everglades after many years away. The late eighties and early nineties were a bit of a blur from my point of view. Divorce and personal crises tend not to be times one dwells on. No desire to be spending days at beaches in any case.
This time Sue accompanies me on a cruise boat where someone else does the driving and produces the meals. We don’t feel we need to prove anything by doing it all ourselves. I, at least, am a little older and don’t move quite so easily as in 1982. Comfort ranks more highly than adventure. It’s all new to Sue in any case.
Little has changed physically. The camping area is still there on the lake’s north western shore. A new generation of families has made it their own. My daughters have grown up, moved away interstate and have their own families. Nevertheless I feel them close on this day on the river. Laughter, love, hugs and little girls playing happily. It is more than a memory. It’s part of me.
Noosa Everglades. A place to soothe the soul. Precious beyond understanding. I dare anyone to sit in the shallows of the lake here without feeling some sort of transcendence. This place where warm clear knee deep water reaches across to distant reed beds and sandy beaches. Settle down gently onto the sandy bottom and imagine you are in a warm bath drawn specially for the purpose of dissolving all cares.
You can relax. There are no crocodiles or other large predators. The water is not quite warm enough for them year round. I should mention one exception: Bull Sharks. They reportedly live in these waters but no one has ever been attacked and that is good enough for me.
Further up the river above the lake Darters and Shags perch on part submerged logs and lift their wings to dry them in the sun. Swans glide from one bank to the other, studiously ignoring the approaching tour boat. Gradually the water loses its saltiness and changes colour to look like freshly brewed tea. The colour change is caused by tannin from the paper bark trees that line the channel. Catfish and Freshwater Bass abound in the river. You can see them sometimes in the shady areas near the bank, under the protecting branches of a Banksia.
The years pass and laughing playing daughters grow up. Grandchildren come and bring new joys. Change is natural and change is good. It’s kind of comforting though to see the Noosa River in all its beauty and wonder remaining untouched and unchanging, to my eyes anyway.