Noosa’s main beach… looking South.
Waiting for Mack’a… a true story
The morning air was silky warm with seagull’s crying above the boom of unseen surf. Jack locked his ute and walked across the bitumen car park in his bare feet, noting the sand on the black surface was cut into rivulets by the night’s rain. A 60’s Holden station wagon gleamed in the shade of the she oaks, lovingly polished it looked like new. Further on a 70’s Ford, the paintwork fading from 30 years of buffing. At the top of the beach in the shade of the casuarinas were a few empty camp chairs, the surf a lazy 2 foot swell breaking in noisy foam. Far out to sea just above the horizon, white clouds brooded under a pale blue sky. Scattered along the beach the early birds had staked out their patch of sand with bright towels and a few brollies.
The sand squeaked beneath his feet as he walked down the beach, after a hundred foot or so he stopped and shook out his towel, laying it flat on the sand. Kneeling down he pulled off his tee shirt, using it as a pillow he flopped down making himself comfortable. The sand was cold and lumpy, but he ignored the discomfort as he listened to the sounds of the beach. A cool breeze blew the smell of salt and sand through his mind, stirring up treasured memories. Something about the beach he thought to himself, the smell and the sound of surf, even the feel of sand, something exciting.
Snatches of conversation, and in the distance the cawing of crows intermingled with the cries of children. The early morning sun was like a balm on his skin, the sounds and smells exhilarating. He felt himself merging into the sand, his old red board shorts and lilly white body blending with the bright towels and tents scattered along the shore.
After five minutes he was starting to burn, he turned over with his ear to the sand and opened one eye. Two children, a boy and girl accompanied by mum and dad appeared at the top of the beach. The little girl around 6 or 7 jumped with excitement, in her hands a small red plastic bucket and shovel, around her neck a brightly coloured towel. Her brother was a couple of years older, his face under his floppy white hat was smeared with sun screen, over one shoulder a towel like his sisters and a foam boogie board under his arm. Mum and Dad looked to be in their mid-thirties, Dad with a beer gut and red budgie smugglers holding an esky between him and his wife. She looked like a fish out of water with a black sort of top coat over her ‘Woollies’ designer cossie’s in black and white… not forgetting her lacquered red hair.
Closing his eyes he lay like a chameleon, convinced he couldn’t be seen… listening to the family as they passed. The sand was like a drum amplifying every sound, the children’s foot falls excited and rapid the oldies more stayed and plodding, each grain squeaking against another until the sound reached his ear. Sun screen and bitter perfume assailed his senses as they past, their foot falls and talk receding into the boom of breaking waves.
He lay soaking up the rays and thought about his everyday life, and how he avoided the Sun. Nothing was clear cut he thought to himself, things changed from day to day; what was black and white last year could now be shades of grey.
It was a long drive in his diesel ute to get to this beach; a round trip of 5 hours or so. But it was worth it for a bit of sun and sea. Fresh water wasn’t the same he thought to himself. He’d always believed the minerals in the sea were good for the body, same with the sun but only in small doses. Out west the sun was the enemy, only a fool would strip down and lie about like a lizard on a rock. On the beach it was different. He turned over and sat up, watching 2 ladies jogging along the water line, somebody fishing from the rock wall cast into the water, the line snaking out in a flash of gold. The family that had passed earlier had set up a small tent along the beach, the women sitting inside out of the Sun, Dad and the 2 children splashing in the water.
He got up and walked down to the water, lines of foam weaving along the shoreline. Wading in, a small wave broke over his knees, splashing up to his chest. Grimacing he sucked in air and stood on his toes, meeting every swell with a bob. When the water was up to his waist he dived in and swam under a breaking wave, the shock sudden and invigorating. Standing up he wiped his eyes, a shoal of bait fish scattering around him, the Sun glinting through a wave as it built up, the undertow pulling him forward. The water was cold and clear as he ducked under, the wave breaking above, his body invigorated with fingers of water as it past. Surfacing, another wave was building, shoals of whiting swimming this way and that.
Laying on his back he floated in the water, rising and falling with the incoming swell. The joy of bobbing around in the sea was unexpected; it was so pleasurable, so simple. A wave broke over his head, spluttering he dived under the foam, his body massaged by the undertow. He spent another five minutes playing in the small break, then managed to body surf nearly all the way in.
Dripping and exhilarated he spread his towel out, careful not to get sand on it. He felt so clean and invigorated, the mites or tiny spiders he sometimes unintentionally picked up from the scrub had given him the itches for the last few days, no matter how much he showered, shampooed and soaped, it had no effect on the invisible bugs. The Sun and surf had killed them dead.
He thought about the magpies on his farm, and other birds lying around in hot spots with their wings spread in the sun, he knew they didn’t do it for fun… there’s a reason for everything he though as he lay in the Sun. The constant sound of the surf was like a heartbeat, so different from the quiet of the bush. He liked the beach, it was clean like the desert. Most times, you’d never catch him out in the Sun without a hat and long sleeve shirt on. Sun screen and baseball caps were for townies he thought, not for people in the Sun all day long. No substitute for covering up, he thought wryly.
It’d been dark when he left his farm, the sun coming up as he crossed the Divide and descended the long forestry tracks that came out at the Yabba, from there it was bitumen all the way. Driving through Kenilworth the bakery and news-agency was open, the paddocks green and lush, the hoop pines along the road shrouded in mist. Crossing the Mary he knew he was getting close, the diesel and dust of work receding as the fog in the valley thickened. Twenty minutes on, where the road falls away to the coastal plains, the ranges on both sides funnelled the fog over the road where it dropped into a sea of white mist that surrounded Mt Eerwah like and island in the sky. He’d pulled over to watch the scene and was stunned by the beauty of the moment.
Turning over he put his arms out, listening to the occasional word as it floated past, carried on the wind and blurred by the surf. His mind drifting from one thing to another, the simple pleasure of listening, the whiff of salt and sand filling him with contentment. The low sound of an approaching quad bike intruded his mind, two people talking above the engine shattered his thinking. He determined not to look, but remembered reading about people getting run over on North Shore. Sitting up he dusted himself down and watched two middle age life guards, one driving, one riding pillion coming towards him at a safe speed… obviously heading for the ‘life guard tower’ at the start of the rock wall. As the quad passed, the bloke riding pillion gave him a wave but never stopped talking. The smell of exhaust fumes triggered a knock in his head, holding his breath he turned over just as a lone cloud cast a shadow over the beach.
A cigarette butt was uncovered by a cold breeze that swept up from the water, somebody at the top of the beach started talking in a loud voice, others joining in with put-on laughter. It was the people in the camp chairs who had appeared mysteriously , talking to the life guards who had arrived on the quad. A chill wind blew as the day got greyer.
One of the life guards was at the top of the steps to the tower, his voice somehow amplified as he spoke to the one below. The loud voices seemed to stir up the oldies sitting in the camp chairs, all of them making wise cracks and laughing like galahs. The air was shattered by 2 big and very loud burglar alarms on the life tower, the noise defining. One of the life guards had tripped the alarm, and neither of them knew how to turn it off… the two of them franticly looking under the stairs for an ‘off’ button. Seagulls took flight, while little children put their fingers in their ears and stamped their feet excitedly. After shouting at each other above the alarm, it was decided one of the ‘senior’ life guards would take the quad back to the clubhouse and get some advice, while the other sat on the steps with his finger in his ears. The oldies in the camp chairs were carrying on as if nothing was happening; maybe they were deaf, he thought as he covered his ears and closed his eyes, wishing he’d brought his ear muffs.
As the quad passed, he was engulfed with exhaust fumes and fine sand, the blare of the alarm rattling his brain. The magic of the day had vanished, cherished memories banished with the screeching blare. Back to reality with sand in your face, he thought as he picked up his towel and tee-shirt, dusting his face off with the soft material. Plodding up the sand with both hands over his ears, One of the old blokes in a canvas chair yelled something as he passed, but it was lost in the din.
He turned with his hands over his ears and smiled, shrugging his shoulders in that universal, helpless gesture. A couple of them were probably the same age as him, even younger; grey nomads with the same cars they had when they got married, probably driven up from Brisbane that morning. They looked like they were ‘waiting for Macka’, he thought to himself.
One of the ladies, a real country looking lass in her 50’s had a pink rubber bathing cap on, pulled tight over her head and ears; she was saying something but he had no idea what. He smiled again and shrugged helplessly, his head ringing fit to bust. Turning for the car park, he gave a sort of half-hearted wave before leaving the beach… for the peace of the bush.
Life guard tower, Northern end of Noosa’s main beach.