Castaway for the day

Pauline Mago-King writes about Moreton Bay’s gem – South Stradbroke Island.

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Morning sunlight beams reflected off of the calm rippling seawaters. White puffy clouds adorned the blue sky as the sun tried so earnestly to break out amongst them. There were sea gulls perched on the seashore. The mangroves near the boat ramp stirred as the sea cunningly crept up to swallow its roots. Had it not been for that roaring Marinea engine, it would’ve been pure tranquility! Still my Canon managed to capture that picturesque view of Jacobs Well as we got whisked away in a miniscule dingy to our next pit stop.

The dingy pulled up closer and closer and there it was mooring ever so peacefully. At first glance, she’d seem quite ordinary. Even so, Pokie was small but quaint and oozed of warmth. She’d been through many rough waters and yet had many more years left in her. Stepping aboard this delightful boat house, another leg of our journey was about to commence again. Anchor weighed and with her twin hull and two reverberating Yamaha engines diligently working together, Pokie took off into oblivion.

Pokie propelled onward passing by another boat berthing near a long strip of land bursting with different hues of greenery. When she drew within reach of adjacent land, you could catch a glimpse of clambering mangroves and hoary tree trunks. We glided through the sea keeping watch over its alternating shades of blue. Birds squawked and soared in the luminous sky. Mother Nature was putting on quite a performance today and it was most indeed a worthwhile one. A little while later we were in the dingy and heading to shore.

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In the distance we spotted a wallaby standing just near the shoreline, ogling at the humans approaching it. The two youngest of our expedition of nine “oohed” and “aahed” at the cute animal. To their disappointment, their four-legged friend scampered off as soon as our feet dug into the sand. Nevertheless, this was forgotten as soon as we came within sight of those white, mammoth sand dunes. We had finally reached our destination: South Stradbroke Island.

South Stradbroke or more commonly referred to as Straddie is an ideal location for an outing with family or friends. Located on the northern end of the Gold Coast in Queensland, the island and its sister North Stradbroke, make up the Stradbroke Islands. These two islands weren’t always separate landmasses. Years ago, North and South Stradbroke were joined together in one huge landform of paradise. It wasn’t until 1896 that the two islands were detached by a savage storm. Fortunately for the islands, the storm didn’t do any harm to its extraordinary beauty. And boy did we get to see South Straddie’s striking environment that day.

Our adventure started off with us heading straight towards a path leading to the sand dunes. By now, the scorching rays of the sun were out to get us. Reminded by the glimpse of those magnificent bleached-looking myriads of sand, we shrugged off the heat and treaded onward. Every now and then, one would yelp at the copious tiny pine cones pricking our bare feet. If there was anything to loathe about this nirvana, it was most certainly those little imps. Walking on them without any footwear was like acupuncture in the soles of your feet. This was soon forgotten when we reached the base of the sand dunes.

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My oh my was it a splendid sight. The contrast of the immaculate sandbanks against the clear cobalt sky was like a beautiful canvas painting. Everyone wasted no time in scrambling up the banks giggling and exclaiming at the warmness of the sand against their feet. Reaching the top, a cool light breeze greeted us with a whiff of the salty sea. The lonely ocean was calling out for people to indulge in its titanic waves. The kids with boogie boards intact raced each other to the shore while the adults sauntered after them.

I can definitely say that the rolling surfs did not go to waste. Diving, splashing about and frolicking in these mini tidal waves were just how fun Straddie was. And it’d be wise to not turn your back on the sea as some of us soon discovered. It was like the sea had a mind of its own and it seemed as if it got a laugh out of stealthily moving up behind us to engulf our whole being.

The surf, sun and sand were pure bliss but what was even more thrilling was the little treasure we came upon. In all that sweep of sand buried “pipi” seashells and they weren’t the tiny ones either. These seashells were the jackpot! Feet digging into the wet sand, we prodded searching for these huge shells which are appetizing seafood back in my home of the Duke of York Islands. To our dismay, we could only gather around 15 of them. Apparently the shells sensed their security being threatened and retreated deeper into the sand. The search was abandoned as the party moved further down the long stretch of sand towards a trekking area. Suddenly our feet plunged into murky and spongy beads of sand. And emerging from them were the multitudes of lavender blue soldier crabs scurrying along the sand towards the seashore.

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Their movement was fascinating! Not wanting to scare off the delicate little crustaceans we took a different route from theirs. As we reached the mouth of the trek, a putrid stench welcomed us. The further we got into the woodland of pine trees and shrubs, the more pungent the stench became. “Eewww, it stinks in here!” said my younger sister. “It smells like pee!” Her suspicions were correct when we were informed by our grandfather that the area was home to countless wallabies. As if to vouch for the two old men, a wallaby popped out of a bush. Admiring how cute it was, we stood there in utter silence and dared not to disturb it so it wouldn’t hurry off. Despite our attempt, the wallaby was brief with its visit and scampered off. Likewise, we walked on and were careful to not step on the pine cones lying about. Instead of complaining about them, we found ourselves whining about the deposits of wallaby poo that were everywhere! Pee, poo and prickly pine cones – what a deadly combination! Luckily, we didn’t have to worry about that any longer. We had reached the end of the trek looking up to a steep hill. Before we knew it we were clambering up the hill one after the other.

Huffing and puffing, we stood at the top of the hill amongst a rainforest of livistona trees. Pushing aside the dangling leaves of the tree branches was a whole new area to explore. A wealth of more bleached sand dunes stood out without any flaws. The dunes went on and on for miles. Basically, a naked eye couldn’t find their end. It was as if they stretched out into nothingness. Walking on them, we looked like ants helplessly wandering in a desert. The only exception was that these “ants” were having a ball.

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A whopping pile of snowy white seashells lay beautifully on top of a loftier sand dune. The kids wanted to collect some for keepsakes alas; they were unreachable so we opted for those that were towards the seashore. With nothing else to collect and lunch time already here, it was time to head back to Pokie. The wind blew away the sand doodles as we made our way back to Pokie.

Back on board Pokie’s sun deck, lunch was devoured hungrily and there was a constant chitter-chatter about all the things seen at Straddie. Immersed in our conversation, we didn’t realize that Pokie, revved engine and all, was backing away from our adventure zone. Everyone snuggled in their towels and blankets, and slowly pairs of wrinkled fingers waved good bye to Straddie as it disappeared in the background of the blue sky and sea.

The ideal island family adventure had now come to an end. South Stradbroke had delivered on its word as a fun-filled retreat away from the normal concrete jungle. Now it was but a distant memory of keepsakes in the form of photographs and seashells…

ENDS

If you’d like more information on visiting Stradbroke Island, visit http://stradbrokeisland.com/

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