Friday, November 30, 2012

Moreton Island: Land of Signs and Curious Creatures

Sunset over the Wrecks
As Heidi alluded to in an earlier blog, she’d had her fair share of following me on biking adventures and made a compelling case for a relaxing weekend in a place where inertness is embraced ; ideally a beach . Since our big move to Queensland, a quintessential Aussie beach camping trip was always on the cards, and when a weekend presented itself Heidi and I took the opportunity to board the Micat; a ferry with a disappointing lack of feline features, bound for the much lauded Moreton Island.

In an small concession which accommodated my bicycle obsession, Heidi agreed that we could at least ride our bikes to the ferry, and guided (or rather misguided) by my Garmin GPS, we proceeded along a perplexingly complex path to the ferry terminal. I’d been newly reunited with the GPS after a shockingly long warranty stint of almost 3 months, and am certain Heidi and I could have got us there in far less time had we trusted maps and our internal compasses. All the satellites and electronic wizardry in the world aren’t a substitute for good old fashioned maps, and as we finally approached the sea with tell tales signs of dirty roadside lunch joints, seagulls and fishy smells we knew we’d made our destination.

Bikes strapped onto the Micat
We were joined aboard the Micat by a plethora of four wheel drives, each laden to the gunnels with enough alcohol to drown a Great White shark, amongst a collection of children’s play sets and ridiculous inflatable camping couches which stood in stark contrast to our minimalist setup that fitted into a backpack each.

We weren’t however completely without our own beach accessories as we’d brought along two snorkel and flipper sets which were regifted by a work colleague. Resplendent in neon green and blue, we strapped them to a Freeload and donned them to explore the shipwrecks which had been sunk in the bay for precisely that purpose. They proved to be a ticket to an exciting underwater world, and having never snorkelled before I was blown away by what the Island offered.

Ollie attempting to smile through the snorkel
On arrival, any plans of exploring by bike were quickly quashed, with a deep loose sand which offered such a poor riding surface that we pushed our bikes to the campsite and left them there for the duration of our stay, much to Heidi’s delight! With the scorching mid day heat starting to beat down, the beach was the only option and the cool inviting waters more than satisfied, while the aquatic life that swarmed in the shallow water was just amazing.

Scouts gawk at the Moreton Wrecks
Our snorkelling experience began with nervous hyperventilation, not trusting that the snorkels length would provide access to important oxygen. After this passed, we faced an issue with goggle fogging, and after working out that periodic de-misting was required, we could see clearly underwater and navigate the jagged, limpet clad iron wrecks with a degree of safety. On seeing my first fish my reaction was startled one, jumping out of the water and pointing furiously to the oddity to Heidi only a few meters away. She dipped her goggles underwater and had a similar excited response. We now understood what snorkelling was about and why people went through rigmarole of squeezing their faces into rubber masks and walking backward in ill fitting rubber toe-extensions to get their sub-water fix.

We spent the next hour circling the sunken hulls, swimming amongst swarms of tiny fish, gazing in wonder at large colourful characters which could have starred in Finding Nemo. This snorkelling proved to be the highlight of our weekend and I wholeheartedly recommend the experience if you get the opportunity. It was certainly made more pleasurable by the warm waters, and I can’t imagine it’d hold the same appeal in frigid southern seas. I only wished my camera was actually waterproof, rather than just pretend as I discovered in the Tour Divide, as I would have been able to share some of these underwater sights.

Tuckered out from snorkelling, we returned to the beach and lay in the sun, passing the time till an acceptable hour for first dinner. This was followed by a nap then second dinner, and I was quickly growing to appreciate the relaxing approach to passing the time that Moreton offered.

Heidi laxes out on the beach
It seems the tendency to bring a tonne of stuff didn’t escape our camping neighbours, who had brought a cow worth of meat and nothing to cook it on, having banked on a campfire which is banned under the island’s strict fire laws. As we drifted off to an early 7PM bed time, fuelled by a second dinner food coma, we heard them drunkenly rant about their dire situation. We were both too sleepy in our tent and bivy to offer assistance.

Camping in lightweight style
An interesting observation of Moreton Island we’d made was the abundance of signs, proclaiming all sorts of shouty instructions which stood in stark contrast to the laid back atmosphere that the island oozed. Ferry landings, speed limits, pet bans and fire restrictions were all proclaimed loudly, and while I didn’t find them offensive, it was certainly curious to see such that a place with such natural beauty needed so many signs to be enjoyed by everyone.

Signs for Africa
This island’s view on the signs might have been different however, as on a walk to an inland desert we found the sand starting to swallow a ‘use walking track’ notice into its dry sandy stomach.

The Island protested to this particular sign
One of the things I most enjoyed about my time at Moreton, was the chance it afforded us to sit quietly and look at nature, which was very close and supremely interesting. After dinner, we were visited by a gaggle of lizards which came to snaffle up food crumbs, slithering stealthily through he bushes and working in teams to retrieve their evening meal. In the morning, we watched a Kookaburra bludgeoning an insect to death on a branch, then swallowing it whole. We were only treated to this spectacle due to the cover afforded by the tent. To have time to just sit and look at nature was fantastic, and hopefully we’ll get time to do more of this on future touring adventures.

The camping trip afforded us the time to sit and watch nature
Packing up our camp and boarding the ferry, we were sad to be leaving after such a short time, but our lives back in the real world were calling and living on a beach watching lizards, fish and Kookaburras certainly doesn’t pay the bills. Fortunately we got to ride our bikes back home to Toowong, and were treated to a roaring tailwind that blew us through the port, then outer suburbs, then city with none of the navigational dramas of our journey out. Moreton Island was a thoroughly enjoyable adventure and one both Heidi and I will be looking to repeat in a different wilderness location in the near future.

Moreton diappears into the distance

1 comment:

Flyboy said...

Get used to being "told" what to do Ollie. It seems to be the new national pastime to tell everyone else what to do.
Hope you are enjoying Brisbane life in spite of all the bogans. We do seem to have a high Kiwi ex-pat community! ;)