In South Australia the best time of year for bush walking is the cooler months but if you’re willing to walk in the dark then balmy summer nights open up new opportunities to explore country and the occasional metaphor.
It dawned on me recently that with a full-ish moon the cooler summer evenings made it possible to continue walking throughout the hot summer months. So with an almost full January moon due I consulted topo maps and google earth for an enticing walk. Looking down I spotted a small sandy cove just north of Carrickalinga Beach. From above it had an air of isolation to it. There was no vehicle access, it was separated from the main beach by a stretch of rock and on the landside by steep cliffs. I was enticed.
(stock photo of Carrick Cove)
My starting point was Tresh’s house in Yankallila. The time was 8pm and the 22 degrees was a comfortable reprieve from the days high thirties. He walked with me up the hill behind his block and up onto the range and farewelled me to the backdrop of a spectacular sunset over Lady Bay.
I walked alone along the road for a short while then jumped a fence and headed across a prickly stubbled paddock to Carrickalinga Creek, a route that would take me to the coast. The creek sides were steep and the going was tricky as the shale surface easily slipped under foot. I eased my descent. The days light was all but spent and my eyes began their adjustment to the growing dark. The moon wasn’t worth much as the cloud cover was thick. Below, the lights of a caravan park shone welcomingly.
It was no longer possible to see if I was about to step on a brown snake in the grass so I was glad to reach the flat ground of the caravan park. Looking for a way out I found myself lost in the vast park until a friendly man told me I’d walked into Camp Revival, a non-denominational holiday park for born again Christians. Perhaps there was no way out and the conversion I wasn’t looking for was imminent. He gave me a well-practiced pitch but alas only enlightenment I sought was from the moon. Good News, I found the road, not to Damascus, but to the beach at Carrickalinga and my way north. I was saved.
(Stock Photo as it was too dark to take pictures)
So far I had been surrounded by land, but now, like the night, the incoming tide had swallowed the land and I walked along the moving border between both worlds. To my right pale yellow house lights clustered amidst the dark and I felt glad to be outside. I felt glad to be outside of family life too albeit for a short time. Xmas and New year were done. I’d had a good time, occasionally fun, mostly relaxing, and my indulgences moderate but all the same I felt like the chaotic feast of family life was at times too much to digest. I was enjoying being alone.
Underfoot kept changing and my stride with it. Fast and easy on wet sand, cautious over rock, labouring and awkward on soft sand and springy and care free on seaweed. Then my mind went back to family, about the need to adapt to differing needs and how I resist that which requires me to make the changes I find most difficult. And then I tripped on a rock and fell over. Dusting myself off the frustrated voice in my head said, “I don’t know what to do”, then a wiser voice edited that to, “what do I need to do?” and then everything became clearer. Literally. Above, for the first time that night the moon shone through the thinly veiled clouds. I got the metaphor too. About how the way is easier when I adapt my stride to the changing terrain and in relationships yield my need to control and go with the flow of whatever emotional landscape I might be traversing. I had seen the light! Perhaps it wasn’t too late to turn around and give myself to the evangelical hands at Camp Revival, although my communion with the moon is probably a touch too pagan.
I reached the end of the beach and after some careful footwork across the rocks aided by the now present moon I made the cove by 10:30 and settled down to sleep on the firm sand out of the wind in the lee of a low but sheltering rock.
My sleep was light, and sporadic, but enough and I rose with the sun and explored the cove. Of most interest were the rock formations which a times looked as though they had been frozen in motion. The seas erosive power was visible, the pixelated rock curved and hollowed to the uncountable strokes of wave.
By 6:45 I was on my way along a narrow track and then up a narrow gully crack to the rounded paddocks of galloping grasses, set to running by a stiff SE wind. I negated cattle and fences in all states of condition and knowing I was trespassing kept out of the sight of farmsteads using lines of wind-break trees, creeks and gully sides to remain concealed. The view was expansive and clear and close up the colours and forms outstanding. I surprised foxes on two occasions and had polite stand-offs with huge cows and a lone roo who failed to flee with his mob.
I once again approached Carrickalinga Creek, although this time from the opposite side and though it looked impenetrable, I found a roo pad that took me through it without trial. On the other side I followed fence lines that gradually rose to the ridgeline road where Tresh had left me the night before. My loop was complete. In total just over 12 hours, 18 km, a brief sortie through the summer’s night air to a tucked away cove. Then a morning’s return path unseen over hidden country. But more than this, it was time alone, time out of family life to reflect and remember that the landscape of family requires its own sort of navigation and that finding the better path means sometimes losing it.