Seal Rocks

At the furthest end of the beach shadows slink in front of the chatty human-ness of the caravan park far in the distance. Beneath the craggy faces of monolithic rocks, old men glaring down at me, time shunts to a standstill, an ancient story whispering huskily. The strawberry-blonde sands run out, scared off by military formation cracks, the fissures through the rock lattice-like in their uniformity.

The slick rocks are carpeted in acid green algae, a mossy frond beneath the sharp, short frothing waves, and rock pools hold archaic ecosystems – in their indigo corners lurk ancient creatures that talk of evolution.

There is a brooding silence, into which the hissing erosion of water on land dissolves. I can’t hear myself think and as I question why, the tug of the surf reminds me of the primordial force of the land and ocean and their age-old battle for supremacy.

There is no Australiana here. Rather there is a divine sense of peace, snuggled tight into the heady roar of elemental battle. Ancient spirits whorl and swoop, humanity a distant afterthought.

Sigh. Back to the road…

Wasting away again in Margaritaville

Wasting away again in Margaritaville, there’s a woman to blame… the immortal words of Jimmy Buffett who also wrote Why don’t we get drunk and screw? and Cheeseburgers in Paradise. Legend.

And that woman to blame? She is probably me. I am the one that bitched and screamed about “going on a family holiday” and now we are here it is incandescent. If I could bottle it I could sell it. With a shaker of salt. And lemons that bite.

The weather on the Sports Desk today is balmy, with potential for balm. The truck is arse-up to the beach again, the growl of the surf replaced by painfully typical gentle lapping. Perched on the edge of the rocks at Seal Rocks, the tide sucks and gluts, a living, pulsing beat that marks nature at her finest. From the grommet-filled rock pools, epicenter of teenage bravado and slick with lust and sun-scorched skin, to the rocks, reminiscent of Piggy’s last stand in Lord of the Flies, a blighted, bleached lost space, home to a tribe of vicious kids with a strange hierarchical law – the teenagers are hunting.

The beach is small, at the end of a dirt track, but it is a busy stretch of real estate. The endless parade of the caravanning masses squeal and burn down the hill, acrid smoke marking their arrival at the caravan park. Zippered into conformity, a blue esky for a blue esky, these mobs are families making their yearly pilgrimage to the coast, like Margate. In the bush. And no roads. And fewer Chavs. OK. So it’s not like Margate at all, but you get the drift. It is the destination for a pilgrimage. Some of the craggier tribes, adrift in a storm of hot pink boogie boards, souped-up clackey clackey toys, cheap Chardonnay and snags, have been coming here for over 40 years – with a passion and dedication that bears witness to another life in another place.

This is nostalgia at her hazy best, a prism on the lost years of youth, when the crackle of overcooked skin and a salty tideline around the neck were worn as badges of pride, and when you knew you were living as the park lights dimmed and the cheap wine came out. They flirt, flit and fondle. a license to play extended into the witching hour as parents slumber in holiday mode and the air reeks of fumbled misadventure.

Hello holiday romance!

Seal Rocks









The search for Australiana Pt II – Bogan-arama

Things are looking up.

The moneyed sprawl of the North Shore-on-Sea gives way to scrubby-fronted Bundy-towel adorned fibros, interspersed with empty lots, like a decaying mouth, its teeth gone south. Run down, tired of the uphill crawl, The Entrance is bereft and our search for decent coffee runs aground. A lonesome jar of International Roast sits plaintively in a milk bar window, jostling for space with a jaded copy of Women’s Day and a dust monster. Oh. Wait. That’s the owner.

Catherine Hill Bay is a scrabble of gentrified and still aging weatherboards, overlooking a sulky, grey ocean. An idyllic haven, blighted by a one-time coal mine, its rusty limbs ghost-like on the horizon, the town is fighting a mass development threat. Catho is garlanded in protest banners, but the fear lingers in the air. One more victim of our gross excess?

The road threads north past crumpled wrecks, former livelihoods swallowed whole by the present, while carnie trucks swagger and boast, bivouacs of latent distrust and glorious abandon. Theirs is a rural retreat from the flashing lights and the easy sell.

Passing one drive-thru-life after another, Newcastle hoves into view, its outer suburbs greasy with failed promise yet clutching tightly to the Australian dream. It’s memory tarnished with the gritty inevitability of the rich seam of coal beneath its lands, Newcastle is slowly re-emerging, its chrysalis sparkling with well-crafted tourism slogans and the promise of a newer, less grimy future. It is, apparently, my Brand Newcastle…

The seaside town of Stockton, known for its untamed sands, shipwrecks and aircraft crashes, squats to the north, an empty shell of a former existence clinging to its vapid association with its big sister. Separated by a thread of dieselly water, Stockton can be reached by an arching bridge that sets you down next to a coal mine. Literally. Next. To. A. Coal. Mine. Well, that sets the scene.

Just past the military installation, complete with edgy looking concrete bunkers, the slipway, the bowlo and the cemetery, the streets of the town all lead to the water. The beach flashes meaningful looks at us, while the harbour is choked with lumbering coal tankers, their horns the symphony of a briny life. Three pubs mark the boundaries of social interaction, the local with outside tables bristling with insider knowledge, the old man’s pub, rheumy and sad, and the new kid, tarted up, all gloss and chrome and rules.

All eyes are on Betty as she rumbles in.

An intriguing mix of gentrified weekenders and scarred, wafer-thin weatherboard the two halves of life are sadly evident. The haves have the polished pebble, spiky succulent in a beige pot plant by the front door and an alarm set-up, while the rest have a scrabble of boards, rusting 4WDs, dog leads, wellies and scuffed sand shoes filling the yard, the paint is peeling and life spills messily onto the road.

The chick at the bottlo filled us in. She reckoned that Stockton was chockers full of drug addicts, alcos and thieves and we should get the hell out like she did, you know, over the bridge?

Parked up next to a mob with a gaggle of kids, an old fella who called himself Jumbo and drank mids with a dedication rarely seen and the flotsam of a holiday caravan park.

And caravan parks are a whole other story.

Sygna shipwreck, Stockton Beach