wake up at 3am and drag myself into the truck in the dark. why oh why do we have to leave this early ryan. by 4:30am the sun is fully up and we are driving trafficless around brisbane. a quick tour of this big city. skyscrapers and a famous bridge.
then quickly back onto the highway and onto airlie beach (which took me until the first sign stating “airlie beach” to realize that ryan was not saying “ailey beach”).
turns out driving endless kilometers on one of australia’s national highways (which is actually just a two lane road that sometimes turns into dirt) is way more fun that in the states.
the government provides trivia and other signs to make you smile. oh and a reminder every couple of kilometers to pull over and sleep if you need to. i get it australia, pull over if i’m tired.
up and up along the east coast of australia we go. up and up through lush green landscapes and the smell of salt water on the breeze. up and up and up and up and up. only making stops for fuel (a very important thing to do when the service stations are very far apart with nothing in between)…
…and deliciously refreshing local beverages…
…and giant mangoes.
there is a lot to see along the east coast of queensland, but ryan was on a mission. straight to airlie beach to see old family friends, pick up his tools, and get his boat in tip top shape for selling.
but then he felt bad. after seven or eight hours of road tripping with his american tourist sidekick, he finally felt the need to show me a bit of something.
head east off the highway for an hour to seventeen seventy. yep, that’s right. there is a town in australia named a number. good old 1770. the year captain cook sailed by and discovered australia. i reckon we should have the town of 1492 in america. it might make memorizing the year christopher columbus sailed the ocean blue a bit easier.
seventeen seventy is a small beach town and one of the last few places along the coast where it is still relatively safe to surf. the more north you go, the more sharks you meet.
another quick car tour of the town, a walk down to see the beach, and then back on the road. back on the open road. the open open road. a town about every 100 km or so and not much in between. tunes blasting and windows rolled down. a tan on my left arm and a tan on ryan’s right arm.
and then a phone call.
kathy is ryan’s second mother. ryan’s family grew up in the house next to her family’s house. her four kids are his extended siblings. her husband bill is his second father.
kathy and bill were staying the week out at their “tin shed” in the small fishing community of stanage bay. she insisted we stop in on the way to airlie beach and stay for the night.
a right turn onto a dirt road and off the highway we go.
i have no idea what is in store for me on this detour, but after five minutes of cruising down the rocky road, i see two kangaroos. my first kangaroos. just hopping across the barren field like kangaroos do.
i am all smilies from ear to ear.
to australians, kangaroos are like deer. they are everywhere and get hit by cars frequently. but to americans, man are they cool.
deeper and deeper into no man’s land we go. i sit reveling in my ‘roo sighting. and then, something magical happens. that measly dirt road turns into an australian safari!
hundreds of kangaroos and wallabies. snakes in the creeks. snakes in the grass. birds in the air. birds in the fields. cow after cow. calf after calf. there are animals everywhere. i stare out the window in awe of this beautiful detour. a country road full of nothing but wildlife and the occasional windmill and farm house.
then we arrive.
we drive directly up a big cliff overlooking everything. the town. the ocean. the fields.
then we arrive at the “tin shed.”
it is literally a tin shed. a massive tin-sided construct with all the home amenities you would need nicely tucked inside. including a riley bunch of locals sinking some piss.
i don’t know the exact number of full time residents in stanage bay, but i would not say there are very many. maybe fifty. it is a fishing community. there are two establishments in town, and you can get internet and cell service at one of them but only from 10am to 10pm.
imagine your cabin on the lake. your family getaway in the middle of nowhere. that is stanage for most of the people who own property there. that is stanage for kathy and bill berry. that is stanage for ryan.
nothing to do but go crabbing for the biggest mud crabs around.
nothing to do but drink beer and talk shit into the wee hours of the night.
nothing to do but take the boat out and drop a rod into the ocean.
nothing to do.
those places are always magical. those places that force you into simplicity. those places that make the people and nature around you the only things that matter.
i am glad kathy called. i am glad i got to see this special corner of the east coast.
we eat spicy spaghetti and drink white wine. i try my best to understand every word uttered through the thick aussie accents of my local companions.
and then we head to the beach in the dark in hopes of stumbling upon a mother turtle laying her eggs in the sand.
tracks from the ocean up into the sand dunes and back down line the beach. the wind whips my hair tirelessly into my cheeks and mouth. i hold ryan’s hand and mutter under my breath about the crocodile sitings they have had in stanage recently. he laughs at me and pulls me onward.
just when i want to give up and ask ryan if we can head back to the shed, there she is.
a huge sea turtle just hanging out in the sand.
my mind drifts back to mexico a few years ago when my mom and i helped hundreds of baby turtles out to sea. and now here i am, at the other end of the cycle. watching this beautiful creature looking for a good place to make her nest.
turtles always come back to the same place to lay their eggs. every year they return. wherever they were born, that is home. forever.
i have a feeling that stanage bay feels that way for a lot more than just these turtles.