In Australia, any beach that’s worth going to requires a hike. These are the ones that are off the beaten path enough the most people aren’t willing to work for it. The ones who do show up get to enjoy it almost entirely to themselves.
In truth, we weren’t truly anticipating a hike when we set out for our beach day. It was a small getaway away from Sydney to the Central Coast. We brought along Subway sandwiches (always an adventure in itself, I find, but that’s a story for another day) and anticipated a scenic stroll along the Bouddi Coastal Walk with a beach at the finish line.
It started off leisurely enough. You could tell by our dawdling how unaware of the lengths it truly took to get to this beach. We lingered along the way looking at rock formations and swirls in sandstone. We gawked at colorful striations and basins that hinted they may once have been part of the seafloor. One of the most flooring (heh) discoveries was a surface that genuinely looked as if tile had been meticulously laid. A placard nearby told us that it wasn’t man-made, it was a work of art truly forged by mother nature herself.
The boardwalk, so to speak, was situated against the cliff, high above sea level. It was the perfect vantage point to take in the sight of crashing waves, vast expanses of Pacific Ocean, and of course, all the lovely artwork that Earth had been diligently sculpting for millennia.
Against from the rocky palette of oranges and reds was a sea of green. Bush, for miles (or should I say kilometers), hugging the hills and housing the wild. We went into it, taking a trail that promised higher ground and its own lookout point. It was a refreshing detour, providing a truly cool shade with just a touch of the sea breeze pushing through the trees.
At the top, we stopped and had six inches of our Subway lunch at a lookout. Then, we continued on a trail, circumventing the sunny rock face, through the bush.
This trail was mild, albeit long, and mostly flat or downhill. We crossed paths with a few beachgoers, swaddled in towels and barefoot. Though coming and going to the beach was somewhat steady, we arrived to find the vast expanse of sand and salt to be virtually empty. It was a far cry from Coney Island, and one of those pinch-me moments where I found myself thinking, I can’t believe I live here.
The first thing you do when you get to the beach, always, is claim your spot on the sand. We noted some teenage girls who had found themselves an ideal little alcove within the tall rock face that faced the water. It was still on the sand, but just out of the sun. Envious of their discovery, we sought our own. It was easy, we found, since so few other people had ventured the road less traveled to arrive at this glorious place.
We laid out our towels beneath the cool, eclipsing mountain above and toasted the second-half of our sandwich to our achievement. The sand was warm, the shade was cool, and the silence was golden. All we could really hear was the crashing water on the beach.
The ocean pulled in and out, revealing within each wall of water all the different life it was stirring up with it. Brown swatches of sand stretched like fingers against the clear blue water. Green bunches of seaweed performed pirrouettes. A lava lamp within every wave.
At the far end of the beach, there was a rocky inlet pushed into the ocean and curved back into itself on the opposite side. We ventured there for something less natural: a shipwreck, dating back to 1898, that we read could be seen during low tide. As we watched the tide recede, we decided to take a stroll.
Catching a glimpse of the remains of the wreckage required navigating an array of rocks. These were mammoth rocks and pocket-sized ones, shaped and smoothed by millennia of dalliances with the sea. Amongst these rocks were remains of the ill-fated boat, washed ashore and rusted over time. For over 100 years, the impression of the event where 27 people died remains visible, like a word of warning from the sea.
The scraps of metal seem to have settled into this portion of the beach, sharing it with the many seashells and snails clinging to every possible face on the rock and busy little crabs who scuttle away at any movement that isn’t lapping water.
In the same way that this sight proves the ferocious capabilities of the ocean, there are also reminders of how hospitable it can be for some. It is one of those impressive places where you could experience the wonder of where a great tragedy meets flourishing life.
Getting back to the beach was a made easy with full focus and moderate coordination. The hike back to the car, however, was neigh-on horror nights. It was a long day of walking, followed by full sun and swimming in salty water.
You’d think two fully-formed young adults would learn from prior experiences of strenuous romps through nature without drinking water, but we didn’t. Now salted and sun-dried, we were thirsty and far from anything drinkable. We climbed an immense hill, overtaking a family of four children and two adults who, needless to say, were huffing and puffing with us. However, unlike us, they seemed well equipped.
Every time we made it to a new summit, around a new forested curve, I thought we were done, only to be met with another staircase to climb. It’s a funny thing that in time likes this, when I just want to curl up and wait for help, I have to remind myself that it’s not coming. You have to carry on. I often find inspiration in characters I love and admire. Today’s little angels cheering me on were Frodo and Sam; the tiny hobbits who trekked across the dangers of a war-torn Middle Earth and, against all odds, conquered Mount Doom.
I conquered my Mount Doom that day. As soon as we reached the summit, my desperation radar scanned the premises until I found the one thing I needed. My sensors lit up and I locked on like a missile.
Rich was uttering some ideas of next steps, but my end-goal was already in the cross-hairs. “Spigot,” I blurted, and lurched myself over the bubbler to allow the fresh water to blast me in the face.
Once rehydrated, we considered the fork in the road that was eerily familiar: descend back into the bush or take the streets home. On this cool afternoon, the 18-minute-quicker route along the streets was the clear winner.
When we finally arrived at the car, my hips were slightly sore from a days’ worth of inclines. My phone reported that we’d walked 15,000 steps. The beer that evening was well-deserved, and the pictures I took were some that I’ll be revisiting for as long as it takes until we revisit that blessed beach.