Tuesday, August 21, 2012

End of the world at Urunga?

Nothing gave the slightest hint of the breathtaking view around the corner from the rather humdrum boardwalk.  Perhaps humdrum isn't particularly descriptive - or fair. One kilometre of solid structure from the small town of Urunga to the breakwater, built between a beautiful estuary and mangroves.  These mangroves are taller and grow less densely than the ones on Westernport Bay and look more like a watery forest.

Mangroves provide safe breeding grounds for many varieties of fish, crustacean and sanctuary for birds from as far away as Siberia. I could lean over the rail and see shoals of minute fish, as well as toadies and crabs, and although the area is apparently known as being a magnificent fishing spot, there were few fisherfolk around. (More on Mangroves here)

I was engrossed in watching the clash between the waters trying to exit the river with the waves determined to make their way into the river - waves swirled and sucked menacingly even though it was a calm day. These are unfriendly waters and even on the hottest day wouldn't attract swimmers. I paused occasionally to making polite, innocuous conversation with locals and fellow tourists and found myself at the end of the boardwalk somewhat unexpectedly.

It was one of those occasions when I suspect my jaw dropped and my eyes goggled. The contrast between the civilised, constained environment to a vast beach, deep in flotsam and jetsam was riveting. This wasn't just the usual detritus from a thoughtless society discarding garbage into waterways. That's become so common it would have been expected and barely worth a mention.
I'm standing in front of the triangular structure.
A square one is to the right near the dune.
The vast, long beach was deserted apart from a few tiny ant-like people in the far distance. Only a few islands between here and South America, so nothing much to catch debris from storms lashing lands far away.  Caught by the breakwater were deep mounds of twigs, branches, roots and large bleached tree trunks, swirled and swept high up the white sandy beach by local tides and violent storms, swept far higher up the beach than high tides would normally reach.
But as if that wasn't enough, someone, or more likely a group of people, had worked to balance and weave tree trunks, branches, boards and twigs into artistic structures; apparent dwellings. Not one, but a group. Some box like with low openings, others triangular shaped. Sandy footprints showed that many others had stood and stared. Now, all were deserted, no life, not even a bird to break the desolation and sense of fragile finality.
Further up the beach, caught on a large log, something organic draped thickly, blanketing metres of sand and debris, with the faint whiff of decay in the warm sun.  It looked like it had been there for a while and would be there for some time to come before it rotted completely. It felt like a scene from a movie about the end of the world, where every living thing has been removed unexpectedly, leaving the evidence of life, creativity and footprints to vanish in the wind and tides.
Further along still, a lone piece of tree appeared disguised as an animal, crouching, wary and watchful, frozen in time, not knowing whether to stay or try its chance for survival elsewhere.



Jan Morrison said...

Wow! I love these pictures of the end of the world. So stirring. I wish you could come to Nova Scotia and I would take you to the largest Tidal Bore in the world - The Bay of Fundy. Every year they have a race (not sure if it is a marathon) called Not Since Moses - where people run on the tidal flats. They have to boogey though because when the tide comes in!!! Whoosh!
Sorry I haven't been around much on the blogosphere ... after this move and relaxing a bit I hope to get back.

sue said...

Lovely to hear from you Jan. Hope the shift goes smoothly and painlessly!
I looked at youtube clips of the tides at The Bay of Fundy - wow!!!!!!! One day ...... maybe :)

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Sue .. great description .. I was more concerned in a tv programme or two that was show here early in 2012 - about the fertiliser effluent running off the sugar cane fields and the general agricultural run-off - you could see the sediment in the water ... which then messes up those breeding grounds of mangrove swamps ..

We have the Severn bore - the second largest tidal height behind the Bay of Fundy .... but they have ginormous ones in China I think it is ... height and length ..

They surf along our bore ...

Cheers Hilary

sue said...

Hilary, I love the thought of people surfing along a bore! I've just been into the desert country and the bores there are certainly not surfable!

The run off from sugar cane is incredibly destructive and affects fish breeding and create horrible lesions on sea creatures. The Queensland Govt, however, insists all is well and that they are looking after the environment while slashing jobs and programmes set up to monitor and ensure safe habitat for marine life. All very discouraging.

I'm looking forward to sharing some perceptions of the desert. 2 weeks away from the routine was wonderful :)

cheers Sue