Flight in the Bight.
As the crow flies, this week hasn't seen me move too far, but as far as far as feet climbed it will go down as a record for me, 1300 feet in just a matter of seconds, strapped onto the side of a helicopter, sweaty palms gripping my camera in the frigid air. You left me in the warm embrace of the Fowlers Bay Eco Caravan Park and now find me on the cold windy shores of Point Brown, 7 days apart but only a few hundred kilometres in the saddle.
I would make my way out of Fowlers Bay with the holy grail of Australian surfing folklore in marked on my map. Cactus Beach would only be a short ride away along a undulating dirt road passing iconic dunes and pink lakes. The most mysterious and sacrosanct church for surfers from around the world for a couple of generations. The wave men have dedicated their lives to surfing. It wouldn't be my first time there, nor my last, but it would be my first time there with Myf and Juno in tow. I was so stoked to be able to share the camp with my girls and nature provided us with a show to welcome us. 70kmh onshore winds, howling from the whitecaps straight into the thin canvas of my tent, drumming out an erratic beat so strong I feared we would take off, cartwheeling across the scrub. Juno slept I hate to say it, like a baby.
One of the beautiful things about surfing is that we are natural adventurers, we seek out beaches and areas of Australia that others wouldn't. We witness lighting events and landscapes missed by many, I wanted to bring Myf, Juno and YOU into our world through LAND SEA YOU ME and Cactus would always be one of the highlights of the journey.
My body would see to it that this wouldn't be true for me unfortunately. I would spend a couple of days tent-ridden with a cold whilst the wind howled. Frustratingly cocooned within my sleeping bag, Juno and Myf got to do all the exploring, each time coming back with souvenirs from beach-combing, hair a mess and cheeks flushed. The variety of landscapes and walks keeping them entertained, soaking in the majesty and magic of Cactus. They were enjoying the wild thrashing environment, ducking from front after front, watching the ocean pick up momentum churning into a cauldron.
The managers of Cactus have worked hard to restore the campsite to the welcoming, maintained and flourishing site that it is today, far from the windy dustbowl of days past. It now walks a fine line between respecting the beauty of the area and allowing a flow of surfers and tourists to move within the defined tracks and aqua sea, all while still offering an authentic bush camp experience. It can still be hard yakka out here, but on mild wintry days it shows its true beauty.
Our third day at Cactus dawned windless and sunny, finally an opportunity for me to emerge slowly and fire off a few frames, aiming to capture the classic colours of the Cactus coast. The lineup was an unruly mess, no one would paddle out that morning, but it did provide an opportunity for me to make a few long-exposures of the palette from where the desert meets the sea.
I would be back in the saddle by early afternoon to make Ceduna by evening, I had an appointment at 6AM the next morning that I didn't want to miss. I'd been in contact with National and Marine Parks about the possibility of getting a seat aboard a helicopter flight as they conducted surveys from the air, looking for any fishing encroaching into our Marine Sanctuary Zones. The flight would also include a circling of Pearson Island, part of the Pearson Isles Sanctuary Zone in Investigator Marine Park. What I found was passionate professionals, dedicating their time to the protection and public education of our unique natural resources. The hard work and dedication in making these Marine Parks a reality in beautifully evident on the shores and seas of Pearson Island.
The island forms a formidable silhouette on the horizon, from 10kms out the teeth revealed themselves to us through the thin perspex of the helicopter. Intimidating to any shipping no doubt, but remarkably beautiful from the air. Overflowing with fauna, species only found on the island, thriving on the rich protected waters enveloping the group. It was a true step back in time.
Crawling with life, in and out of the water, no obvious introduced weeds, no car tracks, no rubbish, just a small navigation marker and weather station. All sounds were natural, apart of course from the tearing of the air by our blades. We landed on the saddle of the islands and were able to take a few steps on the island as we removed the doors for me to circumnavigate the island. It will be a long time before I'm that isolated again. Just me and my camera, the seals, penguins, wallabies, lizards, dolphins and one lonely cloud. The geology of the island was remarkable in its variation, from tumbling boulders to sloping plains covered in sunbaking Australian Fur Seals. Oceans either side of the island were oceans apart, raw and rough pounding the southern side, whilst just metres away was an inviting smooth bay, crystal clear waters once again bubbling with seals. The island has an interesting history and a bright future and I felt extraordinarily lucky to be walking its shores. If you ever have the chance to make it out there, take it, it's a gem.
The majesty and size of the isles was once again revealed as we climbed, air pulsing through the cabin, lenses fogging up.
Our time was limited in the air and we made for the mainland able to hug the coast back to base. This allowed me to shoot some landscapes I could otherwise never access, under a beautiful midday winter sun. Conditions not usually ideal for landscape photography but from the vantage point of a few hundred feet the conditions were perfect. The helicopter crew would be back in the sky after lunch without me tackling the scourge of Box Thorn running rampant through the dunes. I'd be dropped back to Ceduna, still high from my morning flight and straight back into the saddle, aiming for a small Conservation Park to camp 20ks east.
My return to Ceduna would also mark the end of my support team's first run. Myf and Juno would be heading back to Adelaide before the next resupply in a few week's time. I literally couldn't have made it this far without them, but the landscapes and distances between towns are a little more forgiving allowing Myf to take the reigns from home base in Moana.
I am now solo in the saddle and the tent, apart of course from my ever present radio tuned to the ABC, eagerly anticipating the next summer of cricket. Waking with the sun and asleep not long after dark. I'm currently camped in a protected bay at Point Brown, a 30km tough ride from Smoky Bay, hoping to make Streaky Bay tomorrow, weather and lighting event dependent. Give me a holler if you're in the area!
Pre-sales of the Land Sea You Me Book are available now, secure your copy here.
I am indebted to the great team at National and Marine Parks South Australia for this opportunity. I can't thank them enough for their hard work and dedication to the promotion and protection of our unique coastline.