mnestis

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Posts Tagged ‘Cook’s Look

Cape Flattery to Lizard Island

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Cape Flattery 13th August

14° 57’ .117 S

145° 19’.518 E

Photos/Australia/Cape-Flattery/

This was a fairly nondescript anchorage, except for the blindingly white silica sand dunes far in the distance. It was simply an overnight stop en route to

Lizard Island 14th, 15th, 16th August

14° 39’ .603 S

145° 27’ .060 E

Photos/Australia/Lizard-Island/

The first evening we sat on deck with  gin & tonics in hand, watching as the sun sank through a sky decorated with an airy scribble of transparent clouds and melted into a deep indigo sea. Close by, a turtle raised its head occasionally for a breath, and in the distance sea birds were whirling about a patch of reef where skittering splashes told of frantic activity under the water’s surface.

Lizard Island looks barren, but is one of those bewitching, austere landscapes that rewards attention to detail with a myriad of small and large beauties. The beach is of soft, white sand except near the rocks, where the fine layer has been swept away. There it becomes coarsely crystalline, almost pure quartz from the decomposed granite of which it’s formed. On the upper beach, some areas of the sand were paved with tiny white shells, as fine and delicate as a baby’s fingernail, and strangely shaped seed pods littered the high tide line; around them wove the mysterious tracks of animals that had gone about their snuffling business the night before.

The water was crystal clear the next day, transparent and warm. When I began snorkelling, it was almost like floating in glass. The coral gardens were unbelievable. If you remember the photographs of the corals on the jetty at Airlie Beach, try to think of them grown to hallucinatory, Brobdingnagian proportions. The hand-sized orange plate coral with ridges was represented by a specimen the size of a very large dining room table. Soft finger corals a few inches long, at Lizard Island towered like trees. Corals shaped like chanterelle mushrooms were the size of bathtubs.

But the giant clams were the most astonishing sight of all and I gasped at first seeing one (NB: not a good idea when snorkelling). The largest were a good 5’ long and I could easily have curled up within them. The outer shells were grey, ridged and gnarled, encrusted with sponges and corals, and photographs don’t capture the contrast between this outer shell and the exquisite texture and colours of the living mantle. Imagine the finest, softest, deepest purple silk velvet, shot through with bronze highlights and scattered with hundreds of minuscule, iridescent green rings. The inner membrane at the centre is pierced by two large vents. Peering inside the largest, one can see into the core of the creature and see what looks like a crisp white ruffle of purest white fluttering over a background of milky opal membranes. Some of the clams have tiger striped mantles in green and violet and black, others prefer to cloak themselves in shades of gold and brown; all have the tiny iridescent green or blue eyes.

I delicately tickled one of the clams, to see if it really would snap shut. Slowly and jerkily, as if reluctantly activating a piece of ancient, massive, creaky machinery, the clam closed the two ridged halves of its shell a few inches, then stopped. Further tickling would have been lèse majesté , so I left it and played with the myriad of small, brightly coloured fish that were nipping at my yellow gloves. The photo above is not mine, alas, but gives some idea of what they look like.

That afternoon I trekked to the south west side of the island, through pandanus and mangrove swamps, eucalyptus groves and stunted dune vegetation that stabilises the fine white sand hills. The beach was littered with seed pods, coconuts, pumice and similar detritus cast onto the shore by the prevailing winds. I didn’t stay very long, because it was too windy.

The walk to the top of Cook’s Lookout the next morning was reasonably strenuous. When I told him about it, my son expressed surprise that I’m still fit enough to have accomplished it after so much time on the boat. I told him it was a case of the battery chicken so relieved at being let out of her cage that she was carried along by sheer enthusiasm. I also climbed over Chinaman’s Hill and had another snorkelling session that afternoon. The bill for the exertion was presented by my body the following day, but I didn’t care!

The photos of the Cook’s Lookout walk are in order of ascent and descent, but don’t capture the scent of dry grasses in the sea breeze and the faint, sweet perfume of flowers and aromatic eucalyptus. The wind whipped at the summit, where a couple arrived shortly after me and we all took triumphant photos of each other. Facing towards the sun, cloud shadows chased each other over a brazen sea; facing the other way, reefs and islands showed as turquoise and brownish patches alternating with the indigo blue of deeper water.

I didn’t want to leave…

From this entry on, it’s unlikely we’ll be stopping for more than a night or two anywhere and even less likely that we’ll be getting off the boat except to refuel, so entries will be briefer. Photos may be lousy too, unless we get close enough to the shore to actually see something interesting!

Love – and am missing you all,

Eva

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Written by mnestis

August 25, 2010 at 9:05 PM