Close to home #6 Kayaking with Straddie Adventures
When I hear the words “Don’t bring anything you don’t want to get wet” my plan to take beautiful photographs of the sea disappears with my camera, which I reluctantly put away. I’m about to paddle a kayak for the first time in 40 years and it’s likely more than the camera will get wet.
I’m kayaking with friends at North Stradbroke Island, 30 km east of Brisbane, off the coast of Queensland, Australia. Debbie, an island local and part of the team at Straddie Adventures, will be our guide as we paddle south from Amity Point into Rainbow Channel. We launch our kayaks in the late afternoon sunlight and paddle out past the pier, giving it a wide berth. “The kids jumping off the end of the pier enjoy trying to overturn passing kayaks,” says Debbie.
The incoming tide carries us along, towards broad sand flats where sea grass bends with the current. At first our steering is as poor as our timing and we laugh at our efforts, but Debbie reassures us: “Laughter is good. I know everyone is enjoying themselves.”
Sting rays live in these shallow waters. Suddenly there’s a flash of silver; the water stirs as the first one glides under us. There’s a flurry as another burrows into the sand. Even though she does this trip most days, Debbie is as excited as we are when more sting rays appear. “It’s different each day,” she says. “The sea is never the same. We can’t predict what the animals will do or where they will be.” Ahead of us fish leap out of the water, a sure sign that shovelhead sharks are about, but they’re shy and swift. We only see black fins and water churning in their wake.
We paddle into Wallum Creek, country of the indigenous Quandamooka people. This part of Moreton Bay is a protected marine park; only the traditional owners are allowed to hunt and fish here. Around the first bend of the creek our paddling slows as the tide takes us deeper into the mangroves. The sun dips lower in the sky and there is silence along the creek banks. “It’s never this quiet on the mainland,” says Debbie. Green turtles are often seen in the creek, but today they are hiding. As the sky darkens we grudgingly leave this magical place. Now the paddling is harder, as we push forward against the tide.
As we reach the mouth of the creek, the sun, a huge fiery ball, hovers just above the mainland before slipping behind the blackened mountains of the Taylor Range. To the north, the jagged shapes of the Glasshouse Mountains are silhouetted in the burnt orange sky. The last rays of sunlight are replaced by city lights while the jet stream from an invisible plane glows like a firebrand.
The water of Moreton Bay has turned from aquamarine to deep oily green, the sky’s reflection gilding each ripple. I too reflect on the day. I may not have stunning images on my camera, but they’ll be in my memory forever. And I’m only a little wet!
*This story first appeared in Queensland Smart Farmer Magazine, November/December 2015.