Some more growing things from my neck of the woods, mostly tiny but not trifling. You’ll have seen a few before, so this is revision! I’ve also begun to pay a bit of attention to habit, so there are some photos that show what previously encountered flowers are attached to. Some of the photos (the male flower-spikes of the casuarina, the devils of the hakea, the berries of the boobialla) are different manifestations of plants I’ve already introduced you to.
The triumph of this collection, though, are the flowers of the mangrove. J spotted them between the road and the inlet, as we were returning home from time travel to the late Cambrian at Shelly Beach.
Suddenly I have two hours unbespoke in my shopping town as I wait for the car to be serviced. I slide-walk down a grassy slope, water-dense after recent rain, and pass the old corrugated iron boatshed on the bank of the Deua River. The river is running fast and catching clouds. There are bright sun-spots where the mangrove pneumatophores meet the water. A man in a motorised wheelchair taking his dog for a walk murmurs hello. I stand in the gazebo near the lotus and water lily pond, which is bordered by desiccation. But the pool is loud with frogs, including the woody clack of what I think is a pobblebonk frog.
The river looks tranquil, idyllic and unperturbed, but there is danger afoot. A mining company is seeking approval for a cyanide gold-processing plant in its headwaters. Local residents are concerned about spillages and pollution of the river and the water table: the company doesn’t have an unblemished record, and one small accident would be a disaster. Already one orchardist in Araluen has bulldozed 250,000 peach and nectarine trees: that’s three full time jobs gone and a lot of seasonal work – J used to prune, thin and pick there before he retired. There is a potential threat to the town water supply for parts of the Eurobodalla shire; concern about the future of market gardeners who grow and sell organic at the Tuesday afternoon farmers’ markets in Moruya; implications for the health of Batemans Marine Park, off the coast where the Deua River meets the sea. I have long been mystified and angered by the power mining companies seem to wield. They rape, pillage and pollute and then disappear with the profits, leaving the local community and environment permanently scarred.
… a whole collection of watery and airy things. For once I manage to capture birds – one a camera-flirt to rival my great niece, even going so far as to sit on my knee. He also attempts to kidnap my scone, a very good one: he has discrimination.
There are plenty of sounds as I amble along the boardwalk: the throaty satisfaction of the pelicans as a fishing boat approaches; the croarrr of seagulls; the insistent ringing of invisible bell-birds; the lazy midday quarking of crows; the cello-coos of doves in the bridge superstructure; the metallic tap of walkers' shoes; the occasional whirrrr of an an approaching bike; the excited cry of a boy when he spots seals: “Mum! Look what I found”; and behind it all the continuous noise of traffic on the highway. Signs provide amusement, history, and an idea for a future walk.
The tide is heading towards low: colonies of sea urchins, indicators of healthy water, are easy to spot, nudged up against rocks. Ripples, oyster-encrusted rocks, the blue green under the bridge, even the mud and sand-patterns are all jewel-like.
Which brings me back to Fabergé, in case you're wondering. The stroll along the board walk began as an adjunct to going to the movies, to see Fabergé. Screening was cancelled because they'd sent John the wrong DVD, so I took my Fabergé where I could find him, along with many other treasures.
The third boardwalk before Cape Tribulation provides a feast of palm fans in all their stages. It passes through mangroves, rainforest and freshwater swamp. I pass a tree caged in the roots of a strangler fig; a flower spilling itself onto leaves and the ground; swathes of fibre that looks like human hair; more irresistible mangrove buttresses; splotched trunks; and strange leaves and fruit.
I nip into Port Douglas, just to see, and am very glad I chose to camp at Mossman. The Port's a tourist mecca – cafes with clear plastic seats, T shirts emblazoned with all things Port Douglas (mind you I buy sharks and crocodiles for the twins), gift shops by the dozen and eateries everywhere. I don't see the tattoo parlour where my niece had her frangipani wedding tattoo, or I may have been tempted into a holiday mistake: a crocodile, maybe.
I book a cruise up the estuary aboard the Lady Douglas. I change into red sandals and black dress with red flowers and gold embroidery, as befits a sunset mangrove cruise with complementary … lemonade, in my case. I'm about to begin my love affair with mangroves: the patterns of their root-stilts, their flourishing green and the leggy reflections. There is a crocodile sighting: I follow the trajectory of eyes, binoculars and cameras, and fail to register more than the vague flat shape of a head, maybe.
The captain is informative: about mangroves and their salt-excluding mechanisms; about the sunken yacht, once a drug runner until the captain was arrested; about the ramming of another yacht when a huge catamaran failed to respond to instructions; about mooring leases, which cost next to nothing and are never given up; and about the bats, hoarding home as the light moves towards dusk. It takes a sharp eye to see them in my photo.