Friday, 22 July 2016

the reef

What I need, more than anything else, to help me get through the long southern winters, is a good dose of sunshine and salt water. We may have to drive for three days to find it, but boy, is it worth it.

We pitched our tent alongside some old friends on a scrubby bit of ground one dune away from a deserted sandy beach where I ducked into the warm water for a skinny-dip each morning. Our kids mucked about in the dunes, digging for treasure, building forts and carving daggers out of old jarrah boards rotting in the sand. They frolicked in the rolling waves, gentler on the shore than out on the reef, where they boomed day and night. Whales breached beyond the reef, leaping high above the white horses. We watched them swimming past while we nursed a cup of tea in our hands most mornings, spotting turtles from the shore.

Paddling out to the reef, where we tethered our kayaks before slipping beneath the surface, we marvelled at the coral and its residents before surprising a sleeping shark dozing beneath a giant bombie. Ducking down to get a better look, I discovered its length stretched further and further around the coral outcrop, until I spotted its tail curving up from its farthest edge, at which point we thought it prudent to swim back to the kayaks. On to the next dive site, where a giant groper disappeared into an underwater cave before I could point it out to my friend. That morning on the reef, along with the shallow water snorkelling I guided Darcy through from beneath a sheltering arm, introducing him for the first time to the world beneath the waves, will remain with me forever.

A week of shining days of sun, saltwater, and swimming with the fish. We carried it home with us, smiles splitting open faces dusted with sunshine.