This past weekend was Australia’s Labor Day, so we had an extra day off of work! Labor Day is quite the interesting holiday around here. Or, its timing is interesting. It’s in October this year, but is used to be in May. The ruling elite of Australia have decided that they want to confuse everyone and switch the holiday back to May next year. Maybe if the holiday flip-flops enough times they’ll just give up and have two Labor Days!
Part of my working life in Australia has been devoted to reconnaissance, quizzing the locals about what cool, slightly more obscure places they like to visit for a holiday. This helps get us a little more off the beaten track, and leads to some really great excursions. This week’s winner was Coochiemudlo Island, which is much more than just a fantastic name. Coochiemudlo, or Coochie as it is affectionately known, is just off the coast of Victoria Point, which is a long train ride south of Brisbane proper. It’s a cute little island, with approximately one-point-five restaurants, a community center, and a few dozen homes.
When making plans to visit Coochiemudlo, stand-up paddle boarding seems to be the activity of choice. Sadly, though, the weather and water conditions made SUP not an option for us. You need the water to be clear and the wind to be low. Instead, we decided to rent kayaks for a couple of hours. After emptying our sunscreen container onto our bodies, we headed off for a lap around the island, which takes a couple hours or so. It was phenomenal, and the primary reason is mangroves.
A mangrove is a particular type of saltwater swamp that occurs on sheltered parts of coastlines, estuaries, and islands. In the case of Coochiemudlo, the mangroves only occur on about half of the island, the side which is more sheltered from large waves and tides. The trees of a mangrove forest are specially adapted to live in very saline conditions. They also have to contend with changing tides, which can expose their roots and lead to even saltier mud. The trees are quite beautiful and strange. They often have many stems sticking up out of the water and even more roots underneath.
We left around 11:00am, so the tide was still coming in as we approached the mangroves. At that point, the water was just covering many of the mangrove roots, which could be seen sticking directly up out of the mud. The little seedlings – with just two or so leaves – were quite amazing to me, as many of them were completely submerged in saltwater! Talk about tough conditions for a plant! As we continued to paddle, however, the tide rose quickly; we were able to kayak in and around the mangroves themselves. The water felt perfectly still, and there was a stillness in the air that was palpable. There’s a special kind of magic that dwells in that area, and it felt like a meditation just being present there.
We were lucky enough to have a blue-winged kookaburra come visit us, which was great! The kookaburra is such a quintessential Australian bird, but the species vary a good bit, especially with their calls. The common kookaburra has a very distinctive laughing call, which you’ll know when you hear it. It’s really sounds like laughter. (It’s not quite as funny when they sing at 5:30 in the morning, though.) Kookaburras are a part of the kingfisher family; their general body and beak shape is very much like the kingfishers in the states. Apparently, kingfishers can be quite cheeky, like the one that stole a sandwich right out of my great Aunt Wilma’s hand!
Our trip through the mangroves was very relaxing and magical. It was so quiet, Reva and I both felt like it was the first time we’ve really been alone this whole trip. Intimate quiet moments can be a bit hard to come by when traveling, so we are making sure to cherish them when they do come. We truly feel like this was one of the most enjoyable experiences of our lives, floating and enjoying the silence and wisdom of this special place. When is the last time you felt that way? Everyone has special places that really speak to them, and this meshing of water and land really felt that way to us.