Sunday, April 15, 2012

Memories of a Special Place

These words and photographs are several years old, but with thoughts of Western Australia's Yardie Creek drifting into my consciousness with increasing frequency of late, it seems perfectly reasonable to revisit them. I hope you'll forgive this little indulgence!

A favourite activity when Sandi and I visit Cape Range National Park is paddling our kayaks up Yardie Creek. The creek is tidal, and although the navigable portion extends inland barely one kilometre, the abundance of birdlife - particularly towards the end of the day - makes it an enjoyable experience and a fantastic way to add to my collection of reference photographs. Add to that the likelihood of seeing black-footed rock wallabies along the rock walls bordering the creek and it's no wonder we return year after year. Invariably, it's memories of the creek which seduce us into packing the vehicle, hitching up our camper van and facing the 1200 kilometre drive north yet again.

When the last tourist coaches have departed for the day, we like to think of the creek as our very own sanctuary; there's something immediately calming about entering the creek after the short paddle to the creek mouth from our beachside camp. After negotiating the shallow sandbars at the entrance, we paddle into deeper water and find ourselves surrounded by schools of large mullet which seem to delight in launching themselves out of the water just metres from us.

As we continue upstream, the rock walls on either side grow in height and in the early evening take on an other-worldly ruddy glow, almost as if they have their own internal light source. After numerous visits here, we know in advance where to keep an eye out for rock wallabies but we often hear the squabbling family groups before we actually spot them above us.

As we pass the mangrove-covered island and reach the bend in the creek, we check whether the huge nest perched precariously under a rock overhang is occupied. The resident osprey is often home by this time, but may still be at the creek mouth, perched on top of one of the navigation markers there or bathing in the shallows following a fishy evening meal.

As we paddle onwards, stopping frequently to soak up the atmosphere, the acoustics continually enchant us. If we're lucky, butcher birds are calling to one another, their haunting flute-like songs echoing between the rock walls. In such a setting, Sandi and I find ourselves whispering to one another involuntarily and dipping our paddles as silently as we can manage, as if any unnecessary noise would break the spell. In stark contrast, when the little corellas arrive in pairs to roost for the night, there's a deafening cacophony of raucous squawking which seems almost sacrilegious given our magical surroundings.

By the time we're forced to leave by the encroaching darkness, most of the creek's inhabitants have taken up station for the night. Noisy mangrove herons are often present among the mangrove roots, searching in earnest for one last fish, and reef egrets and cormorants have usually claimed their favourite rock ledge or crevice. Overhead, swallows and rainbow bee-eaters swoop and dive as they take advantage of the frenzied evening insect activity.

With such a flurry of activity, there's little wonder so many of my recent wildlife paintings have been inspired by our visits to Yardie Creek. I'm sure we'll be unable to resist the urge to visit again in the years to come.



john said...

What a magical place. Oh how I wish that I could easily travel to the far flung paradises around the world.

Peter Brown said...

John, you DO!

Clive Meredith said...

looks like a very special spot peter and must be very inspirational

Peter Brown said...

Clive, I'm about to beat my way through the morning traffic into the city for work. Yardie Creek sounds VERY enticing!