Saturday, July 21, 2018

Whales! Whales! Oh but my heart is at sea ... or, the Triumph of the Wobbly Man

I used to be a tramper, a climber, a long-distance walker. Right into my sixties. Especially in my seagoing days. When we arrived at a new island, and my companions hurried down to the High Street to drink coffee and buy stuff, I put on my boots and headed into the surrounding countryside. Ten, twenty kilometres ... more, if the ship was in port for more than a day. It was heaven, and has left me with a welter of colourful memories .. sleeping rough on the top of a Madeira mountain, circumnavigating St Maarten ... and when we had a whole week in Dumagete, the local street-seller ladies christened 60ish me 'Mr Walky-Walky'. And the construction workers wolf-whistled at my tree-trunk legs.

And then, on the eve of my 65th birthday came 'my stroke'. For a few days my right leg and arm were useless ... and, although Brett the acupuncturist has since restored some of their mobility and strength, I'm afraid I am these days 'damaged goods'. Can't handwrite, one-finger typing, inelegant gait, and my sense of balance is shot to pieces. Which makes walking on any uneven surface (including stairs) hell. Even with my stick. I topple over, and then -- as I'm on blood-thinners -- bleed or bruise copiously. So for the last seven years the marathon walks, the climbs, the tramps have been out. Until today.

This weekend the Fahey family (or a portion thereof) came to stay at the Cove. Now, I've walked all the nearby beaches, so they decided to take me further afield. Shelly Beach. Beaches are good. Flat. And soft to fall on. So we parked and headed for the Angourie Walk track. Lovely. Brought back memories of childhood tramps around Lake Rotoiti, NZ

The 12 year-olds gambolled on ahead, Captain Joe led the adult parade, I waddled along behind, and Renée followed me. Just in case of a wobble. Before long, we reached the sea ..

And a glorious view along the sands back towards Angourie

But we weren't going for a beach walk. We were going along the cliff tops!

It is an excellent track, with some boardwalk portions. But it seems to have been installed some years ago and, for someone such as I, could do with a wee upgrade. But I managed with just the odd stumble over a wayward rocklet (LIFT that right foot, don't SHUFFLE!), remembering to STOP to look at the view and to otherwise keep my eyes on my feet ...

We were aiming for the Dirrangan Lookout from where, 60 metres above the beach, one can survey the ocean and its wildlife, plunging, hungry seabirds, dolphins and, yes, whales. People are fascinated by whales. Having spent several years of my life at sea, I've seen enough Mobydickheads to last me, but somehow it's always fun to see one more. Well, the wildlife saved me the final metres of the steep climb to Dirrangan: Mia and Hannah sat down on a rock to wait for me, and pow! the show began. Whelsh spoutings and cavortings galore.

The way back seemed much shorter! I had got into my stride, and bounced along like a pixilated crab. When we reached the car, the signs told us we had walked nearly 6km.

That is by far the greatest distance I have managed, above all in nature, in some eight years. Mr Walky-Walky may not live again, but I'm not ready for the knacker's yard yet!

We celebrated at the French Pan Tree -- beetroot carpaccio, sucking pig, French cheeses and (for me) an entire bottle of French bubbly -- before heading for early bed and a sound, sweet sleep ...

Life is good, even with a bit of a wobble.