Went walking with Darcy. Early yesterday morning.
Darcy had quite easily convinced me to meet him at 5.00AM to photograph the sunrise over the Pacific Ocean. I have not been on a photographic excursion with Darcy for a while so I thought, “Bugger it, why not?”
I was awake well before sparrow’s fart, had a quick hot brew, downed some juice, slobbered some yoghurt and I was on my way. Cheerful. It takes about 35 minutes to drive to Darcy’s home. Picked up Darcy, he put his camera gear in the back of the car, and we drove south to Gerringong. We arrived at the beginning of the walking track about 5.10AM. It was still quite dark. The moon was up.
Werri Lagoon Crossing
The first part of the trek was to cross the mouth of Werri Lagoon at the northern end of Werri Beach. Should have removed my walking boots and socks. I have a broken toe on my my right foot so I had strapped it up. Water and sand filled my boots. Like a fresh slippery brown trout in a pair of undies I squelched step by step up the track.
The Coastal Walk
We commenced our walk towards Darcy’s preferred spot for photographing the sunrise. We caught up on events at our respective schools and life in general. I walked gingerly, with Darcy ahead alerting me to any potential pitfalls, so as not to apply too much pressure on the beleaguered toe.
We reached our first stopping point. Judging by the timestamps on my photographs it was about 5.23AM. Not a bad pace, eh? Darcy set up his Manfrotto tripod and Nikon D90 DSLR. I whipped out my solid body Canon SX20. Darcy sent out tweets from time to time.
We photographed the approaching dawn and the setting moon. Venus was high above the eastern horizon as well. There was a gusty wind brewing from the north and this plagued Darcy as he adjusted his tripod and bracketed his photographs for some HDR magic. All I was worried about was my hat blowing away. I had visions of my hat achieving terminal velocity by the time it reached Werri Beach, slicing off some keen jogger’s head like Oddjob’s bowler hat in Goldfinger.
The sun rose. Quickly. Unexpectedly. It just popped up. Pop. Perhaps Carl Sagan had slept in and he just flicked the sun up up with his index finger. “There you go,” he would have said. I like it when the sun appears behind a bank of clouds on the horizon. There was no-one else there to observe. Just Darcy and I. And Carl Sagan.
After some time we packed up our gear. Darcy’s backpack weighed a ton. His tripod was not as bad. I had a small camera bag slung over my shoulder. We walked down gullies and up hills. Down gullies and up hills. Some of the gullies were soggy with the run off from the slopes above. There are a few farms along the coast and traces of oil or some other petroleum substance could be seen in the water.
We captured images of the rock platforms and a sea-eagle that Darcy is particularly intent on photographing. He had spotted it before, capturing another hapless bird mid-air with a single talon and then devouring it, wild and nature-like.
We began retracing our steps before it became too hot and the sun would burn our skin. As we approached the end of our return walk two young fisherman approached us. They stopped and we exchanged greetings like scouts from different tribes meeting on a well-worn migration path. Angling gear and tackle in tow, tattoos freshly buffed, nose and tongue piercings in place they cased the two old lensmen standing before them.
The two anglers smiled toothily and knowingly inquired if we both intended to cross the mouth of the lagoon? We cheerily replied in the affirmative and, with a sense of seemingly sadistic joy, they both broke out into wide grins and exclaimed, “You will need to swim”. We had forgotten the tide. They went north, fishing. We went south, pondering. I had visions of myself nudeing up, wading through the lagoon, clothes, shoes and camera bag raised high in the air above my head, much to the amusement of the surfers nearby. “Hey, look at those two old knobs crossing the lagoon!”
We reached the mouth of the lagoon. We considered crossing. It was too deep. We considered walking back towards Kiama. About 6km. We would then need to organise a lift to the my car in Gerringong. After some time we decided to walk around the Werri Lagoon and the associated marshes. A significant decision. We could see the route but I knew it would be a challenge as the area is often damp and sodden. I had driven past it many times and it has always seemed like the kind of place I had not cared to walk through or near.
We began our walk. First we had to negotiate not one but two barbed wire fences. Darcy created a gap in the barbed wire and I clambered through. I repeated the process for Darcy. There was fresh warm cow poo everywhere. Now, bullsh*t does not worry me because one has dealt with it nearly all their lifetime however fresh warm cow poo is a different matter. We dodged the cow pats like a cat avoiding old turds in a disgusting litter tray. The cow poo was obscured to some extent by the high lush grass.
I felt concerned that we were trespassing. Darcy argued that since we were two articulate and learned chaps all would be fine. I agreed. The dairy farmers in our district are all intelligent people. However in other parts of the country it may not be quite the same. I envisioned a scenario where a group of men in the back of a large four wheel drive ute equipped with ridiculous truck suspension, a semi-trailer sized bullbar on the front, two towering CB-radio antennas either side of the cab, a snorkel, massive mud flaps and four large spotter lights on the roof, would find both of us trudging on the track. Trespassers, both. What would happen next?
We reached a marshy, soggy tributary of the lagoon. We could not cross. We oozed downwards with each step. I suggested we walk north towards another barbed wire fence and follow it westward towards the highway. The highway was our first destination. The fence was a good decision. The walk was better and we had to cross just a couple of shallow but exceedingly soggy and foetid bogs. They stank. My boots filled with the goo.
We sludged our way across the farm and I mentioned to Darcy the possibility that the manure was actually bullsh*t and not cow crap. Darcy was wearing a red cap. I know red is actually not the reason why bulls charge but the thought that I should immediately fling Darcy’s cap into the lagoon and watch it sink into the slush did cross my mind.
We looked around for a bull. We both had visions of being gored, our entrails disentangling themselves from within our abdomens, providing quite a colourful contrast as our guts oozed into the mud of the bog. Shades of pink, dark red, grey and off-white on a brown earthy background.
We shared our concerns. Darcy stated that if I was gored by a bull it would be all his fault. He would feel bad. I expressed the view that if Darcy was gored that it would be quite okay because he deserved it. I would feel good. He was responsible for the fact I had to trudge through all the mud and poop under the hot sun.
My mind raced. It could be worse. The bull could be seriously blinded by a primitive hormonal instinct and mistakenly mount either of us then and there in the soggy paddock. Passers-by on the highway might catch fleeting glimpses of an unrehearsed circus act featuring two old clowns prancing around a paddock being chased by an blind, excitable bull. I shudder.
As we traveled west along the fence another obstacle became apparent. The railway. I had forgotten about the south coast railway line. It had been camouflaged in the distance. How to cross that? We passed this large tree and as we neared the railway line we observed we could go under the line at a culvert. It was awkward as the clearance was less than a metre. I think Darcy strained a hamstring.
We then clambered up the embankment on the other side and crossed the culvert via the railway line itself. More barbed wire to negotiate. Darcy gave me a hand. Here I was trespassing through private property and now walking along a single line railway track. Darcy kept an eye on the track up ahead. I kept an eye of sorts on the track behind.
Once again my imagination kicked into gear and there we were, on the tracks. Not the photographers but the photographed. Our body parts scattered along the tracks, a single eye staring forlornly here, a leg there, our gore splayed graffiti like on sleepers and rails. My severed hand still clutching tenaciously to a camera bag. Mixed up in the bogies of the two car passenger train would be the odd limb and some jaw parts.
Each bit of Darcy and John would be neatly tagged, numbered, photographed and stowed in nifty clip seal plastic bags. A veritable jigsaw of pink and purple parts to be neatly arranged on a stainless steel table at Wollongong Hospital morgue later that week. Oh joy.
We scampered along the tracks over the culvert and towards a path, back down the embankment and we reached an access track. The journey had become conventional. We negotiated the dangerous road and rail crossing near the highway at Fern Street and proceeded to walk towards Gerringong. The only danger here was speeding motor vehicle drivers. As Darcy noted it was in reality the only truly dangerous part of the journey. Motor vehicle drivers are capable of truly idiotic acts. The heat of the day was increasing and I could feel my arms and the back of my neck becoming sunburnt.
We turned left down Sandy Wha Road and walked down to Pacific Avenue. We then proceeded north back to the car. It was a long walk in all. The walk around the lagoon, along the railway tracks and through Gerringong back to the car took about ninety minutes. We drove to Darcy’s home. I washed my boots and socks using the tap in Darcy’s front yard. Washed my feet too. The strapping had come off my toe. It now looked like an old gnarly white Sydney oyster.
We had a nice cold drink and Darcy made a fresh brew of coffee. Beautiful. Darcy showed me Lightroom and Photomatix on his laptop. He is right into it. Like I am with this blog and writing. He created some brilliant HDR images before my eyes. It was interesting to see how one could manipulate light and exposure using the tool. Lightroom is a good way to manage your photographs as well. It was nearly midday and it was time to head to my home.
An excellent day from start to finish
I had a brilliant morning. Darcy is a deep thinker, an award winning photographer, an interesting chap and good friend. Thank you Darcy. Thank you very much. I would gladly share a day like that with you anytime. The photography, the walk, the moment, the chatting, the excitement of the barbed wire, the train tracks, the trespassing, the cow pats, the quicksand like ooze of the lagoon and your wonderful hospitality at home. Thank you Darcy! Legend.