WEDNESDAY 11 DECEMBER SEVENTEEN SEVENTY
We were up early, to the alarm, to be breakfasted and ready to walk the short distance to the dock area, beside the inlet.
The LARC tour we booked for normally went from 9am to 4pm.
When we got there, the tour operators apologized because ours was not the usual tour. They had to also transport some Ergon Energy workers to the lighthouse, to do some work there. So, our tour would be two hours longer and we would not get back until 6pm. Was anyone complaining? No way!
The LARC was painted pink! It was like a boat with wheels – which I guess it was!
It was a hot day, and there were only eight of us doing the tour, which made it even better.
As soon as we loaded up and cast off, we were straight into the deep water of Round Hill Creek inlet – quite a wide inlet. It was quite a weird sensation, driving up out of the water on the other side, straight onto the sand.
We crossed three other creek inlets in this way, in between going at a fair speed along a beautiful, pristine beach, which was part of the Eurimbula National Park.
Along a beach stretch, we saw what appeared to be a dead turtle on the sand. When our driver/guide investigated, he found it was still alive, but stranded. He handled it very gently, carried it to the water and held it there for a while, so it could cool down and rehydrate. It eventually swam off. We all felt really good about the rescue effort.
There was another tidal creek – Jenny Lind Creek – at the base of Bustard Head. Usually, the LARC was parked after crossing that, and tourists had to walk up the rough road to the Lighthouse. But today, because of the Ergon men and their gear, we were driven up.
We had travelled 24kms along the beach, from 1770 to Bustard Head.
Bustard Head was so named because Cook’s party shot and ate a bustard here – and found it excellent eating. And so began the decimation of the huge numbers of Plains Wanderers of the continent.
The Lighthouse was being restored. It was still a working light station, but was automated in 1986. After that, the buildings were neglected, and there was a shocking amount of vandalism – surprising because it is so inaccessible. There is an extremely rough, dry weather track through the National Park, or one reaches the place by boat. The guide told us that the teenage offspring of some well-to-do families who holiday in the area, were responsible for a lot of the damage.
A former lighthouse keeper here, who was upset by the loss of such heritage, with help from some others (including the LARC operator), had formed the Bustard Head Lighthouse Association, obtained a lease over it, and had begun to restore the light house and the associated buildings. It seemed to us a rather daunting task, but was all being done by these volunteers.
The Lighthouse had a really dark history, of murders, drownings, suicide and tragedy.
After having a good look around the light station, we walked down to Aircraft Beach, on the other side of the headland. Tour groups did not usually do this, but we had those extra two hours to play with.
The views along the coast from Bustard Head were superb.
In the afternoon, we went in the LARC back down to Jenny Lind Creek and a little bit along it to a large sand dune/sand blow area. Tray-like things were provided for those who wanted to go sand boarding on the really big dunes. We passed up the offer – not the greatest idea for John’s hip.
We just wandered about the area, finding that really enjoyable as it was such a beautiful place. It was very peaceful there, which was just what we needed.
Eventually we trundled in the LARC back up the top, collected the Ergon men, and were transported back the way we’d come, to the village.
The LARC was a great vehicle (vessel?) to travel in – at least in fine weather.
We were told that the Lighthouse Association planned to have volunteer caretakers live in one of the keeper’s cottages – as soon as it became habitable – to prevent any more vandalism. Volunteers would sign up for a two month stint. They would get their necessary supplies via the LARC, on its tour trips.
We put our names down to do two months, after 2004. It seemed that it would be quite an adventure, and a worthwhile cause.
I bought a book – Lighthouse of Tragedy – by Stuart Buchanan, the former keeper who was the prime mover of the Association.
By the time we got back it was almost dark.
We were pleasantly weary after a wonderful day. That was worth every cent we paid for the trip. I considered it was worth every one of the trays of mangoes I’d packed to earn that money – another way of looking at it!