Californiana Coast

Published EN Magazine

The Big Sur is one of the most peaceful places I’ve ever encountered. The air is so unbelievably fresh, just breathing it in makes you feel healthier. This is my special place. Where a once penniless Henry Miller sat typing words that would rattle a nation, where Rita Hayworth and Orson Welles escaped from the hustle of Los Angeles. You can’t ignore the history of the Big Sur and its ability to draw literary legends to its hills.

 

Half way down at the Whaler’s Watch, you’ll catch a nostalgic glimpse of a Hells Angels jacket. This place was once hitting newspaper headlines when a cackle of Harley-Davidsons wreaked carnage down the entire length of the coastal road.

In this chaos if you look with the right eyes, you can see a young Hunter. S Thompson, leaning up against his car, surrounded by the roaring engines of bikes. It seems appropriate that this special place, should be the beginning of one of my favourite books, The Rum Diary.

Breaking away from the noise of the past, the white sand of Pfeiffer Beach is a place of fairy tales. It’s here the Ocean fights to claim its territory against the bustling forest that spirals down onto the beach; the result of this clash is overwhelming beauty.

 

Everyone’s vision of paradise is different. Finding your own piece of heaven can be more challenging than you think, but there are few places in the world where you can see a waterfall flow out of a forest and into the Ocean. Sit in a bar with locals that you’ve never met, but feel like you’ve known them for years. Escape life, but be on an adventure, stay in luxury or rough it down by the river. Yep, the Big Sur is Mother Nature at her best.

There's No Doors in the Rain Forest

Published Trailfinders Magazine

Theodore Roosevelt once told a nation to seize the moment, a sentiment shared by Daintree Rainforest’s own Crocodile Dundee. My guide, Shayne is as much a part of the surrounding rainforest as the giant cane toad he holds in his hands. 

 

This place is not exactly on the tourist route, but if you make thearduous journey you’ll discover a lush landscape, where wildlife flourishes and people live without doors and windows.

 

Flipping the toad onto its back, Shayne slowly strokes the creature’s tummy until it’s transfixed. The beast’s limbs temporarily paralysed by my guides magic hands. He tells me that the local aboriginal community believe that you live for the ‘one time’ and that’s how his mind is fixed. He joined the Kuku Yalanji people, when he was just 9 years old. 

 

The spell is finally broken and we leave the dog-size toad draped across a King Fern. Shayne confidently strides forward, whilst I worry about what might kill me or gnaw at my ankles. “Na, you’re alright. There’s nothing here that will give you more than a bad rash, unless you go swimming with the salties”. His comment although jovial, comes with a serious warning. 

 

One of the oldest creatures to walk the planet; Daintree’s crocodiles can grow up to 6 meters in length. “Yeah, their top of the food chain here, well apart from us”. Again, this type of conversation is all very run-of-the-mill for Shayne. 

 

“You can survive here”. There’s a twinkle in Shayne’s eyes and I play along. I am in his territory now and Google has yet to lay down her fibre fingers here, so I am left without my normal lifeline. 

 

Sliding a large knife out from his hip, Shayne picks up a pimpled green mango shaped object from the forest floor and drives his knife straight into its heart. Grinding it left and right, the thick skin finally surrendering its contents. 

 

I am left standing amongst the towering trees that form their own sky of knotted brown clouds, foliage hanging from its ceiling like icicles. I can only hear the wildlife above; my human eyes are not powerful to keep pace with the tree top community.

 

A flash of silver and an overbearing smell, makes me jump and then retch. ‘Here try this, but try not to touch it’. It’s foul. The smell tattoos my nostrils. Shayne is laughing, his false teeth chattering against his bare gums. 

 

Despite his dominating character, Shayne’s relaxed manor and life mantra makes me smile and maybe naively…feel safe. The fruit on show, smells like a cocktail of decaying cheese and a drunk man’s vomit. Apparently, durian is farmed here because it is in high demand. I can’t imagine durian being served up at any of my social gatherings, but then again, I hate hosting.

 

We continue walking while the forest seeps into my clothes leaving me damp, but journeyed. I now look like a traveller. The raw honesty of Mother Nature making it apparent that the world is only disfigured by humans. 

 

For a brief moment, while my feet wrestle with the leaves, branches and thick stems, I feel sad. Will we ever learn to protect the natural world? But my wallowing is interrupted by a hand to the chest. It’s a tiny Musky Rat-Kangaroo. The name is a pretty accurate description and we watch her leap from leaf to leaf as if she’s in a game of Dungeon and Dragons. I wondered if she has durian breath? But Shayne ruins the joke, with the same look that I give my mother when she asks a question about technology. They prefer large fleshy fruits with a soft coat.

 

We leave our miniature friend searching for an early lunch and continue to tackle our way through the over growth. There no longer seems to be a path, but Shayne pushes forward. The sore throat squawk of a Black Butcherbird over shadows the vibrant yellow tones of a Boatbill, which drowns out her Disney like vocals. 

 

Several branch whipped hours later and we step into a clearing, we’ve made it to Shayne’s community. It feels unreal that we’ve just popped out onto a dirt track, I had felt as if we had been in the centre of nowhere, rather than on the very outskirts of the rainforest. 

 

Shayne casually sits on the side of the road, as if he was on the High Road in London waiting for the 279 to Manor House. I don’t even ask why, I also sit down and we stay there in silence until a wave of dust engulfs us. 

 

Ira is ageless, or at least he appears that way. I’m offered the back of the truck, while Shayne and his buddy ride up front. Maybe he’s had enough of city folk for one day? I cling onto the side of a rusting panel that only seems to be still attached, because of the copious amounts of gaffer tape. A modern commodity that seemingly gets everywhere.

 

We finally reach Shayne’s house and I am left to figure out how to get out of the pickup alone. Collecting bruises like stories, I fall out of the truck. No one looks back or helps me to my feet.

 

Open holes occupy the spaces where windows and doors would traditionally be, leaving the house open to the elements and any passing animals. I’m terrified of spiders and snakes and all I can envisage is waking up next to one.

 

The inside is basic, its mainly bare concrete, a couple of deckchairs and a pile of blankets. My eyes spot what looks like an old paraffin stove and just off of the main room I can see a handmade wooden bed, again…no doors. Privacy is clearly not essential.

 

It’s almost dark and Shayne returns to my side, laughing and joking as if we were the oldest of friends. We join the rest of the community, about 6 households, around an open fire. The camp stories begin and I forget my insect phobias and relax under the open sky.

 
 
 
Copyright © 2020 by Trish Conti.
All rights reserved.