Broadwater Beach. Friday, 4pm
A white Toyota 4WD is speeding straight for me. Collision course. But I’m not moving. I’m staring it down, like it’s a charging rhino.
Don’t blink. Don’t move. Mind over metal.
Toyota may be the go-to vehicle for your working man or jihadi terrorist – an unstoppable lump of heavy machinery – but I’m not budging.
You see, I’m on a beach. Yes, a beach. I’m not on a slippery building site wearing a hard hat, or in a desert storm wearing a kalishnokov, I’m on a beach in a national park. I’m a bloke in a sarong and I’m standing my ground against this pippi-crushing mechanical monster. I’m angry.
The Toyota churns through sand and over coffee rock. A motorbike overtakes the Toyota, using an outcrop of coffee rock to get air. The rider, garbed in helmet and brand names, gives the thumbs up to the Toyota driver.
Coffee rock is a feature of this stretch of beach. According to scientists, coffee rock is a relic from an earlier age, like 60,000 years ago, when sea levels were lower and these dunes nurtured swamps and lakes. Organic matter and layers of time bound the sand together, and this soft brown rock was formed.
Locals, who have been here a lot longer than scientists, reckon it’s the creation work of Dirawong (the goanna spirit) and the Rainbow Serpent.
If I were to take my death gaze from the Toyota and look south, I could see where Dirawong, exhausted after all that creation, and bitten by the sometimes cranky Rainbow Serpent, lies with his hurting head in the healing waters of the Pacific.
I would also see, less than a hundred metres away, three more 4WDs, an esky and a dog ensconced among the coffee rock.
But I’m not shifting my gaze from the approaching Toyota. I have my feet firmly planted next to recently smashed coffee rock. The tread marks of a fat Goodyear etched into the broken rock marks the start of a new year for some brainless buffoon with a turbo charge.
The Toyota spooks a pair of Pied Oystercatchers. They scurry away, orange beaks and legs flashing like a warning. These birds are endangered. They lay their eggs in shallow scrapes in the sand. Given the trashing this beach is getting – the busted coffee rock, the deep furrows in the sand, the tyre tracks up and over the dunes – I reckon this pair of Pied Oystercatchers is probably very much feeling its vulnerable status.
What pleasure do people get out of vandalising a beach? Can’t beaches, especially national park beaches, be exempt from the car obsession which grips our culture? Will it take a person being run over as she lies on a beach towel to bring some sanity to this sea shore?
Sadly, it is legal to drive a car on this beach. But it is illegal to ride a motorbike here. It is illegal to drive over the coffee rock. It is illegal to drive up the dunes. It is illegal to drive through the Pied Oystercatchers. It is illegal for a vehicle to go within 15 metres of an un-vehicled person.
But, none of it is enforced.
The Toyota is almost upon me. I don’t flinch. At the last moment, the Toyota veers around me. The driver is a young bloke, Fourex in hand.
‘Look at this mess,’ I say, pointing to the broken coffee rock, as he passes.
He looks at the wrecked rock, a puzzled look flitting across his face. Then he hits the accelerator, the spinning Goodyears sending up a plume of white sand peppered with ground coffee rock.
Maybe Richmond Valley Council and NPWS should pull their fingers out and protect this beach by enforcing their rules.