by Adam Semple
It took me about a week to figure out what the locals were so insistent on when they spoke of “the walking track to Meelup Beach.” I mean, I’m from the city so I have to wrestle with my ego to take seriously what a salty, tanned, and beach bound country resident has to say. I’m usually comforted by clusters of shops selling me things I don’t need, and short-to-medium waiting times at traffic lights are a pleasant reminder each morning that nothing has gone too weird or changed on me. Down here though, the feeling around town is different and my normal comforts change dramatically. So with the arrogance of someone whose job is more important than their lifestyle, I didn’t take much notice about the walking track. That was until I went looking for it. That was until I found it – paradise at my doorstep. Every day now, when I walk into the reality of this overt dream, I realise that I have been taking my home country intensely and explicitly for granted.
The elusive path is deep ochre, inlaid with the density of clay, concentrated with just the right cocktail of nutrients that our native plants have evolved to crave. The track-walls are thick and harsh, not only built by a dry and hot Australian summer but ready to fend off a salty sea-breeze, ready to suck the moisture from an unprotected leaf. The bush reaches out and into the already-narrow path, looking for more light, more growth. There is so much life down here. Kangaroos the size of rugby players will cross up ahead at a moment’s notice, blue-tongue lizards tease their taut tongues, then tear away.
Photo: Adam Semple
The walkway seems to follow the path of least resistance, shaved like a 12 year old boy’s head on the initial discovery of clippers, not easily predictable but a bald path nonetheless. The tall trees amongst the shrubbery have charcoaled trunks, war wounds from the natural cycle of regeneration – an inferno: out with the old and in with the new – but their leaves hang with a depth to their green, shouting out, “good try!” Occasionally you’ll see a thin vein, a track of footprints peeling off and down toward the water.
I follow one track down – the same track every time actually, as in the absence of maps I like to know where I am – and peel back the last line of shrubs to open a window into a new world. I see nothing less than church white sand, water so turquoise it looks ripped from a Paddle Pop stick, and then there are the rocks. Scrubbed in deep orange, painted in iron markings from the past, natures tattoo like prehistoric graffiti, they are resplendent. The only noise is a mixtape of Australian wilderness and the odd neglected leaf crunching under my toes.
Photo: Adam Semple
It seems I have discovered this summer that a beaches without anything but yourself and your book, or your camera, or just plain old you, is bliss. How’s the serenity? It’s good. It’s serene. It appears that I may be writing this all with the enthusiasm of a shoe-in, a Perth punk just in for the summer and ready to split back to the rough and tumble of cross-walks and queues, pretentious bars. Maybe this kind of environment is completely normal, regular old soul food for anyone who has not been engulfed by city life. Maybe I am blowing it out of proportion. Sometimes it just takes loosing something, to realise how much you want it back.
Besides a degree of dream-fulfilment, Dunsborough also provides a few cafes, yoga studios, and take away Asian eateries. It’s not too small either, with two supermarkets, three gas stations, and about four fashionable clothing stores (constantly blurring the line between modern fashion and beach-appropriate nothingness). In-line with the scant nature of dress, a good percentage of the population are tanned, chiselled and healthy looking. It’s as if the whole vibe of this country town (and others like it) seems to exude a relaxed and health-conscious aura, something that is swept away when we overly wrap ourselves in the progression of career. Yes, the time and money for health can, to some extent, be a privilege in cut-throat city life, but down here it’s grounding, the salty hair and bare feet, helps the body rediscover how to feel good in the most simple of ways.
Photo: Adam Semple
A lot can be learnt and enjoyed from this part of the world, and when it’s on our doorstep why not take advantage? If you are chasing the full trip southwest, you could always add-on an adventure into one of the ancient caves, inebriate your senses in a local vineyard, or just pause at the Margaret River Chocolate Factory to fill up on free samples, before departing for the Cheese Factory and doing the same.
There’s one last thing that you shouldn’t miss. The sunrises in Dunsborough seem to challenge my perception of colour every single day. Due to the North-East facing nature of Dunsborough’s coast, the purples and oranges run deeper than belief. Deeper than the sand you curl your toes in or the roots that feed the native trees.
This story originally appeared in Metior Magazine, Edition #1 2014.