One of the joys of hiking is the discoveries that we make along the way. Discoveries about ourselves, those that journey with us and the environment.
Sometime ago Frank and I were privileged to have an entire two and half kilometres of beach to ourselves for three days. This was a privilege for a number of reasons, to be able
- To enjoy our own and each other’s company without the intrusions of daily living.
- To sit and do nothing other than observe the passing of time.
- To get up with the sun and to go to bed in the evening as it set.
- To be truly rested and relaxed.
We knew that the footprints on the beach belonged to only us and unless they had been erased by the rain we could retrace our previous wanderings. The only other footprints we did see belonged to the animals the emerged in the night seeking food. We would wander the beach and watch the sea turn from calm and benign to dark and menacing with approaching rain storms. At other times if we could find a place out of the wind and sit and read in the sun the heat would almost become unbearable. Huge flocks of sea birds would rise from foraging amongst the seaweed as we approached them.
At the end of the beach was a creek, which has the potential turn into a wild river with rain. On the other side of the creek we could see evidence of the aboriginal people who had lived here prior to the arrival of Europeans. The huge middens were evidence of the abundance of food that this place had been able to provide.
We pondered for some time about whether to cross the creek, as we couldn’t see the bottom we were uncertain how deep it was. Eventually, curiosity got the better of us and Frank waded across, I followed.
We wondered around and among the sand dunes, picking up and discarding the long empty abalone and cockle shells. Small bleached bones were scattered about, along with what could have been hand tools.
As we walked back along the beach, we talked about how this place felt to us. We had both felt that this place had been a happy place, a place of plenty. This feeling had been so strong that we had imagined the voices of women and children chattering and laughing.
We returned the next day and explored further. What and why I chose to walk the way I did, what made me look down at that time, why after so many, many years was I the one to discover the final resting place of this long dead person, are questions I still continue to ask. But there, poking through the sand, was the back of a human skull. To confirm our initial reaction we scraped away some of the sand. We replaced it and took GPS readings so we could inform the authorities when we returned.
We sat for a long time that night speculating who and what this person had been and how long he or she had been there for.
On our return to the “real world” we contacted Parks, who initially disbelieved us and seemed very ambivalent to our discovery. After numerous emails back and forth and with no information forth coming about how they treat such finds we rang and left a message with the Coroner. The Coroner returned our call within 15 minutes and the following day we went to our local police station and made a statement. We had hoped to be provided with some information that would answer the questions we had posed back on the beach but this was not the case, for us the mystery continued.
We have learnt, through a long a convoluted process, the remains are aboriginal and that they were subsequently removed to a more remote location.
This find has inspired us to try and learn more about the people who inhabited this country before European arrival.
Sometime later, during a conversation with a Park Ranger, we told him this story. His response was to enquire after our health and the well being of our family and friends. We both said that since this experience we had both felt a sense of well being and contentment, which we had put down to our time away. His belief was that this was a result of having treated the place and the person with respect and reverence.
Coincides continued, while looking in a book shop window, not long after, this an image jumped out at me. On the front cover of a coffee table book was a photograph of the place where I had made this find. De ja vue , serendipity, call it what you will.
We still wonder about this person – who, what, why, but what we have discovered is that not all questions have answers and sometimes this just doesn’t matter.
There are no photographs of the location accompanying this story as we have tried not to identify where we were. We know people will still go there, and if they stumble across something remarkable, it should just be, not because they have gone there to find something.
Many thanks to Sue (the other half of Our Hiking Blog) for this beautifully sensitive post. It was a special place and a special few days.
If you enjoyed this post, you might enjoy a very reflective post titled: The Spirituality of Bushwalking – One Man’s reflection by Grant – our Wild Dog Creek minister.