Living on a land girt by sea, there’s only one beach I would call magical.
I spent my formative years in the Sunshine Coast, where there was a wealth of beaches. Most of those years were defined by ‘I hate sand’, ‘seen one beach – seen them all’, and stereotypical teenage hatred. In the evolutionary period of cheap Big W togs to Billabong bikinis, I did not want to be seen at a beach. Every time my family dragged me to one, I always had an arsenal of complaints about the beach ready to fire.
The Spit was too popular. The sun’s reflection off the glistening skin of scantily clad runners was blinding and the cries of tourists’ babies were deafening. The esplanade didn’t have room to swing a dead cat and the Boost Juice workers always had an attitude.
Coolum was too windy. The waves were too erratic and while the water was a crystalline blue, it went too deep too quickly. Perfect for surfers; not good for me. If I didn’t break my neck falling down the steep natural steps that lead to the sand, there was no way I would risk getting battered against the rocks – even in such utopian scenery.
Cotton Tree was too weird. The sandbags that served as a boundary for the caravan park were easy to climb over but that meant visiting kids escaped their families’ sights often. There was always a naked middle-aged person sunbathing there, too.
After wasting my early teen years as a beach Goldilocks, I finally found the one that was just right. It didn’t have flocks of people, or crazy weather, or daylight nudists. Along the stretch of the Sunshine Coast was an unnoticed Shangri-la of close-knit community, peaceful beach, and a semi-famous island that nurtured a new interest in my teenage self.
Mudjimba didn’t have much in the way of tourist attractions. It wasn’t near a major town – located far from the lighthouse with an esplanade that was less than a kilometre long. The neighbouring suburb had a waterfront resort and a dog beach, which caught tourists better than a fly trap. I never would’ve known Mudjimba existed if I didn’t go to school with the sun-bleached kids who lived there.
Mudjimba Island is referred to as Old Lady Island by the locals. There are multiple narratives as to why it’s called that. I was told that an old lady once lived there. The remnants of a weathered, derelict stone house foster the tale that she would spend her senior days on the little island. Locals would take their tinny out to deliver her groceries and living essentials. Apparently, she also had thirty pet chihuahuas to keep her company.
Every other local had some story of attempting to swim to the island, only for the beckoning riptides to scare them back to the safety of the sand. I was happy to leave the ruins of the old lady’s house to speculation rather than confirm for myself.
The kids in Mudjimba would often venture into the bushland alongside the beach, and I would follow. After ducking under the shabby wire fence, I was faced with two options: climb up the sand dunes on the right, or down the hill on the left.
If I climbed up, I would find the beaten old couch—dragged onto the dunes who knows how long ago—nestled between two trees and overlooking the water with a direct view of the island ahead. The trees were graffitied and decorated with bright painted figures and faces. The ground was littered with cigarette butts and empty bottles that glittered in the sun. I have spent early morning watching hard-core surfers fit a sesh in. I have spent golden afternoons surrounded by high-schoolers in sand-encrusted uniforms.
I chose the other path down the hill, the canopy of trees formed a cave of leaves and branches. At midday the sun was hot enough to cause mirages even in the darkness of the canopy. The higher branches were decorated with string, though I could never tell if it was purposeful or if something had once been tied down. Further in the darkness, a sleeping bag could be found – tousled, but always empty. My friends would scare me into thinking that the owner was hidden in the bushland, monitoring us.
‘I’ve seen him here,’ they claimed.
During the day it was a hidden paradise, but at night was when the magic of Mudjimba really showed. The beach curved around the lighthouse in the distance, hidden, with the moon as the only light source. The moonlight always shone white and the water black. I would take every chance to wade into the shallows and yell into the silence. My friends were never far behind. If we were lucky, a flickering bonfire could be seen in the distance. We would race down the beach to be welcomed by strangers who enjoyed Mudjimba Beach as much as we did. Even when the smoke made my eyes water and we scrambled to cover the smouldering remains, I no longer minded the feeling of sand between my toes.
It has been years now, and I have seen many more beaches since then. I can perceive the beauty in them, but nothing can beat Mudjimba. If I went back there, I would still run out until the water lapped at my stomach, and holler at the horizon. The shimmering blackness always answered back with whispers.
Author: Kyrah Honner is a Wiri Luritja writer based in Meanjin. She likes to write disturbing fiction. You can find more of her previous works on ScratchThat.
Artist: Cyndra Galea (she/they) is in the third year of her Bachelor of Fine Art’s in Creative Writing with a minor in Professional Communications. When not found with her head in a book or three, Cyndra can be found radioactive antique hunting, fixing classic cars with her dad, drawing on her iPad, or writing and editing her manuscript. Cyndra aims to work as a structural editor when she finishes her Masters of Editing and Publishing, but also dreams of releasing novels of their own.
Editors: Brock Scholte and Euri Glenn