A Varied Sword-grass Brown butterfly lands in the bushes, and one of the few groups of walkers we see all day pass it by without lifting their heads. They pass between lens and butterfly and I’m tempted to photograph the side of the walker’s head - but I don’t bother. I doubt they would have noticed anyway. A flighty Yellow Admiral refuses to sit still, and a Common Brown rests briefly on the sandy bank. Its tongue unzips and probes the ground, searching for minerals. After a few minutes we move on.
A cry of “snake!” rends the air and both kids chatter with a combination of excitement and surprise. Slithering across the path is a dark looking snake, with just the hint of pale stripes on the sides - I think it’s the dark form of a Tiger Snake. These snakes have a reputation for being aggressive, but this one just passes before us, tongue tasting the air. The apparent effortlessness of their limbless movement is always fascinating and somehow strange. We seem to privilege legs over other forms of movement, things that gallop or vault being better than things that crawl and certainly better that things that slither. But we don’t want too many legs, six is a push and eight far too many! Head up and alert, the snake moves around and under fallen branches and dead leaves. If it knows we are watching it does not seem to care, moving as does it with slow, deliberate care. Hunting as it moves. Within a few meters it seems to disappear, hidden under the leaf fall branch junk that lies under the scrub. I am constantly being told “don’t put your hands where you can’t see them” - and this disappearing snake explains why. Contrary to popular rumour Australia is not awash with snakes, but it pays to take care! I like the fact that the kids showed a combination of both surprise and excitement at the snake - it was their first one in the wild. No need to be scared, every need to be careful, look, but don’t touch.
Ahead the path-side vegetation opens to show a view back across Norman Bay, a view that would make any walk worthwhile. The kids prefer the jelly snakes and a drink. As we move up the hill the Tea Tree suddenly thins and we move into a form of coastal heath-land. Looking back it seems that a razor line has been slashed across the landscape, one place here and another there, a demarcation in conditions that I can’t see, but the plants detect and respond to. And so do the animals. This divide does not seem to mark the raggle taggle edge of some past fire, nor the patch by patch regrowth from windblown storm damage.
We stop again - on such days there is no need to hurry, it’s about having a good time, it’s not about making good time. Today there is no need to be haunted by the clock, bothered by the tick tock of modern time. Stop when you feel like it, drink when you need it. Under a rock face that is like a frozen wave of stone we watch the dragonflies and enjoy the shade. A group of walkers, moving up the hill, heads and eyes down seem not to notice us and are surprised when we say hello. As we pass around the back of the hill the sea comes back into view, and the distant specks of surfers and swimmers punctuate the waves.
The unwelcome roar of motorbikes drifts up from the road and we know we are on the final stage of our circular walk, but more spiders cause us to move with a studied slowness. The huge webs give the place a feel of autumn, but that can’t be right, it’s still summer. And the next day any illusion of autumn melts in the 40o heat. Seat belt buckles, baked in the car, are too hot to touch and you drive with finger tip control for fear of burning your hands; it feels like your cameras are melting. A jewelled green beetle walks on unsteady feet across the path and sits on excited hands for its photo call.