Author DaQua ◦ Part 6 ◦
The final drive of my Alice to Auburn Audacious Adventure, was within reach; 190 km south east lay my destination – the little off grid house, amongst the gum trees, that would become my retreat, for a few weeks of long overdue rest and relaxation. It really couldn’t take long – or could it?
The sight of the Southern Flinders Ranges, and Mount Remarkable, just begged for diversions, but I convinced myself it would be wiser to stick to my planned pit stop – Port Germein – a place I had come across when searching through AirBNB for suitable accommodation before leaving Alice. It was described as ‘a seaside town with the longest wooden jetty in the southern hemisphere.’ This was the jetty that would have carried wool, grain and timber, to the waiting tall mast sailing ships berthed at the end of its then 1,676 metre length. In the mid to late 1800s Port Germein was the largest grain shipping port in Australia – this I had to see.
Sleepy Seaside Town on the Spencer Gulf.
Turning off Highway A1, the winding road led me away from the tousle of the traffic and road works, towards the serenity of the Spencer Gulf, and the main street of Port Germein. Despite its busy sailing and export history, I found a sleepy little seaside town, with a few houses bunkered down in the sand along the coastline and behind the main street, that ran straight down to the Shed and the jetty – where once, bullock teams and wagons, and railways lines, would have kicked up the dust, carrying vital supplies for Adelaide and beyond.
Today it is the tyres of the utes and cars that kick up the dust. Families, travellers, and city dwellers, come to escape; to fish and crab – it is famous for its Blue Crabs – or to simply while away their time watching the changing moods of the skies and weather, and with it the ebb and flow of the tide. It is a perfect place for young and old travellers, to stretch their legs, on the 1,532 metres of the wooden jetty that remain, as it extends out into the Spencer Gulf, and I was no exception.
Here the wind tangled my hair, the sun baked my face, and the salt danced on my lips. I really was at the seaside. I was brought up in a seaside town in Wales and our summers, I recall being long and hot, would be spent, building sandcastles on the golden sands, and learning to swim in the waves. They were the carefree days of childhood. Our town of ‘Sunny Rhyl,’ so much bigger than Port Germein, had a wooden pier of its own that stretched out high above the sea and sand. It was from this pier that I have one of my earliest recollections of fear – the spaces and cracks between the shrinking wooden grey planks and the sight of the drop to the waters below; this would be an early indicator of my life long fear of heights.
I kept walking – further and further out to the ocean. The tide was out and it wasn’t until I was quite a way out on the jetty that the ocean began to lap and white horses play on the waves. A seagull caught my eye – he was riding the thermals just above the railing – he would fly out towards the end of the jetty and gain lift, soaring into the skies, turning left, left, and left again, bringing him onto a perfect left base for his final approach and back in for another go – again and again. I liked his determination. He was landing and taking off – following a complete circuit. I smiled with the memory of my own days of learning to fly in Wales. Caernarfon runway had a backdrop of a mountain range too, and ran towards the sea. I laughed at how easy he made cross-wind landings look. On the walk, back from the end of the jetty, where seabirds gather on the old remaining pylons, he was completely unperturbed by our close – proximity. This Johnathon Livingston Seagull clearly knew a fellow pilot soul when he saw one, and so did I.
Stories of the Sea
There were a few other people taking in the salt air and peppering my mind with stories. The children crabbing, and making my stomach flip, as they hung over the railings, dangling the lines into the waters below, hopeful of catch; and the bow-legged weather worn, old man, with his pants held up by rope tied at his waist, walking his dog, looking like he had stepped straight out of some sea-shanty story, with his swaying gait and his billowing shirt and his hat pulled down over his ears. There were tales of courting couples, of an earlier era, one with so much expectation, inscribing their names inside the lighthouse. And then there were the lost souls; lost to the oceans after setting sail on their long voyages from this very jetty (as recently as 1938), remembered in a spine-tingling poem by Noel Smith, as were the soulmates of the lighthouse as I walked back towards the ute, and the seagull gave me one last flypast.
Port Germein is a town that tells stories of the sea, as it cherishes and celebrates its coastal past and now has come to a new age of understanding and being – not unlike myself with that 62nd birthday dawning tomorrow – it looked and felt comfortable in its own skin.
Alice to Auburn – the Audacity of Adventure | Day Two (Coober Pedy) | Coober to the Coast | One People One Country One Dreaming | Serendipity or Cosmic Cartographer? | A Seaside Sojourn of Stories | Auburn Awaits