Beauty in off-beat(en path) trips in nature
It’s late August, and I’m noticing people around me taking their last summer trips, whether to hang out on the beach, get some active fun and use that gear, or fly far away to experience another culture, cuisine, and maybe their beaches, too.
A lot of those places people are heading too are already populated with like-minded others. There are lots of news stories about how the world is getting over-touristed (I’ll be writing about this in my next post). In the meantime, though, I’ll share with you a post I wrote in 2015 about kayaking in a dolphin preserve that’s also a ship graveyard in Adelaide, Australia. It was a mixture of urban and nature, and not crowded at all (although a pod of curious dolphins followed my boat around for a while). I hope you enjoy it.
2015 post from Catherine W
Kayaking is an activity you can enjoy just about anywhere there’s water. Of course you have to pay attention to features like tide, current and wind patterns, the topography of the area, bigger boat traffic, and also any natural predators or dangerous plants or animals. For instance, I went to the beach Saturday at Semaphor Beach in Adelaide, South Australia, with friends, when I encountered this sign:
Snakes? There are SNAKES here at the beach? What am I supposed to do about this?
I was told that snakes can hang out in the dunes, so don’t go walking there. Okay, I guarantee I won’t. And I didn’t. And my beach experience was snake-free. Yay.
Sunday I had a reserved a kayak with Adventure Kayaking SA (South Australia), pretty much the only outfit I could find that rents kayaks at a launch site relatively close to downtown Adelaide. They are great—they rent both kayaks and SUPs, offer instruction and tours, and their staff are knowledgeable and friendly. Here is their facebook page if you’re in the area.
To get to the launch spot I had to drive basically through the Port of Adelaide, which looks like a port area—lots of warehouses, shipping containers and cranes, and other big industrial structures. Then, turning onto Garden Island Road, I saw a large power plant, with this sign:
“Inlet temperatures may exceed safe swimming limits.” That made me wonder just what the melting point of my kayak is— not information I had previously considered salient, but there you go.
Driving on, I stopped and took this picture of what was behind me.
I was starting to get the feeling that the kayaking place was right next to a nuclear testing site. But on I drove. And I arrived to see a nice-looking park with the kayaks all set up and ready to go. Whew.
The Adventure Kayaking SA folks were able to provide me with everything I needed as a slightly more experienced kayaker. I got a better fitting (more snug, with narrower cockpit) boat, dry bag, better paddle, and no need to spend time on instruction once they determined I knew what I was up to. They just made suggestions on where to go, and helped me launch. And I was off!
There are two big draws to this area for kayakers. One is that you get to kayak in a dolphin sanctuary. You’re not allowed to approach them, but they end up swimming near you anyway—they’re smart and friendly and playful. I took a ton of pictures, but it turns out it’s rather hard to get a good picture of a dolphin 1) with your phone; 2) from your boat; and 3) while the dolphins are above the surface or doing something interesting. This was the best I got, which was actually much closer than it looks here:
On the facebook page for the kayak place, they have a lot better photos. This one was taken with a SUP group that was out when I was there. You can actually see them:
The area where we saw the dolphins is bordered on one side by a mangrove swamp, which looks like this:
If you continue down the inlet, however, you get to this:
Those are barriers across the inlet keeping you from that power plant, I mentioned. Not able to stop myself, I did put my hand in the water, which was warm, but not the temperature implied by the sign. Whew again. Here’s another shot of the mangroves plus powerlines.
The other draw for boaters in this area is the Ships Graveyard. In the larger area, about 40 abandoned remains of ships are sunk or partially sunk in shallow waters. I got to paddle right up to a few of them. Here’s a view of one wreck:
You can actually go all the way around it—here it is, in its rusty beauty, from the other side, viewed from the bow of my boat:
Again, we ran into barriers not much further along, as that power plant takes up a lot of space. However, there was enough nature and water to keep me happy for a few hours on a very sunny and hot spring day (33 C/91 F).
Somehow I keep experiencing (and posting about) the urban or industrial outdoors. What’s so great about it? I mean, isn’t it much nicer to find some more pristine natural area like here:
Yes, these are gorgeous, travelogue-like images of what being outdoorsy means. Trips like these are great, where you’re far away from life and civilization. But—we don’t always have the time, the money, the access, the organization or logistics to go far away. We do, however, often have the time and access to natural spots near our own backyards.
My kayak instructor Spencer talked to us about the local adventures he sets up for himself and friends. His trips often take place less than 20 miles from where he lives, but involve challenges of elements—wind, tide, temperature, rain, snow, maybe even dark of night—in places he knows very well. I like that idea—it’s a good one to keep in mind when you need a quick or cheap or easy jaunt to sweep out the everyday cobwebs, just in time to return home to dinner.
My next local cheap urban-y outing will be when I return to Sydney in late November. My plans are to swim in as many of their tidal sea baths in the area as I possibly can. Some of them are here and they are beautiful. I doubt I’ll get to all 44 listed here but will report back on my progress. In the meantime, readers, where have you gone close to home that gave you nature plus urban/industry experiences?
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