My most favourite sound in the whole world is the wind in high treetops.
I love the rush of leaves so far above my head, so much taller than I am. It expands the senses, stretches me upward. I feel like I exist far beyond the boundaries of my skin.
The sound is the first thing I notice on the Bushranger’s Bay track, a section of the longer Two Bays Track that curls around the Mornington Peninsula.
The weather is moody and it can’t decide whether to be sunny or sullen. One moment, there’s a brilliant gap of open, blue sky and then the wind picks up. It smells of ocean and storm.
We leave the car in the lot beside Boneo Rd and meander along the path. The view shows up regularly through twisting tree boughs. We’re surrounded by broad, green, grassy hills and farmland.
We aren’t sure how far it is to the beach, so we play the guessing game of ‘wind or wave’ whenever the whooshing sound seems particularly loud.
The first glimpse of ocean is always magic. It’s like your destination city, the face of someone you love or the moonrise. Even if you’ve grown too old to say it aloud, a small part of you still goes squeeee! ‘There it is! The sea!’
For a while, the ocean is a distant window of blue through the trees then quite suddenly you’re upon it and close enough to see the water breaking mercilessly on the outcrops of Bushranger’s Bay.
The path diverges, to the left is a staircase to the beach and to the right, the trail continues along the clifftop toward Cape Schanck. The steps are blocked out with wood but the sand continually shifts around them till the planks are exposed and they’re more of a trip hazard than safe stepping.
We’re greeted with hazard signs, warning us of dangerous water but we don’t need them to tell us that this is an unsafe area. The bay is a rocky inlet for the wild and terrifying sea. We feel it straight away as a surge of foamy ocean, whipped up by submerged rocks and unstable sand, swiftly fans out toward us and then goes tumbling back. We look at each other and grin.
It’s unpredictable. It’s wild. It provokes a primal fear in us of being swept away. We are alive and it is alive. It taps into the deep places within us that sit dormant and domesticated when we go about our lives in the city. Our aliveness is paved over with skyscrapers and streets and restaurants and public transport. The slap of the sea against earth wakes us up and we are confronted by our unknowing, uncaring, and savage planet.
It’s hard to leave the shore, but the trail continues and so must we. It follows the ridgeline before descending into a gully of tall grasses and steeply up the other side. I’m a little out of breath. A twisted tunnel of tea trees feels like the entrance to an enchanted forest. It’s somewhat disappointing to emerge the other side without having traveled back in time or to another dimension.
The trail has lookouts across the steep and unsturdy cliffs to the whooshing spray below. Seagulls and other birds cartwheel across the sky and play with the tumbling air, spreading their wings to soar.
When we get the to the carpark for Cape Schanck, we are bitterly disappointed. Not only would it cost us $33 to visit the lighthouse directly (no thanks), but the kiosk fridge is broken and there are no icecreams for sale.
Fortunately, nature rewards us in a different way on the return trip by bringing us close to kangaroos on their evening feed. As they hunt around for the sweetest grass, they hop right next to and over the path. They watch us, unthreatened by our soft approach, but they’re wild enough to bound away when we get close.
We stop by Bushranger’s Bay one more time, drawn to the compelling restlessness of the sea in the soft afternoon light.
This is one of my favourite walks so far. It’s beautiful and fierce, despite being close to civilisation. It reminds me that there are dangers, still in the world and extracts another version of me that’s little wilder and a little more awake.