There’s nothing like a coffee to bring civility to a person and nothing like a G’day to make another person’s day, writes Geoff Lawson.
This month I couldn’t refuse an invitation to once again coach the Afghanistan Youth Cricket team, albeit a little closer to home this time – in Queensland. After an uneventful traverse through passport control at Maroochydore Airport I felt that I had not even left the civilised world, apart from the proliferation of maroon baseball caps and ‘Seven In Row” State of Origin replica rugby league guernseys.
After the sojourn to Kuala Lumpur for the Under 19 Asia Cup, the Afghanistan team found themselves in the big leagues. They were invited to play in the Under 19 World Cup on the Sunshine Coast of south-east Queensland. Someone, however, forgot to tell the organisers that in Australia, Spring was yet to arrive. Even with ‘sunshine’ in the name, this location doesn’t necessarily bring with it a great deal of warmth. The locals were complaining that they had endured the “coldest winter in living memory” a quote you have to be careful with for, as the Afghan team manager said to me on the back of a salient observation “there are a lot of old people around here!” “Yes mate, they are the ones with the common sense who have retired and migrated from southern climes.”
A quick glance at the national weather report had Melbourne topping out at 12 degrees and Sydney 15, with a few scudding showers thrown in for good measure. Caloundra was not hot and barely warm at 20 degrees but at least there was no sign of a morning frost. I had severely discounted my usual coaching fee to swap Sydney’s “coldest winter in living memory” for several degrees more heat, 900km
up the coast.
Many say a cheery “g’day”. Some have not had their coffee yet and say nothing
Our hotel was a stone’s throw (when I was in my 20s) from the ocean so I took advantage of the relative early morning warmth by treading the local boardwalk, which, if required, allows you to complete the full 13 kilometres further north to Mooloolaba. I wasn’t going anywhere that far.
This walking trail on the ocean’s skirt has many attractions. Singapore Daisies (a weed), the Hard Quandong, Pigface and Frangipani line the walk – I know the names because there was a very colourful council funded notice with diagrams pointing to the offending or indigenous items and a brief explanation of how western civilisation had sullied the local flora. That got me wondering how much the actual sign was spoiling the local flora, however I digress…
The boards of the walk were treated local hardwoods (another notice that you had to look at your feet to see), but the most significant feature was surely the densest concentration of coffee shops in the southern hemisphere which, at 7:45am on a winter’s morning, were doing a decent trade. The customers could enjoy a nippy little macchiato while watching the passing pedestrian traffic or with the slightest raise of eye level, the busy roads of the shipping lanes offshore.
At Caloundra, the container ships, freighters and cruise liners come seemingly within arm’s length, or at least close enough to read the brand names on the containers. Ship after ship runs parallel to the coast then veers toward the sand bar between the only complete sand island in the world – Fraser – and the Channel l Bar coffee shop, which was spruiking “croissants with purest Victorian butter” as their speciality.
The value of the ‘Victorian’ bit is understandable when you take into account that every second punter is wearing paraphernalia of Geelong – their favourite AFL team. That city is particularly in favour for a reason that may have something to do with thousands deserting the western shore of Port Philip Bay when the Ford plant downsized.
The marker buoy that huge ships swing around appears way too close to the mainland but it all seems to work reasonably well. The maritime trucks then head southeast between Stradbroke and Bribie Islands, presumably to dock in Brisbane or maybe keep on going down south to Newcastle, Sydney or do some ice breaking around Hobart. Those heading north could be having a sling in Singapore in a day or two. At night time a succession of buoys can be seen winking red and green to keep the seafarers away from the sandbanks and shoals. After one has inhaled a strong flat white and smeared the hinterland honey from one’s lips the boardwalk again beckons and the next heavily subsidised sign we encounter is more a diagram than an explanation. It lists the location of several unlucky ships dating back to the 18th century when solar powered marker buoys and manpowered lighthouses were far in the future. Captain Cook, who discovered the Glasshouse Mountains that litter the Sunshine Coast with Banks and Solander on his 1770 voyage, came a cropper himself a bit further up the coast.
The stroll passes many fellow walkers, a couple of mopeds, a few cyclists and an early morning (or maybe very late night) teenager with a skateboard, obviously oblivious to Facebook, YouTube, iPods or some such electronic distractions. It was almost odd to see a young person exercising… perhaps he was escaping? I wished him well in his education as his front wheel trampled my left foot without a warning or apology… more coffee required.
A Mixed Bag
I make a point of greeting every passer-by and get a mixed bag of responses. The mostly grey or blue-haired and often hoodied ‘bywaymen’ (women/people?) in the slightly chilly but warming morning air have many reactions. Some nod or raise an eyebrow, some murmur or mumble or silently mouth a greeting. Many say a cheery “g’day”. Some have not had their coffee yet and say nothing, hurrying on to their favourite java hut to get the day officially started with head pointed sternly downward searching for the genus of the boardwalk’s boards. Maybe Geelong or the Broncos lost on the weekend? No one looks in a hurry and no one is unfriendly. This is the Sunshine Coast after all.
The whale watching season was still a few weeks away but I did spot a pod (well two anyway) of dolphins right on the waters edge where the Pumicestone inlet separates Bribie Island from the coast at the incredibly inaccurately named Deepwater Point (it’s only about 50 metres wide and a few feet deep at low tide). A lone prospector on the beach searches up and down with his mine-sweeper hoping to find a pot of gold or a lost wedding ring. I think he found 50 cents for the parking meter. Lucky the Afghan lads didn’t join me on the walk, they might have thought the sight familiar although this searcher’s protective gear was a pair of lairy board shorts and thongs rather than something catchy in Kevlar and khaki.
The sight of a mine sweeper on a groomed Australian beach was perhaps just as incongruous as Afghanistan playing cricket on the Sunshine Coast.
It makes you feel good to be Australian and be free enough to say G’day to anyone who passes-by.