Stories of the coast…
Surfside at Cloudy Bay
I WAS WALKING BACK from the surfing beach at Cloudy Bay when I noticed her sitting on the grass by the shore. Well, there’s nothing unusual in a person sitting on the shore. But it wasn’t her so much—it was more her minivan that attracted me. Why, you ask? Why notice a minivan? Because it is the same type that I have, that’s why.
Curious to see how she has fitted it out I go over, say hello and ask if I can check it out. Sure, she says. I peer inside. It is a one-time commercial van, a long wheelbase VW Caddy, no side windows, no rear seats. I look in. On the passenger side she has installed shelving. A kettle dangles from a hook. A water container is held in place with a bungee cord. A rolled-up tent and various bits and pieces occupy the shelves. The basic necessities of travel. On the mesh separating the cargo space from the front seats hangs her towel and various bits and pieces. Her van has a definite lived-in look.
Her bed? One of those inflatable mattresses like hikers use, on the floor, her sleeping bag and a pillow in disarray on it. Her surfboard, its skeg protruding from its cover, leans against the other side of the van. She sleeps next to it, appropriate for someone who is a serious surfer.
Cloudy Bay is poplar among Tasmanian surfers. Its southerly aspect catches the swells moving up the coast from the Southern Ocean. Long and consistent, they are coming in right across the bay this afternoon, however the best are over at the far western end, reachable by a foot track. There are maybe a half-dozen out there, so it isn’t too crowded.
We don’t get to the stage of exchanging names. She tells me that her minivan is a 1.8 litre diesel, or is it a 1.9? She isn’t sure. It is transport to distant beaches and a dry place to sleep to this woman, not an object of automotive interest beyond travel and accommodation.
This woman. She is may be in her mid to late thirties, suntanned, dark hair tied in a ponytail. I get the impression she is one of those self-sufficient types that you encounter on the beaches or in campsites in the mountains, self-confident people whose home is the outdoors, the coast in this woman’s case.
You don’t come across all that many people traveling in VW Caddy minivans. Sure, they are out there but I haven’t encounter all that many. The last I spoke with were an English couple who had driven their secondhand short wheelbase Caddy around Australia. That was up north at Leven Canyon where I came across them doing yoga by the carpark. They had fitted their van out with a sleeping platform with storage for their stuff below, not that they had much of it. The surfer woman’s arrangement was more basic.
I saw her again when I was following the walking track back from the beach. She was standing where the track rises and you get a good view over the little bay and its swells. Yes, she replied, I’m thinking of going out again.
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