Everyone has a version of The Beach in their mind’s eye.
You know. The picture postcard-perfect white sand, blue-green sea, sun shining from a cloudless sky, lounging around with a good book, and best of all, no-one else around.
Shell Beach, Shark Bay, Western Australia
The days would be warm, but not too hot. The nights would be cool, but not so cool you couldn’t sleep. The water would be refreshing and, although probably shark-infested, croc-free.
Not only that, but in this perfect scenario the beach would be in a national park – so no idiots on jet skis – with camping permitted for a few dollars a night.
And the beach would be down a long, very sandy 4WD only track, wiping out 99 percent of potential visitors at a single stroke.
It’s a funny thing about 4WD roads in this country. Almost everyone has a hulking great gleaming hunk of metal with enormous tires and enough chrome to plate a ship. Outside of Sydney, it’s considered almost un-Australian not to own a 4WD vehicle.
But here’s the thing. Most people don’t take them off-road.
Sitting back and taking it: Camping on The Beach
I’ve been staggered by the lack of adventurous spirit shown by many 4WD owners in Australia. Either they don’t want to get their pride and joy dirty or they lack the nerve. Or maybe they only bought one because their neighbours did. I don’t know.
But I’ve heard all the excuses. The wife and kids wouldn’t like it. I’ve just had my CV joints replaced. My CV joints are shot. I need new tires. I’m towing.
Well, old Chuckie’s CV joints are shot and the tires are worn smooth from over 20,000km of mostly off-road driving. But we’ll still give most things a go. Usually it’s OK. And if not, there’s always a spade and help close at hand.
Take the other day for example. I was trying to do a three-point turn in very soft sand, which isn’t easy. I gave it just a bit too much throttle and Chuckie shot backwards and next thing I knew I’d driven half-way up one of those bollards they erect to stop you driving on the sand dunes.
The car was basically impaled by the bumper, and no amount of acceleration would drive it off.
So swallowing my pride, I approached the only other two guys within a 20km radius, who were enjoying a beer and a spot of fishing, and asked for a hand.
Once they had stopped laughing (and this took quite a few minutes) they lifted one end of the bumper while I floored it, and this gave me just enough traction to drive Chuckie off. We were on our way again, although I must admit the bumper is now a little askew.
Sunset from The Beach
Anyway, I digress.
We’d been searching for the perfect beach for the past four months as we’ve driven around Australia. And, just 800km north of Perth and a week away from the end of our journey, I reckon we’ve finally found it.
We’ve been here for three days now, watching the shags swoop and dive over the ocean, the sun coming up and going down, the rhythm of the tides, going for swims and beach walks and the odd adventure drive.
Although it’s the middle of the school holidays, there are just three other groups here, plus a smattering of day-trippers. The nearby town, only half an hour’s drive away, is crawling with families.
I’d always been on the look-out for such a place on our travels, but to be honest I’d almost given up hope of finding it.
We’ve been to many places of spectacular beauty over the past 14 weeks. Gorgeous beaches, stunning lakes, amazing rivers, awesome gorges, breath-taking vistas.
But there was always something that stopped it from being The Place. You couldn’t swim. It was too cold. It was too hot. It was raining. It was too busy. Or too expensive. Or you couldn’t camp there. Or you could camp there, but only in a Hi-Di-Hi holiday park.
Yet we persevered. And we found it. The absolute ultimate beachside slice of paradise. Great swimming, amazing sunsets, cheap-as-chips camping, and almost no-one to bother us. The thought of having to leave pains us greatly. In fact, I’d consider living here if I wasn’t about to run out of money to buy beer.
So where is it, you ask, reaching for the phone to book your air ticket to Perth and your 4WD rental.
Where can I find The Beach?
Ah, but that would be telling, wouldn’t it. Didn’t you read the book? If I tell you, you’ll tell everyone else, and the next thing I know someone will be blathering about it all over the internet and in five years’ time
there’ll be condos and a sealed road in here.
So I could tell you. But then I’d have to kill you.
PS If you really want to know, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. But just don’t tell everyone, OK?