A short drive and a walk through the rainforest takes me to a creek tributary, my access pathway to the lake. It will be a nearly 20km paddle to my own private retreat — unreachable by road and located on the far edge of beautiful Lake Tinaroo on the Atherton Tablelands in far north Queensland.
I load up my small, old-style fibreglass canoe with camp gear, which now includes a small tent. My first camps used to be just a swag under a tarp but now, after zipping the mosquito net door, I know there will be nothing crawling over or under me during the night.
Finally the canoe turns into the bank close to the little campsite in the rainforest almost automatically, the same journey it has made for the past 20 years or more.
Awe-inspiring kauri pines stand sentinel; other older trees have fallen; and the vicious wait-a-while vine takes up space where light has been let through the canopy. As always, this special space welcomes me with soft sunlight filtering through the trees.
At other times of the year, during the wet season, I’ve been a spectator to the most incred- ible light shows as thunderstorms light up the night sky outlining the volcanic hills of the Seven Sisters near Yungaburra, several kilometres away across the expanse of the lake.
But now an azure blue kingfisher and I hang out together on separate ends of a fallen tree that reaches out to the water’s edge. He performs aerobatics in the last light of the day for his meal of insects, while I swing my legs and watch the sun go down as it turns the water red and gold.
Later, as darkness falls, I hear a group of brolgas landing further out on the water’s edge on one side of my tent; and on the other side, deeper in the forest, a family of feral pigs are making their way through the trees before settling for the night. Neither party realises an intruder is in their midst.
I get up at dawn to watch the brolgas’ antics before they take flight, like prehistoric formation flyers up into the morning mists rising from the water. At this time of day it is so still that launching my canoe into the water to go exploring is like sliding it out onto a pane of glass.
The next day, leaving no trace except renewed paths, I’m on the way home and passing me flying overhead is one of the resident pair of sea eagles carrying a fish in its talons back to their nest in the next bay.
At day’s end, and as I finally come into the backwaters of the lake closer to home, a couple of pelicans glides away from the canoe.
I pass a platypus having a last float on top of the water, looking just as relaxed as this journey has left me feeling.
welcomes submissions to This Life. To be considered for publication, the work must be original and between 450 and 500 words. Submissions may be edited for clarity. Send emails to