A trip down the rocky road of memory

We talk of going down memory lane but in fact memory can be more like a rocky road – bumps and potholes everywhere.

I mused on this when, unexpectedly, I found myself spending a night in Redland Bay and taking an early morning walk to reacquaint myself with this once much loved area to the extreme south east of Brisbane. 

My relationship with the bay goes back more than 50 years to when Bob and I and our three small children first arrived from Kenya and it became one of our favourite weekend playgrounds.  We asked so little of life in those day; just to have each other and be together; and though we had no money we had a lot of fun.  In our old car we would drive out on Sundays to the one small beach in an area of mangrove mudflats.  North and south of Brisbane were the endless beaches of the Gold and Sunshine Coast, or Bribie Island, where the sand was white as snow or the colour of an underbaked biscuit. We went there too, when we could.  But Redland offered safe swimming for small children and the pub atop the cliff was exactly 40 miles from our Tarragindi home.  You had to drive at least 40 miles, in those years, to be allowed to buy a drink on a Sunday.

The beach where we used to bring our small children back in the late 1960s. Not a spectacular beach by Australian standards but safe for children because the water was shallow and surf-free. No pathway and rock wall in those days. Below, the gentle curve of this small bay from the northern end.
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Taken from a bit higher up. No concrete pathway back then, we had to clamber down the bank with our picnic baskets and blankets.

These boats seem to have sat there on the sand for 50 years! Coochiemudlo Island in the background, to the north and, further east, the long line of North Stradbroke Island.

The Redland Bay Hotel had something else to recommend it back then – a jukebox.  My grandchildren and great grandchildren will be amazed and probably amused to know how limited was our access to popular music in those pre-digital (pre cassette tape, pre CD) days.  We could listen to it on the radio and hope to catch a favourite song.  Or buy the record, which cost money which we didn’t have.  I was enamoured of Neil Diamond’s song Shiloh at the time, and of Melody Rush’s Angel of the Morning, and would happily drive out to the bay just to hear them!

The old Redland Bay Hotel, almost unchanged from the old days except for this covered beer garden. In the 60s and 70s we used to drink and sometimes lunch on the old verandah behind, where the juke box was.
The entrance to the pub.

In those days we generally headed baywards with friends Jock and Rosemary Payet who had come with us from Kenya in the late 60s.  Their small Louise and our Robert, Amanda and Cathy would play happily in the pebbly, shallow water while we adults swam and chatted and ate our simple picnic lunch.  We might go and have a beer at the pub but we could rarely afford to eat there!  And Rosemary’s picnic lunches were better than anything you could buy at a pub back then.  Or a sandwich shop.

Within a couple of years we had bought a block of land on Lamb, one of the many islands which dot Moreton Bay, of which Redland Bay is only a small part.  It was sold to us as a waterfront block and indeed it was – at high tide.  When the tide went out it exposed an expanse of mud and mangrove breathers sticking up like daggers.  But the jetty was close by and we swam there, and fished.  I once foul-hooked a huge mangrove crab and, on another occasion, a flounder.  There was a rail across the island from the jetty and a rail cart that had to be pushed.  This was so that the mangoes, grown on the eastern side facing North Stradbroke Island, could be harvested and pushed to the ferry for transporting across to the mainland.  Our children had great fun with this rail and over the other side was a family called Bulwinkle who had 12 acres and showed us much hospitality – and supplied us with mangoes!  In summer, though, the mosquitoes would swarm out of the surrounding mangroves and mug us with ferocity and it was not possible to push the rail cart fast enough to outrun them.  We learned to smother ourselves in repellent first – but it was never quite enough to protect us.

Coming back on the Sunday evening ferry was always a treat.  It was a little foot passenger ferry that serviced the mid-bay islands of Lamb, Macleay, Karragarra and Russell (where peculiar people lived, or so we were told). The sun would be sinking behind the hills on the mainland , the  water like a mirror.  Our companions were other weekenders like ourselves, very few in number back then and only a handful of residents living permanently on the four islands.  There was great camaraderie and some swapping around of scones and cake and biscuits and cordial.  On our drive home – only about 25 minutes in those traffic-free days – we would stop for the Sunday night treat of fish and chips, which was my children’s favourite meal of the week despite all the effort I put into providing them with tasty and nutritious meals from Monday to Saturday!  Oh, they were glorious days!

Cathy and I fishing off the jetty on Lamb Island in about 1969.
The busy foot passenger ferry to the islands. Back in our day it was just a jetty.
It’s even got a little coffee shop at one side
City commuter buses stop there
Passenger schedules just like an airport!
A nice little pathway where the creek runs out; a few fishing boats beyond.
Though the larger passenger ferry can be seen at right, the dear little old ferries are still operating – and this is how we travelled over to Lamb Island half a century and more ago.
The four main inhabited islands in Redland Bay are serviced by this passenger ferry. Coochimudlo, to the north in Moreton Bay proper, is serviced by a different ferry, as are the big islands of Moreton and North and South Stradbroke.
Close by is the second and smaller landing place for the vehicular ferry – years ago there were was no such thing. Foot traffic only, or your own boat. The big ferries for Stradbroke leave from Cleveland, further north.
Back in the day there was a small, dirt car park here which took about 50 cars, if that. Now, it’s shiny vehicles as far as the eye can see, so popular have the islands become.

And life moved on – we returned briefly to Africa, then back to Oz and nearly 20 years in  Noosa, then west a bit, then in the mid 90s back to the general bay area again, though not to Redland Bay itself.  I moved into my fifties, Bob into his sixties.  We bought a small yacht and kept it on the marina at Manly towards the northern end of the bay and once again headed south to Redland on weekends, this time by water.  We used to anchor off Karragarra and row ourselves over to Lamb and Macleay, where there was a small pub. By then the pretty little islands had attracted residents with a reputation for being feral – probably because there were no police there to pursue the pot growers and others seeking the kind of freedom that often translates to lawlessness.  But we never had any problems with them and loved our peaceful anchorage.  We’d take Friday off so we could make it worthwhile – setting out early and hoping there would be enough wind to get us down the bay.  Staying overnight and Saturday and coming back Sunday afternoon with a south-easterly behind us.  Winter was harder, with the westerlies blowing us all over the bay and the rare northerlies were a real problem and meant trying to make it mostly on the small engine.

Sailing back from Karragarra in the late 90s, me at the helm. The usually calm bay waters can get choppy and it looks like a stiff breeze blowing from the south, portent of stronger wind and choppier sea by the time we reach the northern bay off Manly and Wynnum. I’m wearing a jacket so it’s probably late winter, early spring.
Cap’n Bob
Looking across to that same area today, north from Karagarra and out past Coochimudlo where Flinders once landed.
Two views looking north and north-east

That all stopped 22 years ago when we moved to Tamborine.  And I haven’t been back to Redland Bay since, or at least not long enough to go down by the water where my memories lie.

All those memories trickled back to me yesterday as I walked for two hours around that once dear and familiar shoreline. Under a flawless sky so many things remained unchanged.  The old, mostly weatherboard houses.  The people who still smile and say hello when out walking even though this area is now an outer suburb of Brisbane.  The water shone under a strong spring sun and the islands stood out clear and low – Coochiemudlo just to the north and beyond it Peel with its sheltered bay and lovely St Helena, out of sight but nor mind because we often used to sail there.  Ahead of me and to the south Macleay, Lamb, Karragarra and Russell.  Plus all those tiny little uninhabited mangrove-edged islets which dot the bay more thickly as it narrows towards the Gold Coast Broadwater.  And beyond them all, on the horizon, the long bulk of North Stradbroke Island. 

There are, inevitably changes – in fact the whole area has the feeling of a place on the edge of transformation from sleepy waterside to condomania.  Now  that all the places with good beaches have been overtaken, those that simply offer water views are modernising fast.  The dear old wooden houses have subdivided their large gardens and large, glossy signs promise apartment blocks to fill the space.  A Woolsworths supermarket under construction dominates the small townscape within a few metres of the water. 

The Jetty Store, still there after more than 50 years. I had breakfast here, sitting outside in the sun. As unpretentious as it ever was. There are a couple of posher coffee shops around the bay area now but none with better value food.
See what I mean?! And it was as delicious as it was filling. If only Bob could have been there to share it. He always did love a cheap brekkie!
Opposite the cafe, on the water, is a scruffy little park. Those fig trees weren’t there back then. Look how lovely they are now!
This clifftop house was there back then and in 1970 my parents fell in love with it because it reminded them of Mombasa. So they bought the block of land next door…which the owners of the above house had subdivided for their old age.
My parents later sold the land. This is the house that’s on the block now – much bigger than it looks from the front. There is one more house (to the right) in this tiny clifftop street, and that’s all. And below is the view from the garden….if only I could have inherited this block!
Finally, just round the corner a stone’s throw from the little beach pictured further above ,nd also my parents’ block, is the house we nearly bought in 1970, It was very smart back then, white with black shutters and trim. But it was a long way from the city and Bob’s work, and the asking price (from memory) was $16,000. Which was slightly more than we could easily afford! We were still considering it when World Bank sent Bob back to Africa. When we returned to Queensland two years later we went back to look at this house – but it had sold. And we moved north to Noosa. Sliding doors! If we had bought this house and settled in Redland Bay how different our life would have been.

Yet at 7 o’clock yesterday morning I sat in the sun outside the Jetty Store and ate my breakfast and sipped my coffee where more than half a century ago we bought potato chips and soft drinks for our kids.  It hasn’t changed much, nor the scruffy little waterside park opposite.  The friendly operators seemed to know everyone who popped in and these were all the ordinary Aussie types of yesteryear. Music played softly in the background and though I couldn’t identify it the sound was vaguely and reassuringly 70s in tone.  Folksy.  Even the birds sounded as they did in my youth.  And for a moment I knew a moment of ineffable peace.  The peace that passeth all understanding, as Bob would have said, had he been there. But he wasn’t, nor Robert either, the once eager child who was always first on and off the jetty during  our island adventures.

That’s the problem for those of us who venture down the rocky road of memory; we encounter those loves whom we will never meet again. And yet,  the view at the end is always worth it.


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Taken from a little higher up. There was no concrete ramp or steps in those days. You had to clamber down the bank with your picnic basket and blanket.
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About Tamborine Dreamer

I am a horticulturist, writer and photographer who lives on Tamborine Mountain, one of the world's beautiful places to live with plenty of sunshine, good rainfall, moderate temperatures, lush rainforest, splendid views of both the ocean to the east and the mountains to the west. I love writing about the place in which I live, in all its moods and seasons. Besides gardening I love good literature and poetry, bushwalking, birdwatching, history, Japanese language and culture, and music of several kinds.
This entry was posted in Beaches, Journeys, Scenic, seaside and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to

  1. prasannapala says:

    Wow, so beautiful 😍💙

    Liked by 1 person

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