Beaky, Part One

It’s said travel is a unique accumulation of experience – and that it changes you. I’ve never been sold on this idea. Am I different from how I was yesterday? I don’t look different. And does it matter anyhow? Travel can be such a smug art.

But here’s the thing. I have been changed since yesterday. I don’t look any different though. And it doesn’t matter.

Shona and I met at 4am. I kayaked over to White Arrow and picked her up. Then we kayaked over to the beach – pretty briskly. I’m not a huge fan of kayaking an inflatable kayak at night time. My imagination being my worst enemy. Big Baby. Shona is strong though – and we got to the beach fast. Phew.

It was a case then of turning our torches on and walking. We walked the strand line to look for turtle tracks. They’ve been nesting for a few weeks now.. but there’s been a nighttime curfew until Monday – and only I would get caught by a policeman on a beach at 4am.

That was our intention, to walk the length of the beach and hope we got lucky. Turtles like dark and moonless conditions. It was definitely dark now.

We didnt have far to go – when Shona said, ‘What’s that?’

I shined the torch and almost jumped through my skin. ‘Not a surprise,’ my mother would say. My imagination again. Though the dark shell is a strange and hulking sight. First impression is a huge reptilian cockroach sitting on the sand.

I’m being mean of course. Here she was – magnificent turtle mama doing her ancient evolutionary stuff. And vulnerable too. For the universal game of keeping out of danger, the sea turtle’s practise of climbing onto the beach, setting out to dig a hole and lay eggs into it is pretty damn crackers. I wouldn’t do it. I’d be like, no I’m good in the water where I’m USED to it. Wont find me crawling into the soup bowl.

The hawksbill blinked at us. We switched our torches to their red beams to minimise the disturbance. Our first concern- would Mama Turtle get disturbed enough that she would stop laying? Had we ruined her clutch of precious eggs?

I thought back to my time. An elephant could have walked through my hospital room and it wouldn’t have made a difference. The turtle kept digging her hole. Ok.

We found her as she was finishing her preparation. As deep as her back flipper could dig – maybe eight inches or so. Not large either. Like the diameter of an small-sized blender. Sorry for the image.

But man – here is the thing that changed me. I didn’t realise that sea turtles have such dexterous flippers. The ends of their flippers move like fingers, scooping the sand out so delicately. In different times they could shuffle a card deck.

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