Surprised the other night to find a tightrope walker practising his tricks along the beachfront in Torquay. Jumping onto the rope, bouncing on his butt, his stomach, twisting and turning like a trampolining dervish, occasionally even walking on the thing.
Bloke hooked up his gear between two trees about a metre off the ground. Gobsmacked as I was, joggers, strollers and other passersby seemed strangely unimpressed by his antics. Seems he’s a regular. Like the personal trainers and bootcamp torturers you’ll find there, regardless of how sub-zero the climate might be.
Not the only unusual thing along the waterfront in Torquay, though. The old summer resort littoral has curious offerings for folks of all seasons. Scratch about a little and you’ll find a few surprises alongside the Norfolk pines and angular cypresses.
Arthur Leonard Long for one. He’s remembered in stone for the first flight across Bass Strait to mainland Australia, landing at Torquay in December 1919. A figurehead from the 1902 wreck of the Inverlochy that went walkabouts in the 1950s is now marked by an abstract timber sculpture from a beachfront cypress.
The Joseph H. Scammell, which ran aground off Point Danger earlier again, in 1891, is recalled by a thumping great anchor and photos from the time. It was just one of numerous ships that came to grief along the southwest coast in the terrifying 19th century equivalent of an airplane crash.
While no lives were lost on the Scammell, subsequent looting was shocking; the vast majority of the cargo reportedly buried in local back yards, paddocks and sand dunes. The skipper copped it in the neck for careless navigation and negligence, and he’d invested his own savings in the ship.
Beachcombers, dog-owners, mums and bubs, cafe addicts, surfers and windsurfers, paddleboarders, swimmers, joggers, walkers and recovering footballers are among the local tribesfolk you’ll find when the foreshore’s not flooded with tourists. Surprising how many of them work in Geelong. Much the same next door in Jan Juc.
Things you see are treasures. Pink sky above the horizon of a winter’s evening, blazing full moon discs reflecting off the water at night, magnificent thunderheads rolling in when the millibars drop, hazy sea mists encroaching late in the afternoon as the quicksilver plunges. In the morning you might find mountains of kelp washed up, or wooden groynes that were there yesterday buried under sand, cuttlefish galore as if massacred overnight, shivering Japanese tourists snapping photos of Cosy Corner while scoffing tea and cake.
Funny how Torquay locals seem to embrace the cold. It might be ten degrees in the sun but they’ll lap up the dripping moonahs and icy grass slopes. They’ll breakfast al fresco and they’ll break out the shorts. Like a town of icebergs.
The big thing about Torquay, however, is everyone wants seems to want it to retain its village charm. It’s a bit like King Canute, though. Progress is inevitable. But you have to admire the tenacity of the local pushback.
Like the inventive Mars Attacks artistic protest a high-rise commercial proposal for the town drew a couple of years back. Giant alien craft blasted a model of the shopping centre with emerald green death rays.
Haven’t seen any new monstrosities there lately, I’m guessing it worked.