It wasn't planned. We were staying in Noosa, and my friend thought our visitor would enjoy a drive on the endless Cooloola (Teewah) Beach, which we could see in all its misty splendour from our apartment on Noosa Hill. But the South African who hired us the very large and very expensive 4WD ambushed our sketchy plan. He came up with a hard day's drive that included dolphin spotting. So we did it. (He told us completely different stories about tide times on two consecutive days so I suppose we took a chance.)
It meant a 5.30am wake-up and 6 o'clock departure, without breakfast. Almost immediately there was challenging navigation required (of me - my friend always drives 4WDs) as we cut across from Tewantin, 8km west of Noosa Heads, to the main Tin Can Bay Road. This involved a mixture of minor paved roads and not-too-spine-jarring unsealed tracks through bush and forest: some of them had great names – Boreen Point, Junction, Cootharaba, Dr Pages, Kin Kin and Counter. There were one or two roos and whole plantations of Out of Focus trees.
We got to Tin Can Bay just before 8, in almost exactly the time the South African had predicted. And even though I always doubt that animals will behave according to human expectations, the dolphin turned up at 8.10 (see Dolphin Days, February 2011).
After a full English in a dolphin-spotters' greasy spoon, we drove to Rainbow Beach. We had a couple of hours to kill at least before the tides would allow us on to Cooloola and we needed a decent coffee. It was raining in Rainbow...
I had to pop into the supermarket where I had previously come across one of the few stroppy Aussies (in public service) I've met. On this occasion a very helpful lady planted a seed in my mind. Back at the car, I announced that I wished to see up close the coloured sands that give Rainbow Beach its name. They were looking particularly fine, I had been told, as a result of all the rain. There was opposition; and despite my chatting up a very fit surf life saver on the beach, he could not make the sea recede beyond Eight Mile Rocks so that we could access the famous cliffs from the town and not risk the South African's 4x4.
We headed off for Cooloola and bumped 16km down Freshwater Road. Neither my friend nor I had anticipated we would be doing this again so soon. We arrived at about 1.30, half an hour ahead of the recommended time. The waves were still breaking high up the beach as we cautiously picked our way towards Double Island Point. I now had it in mind, of course, to approach the cliffs from the lagoon end of Rainbow Beach, but this was still a heavily tide-dependent notion.
We crossed the shoulder of Double Island headland via the Leisha Track, parked and paddled in the bath-warm shallow water of the lagoon. The sun was out sporadically.
We watched while one car attempted to reach the parts I wanted to reach, but they turned back. I willed the outgoing tide on its way. We had talked to a ranger on the way down Freshwater Road and he had warned of debris on the beach, too. Thwarted? Not us. We're in Oz, where you can go where you want to go. We drove so far, left the car and continued on foot towards the especially red cliff. I have already described how these sands were formed (see Rainbow's magic, November 2011): this is what we saw.
Unfortunately, we ran out of time: we had to get back to Brisbane that evening. We drove back over Leisha on to Cooloola and headed down almost its entire length (about 50km), occasionally in driving rain. Awesome.