On the Hawaiian island of Kauai there is a beach that is nicknamed “Barking Sands” because the sand makes a “woof-woof” sound with every step. The effect occurs when the extremely fine sand rolls underfoot and the grains slide by one another, causing friction, which produces the barking sound. The sand of Byron Bay, which is also extremely fine (it feels like baby powder), exhibits a similar phenomenon – with each step I took it yip-yip-yipped like a miniature poodle.
In the daylight, Byron Bay’s main beach is not quite so pink as it is at sunset, but it is a gorgeous crescent of sand nonetheless. I hiked south to where Belongil Creek cuts a swath through the beach on its journey to the ocean. The creek is the color of amber, stained by the falling leaves and bark of the tea trees that line its bank. At its mouth a tireless battle ensued – the brown waters of the creek struggling against ocean waves that relentlessly deposit sand, blocking the creek’s path to the ocean.
Mounds of sand, looking like giant termite nests, line the banks of the creek – testament to the town’s repeated attempts to keep the mouth of the creek open to avert flooding.
I spent all afternoon along this estuary, which is a protected nesting ground for the Little Tern and a magnet for all kinds of birds. There was stark beauty here – brilliant sands bordering the tinted creek, landlocked lagoons surrounded by hermit crab holes, puffy clouds scudding across the sky, gnarled and weathered logs scattered around the beach, and row after row of glassy breakers rolling into shore. In five hours I encountered perhaps only eight other people energetic enough to make the hike this far down the beach. It was paradisaical.
On the way back up the beach, the setting sun cast a long shadow of me and my backpack on the unblemished sand, before once again dipping behind the distant mountains. Yesterday’s sunset spectacle was repeated in reverse, this time the sky turning gold, then a fiery orange, and finally fading to pastel blues and pinks. Tomorrow I will go north along the beach to the lighthouse that is perched on the headland. It is so good to be warm again and have the sun on my skin.