You could hike for miles and seek out the remotest corners of the bush to get peace and solitude. Or you could take a neat little side step into a realm that’s easily accessible to us all; the off-peak, twilight hours of dawn and dusk, where there’s an unspoken rule to speak softly and tread lightly.
The Magic Hour
There’s something about being in a place when there’s no one else around. The off-peak hours, early or late. All my fellow early birds are nodding vigorously along.
6.00am is my favourite hour to be outside. Depending on the season, it’s often the pre-dawn hour, and there is a stillness to the outside world. No one else is awake yet, and for a little precious while, it’s like you’re the only person alive.
An Off-Peak View Of Hyams Beach
I was thinking about this on my recent trip to Jervis Bay last Australia Day weekend. Jervis Bay, home of the famed white sands of Hyams Beach, and the gimmicky boom net dolphin trips for the tourists.
One morning, myself and three of my friends got up at 5.30am and drove to Hyams Beach to watch the sunrise.
We weren’t the only ones; there were a few other people about, sitting on picnic blankets and beach towels on the white sand, tinted grey in the early morning light. But everyone was quiet, solemn. Loud chatter and laughter seems out of place at an hour like this.
It was a cloudy morning; a blanket of cloud obscured the sun directly from our view, but there was a rosy pink hue on the horizon, and as we watched, a golden light spilled through a small gap in the clouds, signalling the start of the day with its blinding glow.
As we watched, all in quiet contemplation, I noticed a fin arcing through the water. And then another. And then another. Soon a school of dolphins was making their graceful way through the calm waters, to the delight of their human audience.
“We weren’t the only ones; there were a few other people about, sitting on picnic blankets and beach towels on the white sand, tinted grey in the early morning light. But everyone was quiet, solemn. Loud chatter and laughter seems out of place at an hour like this.”
Alone At Dusk
The day before we’d arrived to Jervis Bay in the afternoon, making our way to an Aboriginal nature walk, the Munyunga Waraga Dhugan loop walk, a 5.4km trail that starts at Murray Beach, deep in the heart of the Booderee National Park.
It was around 4.30pm when we started, and families had already started packing up their eskies and their beach umbrellas. The parking lot was all but deserted. We walked the trail in utter isolation, a gentle undulating fire trail in an area owned by the Wreck Bay Aboriginal Community, with great cultural significance to the local Koori people. It was an interesting, otherworldly landscape of tall, spindly trees, painted black by hazard reduction burning, rooted in white sand. If you squinted a little, it was almost like a Christmas postcard in the Northern Hemisphere, like winter trees in white snow.
“There is something about the off-peak hours: the early mornings, the late afternoons and evenings. You don’t have the distraction of the midday, of the peak in human activity, the trembling, the murmuring, the anxiety to do-more-see-more-be-more.”
I walked in silence while my companions chattered behind me, observing how one could be so close to civilisation, so close to the road you could hear the cars at some points, and yet, when you looked eastward, to the sea, there was nothing but dramatic, jagged cliffs, outlined by gathering grey clouds. And we were alone.
There is something about the off-peak hours: the early mornings, the late afternoons and evenings. You don’t have the distraction of the midday, of the peak in human activity, the trembling, the murmuring, the anxiety to do-more-see-more-be-more.
So I encourage all of you Explorers out there – set your alarm one hour earlier, or stay out just one hour later. Beat the traffic, or wait for it to pass. Be the first one there, or the last one to leave. And experience the wonder of the off-peak hours.
Maybe you’ll see dolphins. And not from the back of an overpriced tourist boat.