The azure ocean stretched into an endless sky that filled my overwhelmed eyes. I soaked in the salty air, letting the breeze comb through my auburn hair as it murmured to me.
The Twelve Apostles stuck out in random chunks across the shallow ocean floor. The majestic rock formations were formed by harsh weather conditions and bizarre erosion. The apostles were once arches that had slowly collapsed, leaving limestone stacks up to 45 metres high. I scanned the horizon for twelve figures, but only counted nine.
The sculptures looked awkward, towering above the flat level of the water so close to shore. Rather than forming perfect cylinders, they twisted with random curves and chips from a lifetime of being subject to torturous conditions. Green growths extruded from their tops, fed by rare raindrops and the salty ocean spray.
The apostles were an imperfect orange-beige colour. They were fat and stocky; bizarre and beautiful. They looked like upside down ice cream cones, thrown down and discarded in a temper tantrum by an omniscient God.
The sight of these gigantic rocks was astounding and awing and slightly off-putting, hence their popularity. The wooden viewing platform buckled beneath the weight of a mass of pedestrians. Thin protruding beams supported swarms of tourists that snapped black cameras, preserving the scene as though it were about to fade away.
I stood beside an explicit warning sign that screamed CAUTION—YOU MAY FALL AND DIE. Ignoring the exaggerated advertisement, I leaned my body over the railing, my long hair cascading over the edge like a waterfall. I squinted at the golden sand below. The faint imprint of footprints materialized in my strained eyes. I glanced around for a way down to the beach, but the only apparent option was jumping, and I wasn’t quite ready to FALL AND DIE.
“Alison, we need to keep driving.”
I felt Ryan’s warm body behind me. I fell from the turquoise water into his navy eyes without question. I was 18, naive, and more in love with him than I was with the world.
Little did I know.
Our black rental car sped down the highway. We had only been driving for ten minutes when I needed to stop again.
“Pull over,” I groaned, clutching my irritated stomach in agony.
Ryan navigated the car into an abandoned parking lot. I threw open the passenger door and gulped down fresh air. My stomach was instantly soothed. Ryan jumped out to stretch his long legs in the yellow sun.
We wandered to the edge of the cannon, where the land stopped and dropped straight down to the ocean. My stomach plummeted to my bowels as I peered over the edge. This time, nausea came with a rush of excitement.
A small forgotten staircase clung to the side of the steep decline. It was a secret passage that led to the exact beach we had admired from afar only moments ago. Speechless, I took the warped wooden steps two at a time, nearly falling through the rotten, decayed planks as I ran.
I sprinted straight into the ocean, kicking off my sandals before I reached the lapping waves. The white froth licked my toes. Ice cold shivers ripped through my body. I shrieked at the sensation.
The sheer volume of the streaked rocks, open ocean, silken sand, and brilliant sky was incredibly daunting. I was a blurry dot in the tourists’ curious camera lens, an insignificant footprint on the sand, a pin-prick on the map. I was awe-struck by the realisation that the world is so big, and I am so small.
I closed my eyes, soaking up the sunshine. My cheeks hurt from smiling.
“Alison,” Ryan murmured, snaking his strong arms around my waist. “Let’s go.”
I pulled away from him in surprise. “No,” I whispered, “Let’s stay.”
“It’s a long drive back,” he said, nodding towards the staircase that beckoned our return, the secret passageway that had taken us to paradise, the wardrobe to our Narnia.
I stared into his shaded blue eyes, the first wisp of maturity and independence seeping into my skin. I curled my toes in the soft sand, rooting myself to the spot. My eyes drowned in the ocean as he pulled me away, leaving my heart with the sand and the sky.
And then, like all travelers do, we left.
About the Author: Alison Karlene Hodgins is an award-winning travel writer, newspaper columnist, and writing & publishing student currently residing in Kelowna, BC, Canada. When she’s not boarding international airplanes or feverishly hunting for the best hostel, Alison can be found braiding hemp bracelets, editing her debut travel novel, and drinking copious amounts of tea. Find her on Twitter @AlisonKarlene, on Facebook at Alison’s Adventures, and on her travel blog.
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