11.29.2014

Cowes on Phillip Island

The beach at Cowes on Phillip Island was gorgeous when we arrived there after the short one block walk from our hotel, a derivative of the Comfort Inn chain called Kaloha Resort. My sister, her partner Carl, and my niece and nephew Millie and Ty, respectively, were already there, as mandated by the nine year olds' compulsion for instant gratification. My sister was knee deep in the sea, keeping a watchful eye on Ty and Millie as they splashed about, a longing for deeper water in their eyes, but restrained by my sister's restraining gaze.

The beach was about as idyllic as one could imagine. The southern shore of Phillip Island where Cowes lies is protected from strong winds and currents by surrounding land masses, principally Gippsland and the Nepean Peninsula, the east flank of Port Phillip Bay. The sea was remarkably calm, the incoming tide only apparent as a gentle lapping of waves, each succeeding one rolling a few centimeters farther up the sandy beach. We had missed low tide by a couple of hours, but a wide expanse of beach still separated the water from the brick and asphalt sea wall of the Esplanade.

Perhaps two dozen people dotted the beach around us, with a dozen more in the water. The blue skies were likewise dotted here and there with small puffs of cloud that did nothing to prevent the brilliant Australian afternoon sun from showering the beachgoers in its ultraviolet rays. A sea breeze cooled the skin to a comfortable level even though the ambient temperature was probably near 35 degrees C (90 F).

I put my smart phone and wallet in the outside pouch of the backpack my sister had taken with her to the beach, then removed my sunglasses, hat, and t-shirt, and ambled toward the sea to join my relatives. Carl was just stepping out of the water.

"How is it?" I queried.

"It's actually quite a bit colder than I expected," Carl replied in his softspoken voice.

He was right. The sea water was deceptively chilly on my skin as I waded slowly into it. It made sense. Being the end of November, it is only late spring in the southern hemisphere right now, the equivalent of late May in the northern hemisphere. Still, I expected the water to be a bit warmer given the more subtropical latitudes of this part of Australia.

I eventually gathered the courage to plunge my entire body beneath the surface of the water, which felt not unlike dunking myself in a pool of ice water, though I suspect that is an exaggeration in a relative sense. I played a bit of "shark" with my niece and nephew, which basically entailed chasing them through the shallow frigid waters until I "tagged" one of them and they became the shark.

I left the water after a few minutes to restore my core temperature under the Australian sun. As the dry air evaporated the sea water from my skin, leaving a fine residue of salt behind, my niece and nephew set to the task of racing to see who could dig deeper holes in the sand in a span of 30 seconds.

I overheard Carl say to my sister, "It seems odd to travel four thousand miles just to come to the beach." I sensed that he was hoping for more interesting activities, but my sister was more inclined to satisfy the desires of her twin children.

My parents, with whom I had left the hotel, joined us at our spot on the beach. They had walked down to the nearby pier after I had joined my sister's entourage.

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