The river is busy on Sunday morning. We struggle to get a park, driving slowly past the cafes and public barbecues. Families sprawl on picnic rugs, dogs of all shapes and sizes weave around children as they toddle around in mini-wetsuits, protecting their delicate skin against the harsh Australian sun.
We loop around and park on a shady side street alongside a newly renovated holiday apartment block. A real estate website is advertising an unremarkable apartment for sale at $2.85 million. It’s a Noosa price-tag, though Noosa is another still fifteen minutes up the river.
A row of eucalypts line the street, the scent of the bush filling my nostrils.
The Pelican café is not especially crowded and we find a seat easily under a square black umbrella. The weekend-revellers are sticking to the trendy café options across the street or have otherwise opted to pack a thermos containing their preferred hot beverage.
I accompany Michael’s dad to the coffee window, leaving Michael at our selected table with his mum and the dog. The usual coffee window is closed due to the strong wind, which confuses customers and causes them to order at the pick-up spot.
A twenty-something with fake eyelashes and a surgical mask cradling her chin opens the window and writes our coffee order on individual plastic lids: two flat whites, a chai latte and an almond milk latte for me. A gust of wind catches the lids and the harassed servers scurry to prevent them from spilling onto the floor.
We watch the Noosa ferry as it drifts by, only a third or so full with passengers, its horn hooting quietly in the background. A guy in a bucket hat pushes off from the riverbank in his dingy, expertly navigating avoiding precarious tourists on water-bikes.
It’s hot under the umbrella, and with everyone except Michael having finished their coffee, we untangle Gilbert from the table. We set off along the footpath, joining the existing dog-walkers and geriatrics wearing sun-hats, their eyes hidden behind unfashionable sunglasses.
We wander by the Big Pelican, its eyelashes as long and curly as the coffee girl’s, Gilbert stopping every few metres to sniff tufts of grass. Moisture unexpectedly infiltrates the air in the form of a sun-shower, changing direction with the persistent breeze.
At the tennis courts we turn around, dodging middle-aged joggers with their shirts off, leathery chests exposed to the elements.
Back in the car we cross back over the bridge. Past the pathology clinic with its sign for COVID tests, past the beery-smelling RSL on the corner, through the roundabout and back onto the highway.
We bounce along the asphalt with its dips and humps, the road framed on both sides by dense bush. Cars and motorcycles overtake us, though we are doing the speed limit.
I sing along to Dr. Hook as he tells us what it’s like to be in love; and more specifically, what it’s like to be in love with a woman. A beautiful one.
We slow as we pull into the driveway. I press the top left button on the blue gadget and the garage door cranks into action, displaying the dark car-sized space within.