The World is an amazing place .... go and be in it

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

A golden safari for Myths, Legends and Fairytales

As I sit here surrounded by well thumbed, underlined and asterisked, and very much drooled over guide books, maps and scrapes of paper scrawled with exotic names in preparation for the next ‘big’ trip, I find have to sate my wanderlust count down with a few one-day trips that won’t eat into the travel budget, take too much time from work and yet make me feel like I’ve been somewhere amazing, and actually away! My itchy-feet always intensifies ten-folds whenever I come back from a trip, and thus in the few weeks since landing from heaven (that is Hamilton Island) it’s as if I have an extreme case of the hives.  
A thick slathering of soothing “Sunday Jaunts” sees Big M and I skipping off for a trip back to the childhood days of sandcastles and fairy tales this weekend past. With 37degrees forecasted for the weekend, a baker of day, it was the perfect excuse for some sand and surf and what better place to find it than Surfers Paradise, Gold Coast; home of the gold-lame hot-pants meter-maid, aquaduckies and a sling shot to no-where. 
It had been years since we’d wander the golden sands of Surfers but it hadn’t lost any of its glitzy tackiness not that we were interested in it, we had come to see instead, the Australian Sand Sculpting Championships, or to put in more layman terms watching the fun and games of 'making a sandcastle’.

Sandcastles – images of bucket and spade, sea shells and sea weed, a touch of coral and a bit drift wood come to mind when I remember back to my childhood. Digging for hours, making tunnels under my castle, that looked more like a volcano…. or an upside-down ice-cream cone which had gone soft and collapsed…. only to have the waves wipe it out. These gritty castles of imagination are nothing in comparison however. They are spectacular works of art. Sculptures of such finessed detail and intricate design, it’ll bring tears to the eyes thinking of how they will be just ‘blown away’ to nothing within a couple of weeks.

As I watched the sculptors delicately brush and slice the sand, I couldn’t help comparing the concentration and passion they were putting into it with that of the beautiful religious sand mandalas I had watched monks painstaking create over weeks, only to have intricate design swept away in a single wipe at the end.

This is the third year the Sand Safari has presented the Australian Sand Sculpting Championships. A three day event, we arrived on the second day and I was sort of expecting the sculptures to be closely finished as the judging was the next day. We arrived to busy Surfers around midday in sweltering heat conditions and found the creations underway on the paved foreshore in front of Cavil Mall. The ten sculptors were located under white canopys in various spots along the foreshore and although I was tiny bit disappointed to see the sculptures under a cover, (it made it difficult to get great photo shots) I totally understood the reasoning for it. The sculptors spend up to 10hours a day carving over three days – so that’s a lot of sunburn! My disappointment had quickly evaporated by the second sculpture when I was begging for a bit of shade myself!
We started at the bottom of the foreshore with the “Troll under the Bridge”, what a face this chap had and I was fascinated by the ‘leg’ hanging out of his nose…. Had he swallowed a frog I mused, and I just loved the wary glance the billy goat was giving as he trundled across the bridge. The artist, Kevin Crawford from Western Australia had created the glances of wariness and contemplation so cleverly even though it was only partially finished at our time of viewing. 

 Though if one was to ask Big M if he thought Jim had captured the image of a goat, one would be mystified by his answer - Big M swears it’s a donkey. Ok…..

The next sculpture had me jumping for joy. Called “How many Greeks”, it was a Trojan horse…. and to me, a sign of exciting things to come. A sign that said, “not long to go, just hold your horses” (and I’ll add, that night after seeing this, we promptly booked the tickets!) Created by Tasmanian artist, Kevin Crawford, the detail on the ‘timber’ of horse was painstakingly intricate.    
Next came Meg Murray’s (Vic) beautiful wistful piece “Nerissa” , a sea nymph with a garland of flowers in her hair. Barely half done, yet these flowers were exquisitely carved and shaped, and the eyes of Nerissa, beckoning and alluring.
Further along an impromptu “Happy Birthday” was sung by the crowd to Peter Papamanolis (the local lad Qld) as his Fo Fum ogre looked on. The eyes of the ogre followed you wherever you stood – he was quite a disconcerting chap and Peter had captured his essence well.

We were surprised to see two Medusas side by side, her hair wild with wriggling snakes. And I took this mythical madam to be another sign of some exciting travels to come soon. Her image to dot the many historical sites we will soon visit. The first medusa here was being created by Peter Redmond and as she stared coldly out, I thought it ironic that this woman who threatens to turn you to stone would become nothing more than grains of sands in the coming weeks.   
The second medusa was being created by the current titleholder, Victorian Leo Vamvalis. Medusa number two was far from having any complex details, but it was obvious Leo would be meticulous with her finalisation. Later that night I googled his 2013 piece that won him the title – spectacular!
Then we stumbled upon our favourite “Who is Stupid”. Though at first glance, it was Oh My! “Who’s being a bit naughty”!!!! Natasha Kamenskaia’s (Vic) imagination ran wild with the emperor of new clothes fame, and in place of his wiggley bits, a little wiggly piggly – very clever and very, very cheeky.

It would appear though that the best had been left for last with the final sculpture being crowned the winner the following day – “Kirin” a Pegasus like horse synonymous with Asian mythology (Qilin) by Artist, Jino Van Bruinessen of NSW. This incredibly intricate design was obviously a crowd pleaser one could imagine its mythological incarnation flying upon its cloud, never to tread on nor harm any living thing.

The Championships are sponsored by a famous ice-cream company and as such the sponsor is being depicted in an elaborate sand sculpture in the middle of the foreshore. Three quarters of the way through (the day we visited), this sculpture was huge and a hive activity as palm trees, dinosaurs, pterodactyls and lions emerged from the grains.
I felt very sorry for sculptors of this display for they were working in the fierce sun with not a drop of shade except for their hats. Despite the sweat pouring off them and the heat bearing down, they were doing an amazing job of creating a wild safari island.  

Next weekend (22&23 March) is the World vs Australia Sand Sculpturing titles and it’s sure to be a biggie – as we walked past the towering pyramid of boxes being filled with tonnes of sand – manually! - I read in the brochure, that these two sculptures alone will contain 25 tonnes of sand! Big M and I watch the chap shovel and toss the sand into the boxes under the baking sun.
The three week ‘Sand Safari’ exhibits until March 2nd, and as I wander back down the foreshore watching the creations take form I get all excited about next years comp. Our little granddaughter, Peanut, will be old enough for us to introduce her to this magical world of sand castles in the sun and I’m eager for another revisit to the glittery Gold Coast within the year.
For further details regarding this great event, check out their website :