Please join me as I visit three contiguous and very different beaches on the same hot day.
The walk in to Myrtle Beach is through twisty spotted gum bushland dense with burrawangs, including an ancient one with a tall, thick trunk. The drop to the beach is surprisingly steep, down wooden stairs.
What we are seeking here is unconformity, the place of rendezvous for the tilted / folded Wagonga Beds and the horizontal sedimentation of Sydney sandstone, where angles meet straight lines. We find it easily – even I can see the junction, although the camera has a bit of trouble. Things are complicated by chunky rubble in the rugged cliffs at the north end of the beach. Photography is difficult because the sun seems to be wherever I point the camera. But there are great fallen slabs, and slabbed is the best description of the sheer cliffs.
As we return up the staircase, I see “NUD …” scratched into the timber balustrade, and realise why the man who came down to the beach is fussing around settling his paraphernalia. He wants us gone, taking our unknown sensibilities with us. I'd forgotten this is a nudist beach.
On the way back to the car we follow side tracks looking for a way down to the next beach. The drop is always impossibly dauntingly steep.
However, from the carpark there is a track we didn't notice when we arrived so we follow its gentle slope. Dark Beach is a surprise, unlike any other south coast beach I've encountered: fine dark gravel, ankle deep under our weight and puddling in the bottom of our footprints. The biggest surprise is the yellow sand of the next beach, just across a black Narooma chert barrier: how have the beaches remained so separate and distinctive?
Here again we find an unconformity, that magic junction between two totally different rock histories; breccia, a mash-up of angled rocks (or is it conglomerate since most of the jumble of rocks are rounded?); and one of our early geological acquaintances, hard black Narooma chert.
When we're ready to leave we have no problem finding the entrance to the track: a sinister dark glove rising out of the dark sand marks the way.
Emily Miller Headland
To get to the Emily Miller headland we walk along a fenceline protecting us from unstable cliffs and down a track that uses the sandstone as stairs at the bottom. The rock platform is cut by a trench which seems to be an old dike worn away. I was too timid to jump the abyss although it was an easy step across: next time when it's cooler and I haven't just had a lunch beer I'll be much more daring. While J explores the rock platform, I sit in the sun near a perfect curve containing a layer of gravel, basking in the beauty of pure sandstone country.
By lunchtime we are losing geological focus and drenched with sweat so we return home for a long afternoon doze and then a river-loll and wine by the rapids.