There are people about today: playing in teams with some kind of throwing thing on the beach; splashing in the water where Mummaga Lake enters the sea with a rush; fishing placidly from the rocks; clambering around with bucket and spade; picnicking on the grass; watching an infant take her first steps; and staggering around watching every footfall amongst the pools and slashes of rock poking out of the sand, camera at the ready.
This beach is just in front of a caravan park, still occupied by school holiday makers. It’s the peak of low tide, so the rocky platform is exposed and the sand firm. This is my third unfamiliar beach in a week, and they couldn’t be more different. What is the essence of this one? Shingle consisting of bigger shells than I saw at Plantation Beach, or McKenzies. Rocks piled up into a rounded turret or weathered to the shape of Opera House sails. Seams of white quartzlike rock wandering their way through the surface and crevices of their host. Narrow vertical ridges. Gleaming mustard-yellow slabs with smooth hollows. Rockpools, and rock-dimples filled with shells.
That’s my narrow world, at noon on a particular day. But there are other worlds here too.
Geology has been busy for eons, shaping the shoreline and its beauties, making it unique. Weathering and the repetitious action of the sea are co-creators of all the shapes and patterns that have given pleasure to the tiny dot in the universe that is me.
Yuin Elder, YIrrimah evokes the Aboiginal world: “We’ve got totems here. Our sisters swim through the rocks. The whales, the seabirds, eels, crabs, they’re our family.” An information board lists Aboriginal names: maara maara, waagal, junga, yannga, bimbulla, wondarma, mingo. (What whitefellas call sea mullet, blackfish, octopus, lobster, Sydney cockles, appleberry, grass tree.)
Migrating Humpback whales come in close to shore on their long journey north to breed in the tropics in winter and then back to the Antarctic summer feeding grounds. If you’re lucky you can see them spouting and breaching, sometimes mother and baby playing together.
William Mort brought the whitefella world of sheep and dairy cows here in the 1880s. He settled land behind the beach and along Mummaga Lake, now State Forest and the suburb of Dalmeny, named by him after his Eton schoolfriend who became Lord Dalmeny, an obscure British Prime Minister.
Intrepid camping holiday-makers began coming in the 1920s, although by then Narooma just down the coast was a holiday destination with some pretty classy guest houses. This influx continues: a number of people I meet holiday here for years before they make it their retirement home, and the population swells dramatically over summer.
And then there are the current holiday makers, grabbing the last of the warmth, and me on my mission to visit every beach in the shire.
Dalmeny is the next beach down from Potato Point: to access it take the Tourist Drive turnoff from the Princes Highway about 8 kilometres south of Bodalla, until you reach the caravan park. There’s some confusion about the name. My coastal bible, Beaches of Batemans Bay and the Eurobodalla Coast by Peter and Manuela Henry, calls the northern part Brou Beach with Dalmeny in brackets: and the southern part (where I photographed for this post) Josh’s Beach. Names in this coastal strip seem to be mutable.