On Sunday we desert Cemetery Beach and drive 50 kilometres north to meet another part of the Narooma Accretionary Zone, our provocateur Natalie Stokes via her honours thesis. We read the abstract and it actually sounds comprehensible. The whole thesis holds promise of expert guidance to specific details at a specific place, something we badly need after the mylonite debacle.
It’s perfect weather for exploring the rocks around Melville Point, the headland between Tomakin Cove and Barlings Beach. We walk up to the lookout and are swept away in a vast view, westto the mountains of the Great Dividing Range; south over semicircular beaches, chunky islands and blue sea as far as Gulaga; and north along Barlings Beach, backed by new development and a caravan park, to the bushy headland at Guerilla Bay. We are momentarily unbalanced by the sight of a tiny figure on a surfboard, challenging our sense of scale: even more so when a gigantic human figure – in comparison – approaches and plucks it out of the water. Reason then tells us it’s a remote controlled model surfer, but not until reason has been given a thorough shake-up.
The signage around the headland lists the pioneer families; notes the passing of humpback whales between September and November en route to their Antarctic feeding grounds; recounts the presence of 100 convicts in 1840, about the time transportation to Australian stops; and documents the use of Broulee to the south as a harbour until the sea removed the sandspit connecting the island to the mainland. There is no mention of the original inhabitants.
We make our way down a track cut into what may well be a midden to the rock platforms at the base of Melville Point. Bright orange rocks stretch out to cerulean sea.
To begin with the rock platform is flattish and easy to negotiate, but then sharp-edged rocky spurs rise, separated by rock pools covered with neptune’s necklace. J is out of sight, despite a still-dodgy leg. I, who managed to fall over getting out of bed this morning, am less confident and far less agile.
I’m almost stopped at a point where I need to sit down to lower myself to the next level, but J’s mad arm-waving suggests there’s something worth seeing and I persist. I tread gingerly till I reach a jumble of large rocks where I tread even more gingerly as they move beneath my feet. At last I’m walking on smaller pebbles at the base of a spectacular cliff.
There are stripes of maroon, ochre, blue, green, opalescent, brown, cream: a large circular pattern in a square; chevrons; rock broken into small rectangles. So many shapes and textures and colours. In a cave tucked under the cliffs someone has placed chairs and a small plastic table: we imagine sitting there under the full moon as the sea roars in.
Each ridge jutting out reveals more rock beauty, and foot challenges. Any expected similarity to Cemetery Beach has been well and truly knocked on the head by now. What we’re seeing we’ve never seen before.
We’re well around the headland, and I’m hopeful that we’ll actually get all the way around, something I’ve rarely managed with a headland before. J returns to offer me a steadying hand and we negotiate the last pools before the northern rock face, at the south end of Barlings Beach, which is far less worn away than the area we have just walked through.
The sun is full on the cliff, and the sky very blue above. Our last pleasure is a formation reminiscent of a stained glass window, circles marked with a mosaic of marbled rock.
We are sated with beauty and sunshine – and no further forward in our search for geological enlightenment.