Familiar beaches, yes, but never the same beaches. A lot depends on so many things. This week we’ve had heavy seas, so things that were exposed last week, are covered with sand, and quite deep pools, goudged out by the sea, are swirling around rocks where no deep pools were before. This week low tide is higher than it was last week, so rocks we could walk around then become impassable without wet legs up to the knee. Today the sun is behind cloud and there’s no need to remove layers of clothing as we walk. The light is perfect, a grey wash, slightly luminous, reflecting rocks (mylonite, chert) and clouds in the encroaching water. The chevrons are splendidly etched, and colours in the rocks vibrate, whereas last visit in blazing sun we saw only darkness, coaxed into some detail by post-processing.
Warning: If you don’t share my passion for patterns on rock faces, you might like to give this post a miss. I’m probably guilty of the imitative fallacy in attempting to create in my reader sighs of ecstasy to mirror my experience.
I’m back on the job with a series which has been languishing since December 2015. McKenzie is my 26th Eurobodalla beach: I’ve now visited about a third of the beaches my shire has to offer. The last time I visited McKenzie was probably 30 years ago, on December 25th, the inaugural “Just a vegemite sandwich for Christmas lunch, as long as there’s a surf” celebration.
This morning the sun is bright and the sky blue, with just a few clouds and initially a slight crispness to the air. It’s a small beach and exactly as I remember it, enclosed in a hug between two headlands. One end is sunny, the other in the shade. I opt for the shady end first, mainly because the other end is overlooked by a couple of houses. I crunch through deep shell grit, popping the occasional seaweed bubble. You could easily forget that the coast road swoops past just behind the sand as you become mesmerised by the patterns on the rocks. I find myself muttering ecstatically every time I turned my eyes in a different direction – not only rocks but rockpools, the blue sea, the green weed, and that Australian autumn air on my skin. I’m wary near the cliffs: the tumble of rocks is a warning.
The south end of the beach isn’t as dramatic in its patternings, maybe because sun bleaches colour, maybe because my appetite for visual wonders is sated. As I walk across the sand, I see remnants – the inside and the broken shell of a sea urchin; the curling track of a shell-creature; and an operculum, once doorway to the home of another shell-creature. By the time I leave the beach to buy a stove, pick up twin portraits from the framer, price carpet to protect against dog-grime, and acquire touch-up paint for the mini-scratches on the car’s paintwork, the sea and the beach are both occupied by pleasure seekers. Lads lie on their boards, waiting for a wave and children sit at the waterline collecting shells. I’m leaving the beach in good hands.
On another perfect weekend day, the dog drops me off at the southern end of Carters Beach, above rolling waves and a crowd of five surfers, sitting on their boards out beyond the rock platform. I ramble round the rocks, enjoying the honeycombing, the colours and the great burst of white spray rising up as the the three-footers break against them. To the south, Narooma buildings are visible on the headland above the breakwater.
Carters Beach is only 300 metres long, so before I know it I’m heading round the rocks, great barnacled slabs, towards Reef Beach. I assess the incoming waves before I scurry around on the sea side without getting my feet wet to preserve the privacy of a topless sunbather in a secluded spot amongst the outcrops. A dog is having a great stick-chasing time in and out of the water. There are pines along the top of the patterned rocks marking the boundary of the beach; casuarinas with their tops flattened to an acute angle by prevailing winds; elegant fountains of grass. The reef is dark beneath the breaking water, and pinkish with weed as it emerges flat-topped close to the shore above the roiling foam of the waves.
The beach opens out into a rocky recess, but I am becoming invisible to my pick-up dog, so I head back to the stairs leading up to Anton’s cafe where a crowd is enjoying the view and Sunday lunch.
Yabbara Beach is the next beach north from Duesburys Beach. It’s about 25 kilometres from where I’ve lived for forty years, and this is my first visit. How I neglect what’s closest to me! Dog and dog-carer deposit me near a bus shed where a sign warns of rough surf, rips and currents and deep holes and gutters. These aren’t a threat to me because I never swim.
I cross the bicycle track, and walk across the undulating sand through low-lying dune wattle. Small humps of sand are topped by sprawling mauve beach flowers. Vegetation spills down the hill topped by twisted trunks. I head towards the rocky area at the south end, encouraged by Saturday’s photo-haul amongst the Duesburys rocks and eager to capture differences.
The tide is low and I walk through rocky outcrops on tongues of hard sand towards a chunky prominence, past a couple of individual rocks that could well be sculptures. My rough-ground leg-certainty is coming back to me: although this is very easy terrain, it’s a long time since I’ve rockhopped. My camera gobbles up rock patterns as I walk round below the headland cliffs onto Duesbury’s Beach, where a pack of surfers head out into the waves off the rocks and lounge around a beach tent. Half way along the beach is a very handsome black and white dog spurting sand up from the hole he’s digging, and chasing a ball down to the waterline.
This post is justified by a comment from Jude at https://smallbluegreenwords.wordpress.com/ As soon as she said she liked the textures in ‘Honeycomb, rock patterns ….’ I felt entitled to indulge my photo-obsession for such things.
A question for weird Jo at https://restlessjo.wordpress.com/ Can you spot the winged horse? Or a dog with a collar?
For Gilly at https://lucidgypsy.wordpress.com/ : more rocks with blue streaks.
Suddenly on this stretch of road the trees become bigger, towering up out of the drop down to the river. Wattles are in the splendour of full bloom, and so are ti trees and white mint bush. The air is dense with the buzzing of bees and with perfume, heavy-sweet and spicy. Below, the swishing of the river in a series of small rapids. No familiarity on this stretch, after more than twenty years.
A car stops. The driver leans over, looks at me, and says “I know you.” His name I remember; his face has changed. On the edge of the road past and present meet, and I’m incapable of giving him the required directions in the jangle of adjusting old memories. What do I remember? Offending him by refusing to let him carry my bag after a P & C meeting in Sydney in 1978. Did he really sulk for 300 km? Is this a story I’ve made up? I don’t want such intrusions on my grinning solitude.
The pink rocks of the cutting soon fill my mind with memories in the making, and I relax into the beauty of the morning. I pause on the bridge, noting that sand has taken over, where there were once pink rocks. The river brushes noisily over pebbles, and floats circular mats of algae. A man on horseback nods hello, and the cutting still towers, revealing tree roots coiling from crevasses.
Just north of Narooma Surf Beach, tucked between two rocky arms, and accessible by a rock-clamber, is a tiny beach called Smugglers Cove. I suspect the story behind the name is a fantasy: I can’t imagine what would need to be smuggled into the past of what was then a tiny settlement somewhere between Sydney and Melbourne. However, in my reference bible for the project of the beaches, there is a very tentative suggestion that it could have had something to do with the nineteenth century gold-mining history of the area. (Beaches of Batemans Bay and the Eurobodalla Coast by Peter and Manuela Henry)
The patterns on the rock offered two very different palettes: pocked brownish colours – honey, amber almond, bronze; and greys – charcoal, slate, ash grey, and strong hints of blue. I think I may also have spotted pillow lava promised in my other reference Ancient sites: a geological journey, a very satisfactory brochure produced by Eurobodalla Shire Council.
Smugglers Cove is a very peaceful beach, just the right size for the family with two tiny children frolicking on the sand. I felt as if I were one too many.