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.
With thanks to Kate who provided the many pleasures of this day.
It’s a perfect winter’s day, warm in the sun but a definite chill out of it. I meet my friend at the highway turnoff near Central Tilba, and head through farmland following signs to the cemetery, two enclosures on an empty hillside. We ramble round the one nearest the sea, noting local names; the age demographics of the dead; and the devotion of descendants who mark unmarked graves after locating them with cemetery records. Then we settle on a substantial and comfortable wooden bench amongst the graves to enjoy our picnic lunch.
A sandy track leads through dune growth to the beach. A lagoon reaches out from the sand towards majestic Mother Gulaga.
We skirt the water, amongst many footprints, human, dog and bird, and head towards the low cliffs on the south end of the part of the beach we can see. The beach actually stretches for five kilometres, but the tide interferes with any plans we don’t have to walk the length of it. The beach tilts towards the water, and is quite heavy going for someone who only likes the taut sand of low tide. However, I trudge my way along, stopping for desultory conversation with my companion.
I reach the rocks, and forget the human as I and my camera converse with them, different yet again from others I’ve seen along my coastline. The cliffs are listing under the impact of past – long past – upheavals.
The rock face below the cliffs has the appearance of bulbous blocks stacked neatly – or is it rounded tesselations? – and broken occasionally by diagonal lines and mini-gardens.
In other places the rock forms tiny caves with stalactites, or elegant swathes.
Then there are the blue rocks: some with stripes, others with more regular geometric shapes.
There is also honeycombing and wandering inserts, such as I’ve seen in slightly different forms elsewhere.
I acquire delusion of grandeur and decide I’ll play the role of a seismic shift and photographically tilt the rocks. Such power!
A lone seagull with a limp takes a fancy to us and follows us back along the beach, hoping for who knows what. Out at sea a faint haze resolves itself into a whale blow, and we pause to track and capture it as it moves slowly north. The sun is speeding down the sky, cars are spilling out dogs eager for an afternoon run, and we make our way to Central Tilba (remember it, Jude?) for a cuppa. The café clocks our age, and the music changes to the Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel and Elvis.
Wallaga Lake, south of the beach we’ve just walked along, is fading to pink in the late afternoon light.
This charmed day ends with a concert hosted by the Yuin Folk Club in Cobargo. Fiona Ross, singer of Scottish folk songs, has a voice unlike any I’ve heard before, and entertains us with an account of the unremittingly lugubrious nature of the songs she sings: you meet a girl and you die, or your mother puts a curse on you, or (less direly) the girl you want marries someone else.
However it is Tony McManus the guitar player who makes my evening. He is one of those musicians who is inseparable from his instrument. The music flows as the fingers move, and when he and his steel guitar play his arrangement of Sati my enchantment reaches its peak. It doesn’t hurt that his patter is laconic and amusing, but if you follow the link and just want the music it begins at 3.20.
And so to Kate’s place, and the most comfortable bed I have ever slept in.
This is a beach that spans multiple autobiographies, and ghosts scenes from my past that are etched in my usually noncapacious memory. Here first are the snapshots in words.
It’s late afternoon. I’m coordinating a writer’s workshop for students in the Eurobodalla. The guest writer and my co-coordinators are staying in the caravan park between the beach and the entrance of the Tuross River. We are sitting around, eating and talking about the day and how we might need to change tomorrow. I’ve resisted this workshop: every time I began thinking about organising it a steel shutter came down in my mind. I could see it, and hear its clang: I couldn’t fathom why there was such resistance. Shortly after this I decide to retire.
It’s midday after heavy rain. We’re walking along the sand stretching from the Blackie’s caravan park to the outlet of the river when we see a crowd gathered. Of course we head along to sticky beak and discover a huge machine beginning to move the sand that has settled across the river mouth, raising the level of the lake and warming it to a smelly, and as far as fish are concerned death-dealing, 23°. Dolphins trapped inside are languishing. There’s quite a gathering from both sides, people we’ve known forever have walked across from the Tuross side, and old acquaintances gather on the Potato Point side. We chat, as the machine sets about its work. The people from the north are watching particularly carefully, because they need to cross back or face a very long walk home. But everyone paying close attention because we’re all there to see the dramatic moment of breach.
It’s the middle of a grey splattery-rainy day. This is the end of a morning of flood tourism. The other two members of the tour group are no longer interested and we’ve left them behind to walk home. We’ve already watched the river whirl over the bridge near J’s place and race under the bridge across the highway north of Bodalla. It’s been raining heavily for days and the Tuross is churning furiously as it empties floodwaters into the ocean. My Queensland son and I stand on the edge, watching the swirling fury, the waves coming back on themselves as river meets surf.
It’s a placid sunny day with a stiffish breeze as the eye of memory looks across the river opening to the lake and spots a sailing boat, a clumsy looking object, with a tarpaulin sail. It’s tacking and twisting, he manoeuvring, she sitting and looking apprehensive. J’s been a boatman since he was 7, I haven’t mastered nautical nonchalance, even if the lake is neither deep nor wide. But we’re skittering along and the speed becomes exhilarating,
Another day, mid afternoon. A group gathers, clustering in changing patterns. If you watch closely you’ll see that there’s an odd hybrid of familiarity and hesitation as people talk and move on. There’s a hint of the hippy in long hair and long skirts, and a sombreness that’s rare on a beach. Slowly you figure out that they’ve gathered to farewell someone. The groups fall silent and remain near a rocky outcrop while the family gathers out of sight and swirls the ashes of our friend into the water.
Places have their own histories, but they also acquire the history of people who visit. These are my ghosts, my remnants, my shadows, traces of my past. These are the shards of memory I take to One Tree Beach at daybreak.
As you might expect, if you visit this blog often, I spend an inordinate amount of time doting on rockface. This morning is no exception, although the stranded tree and the possibilities of silhouette also draw me, as does the encroaching golden light.
Once I’ve had my fill of the shady end, I head off into the morning light towards the mouth of the river, and sit on a log watching a woman far more daring than I clamber along the headland which will give her a view uninvaded by caravan parks.
Then I do my own tamer version of scramble and cross the piles of driftwood to explore a rocky outcrop.
The patterning of rock here is astonishingly diverse so I employ a modification of “every 20 steps a photograph” called “every step a photograph.” I can’t even limit myself to one every step. Fortunately the outcrop is not very large.
I stand in front of the lifebuoy (ring buoy, lifering, lifesaver, life donut, life preserver, lifebelt, kisby ring, perry buoy) and take in the view: out over a benign-looking sea to a low bank of cloud, and south towards the Potato Point headland.
As I walk back along the beach I feel a presence behind me, keeping pace. I’m briefly fanciful and imagine it’s ghosts from the past, but in fact it’s my inordinately long shadow.
One Tree Beach is at the mouth of the Tuross River in the township of Tuross Heads, north of Potato Point. Take the turnoff from the highway south of Moruya, and turn left when you reach a T intersection. The road takes you along the waterfront until you reach a car park marked by a single small pine: someone killed the grand pine and this one replaced it. There is a picnic area and a lookout and ramp access to the beach.