To celebrate my 74th birthday I found myself driving north of Batemans Bay along a dirt road through tall trees. The plan was to visit one – maybe two – of the beaches at the far end of the shire in Murramarang National Park.
I canvassed the idea of camping, but the thought of assembling everything, packing, unpacking, packing and unpacking, turned me off, as did my age-related timidity. I had a brief moment of regret when I saw the North Head camping area, a number of residents, but not too many, pitched or parked on spacious sites amongst trees.
The beach at the end of the road is in shadow to the north and the breeze is cool, comfortably T-shirt cool. The other end is fixed under an uninviting glare, although it’s still quite early. I opt for the shade. This is what I see as I follow the wooden steps down to the sand and look south.
But I’ve chosen to head north. I’m greeted by rock art, a headland of whorls and colours and tumbles leading across a platform that takes my eye far south to the dim shape of Gulaga.
There are great slabs of patterned rockface.
I photograph insanely and return home with 290 images: mostly irresistible close-ups of rock patterns.
… beautifully placed shells …
… scatterings of pebbles …
… assemblages of a wide variety of rocks …
… and portraits of individuals.
When I’ve had my fill of the glories of the shady northern end, I walk along the sand in front of dunes protecting a creek that doesn’t quite make it to the sea.
I have no idea which beach I’m on – the usual shire signage is missing – so I waylay a young beach-hiker wearing a neat backpack, a beanie and fingerless gloves and ask if he knows where I am. I am on North Head Beach. He strides purposefully towards the headland to the south, and I follow at a slower pace.
A sheen of slatey blue covers the distant sand, resolving into shingles and pebbles as I move closer. I find a comfortable perch and look along the coves spreading south, and down into a pool full of rounded rocks, feeling the delight of warm breeze on bare arms. It’s hard to realise that the sprawl of Batemans Bay is just around the corner. As the sun bites into me, I suddenly remember I haven’t sunscreened so I plod up the dunes to the staircase and back to the car.
Two days later
I’ve never been much good at seduction but when I show J photos of our grandchildren to J, he catches a glimpse of North Head Beach. “We’ve got to go there” he says.
So we do, on my real birthday. The camping area is perfect-weekend-in-spring full, and we copy a couple who are already breakfasting on the beach: for us, a pasta and salad picnic, washed down by half a can of beer.
Then we head to the south end of the beach. Emboldened by company, I am more than happy to scramble around the headland, past the rock where I’d so recently sat and gazed down into the pool of rounded stones, and on into the series of coves.
The fineish yellow sand with a wash of slate gives way to larger black shingles. The rock walls are strikingly patterned, a gallery of rockface art.
The rock platform stretches out to the sea with its patterned ridges and rock-pools swathed with the yellow-green of Neptune’s necklace.
For once, there are similarities between two ends of a beach.