Saturday, 21 March 2015

TOD Tour, Day 39 - Yamba to Black Rocks

The stunning Black Rocks
On the move again after a week in Yamba.

We were both a little shady this morning after a 3am call to arms. After sweating ourselves to sleep four hours before, from a day that just wouldn't cool down, a southerly change, lightning to the south east and a freshening breeze woke us. The next twenty minutes were spent quietly readying  things outside the van for strong winds and potential rain. The rain stayed away, but the wind gusts rode up beyond 50km/hr around an hour later.

I eventually dropped back off to sleep around four thirty, once I was confident we had seen off the worst of the conditions.

Once sunlight appeared, the pack up went smoothly until rain arrived in a light shower, just as we were ready to drop the roof and remove the awning. Perfect timing for a wet canvas pack up!!!

After a detour to Maclean on a mercy mission to replace a broken coffee cup which Sue's sister Mandy had given us, specifically for this road trip and the obligatory Bob Dylan one more cup of coffee for the road, we pressed on north.

Our trip today wasn't a long one and we started passing the southern edges of Bundjalung NP soon after crossing the Clarence. It ranges from Iluka Bluff in the south to Evans Head in the north and takes in the long expanse of Ten Mile Beach and also Woody Head.

The Pacific Highway north of The Clarence is very pleasant driving, with a dual carriageway for long sections and regular overtaking lanes which keep my conscience clear. Whilst the Forester has little trouble towing the Avan, 90 kms/hr seemed to be the optimum speed to maximise fuel consumption for our particular combination of vehicle and hanger-on behind. It was hardly a decent conversation before we were turning off the highway fifty kilometres from Yamba and doing the final slow drive over predominantly well formed dirt road into Black Rocks Camping Ground.

Sheltered site at Black Rocks
Our destination is a camping area arranged in an elongated circuit behind the main sand dune which runs along behind a beach with a long, slow drop into the breakers. South of Black Rocks, Ten Mile Beach is a regular haunt of 4WD enthusiasts and fishermen who like to bring their vehicles down onto the sand. Access used to be possible from Black Rocks but storm erosion has destroyed the sandy passage. Individual campsites have been cut into the scrub, so a combination of the tall dune between your camp site and the ocean and the banksia and tea tree scrub, provide very sheltered camping. The wind had been fresh on the way in but there was little sign of it once we had parked and set up. 

Sitting down for lunch soon after, the rain started which would come and go throughout the afternoon and on into the evening. As a result of it and the promise of another 20-40 mls tomorrow, we also attached the annex to give us an antechamber between us and the weather.

During a mid afternoon break in the scuds of rain which swept through on regular intervals, we climbed through the dunes on one of the thick, soft sand paths provided and arrived above an amazing beachscape. Black Rocks gets it name for a long stretch of black and deep red, fine grained sedimentary layers which form exposed surfaces separating the beach from the sand dunes behind. Pied Oyster Catchers nest among the dunes and reminders are posted prominently asking visitors to stick to the paths. Very soft in geological terms the rock surfaces have been weathered into smooth, round curves, reminiscent of Henry Moore sculptures. Low beach caves, only a few metres back into the face of the rock surfaces, are attacked by the sea at high tide. Bright green algae shines of the seaward faces, even on dull, overcasts afternoons like ours.

The driftwood was picking up Sue
It was such an unexpected sight. We knew little of this place other than enthusiastic recommendations from folks in campsites on our way here in the past two weeks. Most told us no more than "you must go there" and we were glad that our first look was unimpeded by prior knowledge. The beach was unmarked, as it is washed clean by the housekeeping of the tide and with the state of the weather and the small number of occupied campsites - there are nearly fifty set out and only a few with visitors - no one had walked the beach since the last high tide. All of this creates a wonderfully ordered and pristine spectacle. Like the giant limestone cliffs of the Great Ocean Road, the effect is one of unique beauty.

We returned to our base in time for sundowners but only in our own company and then went on to dinner and books. Storms are predicted for this evening and a check of the weather radar indicates one will pass directly over us before midnight. The rain is heavier as I write and lightning is becoming bolder and more insistent to the south west but thanks to the good work of our Yamba repair man, we are snug and dry.

May it stay so.

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