Here & Now with S Sorrensen

Broadwater Beach. 
Sunday, 6.10pm:

Anger is a funny thing.

I don't know if the wind blowing off the ocean is whipping it up or what, but my anger is building like the black storm I can see hanging over Evans Head.

Along the beach are coffee rock formations. Coffee rock is a distinctive feature of Broadwater Beach. It's a brown, fairly soft rock formed a long time ago by organic matter from the local lagoons gluing together particles of sand. Shaped by the wind and waves, it's smooth and sinuous, almost sexy, lying on the beach. The Bundjalung people reckon the rock is a female spirit called Gaungun. Apparently she flew in from Woodenbong.

I'm standing on a coffee rock formation now. She's impervious to my walking on her but vulnerable to other things…

At my feet are two huge grooves cut into the rock, about 400mm deep. They've been freshly dug by the spinning wheels of a 4WD. The spray of ground coffee rock spreads in two dark fans across the white sand. My friend takes a photo with his phone.

These desecrations make my anger flare.

(But I have to say the anger was there to start with. I brought it with me to the beach hoping it may fly off on a zephyr of salty air, or be sucked into the dark depths by the evening tide, or perhaps drown in the waves that slap against the coffee rock. But no, it didn't.)

I follow a trail of destruction across the rocks.

Big tyres have crushed gnarly tread imprints into the rock. The tyre tracks lead over the rock to the dune behind, which for 60,000 years has stood there, a barrier between beach and heath. The tracks tell the story: the 4WD has attempted to climb the dune and not succeeded of course; the dune is nearly vertical. The vehicle has slipped back down onto the rock, bringing down an avalanche of sand. Then, crushing a rock pool under those huge tyres, it has spun off for more destructive fun.

Bloody vandals.

It's obvious that as a society we have lost the vital connection with the non-cyber world around us. We've lost our instinctive respect for the nature. Sadly, we need signs - "Don't wreck stuff." Somehow now, it's okay to trash the beach, poison the ocean, and foul the air. How weird. Still, it's what our so-called leaders do.

A glint of sunlight indicates movement down the beach. Three 4WDs are returning, their journey southwards halted by the rising tide.

One of them with Queensland plates bounces by, crushing and cracking all below it. I recognise those oversize tyres from the tread marks etched in the rock. The passenger, an older woman with large sunglasses and a cap pulled low over her face, waves at me, smiling.

Smiling?! As she wrecks the joint? I glare at her. The old bloke behind the wheel glares back at me.

My friend aims his camera at the 4WD and shoots. The 4WD skids to a halt.

Now we're all angry.

(I'm angry because something I cherished, something soft and delicate like this coffee rock, is crushed. A relationship is fragile and precious. I'm angry at myself because it got trashed... but I don't want to talk about it.)

The woman bursts from the car and stomps towards us.

"What are you doing?" she screams. "Give me that camera!"

"No. What are you doing vandalising this beach?"

"We've worked all our lives to be able to do this," the woman spits.

In that moment, caught off-guard by her strange explanation, I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

I laugh.

Later, I'll cry.


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