Today is the first day of our 26-day trip down the NSW coast to swim 59 ocean pools. We had decided to start at the top with NSW’s most northerly pools – Yamba Beach Pool and the Angourie Pools on the 3rd of January. Nature has its own plans, however. There’s currently a cyclone off the south coast of Queensland so the seas are huge, and the waves are exalting in their own power. We couldn’t brave Yamba Pool as much as we wanted to, with the water churning and the waves hitting the beachhead behind the pool.
I really, really wanted to start at Yamba as this was the first ocean pool I ever swam when I came to Australia 20 years ago. PJ and I were traveling up the coast on his motorbike to the Woodford Folk Festival and stopping wherever our noses took us. One night we ended up in Yamba and slept in the Pacific Hotel overlooking the water. We woke to the eastern sun and I looked out and saw my first ever ocean pool. Yamba is a pearl of a pool, tucked into the south side of the beach to get as much sun as possible, it’s got good access with stairs and steps and the 30m length means you can get some good laps in.
That day in Yamba, there were a group of older men and women at the pool who swam there pretty much every day. There was a vitality to the group that I put down to the daily swim. Their skin was burnished beyond brown into an aged bronze, but their eyes all twinkled. There’s a clarity in my mind about that day that I think I was hoping to repeat. However, the fact that we couldn’t go in reminded me that you can’t go backwards, you can only go forwards.
And so on to the Angourie Pools – 6km south of Yamba. I had got these pools quite wrong from all I had read about them. The Angourie Blue and Green Pools are groundwater pools right next to the ocean. The area was originally mined for bluestone and when the mining was finished the quarry filled up with ground water. These pools are a little unexpected slice of paradise. I love the work that has gone into creating the paths down to and around them. In particular, the Blue Pool (the first pool you come across) has been nicely landscaped. Volunteers have accentuated its naturally surroundings with gravel and stone paths, and some steps into the water at 3 points around the pool. There are only a few steps and then you can dive straight in because the side of the pools are sheer from the mining. The sea is still wild and crashing into the shore when we arrive, and it is interesting to be swimming in ground water which is as still as a lake, but you can feel the angry sea just 20 meters away. The water feels only slightly brackish with good visibility for a few meters. Under the water my hands seem clear, but my lower legs are yellow. There’s a cliff to jump into the water from, and a path to the left that leads to Angourie Point.
Turning right from the Blue Pool you walk along a track until you come through a clearing on your right to the Green Pool. This again was formed by mining, and is set into a sheer cliff face.
When I say I got these pools all wrong what I mean is that they aren’t ocean pools – however, there is an ocean pool at Angourie – the Angourie Beach Pool – but it is somewhat overshadowed by the unique nature of the Blue and Green Pools. It’s difficult to discern the ocean pool today because the water is so wild, but I think it’s a natural pool that has been augmented by big slabs of bluestone or basalt. I could be wrong – basalt naturally forms in geometric lines, but I can’t help but think that the miners took some of the basalt to make what was a natural pool into something bigger and more protected.
Anyway, it looks like another great pool – big and long and right in the ocean. The waves are crashing furiously over its edge, but at the far end a group of boys are taking cover under a tall basalt formation as the waves come over and cover them so they disappear under the wash and the foam.
That’s 3 incredible pools we discovered today at Angourie and we are only on day 1!