After the delicious lunch at the V-Wall Tavern (thank you Pat!), we decided to go for a little walk along the groyne and yet again found that all the rocks had been painted by budding
artists. Pat told us that there is a competition and prize each year for the best one and some of them were certainly beautiful. Barry stayed near the car, looking out to sea, because he can not walk far, but Pat and I set off, talking even faster than before. Maybe refreshed by the food and wine. We just set an idling pace; catching up was far more important than the scenery or the exercise, and the cameraman followed behind. Poor David has never said so few words in his life. When we got to the
end of the groyne Pat and I posed for photos so David felt that his presence was worthwhile. By the time we returned to Barry we’d been gone for almost an hour! He showed us where there was a porpoise playing with the swimmers and we enjoyed watching that for a while before getting back into the car.
Barry stopped off back in Macksville for a few minutes and then they took us up the road a little and turned into a side street. Well the big dipper at the fairground has nothing on this road, it just fell out from under us; all we could see was the bonnet of the car and a hill coming up from nowhere in the distance. They had deliberately gone that way to show it to us because we had talked of how hilly NSW was and this one was certainly something to see. Looking at Perth with fresh eyes on our return, as you do when you’ve been away, I can describe Perth not as flat, because it isn’t, but as sloping. We have plenty of slopes to make the suburbs interesting rather than dead flat, but very few hills really and those we do have are rarely steep, except for the escarpment running north-south on the outskirts of the suburbs.
As we got back to the caravan to be dropped off Barry asked if we were doing anything this evening and we told him no, so they invited us to go back to their place for dinner as well. Were we spoiled on this holiday or what? We thanked them both and made arrangements that they would pick us up again in about 1½ hours. We pottered around a bit and found the dear little bottle shop, to get a beer to take with us and were soon picked up again. Pat and Barry were excellent hosts, plying us with drinks, and it was just so relaxing and wonderful to be able to spend time with friends and feel so at home. It was so good to be able to see the things Pat had told me about on email, her little water feature that she made herself and the verandah where she loves to sit, her lovely garden with the sub-tropical plants in it. Barry had cooked a chicken curry for us and it was absolutely delicious. And of course, the talk continued as before. It’s amazing how many words can be used in such a short time, but we had so much to cram in. All too soon it was time to go back to the van and sleep.
Sun 29th In the morning we went for a walk over the teensy sand hill at the back of our van to the beach to have a look around. We were in a small bay with the waves rolling in, some surfers swimming out with their boards, and the local surf life saving team practicing in their boat. It was a lovely spot and we walked along to the right where there was a hill with a small lookout built on it. We climbed the steps and this showed how the ocean actually came in from an angle on the right and the waves in the bay were much smaller than the ocean ones. The bay would be a wonderfully safe place to swim I would imagine, but we’re not swimmers (we can, but rarely do) so kept our feet dry. Instead we climbed further up the path on the hill to yet a higher vantage point. The view was incredible and so lovely.
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But it was time to go back to the van, unplug the power, turn off the gas and pop in to say goodbye to Pat. David was very clever and managed to take us up to a couple of the high roads to look out once more on the views that Pat had shown us from her car the day before and then find her street for us to say goodbye. We exchanged lots of hugs with Pat and handshakes with Barry and then drove away, waving until we were out of sight. It is sad that our holiday was so short and we could not have spent more time with them, but I will always be grateful that we did get to meet. And for all Pat’s hesitance to share photos of herself, she’s a pretty little thing, and much younger than I’d expected.
We went back the way Pat and Barry had taken us the day before to get to the highway, and on to Macksville again where we did not stop but instead turned inland to go to Bellingen. Pat had told me when I was planning the trip that this was a pretty little place so off we went to see for ourselves. It was 30kms from Macksville to Bellingen so we soon got there and saw a small town in pretty, rural surroundings. There was a café on the far side of the village which was packed out, so remembering our lesson from the Sydney bacon and eggs, we thought we’d try their wares. I think it was called The Gallery or something like that and was perhaps a converted art gallery. They were certainly doing a roaring trade and we ordered coffee and a berry cheesecake, both of which were very nice. All the smaller tables were occupied so we sat at a massive table that was covered in magazines and newspapers. It would have comfortably seated 20 people. We had gone onto the balcony originally, and where we’d walked into the place from ground level, the balcony was about 3 floors high; the ground just dropped away so steeply! But there were lots of smokers out there so we came back indoors. David used their bathroom before we left there and he said that as you come out of the loo you are greeted by a full length window looking out on a sheer drop to the ground beneath. Glad I didn’t go! The other interesting thing about the café was the biggest mirror I have ever seen; must have been 6’ wide and 3’ high, and not sitting safely on the floor, no no no! It was suspended on an angle above the poor staff’s heads! ‘Struth. Get hit by that and you’d be knocked through the wooden floor for a 3 floor drop just to make sure you’re really a gonner! I decided that I liked working for Directory Assistance – the worst that could happen to me is being sworn at.
From here we continued on to go and see Dorrigo. The terrain became very mountainous with steep climbs, very sharp corners and sheer drops for the people coming towards us. There was thick bush all around; trees and climbers, and it was all so very, very green. We came upon a lay-by and pulled into it. The attraction here for David was a forlorn lady with an old car with its bonnet up. She reckoned it had boiled over, but with the thin
cheesecloth dress stuck in places it would not have been if she’d been wearing certain undergarments, and other men besides David swarming all over her… well who knows? Her children had shimmied through the safety fence and were descending a dizzying drop to a river well below the pictured bridge to fill up the bottle she carried for such occasions. (David will tell me off when he reads this bit, hehehe. He believed that she needed help you see.)
The attraction here for me was an incredible waterfall which was on the left of the road we were about to drive along. It was falling down a rocky, steep cliff, so it did lots of tumbling, not just a steady drop. It then went under a little bridge that carried the road and poured out much lower down to where the lady’s children had gone. There were signs up saying that you weren’t allowed to walk on the bridge. This was no surprise as it was only just 2 cars in width, but what a shame that there wasn’t a better angle to view the fall from. When we got back in the van to drive, David went slowly so I could take a picture, and it was only then that I realised how very high the fall was – about double what I had expected and could see from the lay by. Unfortunately another car had followed us out of the lay by so he couldn’t stop long enough for me to take a photo of the higher part of it.
The road continued, higher and higher, steeper and steeper until I imagined that Dorrigo must be a teensy huddle of houses perched on the absolute pinnacle of this mountain.
The road got even steeper with even tighter turns, but suddenly we were at the top and fields stretched out before us. This was a huge shock as I was just expecting a little mountain peak with a few houses, a lookout spot, and a road onwards down the other side. Quickly there was a signpost for a lookout which said 3kms or some similar distance so we thought as we’d climbed this high we may as well have a look so we took the little side road. We passed a few small farms along the way and then reached the car park that was the end of the road. I threatened David with things worse than death if he parked the van too close to the edge but he was very good. And another shock… there were cows grazing in a field the other side of the fence. It was indeed quite a steep hill, but though David said he expected it, the cows did not fall over sideways and roll down the hill. I spent a lot of time going potty over the cows and telling them how beautiful they were while David filmed the view. I worked on a dairy farm in England before school and have a big soft spot for cows. Such gentle creatures!
Now the view WAS impressive indeed and we could see myriad other mountain peaks in
the distance and yet could almost see forever. It was as green as green everywhere the eye could see and very beautiful. The view stretched more than 180° with mountains in every direction. But we could not stay up there for ever and pressed onwards, back down this little road to the main one and on to Dorrigo.
Dorrigo was not much further on, but we passed plenty of fields and some houses before we got there. I was still shocked at all this land and space up there. Dorrigo wasn’t a bad size as country towns go either and we decided to stop off at the little tourist information place. There was a lovely chap in there with all the time in the world for us who told us about the Dorrigo Falls which were coming up soon and that we could walk about 500m to the bottom of them, if we wished, down a pathway. He seemed to be eyeing us up as he said this to see if he thought we could make it, which I found funny because we were a good 20 years younger than him. David asked if Megan (the next teensy place on the map) had a shop because we were wanting to buy a postcard with ‘Megan’ on it for Dan’s fiancée Megan. But the fellow said no. We hopped back into the van and continued the short distance towards the falls.
The first thing we saw, and if memory serves me correctly it was before the falls, was the
Dorrigo Sewage Treatment Plant. “Very nice too and why is she telling me this?” I hear you cry. Well right inside the gate was a large wooden structure supporting a ceramic toilet on the top and 3 on each side on individual ‘branches’, all with flowers planted in them, and a sign which said ‘Lavatree’. Very funny, but if that wasn’t bad enough, the big sign at the gate said ‘Bleak’s Turdle Farm’. Oh dear. I did laugh. And yes of course I did take photos.
Not much further we got to the parking area for the falls and it was only a very short walk to the lookout. The lookout was a small platform which would have held about 6 people I suppose, but I would not have been one of them, I don’t share things that are supporting my weight over a great chasm. We waited for the
previous family to come away before going on to it and David went to the end with strict instructions not to lean against the rail if he wanted any sleep that night. (I seem to remember these things as I’m falling asleep but picture him falling and it makes me jump violently.) I did manage to walk part way onto the platform but used the excuse that the top rail was my eye height and blocking the view and sat down on it, feeling much safer on my bottom than my feet. I was very brave and reached my hands through the railings with the camera to get my shots though. I’m hopeless at guessing heights but the falls were quite impressive, maybe 25metres high for a guestimate, and about 10 metres wide.
And I wondered where on earth the water came from considering we were not far off level with the very top of the mountain. I hoped it wasn’t supplemented by the turdle farm, put it that way!
We decided to find the path to the bottom and tried to the right of the lookout but that only led down to a level with the top of the falls. I was in heaven down this path though, there was honeysuckle. I could not believe my nose, which is what picked it up first, I do so love honeysuckle and have not come across any in Perth. [Note written in 2010, I now own one and love it!!!] There were quite a few plants and I couldn’t pass one without having another sniff. Poor David, at least I didn’t photograph it as I did with a heap of other plants that I saw. He reckons I should have been a botanist, particularly when I commented on some leaves being thick so that the sun wouldn’t dry the moisture out of them. Anyway, this was not the path to the bottom so we went back to the lookout and continued on the pathway past it, which soon dwindled away to nothing. We decided to carry on anyway because it certainly hadn’t been in the other direction so must be in this direction, and were soon rewarded when there was a break in the trees and a path disappeared back the way we had come and was dropping quite steeply. The bush around was as green and thick as ever and as we got lower and lower there was some really lush mossy kind of growth on the tree barks, some of which had long thick ‘leaves’
anything up to an inch in length. I tried to take a photo without David seeing, but he caught me. Eventually we came to a little flat spot where we could look through the few remaining trees to the foot of the waterfall, and also, far above our heads to the lookout platform. David decided that if we had gone this far we may as well see if we could get down the last little bit and found some rocks to climb down, some bushes to push through, and some puddles to avoid, and then we stood at the base of the falls with nothing but the pool between us and them. I could so have dived in and taken a swim but we weren’t sure if anything lived in the waters so decided on safety. It was very humid down there, we’d felt it increasing as we’d dropped lower, so a dip would have been nice, but… Yes, we’re chicken. The path back up was steep of course, but we’d done so much walking and hill climbing and stair climbing on this holiday that it wasn’t a problem.
As we got back to the car park there was a guy getting out of another campervan and David said to him “I like your travelling companion”. He had a cockatoo in a cage hanging just behind the drivers seat in the centre of the van. I think the guy said that it nagged less than some travelling partners he’s had, but that was to David and I’m not sure I caught it properly. David asked if he was familiar with the area and whether the road to Megan was a wise choice or not. Pat had told us not to go this way but admitted it was a very long time since she’d been this way so we thought we’d ask. He said that he intended to go that way himself, and had before, but not to take the short route because that was not suitable for long vehicles and was full of blind bends and was horrific. He told us that the longer route was OK, unsealed, but used by logging trucks and fine to take, so we thanked him and sat in the van for a while to toss up. The unknown, with Pat’s warning but this stranger’s OK, or back down the mountain, this time on the ‘falling off the cliff’ side. It was unanimous, neither of us fancied the mountain.
Megan was about 8kms away and no, there was not a shop, in fact apart from the sign which I took a photo of for our Megan, there were about 3 houses and that was it. So far the road was no worse than any we’d seen before, but we did laugh at one point. There was a white X sign for a railway crossing and it said to cross with care, so David slowed down and looked left and right to see only farm fences. I was looking forward and the tracks had been filled with bitumen, the jolly thing hadn’t been used as a railway in donkey’s years, why on earth hadn’t they removed the signs? We crossed this 3 times all up and I said to David that we’d better not become complacent or we’d get wiped out on the last one that was real.
At some stage during this we came to the road where we had to choose the ‘longer road’. It quickly became unsealed, though it wasn’t gravel as we know it, David described it as almost like bitumen that has been dug up and left in bits, but it was dusty and we left a cloud trail far behind us that would have taken a long time to settle. It was not pretty country really; still full of trees except for a couple of felled areas which only served to remind me that a truck may come the other way round one of the narrow corners, but it was not very hilly at all. Just boring with a capital B. I think we did 30 kms on this rough road with pots and pans and cutlery bouncing around and making a racket in the cupboards, and me feeling guilty to be treating a hire vehicle this way. We’d have taken our own vehicle that way too, but even so… Even on this awful road in the back of nowhere
there were occasional houses and to our horror a slow speed area for a school zone. We could just imagine the poor teacher’s face that got posted there as they drove down the road to find their new school. Pitsville plus. I’d have turned around and never arrived if it had been me. There was one short tarmac stretch over a little bridge, but then back to the rough surface again. Just as I thought I could stand it no longer we got back to a proper road which widened quickly, and I’m glad to report we did not meet a logging truck. It is only now as I write this that I realise it was a Sunday and we probably wouldn’t have done – wish I’d have thought of that at the time as I was on edge the whole journey for fear of one hurtling around the corner and smacking into us.
Now a couple of small towns, and suddenly a banana plantation planted on the side of a really steep hill. I got all excited about this. Tropical heaven, and I began dreaming of mangoes. Before long we reached Coffs Harbour. We sure had gone a long way around but I’d dearly wanted to see Bellingen and Dorrigo and we’re glad we did. We had trouble parking in Coffs, as a lot of other places. This time it wasn’t the height causing the problem but the length. In many of the country towns the parking in the hugely wide town centre streets is marked as 45° angle parking, nose to kerb (or rear to kerb in some places). Coffs was no exception but we were too long and hung out into the road so had to drive around until we were fortunate enough to find 2 nose-to-tail bays in the main shopping street. We filled them both! If it had not been Sunday we’d have been in for a long walk I suspect, but we were lucky. It was one hour parking and I wondered if we only got ½ hour because of using 2 bays but David thought it entitled us to 2 hours. I guess a psychologist would have a ball with that! I can actually see the horrible truth myself.
We wandered down the street in the wonderful warmth, just soaked it up. The weather was improving each day as we headed north and the number of butterflies we saw increased too. There were cafes that were open but all the shops were shut. That’s fine, I’m not a shopper, I just enjoy wandering around shopping centres, looking but not buying. We decided on Subway for our lunch and sat at an outdoor table watching the trucks cross the traffic lights a few metres away, right to left, not coming past us. There were amazing numbers of them and I pitied them as I would hate to drive long distances for a living. They were probably mostly out of Brisbane and headed for the rest of the country, a daunting thought. David knows an ex-bus driver who is now a trucker that does Brisbane to Perth – 5,200 kms (3,200 miles). I would be bored beyond tears. Anyway that’s not our holiday.
After lunch we wandered back along the street to the van and decided to drive to the coast to see what Coffs Harbour’s beach looked like. No surprises, but it’s a harbour, and a big
one!!! It was set up with lots of fishing boats and facilities for loading and unloading as well as the docks for pleasure craft. We walked along the harbour wall for a distance to have a look and get a feel for the place. It was a popular spot and there were places to eat as well. Very pleasant indeed. We didn’t stay very long though and made our way back to the van and onwards to try to get to a caravan park before the office shut for a change.
This time we just drove. There were a few tiny places but none that meant anything to me as far as work is concerned so we just kept going for the 80kms to Grafton where we’d
decided to spend the night. The first thing that struck me about Grafton was the street lights which I found amusing; there were two poles, one each side of the road with a wire strung between the two and the light was suspended from the wire. It looked as if you’d be able to push it left to right if you chose.
But we found the caravan park, Gateway Village by name, and I have never seen anything like it in my entire life. The grounds were beyond immaculate with the most beautiful gardens you could imagine. I have seen botanic gardens that could learn a thing or two from this place!! There was a lily pond in the middle and the prettiest flowers and palms all around. The vans were really well spread from one another, separated by little garden beds. And the ablution block was something else. It was absolutely spotless, with clean, dry
shower curtains in each cubicle so your clothes didn’t get wet when you showered. It was the only caravan park where I did not keep my thongs on to shower (shoe thongs [flip flops/ jandals] for anyone getting the wrong idea!). Our washing had been mounting up and we decided to get it done here because of the cleanliness of everything so we gathered it all up and went to the laundry. Then we had to go to the site office to see if they sold washing powder because there was no dispenser in the laundry, but they only sold it by the box, never mind. We scraped up the right money and back to the laundry. Guess what? No change for the machine, so back to the site office once more to get change. Ggrrrrr. Got it done without any more dramas though and hung it out, 3 items to a peg because that’s all the pegs we had, and decided on a swim in the pool. We had the pool entirely to ourselves and after a bit of a slow entry (cool) we had a lovely swim to finish our evening.
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