Thursday 13th March 2014, 287klms / 180 miles:
We said goodbye to our friends at Harrington, and headed north. On a previous road trip, here, we had travelled through the Crowdy Head National Park bound for Port Macquarie. This time we chose the faster route, the Pacific Highway, and pushed on to explore the coastal villages further along. We decided against turning into each one, as the reality is that one needs to drive in and out on the same road, and that takes time. So we missed going to South West Rocks, which is a bit of a pity as it is home to Trial Bay Gaol which was built in 1886 as a prison and was also used as a World War I internment camp. Today it is a picturesque ruin surrounded by dramatic coastal rock and beach scenery (no photo – imagine a stone-built sprawling fortress-like thing).
However, once we reached the turn-off to Stuarts Point, (note the dodgy photograph taken through the car window) we were able to follow a tourist loop that allowed us to easily detour to sleepy coastal retreats such as Grassy Head, and then on to the slightly larger town of Scotts Head (pop. < 1000).
Bill has memories of surfing at Scotts Head decades ago. The township is popular for family holidays, dolphin watching, and it is on the whale migratory route. They also have a couple of interesting display boards recounting the Aboriginal legends of how the headlands were formed. The rugged heads and sandy coastline looked spectacular in the bright sunshine. Harking back to the gaol some kilometres back down the coastline, one can imagine that – if you had to be stuck in a gaol – there are worse locations.
The Mid North Coast is littered with such beautiful retreats and holiday places, although you cannot see them as you continue along the Pacific Highway. You do cross a number of rivers, with some interesting bridges, which we failed to photograph, doh! The surrounding vegetation began to hint of tropical weather, we saw one small banana plantation for example, with the wide lush distinctive leaves. After another hour of driving, we turned on to the Waterfall Way and headed inland towards Bellingen.
Bellingen is nestled in the lush, green Bellinger Valley, close to the coast, and yet close also to the rainforest of the Dorrigo Plateau. Many artistic people moved here to enjoy a laid-back and creative life-style. Our first stop was at the Old Butter Factory, now occupied by a cluster of arts, crafts and souvenir shops. Pottery, painting and leather work for example, and if you are looking for kaftans in bright, tropical colours, this is your place. There were various sculptures and ‘artistic’ old machinery scattered in the grounds, under the palm trees.
Further on, the main street of Bellingen is worth allocating an hour to explore, with lots of historic buildings and eclectic goods. I was taken with the Yellow Shed, which contained a profusion of curios, books, games, crystals, and new age offerings. I shouldn’t say ‘profusion’ because everything was very logically segregated. I invested in an origami kit and a children’s colouring-in book based on Joan Miro’s artwork. Now you don’t find that every day.
We jumped back in the car to continue along the Waterfall Way, a stretch of road that covers some two hundred kilometres from the coast to the New England region, passing through rainforest, waterfalls, national parks, gorges and farming tablelands.
The first “waterfall” we passed, was nothing more than a bypass channel for water overflowing the road, but at that point, we were not yet tipped off to just how dry the country is at the moment. The bushland looked lush enough, as you see from the panorama shot:
Ten minutes before Dorrigo, we turned off to Griffiths Lookout, to the aptly named Mountain Top. These photographs were taken about 4.30pm on a clear day. Although you cannot see it here, by standing at the correct angle, the coastline could just be made our on the left hand side of the panorama.
A few minutes on the other side of Dorrigo, and we had easy access to a viewing platform for the Dangar Falls. The day was getting on, (as you can note from too much light in the lens) so we passed on the option of the walking track to the bottom of the falls. Even at this point, it did not register with us how little water was in the feeder river, even though the rocks are clearly visible.
We ate at the historic Hotel Dorrigo, which also offers accommodation (on the left in below photo – we did not stay there), and then took a stroll around town. The tourist brochure says it is “a rural town dripping with character”, and it is that, but on this night, it was also very, very quiet on the streets. Right in the centre of town is a magnificent war memorial and we had several goes at capturing a decent photograph. The floodlights played havoc with our little snap and shoot camera, so it was lucky that we had captured one just after dusk. We also spotted an interesting wall mural mosaic. AND, I think you have to be impressed with a butcher shop who can name which farm the beef came from – wouldn’t you agree?
On the topic of photos, I have to say that Bill has become fascinated with my blogging adventure – so many of the shots are his.