Post 13 of a series detailing our Australian adventure. Access the full series here.
We’re about halfway into our trip and I feel happier and more carefree than I can remember feeling ever before. It just struck me as we were driving back from Dorrigo National Park toward Coffs Harbour that I’ve now been ‘on holiday’ for longer than ever before, and let me tell you, it feels amazing! I feel so far distant from my normal life, and especially work, that it’s as if the final care has been lifted from my shoulders and I feel so lightweight and free.
Losing ourselves in a subtropical rainforest earlier probably aided that feeling of removal from the world as well.
We began today in a small campsite at the edge of Port Macquarie, with a rough-and-ready breakfast of bread buns toasted over our campervan’s portable gas ring and slathered in melted butter, washed down with the rest of the orange juice from yesterday’s lunch. We then set off on the two-hour drive to Dorrigo National Park, basically a visitor centre buried within the Gondwana rainforests.
The final leg of the journey, driving up Waterfall Way, was stunning! But not without being a little nerve-wracking. It was a thin, winding and rather steep road up the side of a hill, overlooking a verdant gorge backed by misty mountains. ‘CAUTION: FALLING ROCKS’ signs abounded. The fuel gauge on our camper showed its discontent by sliding down to almost empty as we climbed the hill. Panicking, we turned around to revisit to a petrol station we’d passed 4km ago – only to see the petrol gauge go back up again as we went downhill. We filled up again regardless (both the camper and ourselves – we couldn’t wait any longer to eat our packed lunch) and continued on our way back up.
Having made it to the rainforest centre we made a beeline for the Skyway: a boardwalk leading to a lookout point far above the rainforest and looking out toward the mist-shrouded mountains beyond. It was a beautiful sight, but dizzying to look down from! There was a square post on the platform that you could screw a camera onto for set-up photos. Great idea!
We then went to the cafe for some sustenance – tea for me and a chocolate milkshake for Steve – and afterward began our walk down the Lyrebird Link walkway. Almost immediately we spotted a big kookaburra in a tree, laughing away! But no Lyrebirds unfortunately.
As we descended further into the forest, the vegetation became denser, the bugs more numerous and the bird calls more various. There were areas where the bright sunlight made every leaf shine and some areas almost dark, so dense was the coverage of the canopy, but most of the path was beautifully dappled. Every corner held a new surprise – whether a gravity-defying tree trunk, a tangle of twisted vines or a bush of leaves covered in long spikes. The bird calls were bizarre: our favourites sounded like the charging and firing of a laser gun, and the crying of a half-cat, half-baby. We were alone in the rainforest for 95% of the time – just us, the rustling of plants and a cacophony of noises made by exotic creatures. It felt incredible.
Initially we planned to walk just as far as the bird walk (another suspended walkway) and back, but once we’d reached the end of that the lure of the Crystal Showers Waterfall drew us further in.
This waterfall looked spectacular, both from the bridge suspended above and the rocks below, to which we clambered down. Enchanted by the verdant wonderland enveloping us, we decided we may as well continue onto the other falls and round the entire circular route of several kilometres. It meant that we did quite a lot more walking (most of it uphill!) than intended and got back to the visitors centre after it had closed; but we had no regrets!
So it was then back onto the road, where this blog post began. We drove to our Coffs Harbour-based stop-off for the night – Park Beach Tourist Park – and once parked, gathered our swimming costumes and ran down to the beach just across the road. When we got there, however, it was rather windy and cold. This discouraged me, but not Steve. He put a blanket down on the sand, weighed it down with shoes and put his things on it; everything was covered in sand within seconds. I filmed him as he ran into the sea, waded for a bit and then walked back. It was too cold and rough even for him!
Both hungry now, we walked up and down the street looking for restaurants but couldn’t find anything. Eventually we gave in to using TripAdvisor and calling a taxi to take us somewhere with restaurants. We ended up having a very nice meal at a Thai restaurant on Harbour Drive called Taruah. A good Pad Thai and Sauvignon Blanc finished the day off nicely, before getting a taxi back to the campsite and washing all the sand off before bed!
All photos (c) Juliet Langton.