Road Trip Australia: Bellingen and Dorrigo
It had been an especially difficult twelve days for me, and it was with great relief that I greeted Friday, and subsequently fell into the slumber that welcomed the weekend.
I had planned a trip with my pharmacist friend, C, and her partner, W. It was the weekend where the markets were going to be on in Bellingen, and then we would take a look at the stunning rainforests of Dorrigo, a World Heritage area.
And so we piled into W’s Subaru Forrester, which he had just purchased having lost his old second hand BMW. He had done this driving one night on the roads leaving CH, when a kangaroo jumped out of absolutely nowhere, and he had slammed on the brakes, causing his car to swerve and skid, the car coming to a complete stop only when it smashed into an electric pole, taking out the electricity of the entire CH with it for six hours.
But the Subaru was a beautiful car, replete with sunroof just made for a day like today. The sun had decided to come out in full force, brightening the skies to a vivid blue, spotted only by the few wispy clouds that had decided to work the weekend. Everything else was just more vibrant in the cheerful sun – the grass were especially green and the waters gleefully danced with the rays in the soft Saturday breeze.
For the first time in a long time since I obtained my drivers’ licence, I was able to sit at the back of someone’s car. A day like today transported me back to my childhood days and all the long family trips we would take – Mum and Dad and three kids in tow – I felt like I was a nine year old boy again, eyes wide open with my mouth slightly agape inhaling all the sights that flew by us at a hundred kilometres an hour.
It was a day so beautiful it was almost obscene.
Mere words cannot explain how in love I am with nature on a day like this, watching it once more through the eyes of a child.
When it comes to nature, I lose all my adult practicalities, and marvel instead – to see trees and not see lumber, to see land and not to want to own it, to marvel at the stars and galaxy and not feel the need to conquer it. To just stare in reverence, awe and whispered thankfulness.
We drove past some really small towns on the way to Bellingen, and passed some acres of farmland. It is at this point that I comment to C and W that in my next life, I have decided that I would be reincarnated as a cow. I watched them with great envy, sitting there grazing grass lazily in the Saturday morning sun as if they had worked hard all week to deserve it, when the truth of the matter was, to a cow, everyday is Saturday.
But then you would have to be slaughtered in the end, protested C.
Looking at those cows right there, I thought to myself – is that really such a bad thing? If you could spend a lifetime of incomparable daily bliss and contentment, knowing perhaps that your ultimate destiny is in the abbatoir or on someone’s plate, wouldn’t you feel completely calm and accepting of your fate? I know I would.
W pressed a button to pull the sunroof away, and suddenly the fresh air came rushing in, bringing with it the musky smell of cow manure. I asked them if I could stand up, and C laughed , saying I should do the whole Titanic thing.
W laughed along and then I decided I would. I stood up in my seat and poked up half my body through the sunroof and for three glorious seconds felt the hundred kilometre winds and sunshine on my skin.
W and C told me to sit down, and their hushed admonishing tones suggested that it wasn’t all that funny in the end to them. Humans are such contradictory creatures sometimes!
And so we arrived in the town of Bellingen, a wonderful hippy-esque town which has sprung up in the middle of nowhere, and thrived.
There were cars parked for miles around, mostly tourists here for the weekend market.
Our first stop was a quaint little shop ingeniously called the Yellow Shed – a gaudy yellow warehouse-converted-into-a-shophouse place which sold oddities and a mish-mash of antique collectibles, crystal decorations, pet lover paraphernalia, jazz CD, aromatic candles and books on New Age religions. It was like Hippie Heaven, yeah.
I bought myself a few CDs (Peace out, dude.) and was almost tempted to buy a cat lovers’ book when I realised that I was actually looking more for a cat recipe book.
(I love cats. They taste like chicken).
We sauntered along the whole town, and C really wanted to see the local pharmacy, because she heard that it was really pretty – like it had stained glasses and all. It was a really pretty pharmacy, in fact, but the thing I like the most was the old style word “Druggist” sketched into the colored glass.
Druggist. How apt. Like a drug pusher. My own local drug pusher. So much more personal than the term pharmacist, don’t you think?
We wandered around a little more and found the biggest shop in town – The H and W – which had served the town for a hundred years. It was one of those wonderful shops with a ceiling as high as a cathedral, and a mezzanine floor (fancy way of not saying first floor). They were selling clothes and apparel on the ground floor, and – you guessed it – junk and antique collectibles on the second floor.
There were so many interesting things up on the mezzanine floor that I could barely begin to describe it – old wooden closets and treasure chests, the swinging incense chandeliers and Indian cushions, Thai Buddhist idols and doorknobs.
Yes, you heard right, there were doorknobs. Not just one, not just one hundred, but trays full of them. In case you woke up one morning, you know, and misplaced your bedroom doorknob. In which case you wouldn’t be able to leave the room anyway to buy your doorknob. (The marketing team of these doorknobs need to rethink their sales strategy).
Having wandered through a few more quirky shops and bohemian restaurants, we finally chanced upon a nice bakery to try and quell our complaining tummies. It was a marvellous find – C and I agreed that we have never had pastry so fresh and good before. My coconut slice with its adjuvant fresh fruits was life-changing.
We wandered through the Bellingen markets and it was a beautiful day out for the family as fathers and mothers and little children trawled through the many food, jewellery, plant and health food stalls available. There were even tarot card readers who would sit and talk to you with “No time limit for $25.”
After one and a half hours of trudging through the hula hoop dancers (Spot the Pothead, as W pointed out) and me being refused a ride on the ponies there, we finally made our way out of the Bellingen Markets.
Our next destination was Dorrigo, along the scenic and promisingly named Waterfall Way. It was the perfect season to catch the waterfalls – the recent rains had ensured that there was enough water for the promise of a spectacular cascade but had damaged some of the roads in the process. The recent run of good weather ensured that all the roads were fixed and opened up again.
It was quite a steep ascent as we climbed up one side of the Great Dividing Range, and in all fairness, the waterfalls along the way were quite nice, but not spectacular, you know?
As we reached the top of the Dividing Range, a peculiar sight greeted us all – the top of the mountain looked like the bottom of the mountain. We drove through flatlands with hills in the distance, and paddocks just like down below. I had sort of expected the top to be, I don’t know, not flat.
We finally arrived in Dorrigo National Park, and the first thing we did was walk out to the Skywalk – this was a carefully constructed wooden walk that stretched out above the forest below you. It offered a breathending (breathtaking just doesn’t seem to cut it) view of the hills and trees below. The perfect calming blend of green, blue and white brought to you in true Technicolour.
We decided to brave the rainforest walk as well, a good hour long walk to see the waterfalls secreted in the middle of the forest. It was a wonderful walk through the forest – the leaves of the impossibly tall forests overlapped in such a way that it took the craftiest of sunrays to find their way to the forest floor. Even the wind could not find its way through the maze of branches and leaves to rustle the underlying grass.
There was almost a reverential hush within the forest, as deep as a basement in a cathedral – the quietness was only disturbed by the sound of our footfall, and the occasional bird brave enough to lose its whistle in this immense jungle.
There was a clear pathway for trekking but you could often see where fallen trees had to be cut cleanly through with a chainsaw to allow more tourists to walk through.
The quiet was a welcome intruder into my soul, troubled and noisy from the work of the past twelve days, needing once again to center with my God, and His universe.