Tuesday, 24 February 2015

TOD Tour, Day 13 - Drive To Tamworth

The for the first time in almost two weeks, we set an alarm for the early departure and our drive back to Tamworth. The repairer finally had all the parts and it was time to take the Forester back home. We left our soaked little Avan behind at 7:30am and took to the road.

Soon after leaving, the weather returned to its foulest and remained our travelling companion all the way up the Bellinger Valley, the climb up Dorrigo Mountain and a well known path to the Ebor store.

There were compensations.

It wasn't hard to see why the Bellinger River had been under scrutiny and placed under a moderate flood warning for the past few days. Before we even saw the river, the valley leading to Bellingen was wet, with heavy rain still falling as we headed west. The road surface was pitted with potholes, some of them deep and inconvenient and the conditions tricky, especially when trapped behind an overly cautious Queenslander who crawled along at hardly more than 60kms/hour. In such circumstances, even when unencumbered by the van, you have no option but to play the waiting game ... unless you are impatient to die and driving a BMW. As experience has taught, its always some other idiot you have to watch out for. My defensive driving skills, taught to me b my father all those years ago when I was a hot-headed twenty year old, stood me in good stead.

Bellingen looked pretty in the rain and the Kombi looking for a hippy park in the main street gave us plenty of time to see it.

The climb up Dorrigo Mountain was free of traffic but I remember it as being more difficult and steeper. Its remarkable the difference a good vehicle makes.

Compensation two came near the top.

Newell Falls
The Newell Falls, only a few kilometres from the crest of the mountain, were running with great vivacity, covering the road with a thick spray despite filling the big culvert under it. We had seen them in good voice before but never before calling this loudly, running down the mountain at the top of its volume like boys escaping from school at home time. It made a spectacular sight but was a mere taste of what was to come.

We made two more stops at Dorrigo. The first, at Dorrigo National Park, was ostensibly for toilets - all that rushing water was inspiring - but we took advantage of the stop for a short stroll along a fog-bound Skywalk. The platform, jutting out as it does above the canopy of the rainforest, may have been short on views but the bird life was active. We saw a brush turkey, could hear a pair of Eastern Whip-birds and watched a Yellow-Faced Honeyeater flitting about in the high leaves, at times less than a metre away. Back in the car as the rain returned, a family of Superb Fairy Wrens were working the grassy areas; the male on a branch watching for danger and the females and young scouring the ground. It was one of those times when the inexperienced eye might complain that there was nothing to see.

The second stop was in Dorrigo itself, as I tried to sort out the hire car we would be picking up in Tamworth. GIO's only disappointment for us in an otherwise efficient and comforting treatment of the situation with our car, was to book us a Corolla Hatchback as the replacement vehicle, after assuring us of a similar vehicle as our own. There was no way our gear would fit into a Corolla! Wait time on the phone was too great and the internet proved slow, so we pressed on to Ebor. Once there, we had the usual surprisingly good coffee/tea at the Ebor Store and a delicious slice of gluten-free almond cake, while I sorted out the hire car. Unfortunately, it would involve taking what was booked, staying in Tamworth for two nights and then changing to a larger vehicle.

I find shrugs useful under such continuing circumstances.

Upper Falls, Ebor
We had anticipated the twin falls at Ebor since leaving Dorrigo and they weren't to disappoint. From the moment we opened the car doors, the roar coming from the closer Upper Falls was enough to peak our expectations but even that was no preparation. Having lived close enough - for many years in Armidale and then in a bush work setting at Wongwibinda - to come here for picnics, we have seen these falls often but never in such robust and opulent form. The cascade was enormous and the rush of megalitres over the edge was broad and thick and characterised by the tans and deep browns of river beds and banks being scoured from place by the pace and power of the increased flow. A huge boulder halfway down was suffering a fearful pounding, as water collided with it and then splintered of in all directions, catching the sunlight which was beginning to appear and sparkling highlights like intermittent Christmas lights. Capturing it in the camera was a fools errand, even with all the tricks I know. It was too wild to tame with digital images which wouldn't have the noise or the presence it exerted over us.

Inspired, we walked the track which follows the edge of the gorge as it begins to open out into the Guy Fawkes National Park. The bush, soaked from days of rain, was all shades of green, offset by the orange and browns of peeling bark on the Snow Gums and Mountain Gums which stood dominant among so many other smaller species. Some old wooden yards and a cattle race still stood, covered in lichen and moss which were slowly taking the timber back into the fold of the colours from which they came.

The track emerged onto the picnic area and two viewing platforms. One looks to the west across the expanse of what is still largely the hundred thousand hectare wildness of Guy Fawkes NP. The Guy Fawkes River, fresh and invigorated from its double fall off the narrow spur of the Northern Tablelands that the Ebor area represents, has cut a winding path and created huge spurs above it, taking advantage of an old fault line. Its joined along the way by other side gorges where the Aberfoyle, Sara and Henry Rivers have made their own mark on the landscape. A habitat for more than fifty threatened plant and animal species, it is perhaps best known for the controversy which erupted in late 2000 when six hundred wild horses - the descendants of the Walers used at the famous charge by the 12th Light Horse at Bathsheba in 1917 - were culled by the NSW National Parks Service.

The other viewing platform offers the only uninterrupted view of the Lower Falls and a near complete view of the Upper Falls, in the distance, behind it. Its a much longer drop but being so much further away, it lacks the near and present danger that the Upper Falls inflicts.

Either way, our hour here was stunning.

Lunch at Wollomombi Falls
More rain along the Waterfall Way and lunch at Wollomombi Falls, in the northern end of the far ranging Oxley Wild Rivers NP. Once thought to be the tallest falls in Australia, they are at best the second, although debate leads strongly to suggest that both Tin Mine Falls in the Snowy Mountains and Wallaman Falls near Ingham in Queensland, have their measure. The Wollomombi and Chandler Rivers make their confluence at the base of these twin falls but even though both were running well, they were far from spectacular and because of their alignment to the sun, as always, difficult to capture in the camera with out too little or too much light. The compromise seems insipid. Sandwiches were made even more pleasant by the near obligatory conversation with fellow travellers.

Onto Armidale and then straight for a let afternoon arrival in Tamworth, organising accommodation along the way. It seemed weird booking into a caravan park in our own town but such is life.

Cars were exchanged and we managed a quick coffee break at Gemocha on Goonoo Goonoo Rd, before hasty visits -  us tired and exhausted and lousy company - to both sons and their families, to pick up things we needed.

Pasta and beer for dinner and a good night's sleep.

No comments:

Post a Comment

All comments will be moderated before being posted.