Thursday, 26 February 2015

TOD Tour, Day 15 - Tamworth to Nambucca

After a stressful day of business punctuated by coffee with one son and his partner, some unexpected good news and then closing the day by visiting the other son and his wife on a tour of their almost completed first home and followed by dinner, bed should have offered refuge. It didn't. Just a night of tossing and turning and worry.

There have been so many complications since the day, nearly four weeks ago, when our car had all the panels on the left side damaged by a driver in a stolen car, high on meth-amphetamine, an event, three days before we were due to drive to Tasmania, which sent our stress levels through the roof. Since, there has been little time for recovery so that each succeeding complication, although small if they were to happen in isolation, has acted like compound interest so that our stress levels haven't had time to recede. As a result, we are both struggling and running out of bounce back.

Allowing the better news to percolate to the top and become cream, is the trick. It was good to see the boys; an article on the Waterfall Way has been pitched and commissioned from a travel magazine; and I'll be flying to Sydney next Monday to deliver a corporate presentation for the Black Dog Institute in order to secure funding for the Community Presenters Program. These were all bright shiny things in an otherwise bleak yesterday.

As a result, I woke at 4:00am with a massive dose of anxiety - a sometimes companion and always an unwelcome visitor. It stayed all day, with all its accompanying side effects but on a day when things had to be done and distance had to be put between our old home and the new, going to ground with medication was not an option.

We had two main orders of business in returning to home for a few days. The first was to deliver the Forester for repairs, which was done on Monday afternoon and was joined with the good news that repairs should be completed during the next two weeks. The hire of a replacement had been botched, so we waited about Tamworth for an extra day to have the Corolla we were incorrectly given replaced two days later by the Rav4 we had requested. Packing the Corolla because of a three hour time difference between leaving the caravan park in Tamworth and picking up the Rav4, proved a challenge.

When we eventually went to change the cars, there were more problems, more phone calls, more negotiations, more swapped emails but finally confirmations. As a result, we wasted another hour changing cars. GIO couldn't have been more helpful but it was just another little thing we didn't need.

Our last task in Tamworth was to finalise our affairs with the bank in order to transfer the deeds of our house back into our name and close the home loan account. Smiles all round and excellent service from the CBA.

It was mid afternoon by the time we passed the Nemingha Pub, our outer marker for leaving Tamworth. We'll be back next week to pick up the Forester but it was a step on the journey to resolving one stupid act which has added a week delay.

Our first stop was at Bakers Creek Falls, located at the very head of the Metz Gorge about 20kms east of Armidale, just a short detour off the Grafton Road. The Metz Gorge has been an important mining site since antimony was discovered there in 1876. Gold is almost always found in association with antimony and although some alluvial panning had been happening down at the bottom of the gorge along Bakers Creek for the previous twenty years, it wasn't until the Eleanor Mine sunk shafts for the antimony that the motherload was discovered. It made the town which sprung up around it one of the richest gold mining sights in NSW. Eleanora was established in 1884 but changed its name yo Hillgrove four years later. During it boom years in the 1890's, Hillgrove had two post offices, six hotels, a hospital, banks, a stock exchange, police station and even its own temperance society to annoy those miners in the pubs. Its population of 3000 was the same size as Armidale and for a while, they competed for over which town would last. Today, Hillgrove is a run down old village. Armidale is a modern, university city.

Bakers Creek Falls are small series of falls which drop into a series of splash pools that are almost always in shadow as the Metz Gorge does a sharp U-turn from north to south. They are part of the Oxley Wild Rivers NP but the Falls have an infamous history which has nothing to do with geography. At least five grizzly murders have been committed there.

In 1888, a fellow called Stapleton was murdered here, having his head bashed in, his throat cut from ear to ear and then his dead body was dragged two hundred metres to the edge, where it remained caught in trees and failing to drop from easy discovery. In 1975, John Patrick Newberry was giving two young hitch hikers a lift from Armidale to Hillgrove when they asked him to stop at the Falls. They robbed him and shot him in the back of the head. In 1993, three fugitives with murder allegations hanging over them, stopped a car driven by three Armidale men at Bakers Creek, murdering them and taking their car. At least one of the bodies was dispatched over the cliff into Metz Gorge.

It seems a haven for the unusal. In 1978, Gary Price was driving from Grafton to Armidale when he was stopped at Bakers Creek Falls, about 5:00am, by an unexplained hovering object of very bright intensity and observed it for more than twenty minutes. He described it as some sort of "craft with portholes" when he spoke to the Armidale Express later that morning.

Fox Mulder goes to Hillgrove for secret rendezvous with Scully.

Perhaps it explains why, that despite a new platform being built above and behind the original low wall made from local stone, it is a place which looks deserted. Locals prefer not to visit. The short entry to the car park is rough and rutted with erosion, the pit toilets dilapidated and penned with graffiti and there is an uneasy feel to the place.

Happy to leave, we went on to Ebor and a late cuppa with Shirley Heffernan at Fusspots@Ebor. The hospitality is unmistakably welcoming and of the sort which is stereotypically Aussie bush style because its how things really are away from the cities. On the shelves you'll find craft and art by locals and stuffed, knitted, cuddly toys for youngsters, the proceeds of which go to support kids with cancer. I had taught at a nearby school so we caught up on twenty years of gossip.

Once we began to approach Dorrigo, we drove through ten kilometres of what might have been fog but was in reality the low cloud which kisses the Dorrigo Plateau as it rolls along the coastal fringe. The descent down the mountain to Bellingen was slow and careful - strange vehicle and difficult conditions. The Sheppherd and Newell Falls were still teaming down the side of the mountain as we drove past and over them and the Bellinger River was still full and flooding the few low roads which seek farming properties across the valley.

It was a relief to reach Nambucca and our new home, drier, recovered and welcoming now the rain had stopped. Our bed never felt so comfortable.

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