The town of Dorrigo is a typical, old, veranda-dominated Aussie bush town, but it was not my destination. I drove through and then headed back to the Rainforest Center in Dorrigo National Park. Glorious mountain views. Simply reaching the park was a treat.
This area was first set aside for protection in 1901. Dorrigo National Park is part of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area. The rainforest is both ancient and lush. It’s the sort of place one could probably spend years researching, but happily, they have marked nature walks for those of us with slightly less time than that.
As was the case the first time I encountered a sub-tropical rainforest, on my first visit to Australia, so too now, I was delighted beyond words by the beauty that surrounded me. Palms and strangler figs, ferns and mosses, tree bases with buttress roots or covered in shelf fungus, vines and flowers, intense greenery everywhere, layers and layers of green, with small plants growing on larger plants–enclosing, almost overwhelming. Birds everywhere.
I hiked through the rainforest for a bit more than an hour. Because this is not a tropical rainforest, it does not have the benefit of permanent heat. The wind turned cold, and it actually sleeted while I was in the rainforest. At least, they called it sleet. Later research turned up the fact that Commonwealth countries are referring to a different type of precipitation than we Yanks are thinking of when we use the word. In the U.S., sleet is freezing rain. Over here, it’s a mix of rain and snow that partly melts as it falls–something like a cross between hail and snow, coming down as little, soft, white spheres.
Getting cold and wet was only a minor inconvenience, surrounded as I was with so much beauty, but it was also getting late, so time to head back down the mountain and continue on my way.
North, through crowded, commercialized Coffs Harbour, and back to the lonely roads, through fields and forest. Woolgoolga and Corindi, past Grafton, along (and over) the Clarence River.
Outside of Grafton, the countryside turns into sort of southern Illinois, but with sugarcane instead of corn. This is the only uninspiring stretch of road so far, but it’s still pleasant: flat land, with some run-down houses, but lush fields of green cane, yards with increasingly exotic flowers, beautiful horses at the scattered stud farms, and the broad, canal-like river to the left, only a few yards away.
Back toward the coast, and finally, around 4:30, into Ballina.