I parked the car and hiked the nature path at the mountain’s base. Trees with thin, straight, gray trunks surrounded me, supporting the green canopy overhead. Ferns and grass trees crowded the shadow-dappled forest floor, and small flowers peeked out from among the ferns. I recognized the pink boronia, purple flag iris, and bright yellow pea flowers with mahogany-red centers.
I then went for a bit of a drive, down to where the houseboats are rented for holidays on the nearby Myall Lakes, past the old Bulahdelah Court House (built in 1886 and now a museum), and through some beautiful horse- and sheep-raising land that was somewhat reminiscent of northern England (except for the gum trees).
I photographed fields and mountains, wild flowers and trees, currawongs and kookaburras, and generally enjoyed myself. However, since I’m totally wrecked by two days of flying followed immediately by four and a half hours of driving, I gave up my wandering before I got too weary to find my hotel again.
Sitting on the edge of my bed, writing down the day’s activities, I can look up and out the window, through the palm fronds, to the peak of Alum Mountain. Behind the hotel, a family of kookaburras has broken into raucous laughter. The air is fresh and cool. It’s good to be here.
I spent a couple of hours sorting through maps and vouchers and itineraries. For this trip, I’m targeting a combination of destinations I learned about during my first trip, things that I’ve read about since then, and things I want to revisit. Plus I want to visit those friends from the first trip who have stayed in touch. There’s not enough time to do all I want, of course, but I’ll fit in as much as I can.
As the sun began to get low in the sky, I enjoyed a stroll around the motel. A nearly full moon was rising above Alum Mountain, and the sun setting beyond the distant hills touched the clouds and horizon with pink and lavender. The kookaburras were laughing again, and the frogs in a nearby pond began to set up a racket: a sound like a cross between a bouncing ping-pong ball and those little metal cricket-clickers. A few minutes later, the pastels were replaced by the stunning red of afterglow, the trees silhouetted black against the fiery horizon.
Being fairly far out in the country, the motel’s restaurant seemed like my best option for dinner. It turned out to be a surprisingly good option, with a menu that was surprisingly ambitious, given the homey modesty of this place. I enjoyed a pumpkin soup that was rich, smooth, and flavorful, and followed that with a tender veal schnitzel that came with steamed broccoli, glazed carrots, and buttery potatoes au gratin. Not a destination restaurant, mind you, but far better than I had expected.
It has been a very long day. So even though it’s only 8:30, because I can feel the jet lag dragging on my limbs, I’m going to head for bed. Good night, Australia. Happy to say I’ll see you in the morning.