The new Pacific Highway along the northern east coast of NSW will soon be a continuous 4-lane gash pushing traffic past scenic bliss.
I tried to shut my eyes (figuratively – I was driving!) to the destructiveness of the roadworks, and ventured down many smaller roads to rediscover coastal villages, beaches and lighthouses. It was reassuring to see that many people still ‘go camping’ and I came to think that the organised, fenced parks are a good idea – they stop people from spreading willy-nilly across the fragile coastal areas. We have to find some comfort in the ever diminishing natural spaces and fight to keep the little that’s left.
First stop Murwillumbah and Tweed Regional Gallery with re-created rooms from Margaret Olley’s last home. The tour by one of the Friends of the gallery was a treat. I also visited regional art galleries in Armidale, Taree and Maitland. Each a gem in its own right but Maitland was the standout – top class art, varied, buzzing with life.
To the highlands, and gorge country of my life in Armidale in the 1970s. Dangars Falls and Dangar Falls (yes, they are different), Ebor Falls, Wollomombi Falls, the church at Gostwyck. (My one and only attempt at rock climbing, up the 120 metre Dangars Falls cliff, ended 2 metres off the ground with knees too shaky to continue.) Lovely lunch with Nick and Jackie at Booloominbah the old house at UNE. The old Teachers College where I worked (and my great uncle David taught) is now home to the New England Conservatorium of Music, and local history and archives. It’s still a grand building overlooking the much-grown town. And I found the first flat I lived in when I moved there.
The Dorrigo Heritage Hotel, with french doors out to the wide verandah, was a perfect central point for exploring. The drive up the mountain lets you know you are alive. Past super-groovy Bellingen, the road narrows to one lane in some places and curves around magnificent rainforest monsters. Eyes definitely open on that road.
Dorrigo was where the reality of the twenty-first century climate became far too obvious. It was 33C in town when I arrived, in September! And the Wonga walk in the Dorrigo National Park, fabulous at it is, is accompanied by traffic noise and reveals far too much light reaching the valley floors.
To Dondingalong near Kempsey to visit Stuart and enjoy the most delightful lunch with Sally and Marcus, and their friends.
Woolgoolga, Nambucca Heads, Crescent Head, Crowdy Head and more, revisited. And especially Seal Rocks, the Blow Hole and Treachery Beach, holiday places of my youth, and the scene of my first memory at age three.
Good choice for a drive Kathie.