Wednesday, October 29, 2014
|We began our leisurely Urunga day with a short drive back to a beach suburb of Coffs Harbour for coffee and breakfast. We wandered down to the beach (Park Beach South), which turned out to be dog-friendly, so Munson had what was to be the first of many swims today. |
My plan for the morning was to do a country drive through an area just north of Bellingen. The 30km Promised Land loop advertised a number of water holes for swimming, and we’d be able to squeeze it all in before lunch. There’s a good tourist brochure listing these drives (downloadable here), from which the map below is available.
|The first interesting point along the way (for me at least) is the small Glennifer Church which inspired the book Oscar and Lucinda by Peter Carey, later filmed with Ralph Fiennes and Cate Blanchett. The literary version is made entirely from glass and there is no direct comparison that can be made with the wooden chapel here. |
Immediately after that we crossed a bridge over the Never Never River and pulled into a parking area by this wonderful swimming hole.
Munson had a great time cruising through the shaded waters and foraging around the banks.
As beautiful as this sheltered pool was, as cool and as its waters were, there was still a surprise lurking below…
|We thought this small fish ~20cm long blending among the rocks and leaf litter near one of the deepest points might have been a catfish. Gustav spotted it first, even at a depth of nearly two metres, the view to the bottom was crystal clear. It never moved while we inspected it from a distance, intent on preserving its resemblance to the detritus amongst the tree roots lining the waterhole. |
A friend later identified it as a bullrout aka “the freshwater stonefish”!! I can’t believe that after decades of avoiding spiders, snakes, crocodiles, sharks, jellyfish, octopuses and a myriad other hostile Australian fauna, that I nearly fell victim this charmer.
The bullrouts venomous spines cause such excruciating pain that grown men have been known to bang their heads against concrete to deal with it. Apparently morphine is ineffective in treating bullrout venom, with either lignocaine or hot water being more useful. Well known to aboriginal populations, the bullrout frequents freshwater streams from mid NSW up to the top of Queensland.
Fortunately I generally wear sandals or kayaking boots in these circumstances, but I still get a chill thinking about how easy it would have been to connect with one of those spines.
Tuesday, October 28, 2014
Monday, October 27, 2014
The rest of our country roadtrip is entirely coastal, with much shorter driving stretches so that we can try out random beaches as we go.
We started out with a quick trip into Byron for coffee, and then made a brief stop at Lennox Head for a swim. The surf was a bit too rough for enjoyment so we didn’t linger there and decided to try to get to Yamba for lunch and a lazy afternoon.
Ducati, one of Munson’s old playmates from Sydney Park lived with his owner Mary in Yamba now, with Mary running Caperberry Cafe there. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to reach Mary before our arrival and we had to make do with catching up over the phone in the evening.
I established that there were at least two dog friendly beaches on hand; the first one we tried was Wooli Main Beach where these first photos of Munson are taken. One small grumble from our coastal journey was the difficulty in locating the beaches where dogs were allowed. Council websites would list a number of beach sections relating to places that couldn’t be identified on a map. In a few cases when I asked locals where such and such a beach or creek was, they could only shrug. Dear Councils, please put marked maps on your website!
From there we moved onto the more sheltered Whiting Beach in the mouth of the Clarence River.
|I’d had trouble locating dog-friendly accommodation near Yamba, and ended up booking a farm-stay back up the highway. Our quarters were a lot more luxurious than our previous experience of “farm stay”. |
We hoped to find something seafood-y for dinner but the dining options were limited around Yamba itself, with the much lauded Harwood Hotel restaurant being closed early in the week. We decided to try out some of the pubs in Maclean (one of the Scottish towns). While not auspicious from the outside, the Clarence (Bottom) Pub turned out to be a real find. Our meals were so good I found the window to the kitchen and sent my thanks directly to the chef.