Sometimes it is nice just to dawdle along. Over the last two days we have covered just 298 kilometres as we pottered along on the start of our journey home from Port Macquarie.
Yesterday, we were awake at sunrise and began our travels north along the coast to the little town of Urunga before turning left (west) towards our first overnight stop at Bellingen.
The main road north of Port Macquarie is the new Pacific Highway. It is a nice four-lane road but it is built for speed, rather than interesting scenery. We took as many detours as we could onto tourist drives that took us ifrom. The highway into some of the coastal towns like South West Rocks and Nambucca Heads. These were large towns but we could not find many good coastal views there as they were too built up. However in the little towns like Valla Beach, Crescent Head and Scotts Head, we were able to see some very fine beaches and long stretches of golden sand.
At Captain Cook Lookout near Nambucca Heads, I enjoyed 45 minutes of photographing birds as they soared around the heights of the cliff top. I could have stayed longer but I was testing Jill’s patience as it was. Some local naturalists were at the lookout trying to see whales but we only saw a glimpse of one or two out a long way to sea. However they readily helped me to identify the birds we could see flying around the headland .
One of the easiest to photograph was a magpie that flew right up to us and sat on the fence rail just a few metres away.
The others that we saw were these birds:
A Brahminy Kite that was soaring right above us.
A White Bellied Sea Eagle
Not all of our day was near the coast. Some part of our drive was through farming country that was quite scenic.
We reached Bellingen late in the afternoon and settled into a room at the Bellingen Valley Motel for the night. Their restaurant was closed so we ordered a pizza to be delivered for dinner to avoid having too drive back in to town. It was really cool overnight and we were very glad that our room heater was working well.
Bellingen is a rather cute historic town with a main street full of old stores and pubs with their traditional verandahs. It is famous for its eclectic mix of boutique shops, a string of good cafés and creative arts and music festivals, “Bello, as it is known to locals, was once the busy centre of a prosperous dairy-farming industry. Retaining its country charm, the historic town is now home to a vibrant community of artists, creators, performers and alternative life-stylers.
This morning we found a very tasty breakfast at the Old Butter Factory at the far eastern end of town. I can heartily recommend their Coconut Granola and Jill found the Eggs Benedict tasty but a bit too large for her to eat all of it.
By 9.00 am we were on our way across the Waterfall Way to the new England city of Armidale. This road crosses the Great Dividing Range and is rated as the third most scenic drive in Australia. It was a very scenic day with a windy road and single lane stretches in some of the steep parts. Along the way are five major waterfalls where rivers drop off the escarpment of the Range. It has been terribly dry in this region and they are experiencing their third year of drought. I was surprised that there was so much water flowing over the falls in the eastern part of the range.
On the western side of the range, the environment was much more dry and some of the large waterfalls were not flowing at all. We stopped at Wollomombi Falls but this third highest fall in Australia was completely dry. It was in a colloquial sense, a ‘raincoat fall’ – . Driza-bone.. However, some of the lookouts gave us a good view of the multiple ridges across the ranges.
We stopped for lunch in the little town of Dorrigo and found a cafe that seemed to sell every form of health food that you can imagine. I was very impressed with this home made dispenser for grains, rice and lentils and the shelves on the other side of the shop were stacked with every imaginable vegan food-stuff that you could think of. Strangely, they made a great meat pie and some sausage rolls that we bought to take away for lunch on the road.
As we descended from the mountains we came across a stretch of road that had a prolific amount of road kill – all kangaroos. There was one dead roo every few hundred metres or so. This one was well and truly alive although we saw him on a quiet stretch of road in a National Park. If he ever hopped toward the highway, he would be a goner for sure!
Just before our overnight stop at Armidale, we detoured a short distance to the old mining town of Hillgrove. The town was first known as Eleanora Township, named after the antimony mine that for nearly a decade after 1876 was the sole reason for its existence. The name Hillgrove was given to the town in 1888. The town was first established in 1884 and grew rapidly during the 1880s and 1890s due to the expanding production of the mining companies. The Post Office opened in 1884 and closed in 1979. At its peak in about 1898, the town’s population was close to 3,000, There is still a mine operating at the end of the main street.
Along the main street are signs that show the location of original buildings such as a private school, billiard parlour, pubs and boarding houses. Some of the old cottages remain and give this ghost town a real feel of history.