We actually started our tour of the Rainforest Way in-between our stay with Matt and Anna, and when we met with Gina back in Byron last Wednesday. Our initial foray into the hinterland took us through Bangalow, the quaint hilltop settlement of Federal and through the magnificent Nightcap National Park. Nightcap hasn’t had National Park status for very long, but the grandiose Minyon Falls crashing over 100 meters into the rainforest below has recently ensured the area’s conservation status for many years to come. A scenic drive through the rainforest took us to Whian Whian Conservation Area and the Rummery Park campsite. Rummery is a secluded clearing of green grass next to a creek in the Nightcap rainforest where we enjoyed a good campfire late into the evening.
Many years ago Byron Bay was one of Australia’s most prolific concentrations of marijuana-smoking hippies. The more recent massive influx of tourists, high-priced restaurants and soaring real estate prices in Byron weren’t a welcoming set of circumstances for the hippies, so from Byron they all moved into the mountain rainforests to the enclave of Nimbin. Although I have a few reservations when it comes to dope-toting hippies, Nimbin enjoys an almost mythical status in the Australian community so we decided we really must take a look whilst in the area. We took back roads from our Rummery Park campsite through the forested valleys around Australia’s macadamia capital of Dunoon, through The Channon and finally to the psychedelically-coloured main street of Nimbin. I think I’d been out of the car for no more than 30 seconds before one of the locals tried to sell me a weed. And another 30 seconds after that another high-as-a-kite tweaker started talking to me in a language that sounded like a cross between Aboriginal and Swahili. We were walking past the suitably named Hemp Cafe when a passerby unrolled on the sidewalk one of the biggest stashes of marijuana buds either of us had ever seen in our lives, followed by the proprietor of the cafe screaming bloody murder at a passing logging truck for destroying the forests… Definitely an eye-opening and quite surreal little spot, we had planned to have our morning coffee in Nimbin but only lasted five minutes before we were back in The Tank and scooting south toward Lismore!
After another couple of days back in Byron with Gina, we again made our way into the hinterland and back onto the Rainforest Way. A stop at Lismore, morning tea at the superb Lismore Pie Cart and we continued north to Border Ranges National Park and the Sheepstation Creek campground (S28°24.822’ E153°01.370’). Border Ranges National Park forms the New South Wales portion of the dormant volcano caldera surrounding Mount Warning, a stunning area of mountainous rainforests almost all of which remains as wilderness. The campground at which the three of us stayed next to Sheepstation Creek was a brilliant spot: we had a grassy clearing amongst the ferns and palms with an array of rainforest bushwalks at our doorstep. Before the afternoon light faded we explored one of the trails leading to Brushbox Falls and further along the lush Brushbox Creek below the rainforest canopy. It was spectacular albeit quite short walk, a great introduction to the hinterland rainforests for Gina.
From Border Ranges National Park we continued north on the Lions Road, through the picturesque Northern Rivers area of New South Wales and into Queensland. The Lions Road was reconditioned a few years ago by the Lions Club (hence its name…) to improve travel times for farmers living in the Northern Rivers wanting to travel to Brisbane. The road traverses a dizzying number of creeks and rivers, Lisa and Gina counted a staggering 24 bridges along its length. I also encountered a few road blocks in the form of cows through the northern Queensland valleys! East to Canungra, a morning coffee (and pie for Gina and I) at the charming Outpost Cafe and we continued on to Lamington National Park. Lamington is the Border Ranges National Park equivalent in Queensland: the caldera of the dormant volcano centered on Mount Warning. Lamington is mostly wilderness, but the section around Binna Burra where we visited for the day is the starting point for hundreds of kilometers of hiking trails through the surrounding rainforest. We opted to explore the rainforest and escarpment via the Border Track, Daves Creek Walk and then a 4.6 kilometer (2.85 mile) out-and-back hike to Ballanjui Falls. The Ballanjui walk was awesome, we lost count of the number of waterfalls and cascades we passed on the way to the main falls, which themselves roared down the escarpment to the rainforest hundreds of meters below. All up we walked close to 17 kilometers (10.5 miles) during the day, it was a great tour through the rainforest and along the escarpment looking south into New South Wales.
We’d originally planned to stay at Binna Burra in Lamington National Park for the night, but due to the long weekend the campground was full (and good thing because it wasn’t much of a campground) so we instead headed down to the Gold Coast (S28°10.172’ E153°31.328’) at Coolangatta. A caravan park was the only patch of grass on offer amongst the metropolis of high-rise apartment buildings and hotels, we had a tough time finding anywhere to have a beer on Saturday night as most places wouldn’t let us in the door with thongs on our feet (so much for being a beach town…). A swim at the beautiful Rainbow Bay beach on Sunday morning and we were again on our way back into the mountains, this time through Murwillumbah and on a scenic drive around Mount Warning to complete our almost week-long tour of the Rainforest Way. We spent our last night with Gina in Mebbin National Park (S28°26.687’ E153°11.673’), a portion of which is World Heritage Listed. It was a great spot: plentiful firewood, wallabies munching on the grass around the campfire and my famous chicken sandwiches for dinner. It was a stunning clear, starry night as we sat by the fire sipping on some aged Muscat courtesy of my dad.
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