Friday 12 Feb 2015
On Friday morning we received a text message from the dive shop to say that our snorkelling trip to the Solitary Islands had been cancelled due to a swell whipped up by high winds off the coast. This was an intimation of dangerous weather conditions that would a week later culminate in a tropical cyclone that devastated Fiji (Cyclone Winston).
With our planned trip cancelled, we drove into the CBD to buy food for lunch and dinner at the Happy Frog, which is one of several businesses in town that cater to vegetarians and vegans. We then drove to Bruxner Park Flora Reserve on the edge of Ulidarra National park.
The turnoff to Bruxner Park Road is only 5km North of Coffs Harbour (look for the sign to Sealy Lookout, a short distance north from the Big Banana, directly opposite turnoff to Korora). We first went to Korora Lookout, which has lovely views of Coffs Harbour and surrounds. We then moved on to the new Forest Sky Pier at Sealy lookout which affords even more amazing views of the district: you can see down the coast for about 100 km.
We discovered that the names for roads and walking paths are different on the tourist brochures to those on the ground, possibly due to new works in the area. Our chosen walk—End Peak Track—was closed due to these works, so we drove to Halfway Creek Picnic area in the hope of picking up a different track.
When we arrived at the picnic area, we found our passage barred by a vast spider web with a huge orb-weaver in the centre of it. We have seen some big orb-weavers in our time, but this one took the prize; and because it was close to ground level, we could get close to her. It was difficult to get a clear shot of Her Highness, but we did our best.
We discovered one of the walking tracks a short distance down Bruxner Park Rd. A clump of weeds gave the location away. We had to be careful crossing the road because the area seemed to be popular with dickheads who speed. We picked up one of the rainforest loop walks, and enjoyed the quiet seclusion whilst fending off tenacious leeches. There were some interesting remnants of the logging industry along the track, and some of the trees bore signs with their botanical names, and other information.
Around the middle of the walk we stumbled on a beautiful dry creek bed with a couple of benches where you could sit and admire the surrounds. Some of the Strangler Figs had reached awesome heights, and you could walk inside them and look up into the soaring void that their host once occupied.
Towards the end of the walk, while we were trying to double back to the point we entered the forest, we found our way blocked by a fallen bridge. This explained the complete absence of other walkers. Luckily the “bridge” was a just several logs felled over a stream. We managed to get across without falling into anything moist.
After a couple of hours in the forest we returned to the picnic area and touched base again with Her Highness, who continued to suck my attention into a vortex of horror and fascination. As we had lunch, we got a call from Ruby who told us that she had been offered a rental property at Sawtell, the next main settlement south of Coffs Harbour. We were excited for her and amazed that we had received a call in the middle of a rainforest, when we had struggled to get phone reception in the heart of Coffs Harbour where we were staying.
Following our usual pattern, towards the end of the day we emerged from the rainforest and spilled onto one of the local beaches. We chose Diggers Beach, and swam at the far north end to avoid the surf boards. The waves were excellent for body surfing.
After a swim, we walked to the south end of the beach and discovered a small cove beyond with nude bathers. Susie decided to curtail her photography at the rocky threshold.
When we returned to Coffs Harbour we bought a bottle of champagne and assembled a picnic dinner. We met Ruby on beach next to the Jetty, had a celebratory drink and meal, and walked along Jetty in the darkness of evening.
Back in the motel, we watched a soccer game on the TV, which was a cherry on top of an excellent day.