25 Feb – 6 Mar
Looking at satellite pictures or listening to the weather forecast became an exercise in futility, self-flagellation, or perhaps just denial. Not wanting to belabour the point but, put bluntly, the weather was plain shite all over the place. Neither of us had ever experienced this much persistent and heavy precipitation; and sticking to our plan of “waiting it out” felt like an endurance exercise.
We obviously made the most of any moments when the rain subsided, or those rare events when the sun made an appearance. The rest of the time was pretty much spent trying to avoid cabin fever, which involved a great deal of reading, something that we both enjoy. It also gave me time to try out some of my more involved cooking and baking recipes to see how much can be accomplished within the constraints of my new micro kitchen and without getting my knickers in a twist. I’m pleased to report that the likes of grissini, spicy cheese rolls, biscotti, bread and a great deal more came out beautifully and were produced without use of profanities.
On one occasion, we were parked for the day on the Kingscliff foreshore, just after I’d baked a batch of hazelnut biscotti the rains eased and allowed us to open the door. As soon I opened it, the most delightful little dog looked up at us wide-eyed and waggly tailed. He promptly hopped into our truck without hesitation, no invitation needed. He was being taken for his walk and we struck up a conversation with his owner, Joy, who told us that Mikey, the dog, had been looked after and fussed over by a couple who lived in a caravan, an experience which seemed to have instilled in him an attraction for caravans and motorhomes. The look on his face practically shouted “Finally! My next mobile kennel with personal assistants has arrived!”
Joy, as it turns out, was a most delightful lady, a New Zealander to boot and we hit it off immediately. She has an interesting life story and a wealth of anecdotes, some with fascinating historic interest such as the infamous Arthur Allan Thomas murder case (she went to school with the convicted murderer, knew the family and shared her insights).
When we asked her if she knew of a place nearby where free-camping would be ok, she promptly offered her property just up the road. Bowled over by her generosity (which she claimed was her way of repaying a similar gesture she received when touring Germany in a Kombi in the 70s) we gratefully accepted and later joined her for a glass of wine in her tasteful home which oozed with artefacts, many of which collected throughout a wildly adventurous life that had taken her all over the world to all manner of unusual places including Papua New Guinea in the 60s. In the corner of her room stood a floor-to-ceiling display cabinet filled to the brim with the most exotic collection of shells, most of which she had gathered herself on various diving excursions. She truly was a joy to be with – quick witted, bright as a spark and with a permanent twinkle in her remarkably crystal blue eyes.
Before we left for the night, I asked to use the toilet, but returned soon thereafter with a somewhat pale complexion. When asked, I explained that a very large cockroach next to the toilet bowl had made me reconsider the urgency of the call of nature. Joy roared with laughter and said “Geez girl, you wouldn’t be much good in Papua New Guinea, would you?”
The next morning we said good bye to a dear new friend.
The next day we drove to Murwillimba with the intention to spend some time in the amazing virgin rainforests in and around Mt Warning. We figured we might be able to enjoy it despite the rain which was still pissing down like there was no tomorrow. Who’d have thought that rainforests could be closed because of rain?! Alas, all local national parks were closed due to widespread destruction and flooding. We were advised that the closest we might get to the rainforest would be to drive around the base of the mountains, through Uki and towards Nimbim, which is what we did. While we got an inkling of the scenic grandeur and the glorious vegetation that would ordinarily greet visitors on days with more advantageous visibility/weather, the narrow valleys and the hopelessly flooded rivers felt just too uncomfortable especially under the low-hanging cloud cover, so we couldn’t wait to make our way towards the coast and more open countryside.
En route we stopped over in Nimbim, the famous hippy hangout that came to life with the 70s alternative/protest movement. However, it very much seemed to trade on its colourful and liberal past and unfortunately, the vibe we picked up was less renegade and more anti-social. It would seem that life for many of the locals that we ran into revolves around consumption, cultivation or sale of various substances all which came across extremely hard-nosed and without any of the eco-consciousness we’d expected to encounter. All in all, it felt like a dark place which we were happy to leave behind.
With the rains still beating us into submission, we headed for Brunswick Heads hoping to lie low for a few days … “until these weather systems pass at last” or perhaps until we grew membranes between our toes and fingers. By now we could accurately predict the long-range forecast: it always seemed to be heavy rain with localised storms for 4 -5 days, then easing to showers, with sunny periods on day 6 or 7. The only thing was that this seemed to be a rolling forecast of sorts, with a ‘meteorological carrot’ – the largely rain-free day – always remaining roughly a week ahead.
Thankfully for our sanity we had the odd dry spell for a walk on the beach (which was dreadfully damaged by the storms, like practically all other beaches up and down the coast), and we also managed to do a spot of laundry albeit the drying took a good two days under the awning and in the shower/bathroom.
To be honest, we were starting to crumble under what had all the hallmarks of ‘Chinese water torture’. The thought occurred to me that we maybe should have built an ark …
However, any self-pity quickly fell by the way side when I chatted with a German tourist who was here for a 6-week holiday and had arrived the day the rains started. With just over a week of holiday left, there wasn’t a snowball’s chance in hell that she’d get back with a tan. What a cruel climatic fate for one’s annual overseas holiday!
After a stint in Byron Bay where we’d enjoyed a few long weekend stays in the past, we moved South. For some reason the township Byron had somewhat lost its appeal. Yes, it is still a vibrant destination with spectacular scenery, great beaches an interesting community and a predominantly alternative culture, but it’s also dreadfully overrun with tourists, particularly backpackers, many of whom seem to have a penchant for binge drinking and littering. After two years living a supremely urban life right in the vibrant centre of Brisbane, it seems that we’ve developed a definitive preference for quiet places with low impact tourism. So there.