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  • alexellenward

Bellingen: land of faeries and farmlands

Updated: Mar 12, 2021

Drawn in by "Jonny Says Stay Cool", we walk into a gelato bar with high bar stools and chalkboard menus, conjuring images of milkshake-drinking youngsters of the 60s. We order a single scoop of caramelised fig and marsala each, but the girl loads a healthy three scoops into the cone. We shuffle into the window booth, traces of a kid’s afternoon delight still on the table.

Cathos wanders around the cafe, checking out the 90s music festival posters, and returns with a Backgammon board. Before we've even finished setting it up, we're startled by a 'ooh, you gonna play backgammon?'. A grungy-looking man, sudoku and pen in hand, settles into the booth and begins teaching us the ropes.

We play for a while - best of three - with Danny (who we just found out owns the cafe) giving us encouragement from across the room. He brings us glasses of orange/pear/apple juice - leftover from his own - and tells us of his daily game against an older man, with the payment of his morning coffee at question. Every now and then, he checks in with us to see who is winning/cheating. As the afternoon wears on, bearing bouts of rain, we enjoy the ease that comes with being recognised by one soul in a place where we know no one.


Mediterranean risotto with a peering mountain view in Thora rest stop. The smell of weed from the two travellers in the car next to us. A burgundy tin-roofed loo. A few other campers (with swags or camper vans) doing their own thing, on their own terms. We read and write and go to bed with the sun in prep for a big day of hiking.

Love songs on 93.3 fm as we ascend to Dorrigo National Park: "Stop In The Name Of Love" by The Hollies. "Your Song" from Elton John. Waterfalls begin appearing on the mountain side of the road within a minute from our campsite. Another couple of minutes and I am calling at Cathos to grab the camera. It is my task to steer The Reggae Woman up the winding mountain hills. We hike the Wonga track from Dorrigo rainforest centre, passing under Crystal Shower & Tristania Falls. We meet a sneaky red-bellied black snake on the way. We ask each other big questions like ‘what’s your one fatal flaw?’ and wonder if we, as humans even have ‘one fatal flaw’. Cathos teaches me the STOP!!! & listen for any rainforest sounds. Later, a herd of cattle keep us entertained under a big shady tree as we imagine living on a big property around here.

Dorrigo township is peaceful and still on a Monday morning. We buy finger limes and dates to snack on at Pam’s fruit & veg shop and talk about what shops every small town always has. The quaint old buildings make walking through the main street seem like stepping back into another era.

We decide to skip Ebor Falls and head straight to THE PROMISED LAND. It is full fairyland. Nymph territory. Pebble banks and moss boulders border the creek that runs through much of the area. Never Never Creek. Even it’s name brings childhood Peter Pan-type magic back to life. The trees work together to form a much needed velarium from the sun here. A few days straight surfing taught us that the hard way. We explore like six-year-olds with incurable curiosity. The mountain water sparkling with the onset of late afternoon sun.

We are joined by a group of four schoolgirls, swimming in their undies and bras.

As the sun starts to set, and the others return home, we swing into the creek naked. A wild shower for today.

Further up the creek, along a "closed" dirt road and next to a collapsed old wooden bridge we set up camp for the night. Twigs too wet for a fire. I string the hammock up. Zucchini fritters and spicy chilli corn on the small trangia burner instead. We sleep to the scent of lavender and the sound of the gushing creek.

cathos & alpal <3

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