Kbal Spean, Banteay Srei – day 356

The motorbike was delivered on time. We however, were running a bit late and jumped on the bikes slightly later than planned. But, we had the suncream on, helmets fastened tightly and motored down the road, finding the right turn off on the roundabout. We must have been only half way there when the bums started to go numb. MapsMe said the journey was just a 46km trip. The road markers would suggest we did 53. Either way, the last 20km was slow going as neither of us wanted to pause and ease the muscles and the traffic coming round the roundabout in the wrong direction suggested that we needed to stay alert. 

Arriving at the car park for Kbal Spean, we looked a bit like Jeff Daniels and Jim Carey getting off the scooter in Dumb&Dumber. We looked like a set of upside-down letter ‘Y’s’, as we gradually loosened up on the 2km trail uphill. We overtook several other tourists and a tour group of Indians. It only took us 25mins to reach the ‘Bridgehead’. This is the actual meaning of Kbal Spean, but many only refer to as ‘The River of a Thousand Lingas’. A spectacularly carved riverbed, set deep in the jungle, it was ‘discovered’ in 1969 by an ethnologist, shown the area by a local hermit. We didn’t need any hermits to direct us along the jungle paths, clearly marked every 100m with a countdown to the top of the trail. I was admiring the cascading water and trying to capture a photo of the water movement, while Katherine was taking photos of rocks. I had to snap out of it and realise that the entire rock surface was carved in to beautiful figures and mini lingas. It was not at all what I was expecting. We walked a bit upriver finding the impressive boulder of Vishnu in the shallows. Downstream of the bridge head there were further series of carvings with carvings of deities, animals and scripture chiselled in to the rock. The entire riverbed was designed in a beautiful mosaic of lingas with several large sculptures carved in to wide sections of the river. We spent some time at the base of the waterfall. The amount of water was spectacular – of course we had been caught out in several of the downpours that contributed to the flow of the fall. Local families were having picnics, splashing about in the riverbed and introducing their young ones to the water (much to the displeasure of some). We passed some of the same Indians on the way back down and were worried about their progress. In the hour we had passed them, they had progressed a total of 400m. With no water with them and no sign of their guide, I’m not sure they were going to make it to the waterfall, let alone to riverbed of lingas. We did try and discourage them going any further, but we were probably back at the car park before they made a decision. 

Back down the road, we visited Banteay Srei. Included in the Angkor ticket pass we were visiting the jewel in the crown of Angkorian artisanship. This Hindu temple dedicated to Shiva is cut from a stone of pinkish hues and includes some of the finest stone carving seen anywhere in Earth. Banteay Srei means ‘Citadel of the Women’ and it is said that it must have been built by a woman, as the elaborate carvings are supposedly too fine for the hand of a man. We wouldn’t dare comment on who built the city or carved the designs, but the stones in a lovely mixture of pinks, yellows and greys, with intricate and several varied scenes of craftsmanship, meant the temple was incredible. The site was the first major temple restoration undertaken by the EFEO in 1930 using the anastylosis method. The success of the project, very evident in situ, soon led to the restoration of Bayon (our favourite). Originally thought to be from the 13th or 14th century, it was later dated to 967AD from inscriptions found at the site. The manicured lawns around the moat, the buildings almost fully restored to former glory and the landmine victims playing music in the distance, the atmosphere gave the feeling of being back in time. We bypassed the kids (with their prepared speeches) trying to sell postcards and beg candies, managed to find a street side restaurant down in the town and chowed down on some exquisite food. The whole side trip to Banteay Srei, not a million miles from Siem Reap, was memorable and enjoyable. Only a small jaunt down the road (bums still not forgiving us for earlier journeys) we visited the landmine museum. We initially felt cheated by the $10 price tag, but once you visited the place and learned what they did with the money we were content with the cost. We convinced the lady at thedesk to let us have an audio guide in exchange for leaving a credit card – normally wanting a photo ID card. The recent, up-to-date audio commentary was informative, with short bursts of info and letting you enjoy the displays while listening. A well put together museum, the story of Aki Ra – kidnapped child, turned soldier, deserter of the Khmer Rouge, etc and now dismantling land mines that he had placed there himself – was portrayed along with info on global progress to de-mining, costs, manufacturers, how to trigger a mine, its mechanisms and effectiveness and so forth. I would highly  recommend anyone, even if not interested or clued up to the conflicts in history of SE Asia to visit this establishment. It is a short history lesson, without the chalk dust and bells. 

Being able to easily get into town with the bike we went to the Korean BBQ. Even more importantly with our easy ride back home, we were able to stuff ourselves silly with extras of nearly everything. The food probably did’t help with my poorly tummy, but did I care… not an ounce. I was just about able to prop myself up enough to watch some Dexter before bed.  Tuesday 27th September 2016

Erwan National Park – day 342

The river was much calmer than it had been the last two days. The flotsam trapped at the next floating guesthouse was all cleared and there was a hint of rain. We enjoyed our bowl of cereal on the deck, with Katherine being very loud and clumsy all the while – or maybe I was shattered and everything sounded like thunder and a brass band. Maybe it was a combination of the both, but we were up at the corner of the war memorial waiting for the passing bus to take us on our way. 
A local gentleman stopped and tried very hard to convince us to take his car. Nowhere was it clear if he was a taxi driver of just someone with good English. He collared in the Briton standing next to us and all he could hear was noise, he didn’t understand our Thai friend. We thought he was gone, only to find he had parked around the corner and was now trying to explain the cost benefits of his system, in English and French. Clearly we looked French. If only there was a bakery nearby I would gladly have a croissant in hand and take the stereotype. 
An enjoyable short hour and a half bus journey and we were at Erawan National Park. The rangers came on to the bus to sell our entrance tickets and we cruised down the steep hill to the car park. Changing in the shower cubicles we then had a trek ahead of us to the 7 levels of waterfalls:

1 – Hlai Khuen Run

 2 – Wang Macha

3 – Pha Namtok

4 – Oke Nang Peesau 

5 – Buea Mai Long

6 – Dong Prucksa

7 – Phu Pha Erawan

At falls number 7, I had a pedicure from the fish and the kissed gently on the arms by the little bees. Katherine went on an adventure and climbed up higher to see more of the area. She was missing most of the drama with the local man getting sick. He was violently ill from exertion, heat or something far worse and the family were nonchalant about the whole affair. The security card had to give out to them for not making any effort to clear up the mess. After all, there was plenty of water to wash up the stuff on the rocks and the episodes in the pool had all been eaten by the fish. Back at fall 5, perhaps could have been my favourite if it wasn’t so busy, we watched a stick thin girl scream her head off when the fish started nibbling her. Like, what on earth did she expect. With no sympathy, we watched the various antics unfold from a rock and enjoyed how the ware cascaded in the area and the fish were swimming about the larger pools. 

A few hundred meters below waterfall 5, not far from the track and yet peaceful and empty, we found a slice of the national park for ourselves. Feeling a bit self conscious at the moment and especially with so many judging eyes I togged off and got in to the clear waters. The fish swam round me like sharks or piranhas before a kill and once the initial few tiny ones braved the assault, they all joined in. It took quite some time to get used to the rasping feeling on the skin and poor Katherine was unable to stand still at all, the prickly little bites weren’t to her amusement. Trekking back downwards, the swimsuit wedgie I had managed to alleviate was now back and not at all discomfortable for being a bit wet now as well. Retrieving our food back from security (one of the only few that obeyed the rules) and our deposits for water bottles returned (clever system of enforced) Katherine ventured in to waterfall 2 for a prospect swim. With loads of people around the edge now satisfying to hunger fish, she was able to escape to the cascades and float about for a bit. I sat it out, helped a lady whom had slipped badly and generally just chilled. I got a few close shots of a monitor lizard before it slinger down the embankment and swam downstream. While Katherine was having a quick shower and changing I could hear the screams – the lizard had obviously continued down the waterway to fall number 1. Hahahaha!We sat on the most comfortable seat on the bus for the journey home, although it meant being next to the open back door. We different views of the amazing landscapes it felt much quicker than going to the park. We jumped off at the train station and used the same trick as yesterday to access 20mins free wifi. I managed to upload a blog and check some emails. 

Kat chilled on the river deck while I had a shower. The passing karaoke barge sounded dreadful and I could easily have done with a few flaming arrows and put everyone onboard and ashore out of their misery. To the night market again, our evening choices consisted of brand new choices again – sausage wontons for starter, fish dumplings as an amuse bouche, crispy spicy pork and bamboo chicken for main and sticky rice and mango for dessert. The hardest choice for the rest of the evening is what to watch before going to sleep. 

Tuesday 13th September 2016

Katherine – day 314/4

Tracey took the extra pillow to relieve some of her back pain, I took the mattress to stop the bed frame from digging in to my hips and Katherine took the fitted bed sheet and made a cocoon like a caterpillar. But do you think any of us slept well??? Ha! It was a cold, painful night and breakfast was a subdued affair. It warranted a proper coffee for the driver in the shop as we checked out and off we went to Leliyn (Edith Falls). The Leliyn Trail is a bit of a loop and we took the longer section to begin, bringing us past some stunning views of the plateau and through beautiful grevillea and spinifex bush land. The Upper Pool is supposedly quieter than the pool next to the campground/car park, but it seemed far from that as we scrambled over some rocks to find a shady spot to change and leave our bags as we slunked in to the cool, fresh water. Smelling slightly of the algae growing on the rocks and giving the shallows a slightly slippy surface we lapped up the sun, chatted by the cascade and people watched. We did some proper sun-bathing on the sandstone slopes, munched on a packet of burger rings and dried off before changing. It was unusual for us that we weren’t leaving due to the heat or our skin burning. It was watching the idiots climb higher and higher up the rocks, diving in to the very shallow pool, with rocks that are hard to see with the layer of algae coating them in a dark colour in an already shaded area. We just didn’t want to be around to witness anything happen. Plus, watching the pasty white ginger kid turn a shade of beetroot was painful to watch. Walking back to the car park via the other shorter route, we had different views and got to see the pools above where we were. Those ones are inaccessible but a trail for another few kilometres brings you to the Sweetheart Pool. We didn’t feel like we missed out in the slightest. Using the facilities and Tracey grabbing an iced coffee we headed back to the car. There was a scene very similar to Violet in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, with a previously mentioned individual being escorted back to their camper van. Maybe he was off to be squeezed?!

You can imagine that our next destination was full of photo opportunities. Or rather, they were obligatory and we were stopping every few metres down the road to let Katherine take photos next to signs of… ‘Katherine’. The area was named by explorer John McDouall Stuart (we are travelling mostly on the Stuart Highway) after the second daughter of one of his expedition sponsors. The area was renamed ‘Nitmiluk’ – meaning ‘cicada place’ (‘nitmi’ is the sound a cicada makes, ‘luk’ means land/place/country) – in 1989 when traditional owners, the Jawoyn Aboriginal people, gained title to the land after years of arguing with the government to prove they owned the land. Our Katherine has been beside herself that the Aussies typically spell her name correctly unlike back in the UK and takes it as another sign that we should move to Oz… mainly for the koalas. 

With a few lunch supplies from Woolies we sat under a tree outside the Nitmiluk Visitor Centre and passed the time before heading down to the cruise jetty. A series of 13 deep sandstone gorges have been carved out by the Katherine River on its journey from Arnhem Land to the Timor Sea. Only 3 gorges are accessible by boat and even then, they might need another boat for the 2nd gorge if the dry season is longer than usual and makes one section too shallow. The other gorges are viewed by helicopter and had we more time we might have enjoyed canoeing the waterways. 

The spectacular Katherine Gorge forms the backbone of the 2,920 sq km Nitmiluk National Park and is the most photographed section of the area. The guide books accurately describe it as a hauntingly beautiful place, with the rippling orange and red hues of the rocks towering above us on either side. The tour guide / boat driver was giving a very informative and interesting dialogue along the cruise and broke up the commentary with photo opportunities and manoeuvring the boat so that both sides could get unobstructed photo opportunities.The little cuts at the edges and corners of the gorges, until mentioned by the guide, were irrelevant, but when told that they are part of lateral faults from a prehistoric earthquake then we were able to line up the opposite fault in perfect 90* angles to each other. The crocodile nesting beaches were a shiny white and a few crocs even posed for some nice photos. The best photo of the day though has to have been the ones of Katherine, driving the boat down Katherine Gorge.Checked in at Knotts Crossing Resort, I was left behind with signs of heat exhaustion. I don’t know how I managed to get it while the others didn’t, but my head was splitting and I just wanted to sleep. Old Ninja and Fat Ninja went back in to town to get dinner and I had some Olympics on in the background. They returned with random stories: there are very few places that you can buy goon in the Northern Territory due to the alcohol problems with the indigenous and if you do find somewhere to purchase the silver pillow of goodness, then it is at certain times, once a day, with photographic id; police officers everywhere checking id’s; the petrol is a low aromatic type to reduce another problem recurring in the Top End and Outback. 

While Tracey took her sweet ass time cooking dinner (she could have just turned the hob up to full power), she also decided it’d be fun to break the tap. So, while we sat down to eat chicken wraps, the campsite handyman fixed the tap with ‘We Are The Millers’ on tv spouting some erotic profanities and mentioning ‘cock’ quite a lot as he was screwing the fosette. It made for a funny evening before bed. 

Tuesday 16th August 2016

Litchfield – day 311/1

We had previously discussed with our room mates the night before what their plans were for the morning. They didn’t seem to mind/care if we were up early and getting ready for the day. Yet, we felt that with tension still in the room from our comments about being married, we thought it was best to prepare. So, in the tight little bathroom showering and changing, there was little point in saying we were clean, but a bit fresher – the bathroom was disgusting and nothing to do with being a girls only dorm room. But, we finished packing in the tv room with Olympics on in the background and I headed to Coles to get brekkie. The walk to the shop was fine, the walk back was ridiculous, with the sun literally peeking over the top of the buildings in the 30mins I was in there and the heat was intense. The big slab of watermelon was perfect and the warnings still didn’t prepare Katherine for the temperature outside on the way to Thrifty. 
Tracey was like an eager puppy waiting for us, looking out the window of Thrifty as we approached the office. There might even have been some wagging, who’s to know. With hugs all round and excitement bubbling, we were a little deflated when told the car was delayed as they were fixing a puncture in the wheel. The car was getting a thorough inspection due to the long distance journey we were taking and we could all have had another hour in bed. I guarded the bags while the ninja twins went across the road to Coles for snacks, lunch and plenty of water. We spoke to the lady behind the desk for a bit and she kept pronouncing the town of Katherine as ‘Kat-er-eye-n’. We were interrupted and sat down to listen to the very stuck up and pretentious French couple who wanted to return and swap their car for one that didn’t have Thrifty written on the side of the vehicle. We did really well not to burst out laughing and before long we were packing our stuff into our rental and hitting the road. 
Leaving Australia’s only tropical capital city, we were on a ROAD TRIP!!!
Zooming down the road with the speed demon at the wheel (Old Ninja was sticking to the speed limits – they just seem extreme for us from ‘Up Top’ opposed to those ‘Down Under’) we soon reached Litchfield National Park. It may not be as well know as Kakadu, but many locals rate it higher, with a saying ‘Litchfield-do, Kaka-don’t’. The 1,500 sq km national park encloses much of the spectacular Tabletop Range, a wide sandstone plateau mostly surrounded by cliffs. The many waterfalls of the area are a highlight of the park, feeding crystal clear cascades and croc free plunge pools. But before we reached any of these infamous waterways we stopped at the iconic termite mounds. Now, in all the years I’ve watched the magnificent Sir David Attenborough and other nature programs, not once have I read or heard the info that was in the Lonely Planet. The tip of these mounds are the places where they bury the dead. The height of the the mound correlates to the age of the structure but that extra bit of info was cool. Speaking of cool, the structures are perfectly aligned to regulate temperature, catching the morning sun, then allowing the residents to dodge the midday heat, built in a north-south orientation. I’m sure the way they create folds in the mound also helps to cool the structure. While we were all suitable impressed by the size of the Cathedral Termites (aptly named), the GAdventures tour looked like they were fed up and bored, imagine the faces of people sucking on a few lemons. But, more impressive was the boardwalk that brought us out to a field of magnetic termite mounds. It was like a cemetery of tombstones, varying in size and design and a wicked feat of natural engineering. So, we arrive at Buley Rockholes, an area where the water cascades through a series of rock pools that provide the perfect site to simply cool off and relax. But Katherine seemed far from relaxed, tense in a stare off with this guy at a picnic bench. Tracey was ready to say something, while naturally I was too focused on looking for wildlife. Plus, I’m getting better at ignoring stares and pig ignorant people. But, suddenly there was a realisation between the two of them that they did in fact know each other – they worked together in London. It’s a freakishly small world! So after meeting Ben and his girlfriend and all five of us chatting away for a bit, we settled on a sandstone outcrop under some shade and had our lunch. An occasional bit of bread in the quiet pool to attract the fish and we enjoyed the tranquility of the area while still hearing the kids bomb in to the pools.  I didn’t need to navigate to our next destination. Florence Falls is within walking distance but we drove around the corner to maximise our time in the park. A spectacular double waterfall set amidst monsoon rainforest we didn’t descend the 135 steps to the bottom, but admired it from a viewing platform. The echoes of shouting and laughter coming up from the plunge pool faded as we walked back to the car, passing a few trees with low hanging ant nests. Off to Tolmer Falls, it should have been one of the most readily accessible waterfalls of the park. However, they were renovating the walkway during the dry season and we went for a little walk through the bush walk to get to the views. Being sensible and bringing plenty of water for the 2.4km round trip, we thought we might have to part with some of it for the people underestimating the heat and terrain. We did try and warn a few on our return but it fell on deaf ears. But, we were rewarded by our efforts and scout attitude with incredible, beautiful views of the valley. The falls were only small being dry season, but it was still really nice. It would have been cool if we glimpsed any of the elusive bats of the area, but they were probably hiding from the scorching sun. We missed the turn off for Greenant Creek. It wasn’t signposted in the direction we we’re travelling and it was a bit of a concealed entrance. But, it was meant to be. We carried on to Wangi Falls (pronounced ‘Wong-guy’) and decided before even seeing the pool that we were going swimming to cool down. Changing in the first dirty toilets we’ve experienced at a public facility, we were togged off, ignoring the warnings for crocs and splashing about in the crystal waters with water cascading down the rock face in two places. We found a nice spot between the two downpours, sat on the rock, chatted, ignored the whiny ginger kid, convinced Tracey it wasn’t acceptable to steal a noodle to float around and did a few bombs. With beautiful rainforests around the pool and dramatic backdrops we may have spent a considerable amount of time in the shallows reenacting the end scene from a Dirty Dancing and laughing hysterically at our attempts. Not using the free wifi at the site, (why the hell would you want/need wifi in an area like this) we returned towards Batchelor and checked in to Pandanus. Slight panic moment when they didn’t seem to have our booking, the lovely Debbie showed us our cabin and the kitchen facilities. A quick nip in to town before it got dark, we returned with stuff for dinner (severely overpriced) and cooked up a satisfying meal using the hamster dryer (otherwise known as a George Foreman grill) and enjoyed watching Night at the Museum 2. Well, we all started to watch it, only one managed to see it through and turned off tv and lights… yours truly. 

Saturday 13th August 2016

Kuranda – day 308

Having done our research late last night after completing the census, we knew we needed to catch a shuttle bus at 8.30am. Getting up early, showering, eating our free pancake breakfast we headed over to the bus station. After a quick dash to Coles to grab some apples to go with lunch, we waited for our bus. Watched the Kuranda scenic railway train leave from the stations as the bus pulled up. Only to find out that it didn’t drop off passengers off at our stop – it only picked them up! After a conversation with the driver, we found out that we could catch a bus from just outside our hostel. Retracing our steps, we managed to catch a bus to the Smithfield Skyrail. Felt like it was the longest bus journey in the entire world as it went around the houses and up every little back alley possible. It took us over an hour to go the 15km to the Skyrail rainforest Cableway. At 7.5km long, it is one of the worlds longest gondola cableway, giving a birds-eye view over the tropical rainforest and our 51st UNESCO World Heritage Site. Finally arriving at the ticket counter, we organised our tickets to catch the cableway up and the train back down to Cairns. Only to find that my card didn’t work… Slightly strange as I had topped it up last night, we grabbed a purchase number and stepped out of the queue to allow others to be served whilst we tried to sort it out. The free wifi in the centre wasn’t working so I turned on data roaming to check accounts. With no reason for it not to work, other than a technical fault with the bank, I transferred some money into Jayne’s account and we kept our fingers crossed that her card would work. Fortunately it did, but it was a rather stressful 15 minutes! Fortunately, there was no wait for us to get into a gondola and we were above the rainforest before we knew it. The Barron Gorge National park is stunning. Spread almost as far as the eye can see, there are towering tall green trees with an occasional glimpse of the road that runs through the rainforest. Our first stop was Red Peak station, where the gondola descended through the canopy layers and took us deep in the forest. Red Peak Station (545m above sea level) is nestled amongst pristine rainforest with a 175 metre boardwalk providing a perfect opportunity to explore the forest from ground level. The Station is surrounded by towering trees, lush palms, giant ferns and a diverse array of plants and wildlife.

We managed to catch a free guided ranger talk where Ranger Rob pointed out various plants along the boardwalk, including our favourite ‘Strangler Fig’ and the interesting fern baskets that only disseminate sideways. We then continued on to the second station of Barron Falls, where we enjoyed spectacular views of the Barron Gorge, a deep chasm lined with dense rainforest vegetation at a couple of different lookouts. Having explored the three lookouts, which provided breathtaking views of the Gorge and Falls, we headed off to the toilet area where Ranger Rob had told us that a wild cassowary had been spotted over the last few days. Walking quietly and peering around, we must have looked quite odd staring out into the vegetation trying to catch a glimpse of the worlds second largest bird. No such luck unfortunately so we headed to the information centre before catching the last section of the cableway to the Tableland village of Kuranda. Arriving in the village, we walked up to the main streets, looking into the aboriginal markets that are held here. Deciding to veto the zoos, we decided to compete a couple of the walking trails in the area. There are six walking trails around Kuranda from a walk through the village to a rainforest stroll through the undergrowth to a more strenuous hike back to the Barron Falls lookout. 

Conscious of the fact that we needed to get the train back to Cairns at 15.30, we opted to do the village walk and a couple of the rainforest ones. It was really nice having the trails mostly to ourselves as we explored the area. Our last walking tour dropped us straight outside the train station as we caught the Kuranda Scenic Railway back to Cairns. Winding 34km through picturesque mountains, the track was completed in 1891 by workers who had to bring their own tools or dig by hand, battling sickness, steep terrain and venomous creatures. The journey took just under 2 hours and had a running commentary throughout as well as slowing down at various significant points along the route to allow for photo opportunities. Back in Cairns, we popped into Coles to get some food for dinner before heading back to the YHA. Drinking far too much goon wine with our pasta, we headed off to bed deciding that tomorrow is going to be a rest day as we are both tired from our travels up east coast. Wednesday 10th August 2016

Coffs Harbour – day 294

Alexander Graham Bell said, “before anything else, preparation is the key to success”. Mr. Bell was a Scottish-born scientist, inventor, engineer and innovator who is credited with patenting the first practical telephone. It is kind of ironic that I type today’s blog on a modern telephone and the first thing we had prepared for the day was pack the bags the night before and thus we slipped quietly out of the room nice and early without waking anyone.

A 4km walk to Thrifty to collect our car, we were a bit out of sorts when the grumpy old man behind the desk said that we hadn’t booked a car but rather requested it. We were told basically to get lost for half an hour and hopefully the car they were collecting from the airport would be suitable. Oh and where are your passports? Having not needed them in Melbourne this chap was insistent that he wouldn’t accept just the driving licence and need more money from us as a deposit for international renters. Thus, wandered up and down the road to find a wifi signal to send photos of our passports to the office. Returned to a more amicable gentleman behind the counter and with a bit of cooperation and business sense we drove away with a cute little car heading to The Big Banana. Nothing more than a giant replica of a banana, it’s famous in Coffs Harbour and has made it in to the Big Things of Australia book. It’s probably the first banana that Katherine has liked in years.img_1743-1Dorrigo National Park is one of the fifty separate reserves that comprises of 366,500 hectares in the NSW and QLD states. They are the most extensive area of subtropical rainforests in the world and you guessed it, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Being listed as a WHS for three criteria: Major stages of Earth’s history; Significant ecological and biological processes; Significant natural habitat for biodiversity, the anticipation was building as we drove higher and higher in to the mountains with signs along the Waterfall Way for lookouts and waterfalls every few kilometres. We stopped at only one waterfall en route to the Dorrigo Rainforest Centre and for a simple donation of $2 each we were in. The view from the Skywalk was breathtaking. An uninterrupted view of the mountains, covered in forests, rolling gently down to the valley and sea. We more interested in just the views than taking many photos, which should hopefully give some credence to how beautiful this place is. We wandered through the forest, sticking the pathway (as other tourists said they crossed paths with a large black and red-bellied snake) and just got lost in time. The waterfalls were incredible. The less visited, further away fall was captivating and we wished we could have it as a garden feature. It was totally different to the cascading fall in to the pool that had so many tourists and incredibly serene and peaceful.

img_1825-2The walk back, a circuit of 6.6km went through denser forest areas. We saw a number of mature tallow wood trees, some of them slowly being encapsulated by the strangler fig. The webbing of the fig roots across the trunk of the host tree was akin to a sugar nest desert or for the film buffs, the scene in spider-man where he’s trying to to rip the venom costume from his body. It was almost to the end of the trail when we finally spied the Eastern Whipbird – a small blackish teal bird with a white head, it can’t be confused for anything else because of its call. A long piercing whistle, the retired gent on the skywalk earlier said they are called the Star Wars bird because the sound is like a blaster cannon with the female response (not always after the male) sounding like two small blaster shots. I must have been a bit annoying towards the end of the walk with me doing the two blaster whistles after every male call. Still, it brought life to the timeless forest and the brush turkeys that wandered about were boring in comparison. We had lunch up at the Glade. Unable and unwilling to take the rental on the unsealed road up to Never Never picnic lookout, we had a spot of sunshine and tranquility before visiting Dangar Falls. A total wow moment, not expecting the sheer size or quality of this site, we could easily have missed this spectacle if we had driven out of our way for lunch. The lads down at the bottom of the creek swimming must have been bonkers, for up on the cliff looking down at the waterfall and pool it looked freezing cold. IMG_1838We stopped to feed some horses some apples on the way to another lookout and this stop would later come back to bite us in the ass. We went to Griffiths Lookout, again another jaw-dropping panoramic view of the rainforests. We sat in silence before we mutually agreed without saying anything that we needed to head off. This was also the start of the massive allergic reaction that Katherine was having. Tears streaming down the face, sniffles that would put one of the dwarves to shame and eyes swelling up to match a puffer fish. We stopped in Bellingen for antihistamine eye drops and chocolate. Apparently chocolate, in particular Mint Oreo, is very important in the healing process. We detoured to the same lookout we were taken to the night before. The sky was clear, the hills having a beautiful orange glow on their crest and the sea behind was casting calm waves upon the shore. The canoeists had no idea that just behind the breakwater of the harbour a humpback was swimming past. Too slow to drive down to a proper vantage point to find the whale a bit closer at least I got an image to prove that we had seen whales for a third day in a row. It was another fab day and when dinner was finished we passed out, some of us a bit louder than others in the dorm. IMG_1883IMG_1875IMG_1878IMG_1893IMG_1869
Wednesday 27th July 2016