Where we are staying for this house sit, along the mid-north coast of NSW, the mountain scenery is a spectacular backdrop to the pristine beaches along the coast. National Parks abound in this area. One in particular we have been told about is Dorrigo National Park along the “Waterfall Way”. The name alone tempts me to explore. So today with the sun shining we head inland.
It is a 65 kilometre drive from Nambucca Heads to Dorrigo and the road is a marvel of the grit and determination of the early road builders. It climbs and winds through narrow gorges cut from solid rock. In places the tight turns curl back on themselves. Then it will narrow to a one way cutting. It feels like driving a rally course and needs intense concentration. The spectacular scenery spreads away to the horizon.
As I squeeze past the oncoming traffic I catch a glimpse of this waterfall mistily cascading down the cliff face, we pull over to take a photo.
The rainforest towers above us.
It is lunchtime when we pull into Dorrigo the small timber settlement on the edge of the National Park.
This grand old hotel built in 1925 by Michael Feros, is heritage listed and is still owned by the Feros family. It is a classic example of Australian hotel architecture of the 1920s. The meals had been recommended and they were good, but HUGE. After seeing the size of other diners meals, we ordered one seafood platter to share. 4 Large calamari that just melted in the mouth, 4 super size prawns, 4 pieces of fish a heap of chips and a delicious fresh salad, that was supposed to be a meal for one! Needless to say we enjoyed it…
Next it was a short 2 kilometre detour along the road to the Dangar Falls.
It was a pleasant surprise to see so much water cascading over the escarpment as there has been no rain for weeks.
This fertile area was once covered in forest and the giant red cedar was the king, but the timber industry of the late 1800’s and early 1900’s soon cleaned out this precious timber.
“Word quickly spread of the agricultural potential of the area’s deep basalt Soils, and with Government regulations requiring selectors to improve the value of their land, farmers immediately set to work to clear the scrub for pasture.
Rainforest clearing was backbreaking work. Trees were ringbarked or felled, and burnt in ‘great conflagrations’.
“During the last twelve months it is estimated that fully 3,000 acres of timber have been committed to the flames so that at the present rate it will not be very long before the entire original scrub has disappeared.” (Agricultural Gazette, 1911).
The 1917 Guide to the Dorrigo Shire extolled the plateau as “an enormous area of splendid, delightfully, watered agricultural and dairying lands, upon which are many smiling homesteads and herds of well-bred cattle and adds “notwithstanding wanton destruction of enormous areas of timber, magnificent supplies yet remain for posterity”.
However, the luxuriance of the rainforest growth exaggerated the fertility of the underlying soils. Most of the valuable plant nutrients were derived from the rich and constantly recycled litter layer of the forest floor, and after forest clearing and subsequent burning,these nutrients were quickly depleted.
It was a hard life for early settlers, with distant markets and decreasing soil fertility offering poor returns. However, many were successful and dairying, beef cattle and logging are still major industries of Dorrigo today.” (information from the Dorrigo community web site)
Leaving the fertile farmlands behind we drove on to the Rainforest centre.
This word brings to me the vision of an ancient land, with dinosaurs roaming through the rainforest. But this is the twenty-first century and fortunately remnants of these prehistoric rainforests have been preserved as National Parks.
This 75 metre long “Skywalk” takes you over the rainforest canopy to magnificent views to the distant mountains and on a clear day as far as the ocean.
After seeing life from a bird’s eye view it is now time to go down to ground level.
Another board walk takes us down into the bowels of the rainforest.
As we walk through this heritage listed park the track winds through the luxuriant tropical vegetation. Trees, with large buttress roots, tower above us, palms fight for space as thick woody vines encircle every thing. Epiphytes and ferns are also common and add a profusion of multi-layered confusion.
This describes the atmosphere so well. Much better words than I could ever think of to describe how it feels, with the rustle of the wind and the abundant call of birds and, surprisingly, no one else on the track, it felt as though we had been transported back to the start of time.
There is so much more to see in this spectacular area and I make a mental note that we will come back again and follow this “Water Fall Way” right along its 165 kilometre length from the ocean at Coffs Harbour to Armidale on the New England tablelands.