Trails, Views and Kangaroos
The sun is out again and it looks like we’re in for a good day except for the fire haze that’s still about. We have decided to visit Springbrook National Park, which is southwest of Coolangatta on our way to Coffs Harbour. We enter the address on our app and find we have to travel North to Mudgeeraba which will be a 100km detour as this is the only road into and out of the park.
The traffic is horrendous and we get lost (yet again) ending up at Tweed Heads. This is a lovely town just over the New South Wales Border and in a different time zone to Coolangatta, one hour ahead. We drive down the river Tweed where people are making the most of the good weather on a Saturday. Boats are on the river along with jet skis, paddle boards and kayaks.
Back on the M1 we turn off at Mudageerba and begin our drive up into the mountains to Springbrook, a plateau formed from a massive volcanic eruption. Part of the Gondwala Rain forest it is 970m above sea level and proves quite a challenge for the car, which chugs up the hills with difficulty.
The visitor centre at Wunburra is closed but we pick up leaflets and begin our trip to the lookouts and trails dotted around the park. We drive along the top of the cool and shaded Lyrebird ridge with views of the Numinbah Valley through the trees.
Heading along Springbrook road we turn down Forestry Road to visit Purlingbrook Falls. Parking up we walk along the track through rainforest to the views of the Falls and the canyon below and across the valley. The mountain is covered in rainforest except for a strip at the top which is Eucalyptus.
Heading back to Springbrook Road we continue until we reach Boy-Ull Road down which is Canyon Point. We spy a small pandemelon crossing the road into the forrest - it is like a kangaroo but much smaller. From the lookout we have great views of the canyon and the waterfalls. We decide against the twin waterfall walk as it will take us 2 hours and there is not a great deal of water due to the drought.
Turning off Springbrook Road we make our way down to Best of all lookout at the end of Repeater Road. We wander 15 – 20 minutes from the car park through the rainforest passing huge Atlantic Beech trees which are about 2000 years old. At the end of the walk we are rewarded by stunning views across New South Wales to Mount Warning and the coast at Byron Bay. A plaque points out all the points of interest in the distance. It’s just a shame that the fire haze prevents us seeing as far as usually possible.
Our final stop on this drive through the National Park is Goomoolahra. There is a creek here which never dries up although it is only a trickle at the moment. The waterfall descends 80m to the rocks below but the lack of rain means that this is also only a trickle. Nevertheless, the views are again beautiful, across the plateau and all the way back to the coast.
We make our way back along Springbrook road and back down into the valley. The road is twisty and some of the bridges quite hair raising, but at least the car doesn’t labour going downhill. The journey takes us back to the M1 and towards where we started this morning. We now have quite a long drive to Coffs Harbour, approximately 300km.
We head down the M1 but decide to turn off at Byron Bay which we have heard so much about. The beaches are sublime with lots of surf but the streets are packed and driving is a nightmare. The is nowhere to park so we make our way to Cape Byron Lighthouse. The lighthouse was built in 1901 and is the most easterly one on Australia’s coastline. This must have been a welcome sight to sailors of the 20th Century as the rocks below look treacherous. The beaches stretch out in both directions, with Tallow Beach extending for 7km south.
Continuing south we follow the Pacific highway through the Northern Rivers region. This is made up of three rivers; the Clarence, the Richmond and the Tweed. There is plenty of water here and we drive along the banks of rivers and estuaries, over many bridges and through the towns of Ballina, Yamba, Angourie and Grafton.
Mark is becoming a little worried as we still have quite some way to drive and the light is diminishing as time slips by. It is almost dark by the time we reach Grafton and we still have 80km to drive. Even more worrying is the fact that we can now smell burning in the car with the windows closed. The smell is really strong and we are travelling right through forested land which has scorched trees and shrub.
It is really dark now and there are no street lights. Suddenly see a dingo run straight in front of the car from the side of the road. Then, a laud thud and we realise we have hit something. Marcus and I don’t want to know what, but Mark looks and it is a small kangaroo. It is unfortunately dead but at least it is not suffering and there is no joey. The rest of the journey continues in silence as we all feel awful and we promise ourselves we will not drive in the country at night again.