Rain: my best friend and my worst enemy.
I love the feeling of cold water touching my sun-kissed skin on a summers day. It could be the cool embrace of a deep plunge in an ice-cold pool, having thousands of litres fall upon me underneath a local waterfall, or simply a cold shower at the end of the day.
But confusingly enough, I cannot bear to embrace non-stop rainfall throughout the summer. It leaks down your neck, tricking you into thinking some mighty bug has found its way under your shirt, it fills your shoes so they seem like they will never be dry again, and most relevant to my current experience, it reveals to you any shortcomings you might have in your #vanlife build when it trickles into places water should not be.
You would think that a person who is so against standing in the pouring rain, such as myself, would keep this one thing in mind when planning a road trip throughout Australia. Somehow though I failed to understand that going along the northern coast of NSW toward QLD in Summer to "chase the sun" would lead me into the beginnings of cyclone season and with that a hell of a lot of moisture (yep, I said it).
The start of our journey saw us breezing up the coastline as if we were being chased by wildfire. We were baptising our newest voyage in the standard Australian way by heading straight to Byron. Now had it not been for the sole reason of going to our friends birthday, we probably would have avoided Byron altogether and taken our sweet-ass time heading north (nothing against you Byron, but you're just too full like Sydney) but alas, here we were. With a short, but very sweet stop in Newcastle and South West Rocks, we quickly found ourselves surrounded by the smell of incense, sights of men with flowing long hair, and the sounds of music that come with entering Byron Bay.
Our stay there though was quite short-lived. As most partakers or observers of Australian vanlife would know, Byron Bay has become quite the hotbed of tourism, especially van tourism in the past years and is now aggressively targeting anyone even slightly looking like they may take a rest in their van - not quite the welcome you want. On top of this, it was far more inclement than we had expected. So we did what any good vanlifer does and we changed homes. We weren't upset though, we embraced this detour in plans with child-like wonder as we looked at discovering everything inner NSW may have. This led to incredible realizations of beautiful places, most notably Sawtell, Bongil Bongil, Bellingen, and Dorrigo.
I could tell you that these places have some of the most stunning sights I have ever laid eyes on in Australia, but you would have heard that a million different times from a million different people, so I'll say this instead. Imagine I gave you a time machine that could deliver you right into the lush forests of Gondwanaland. You're surrounded by million-year-old trees and ferns with waterfalls gracing your every turn, and it feels like you have it all to yourself! Convinced yet? I know I was!
The true rainforest vibes started as we embarked upon the Waterfall Way, following the meandering curves of the Bellinger River which was roaring in all its glory with the full seasons' rain we had. We stopped in Bellingen for a few days as we knew there was phone reception and we could get as much as possible done before the weekend. Whilst there we really got to appreciate the community that can only be seen in a small, eccentric town. We kicked off Friday night with a visit to Bellingen Brewing Co. which had amazing home-made ginger beer, and prepared for our journey of departure on the Saturday by visiting the Bellingen Growers Market and stocking up on amazing fresh produce, and getting some of the best sausages and kielbasa I've ever tasted from Thorns Gourmet Meats and Smokehouse! Best road snacks ever.
Over the course of the weekend, we ventured into the rain and didn't let it stop us no matter how much I was cursing it. We found the most magical river ever, somewhere in the midst of Never Never/Promised Land which is definitely worth the sidetracked voyage, and threw ourselves neck-deep into its freezing, but relaxing waters.
As we climbed a very steep 700 (or so) meters from Thora to Dorrigo National Park, we took in Newell Falls' power, which flows directly under the road. We pulled into one of the best National Park discovery centres I have ever been to, Dorrigo Rainforest Centre, and went on a 3-hour hike along Crystal Shower Falls, continuing to the Wonga Walk to see Tristania Falls. Because we had the place to ourselves, what I feel may be a rarity, we even got the opportunity to capture a sneaky bum-shot in front of Crystal Shower Falls. We spotted more variety of mushrooms than I've seen in my entire life and saw more than our fair share of Lyrebirds running around.
After having a solid meal thanks to Thorns' aforementioned sausages, on top of the park looking into the valley, we set off for our final waterfall, which was also our resting place for the night - Ebor Falls.
So in essence, water - falling, can be beautiful and a pain in the ass. But it isn't worth imprisoning yourself under the blankets until it goes away. Best to just get out there and take advantage of how few people there are.