Road trip final leg, Day 5-6 – Armidale to Byron via Yamba

We enjoyed a coffee in downtown Armidale before setting off north east, towards the coast, along Waterfall Way. The temperature was a very mild 20 degrees. Wallmumbi on Waterfall Way was home to the poet, Judith Wright’s family and she captures the landscape in the poem, South of my Days, the first few lines quoted here:

‘South of my day’s circle, my blood’s country, rises that tableland, high delicate outline of bony slopes wincing under the winter, low trees blue leaved and olive, outcropping granite’

It was full summer as we travelled through but the temperature at Ebor was 17 degrees and the low leafless trees we passed were festooned in lichen, reminiscent of mists and winter frosts. Granite boulders were a big feature. Waterfall Way intersects with Armidale Rd, on the Dorrigo plateau, and Heads on down to Coffs Harbour via Dorrigo and Bellingen. We took the Armidale Rd which snakes through the Nymboi-Binderay National Park, to Nymboida and Grafton.

After 30 km of hairpin bends, we decided a break was required at the Nymboida Camping and Canoeing Centre. It looked fairly deserted the Monday after the holiday period but we were greeted by Bruce, decked out in park ranger gear, informing us that a Driver Revivor station was available at the centre and we could have a cup of tea and a biscuit, if we would like to step inside. It seemed a good idea. The last time we had stopped here 10 years ago, a full slalom canoe course was in operation, using the water released from the Nymboida Power Station on Goolang Creek. About 5 years ago the course was taken out by a flood washing into the Nymboida River and as the power station no longer operated, the Canoe centre was kept open by community volunteers. Goolang Creek looked a very docile little watercourse, however we know from experience how these mountain streams can become raging torrents.

Our journey continued on via Grafton to Yamba at the entry to the huge Clarence River. The Woolloongabba to Ballina by Pass is well under way on the Pacific Highway and the huge bridge which is being built to cross this mighty river at the Yamba turnoff is a true feat of engineering. We meandered along the river to the mouth and settled ourselves into the Yamba Beach Motel at Yamba right above the beach and the wonderful surf rock pool. A swim in the sea was certainly in order and afterwards we took the historic heritage walk past the Surf Club, the Pacific Hotel to the Lighthouse.

Here we learnt about Captain Francis Freeburn, who was appointed by the NSW Governor in 1854 to be the pilot for the navigation of the Clarence River. He and his family and some pilot boatmen were the first white residents of Yamba. The first pilot boat was a four-oared whaleboat but if the sea was too rough, the ships were asked to send out a small boat with a rope. The rope was thrown to Freeburn standing on the headland and he would dive into the sea and be pulled aboard and then be taken to the main ship to guide it in! There is now a long seawall on both sides of the river’s mouth which was built, after up to 18 ships were wrecked trying to cross the bar between 1850 and 1896. Our dinner that night was eaten at the Pacific Hotel, local jewfish and chips, overlooking the setting sun and the almost new moon rise.

The following morning we were up at sunrise to capture the incoming tide, estimated to hit 2 metres. The surf pool was transformed into a foamy wash of waves and we bravely tried a few laps. A few photographers and yoga enthusiasts were settled on the rocky shore as the waves were crashing in.

My delight at the morning light for taking wonderful photos was short lived.

Still clutching my trusty iPhone, I stepped down the rocky steps into a pool to wash my feet not expecting the bottom of the pool to be full of slime. Next thing I was flat on my face and the phone disappeared into the water under a rock ledge as the next wave surged in. Somehow I managed to extract the phone. My dear husband immediately whipped off the phone cover and wrapped it in a towel. His words ‘You just disappeared!’ Well, yes because I was desperately trying to rescue the phone! It was only later we noticed my bloody sleeve where the rock had taken a layer of skin. Somehow the phone still continued to function. I immediately transferred as many photos as I could fearing at any moment the phone would expire.

Our journey home through the misty humid rain ended later that morning and the phone was thrust into a sealed bag with kitty litter inside – Google recommends a bag of rice or silica gel to absorb all the moisture. As I write the phone continues to work and we have returned safely after a 1900km round trip.

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