First stop the Country
From time to time four friends plan a trip away, usually to Sydney. We’ve been to see fantastic plays at the Sydney Theatre starring Cate Blanchett and Rose Byrne, sparkled and sang along at Kylie’s Golden concert and visited art galleries, gardens and fabulous restaurants. We laugh (a lot), we shop (a bit), we share beautiful meals, we drink champagne, take long morning walks to counteract the champers and drink bucket loads of coffee and tea before solving all the problems of the world. We then laugh some more.
This year was different. This year our hearts have been breaking for our beautiful country. First our country towns were ravaged by drought, followed by bushfires on a scale we’ve never seen, then came the inevitable flooding causing more problems, before more clean up, more rebuilding. Australia was in trouble.
At home we felt quite helpless as to how we could make a difference, so I wrote a story urging people to visit our country towns, take an esky, spend some money and let the locals know you care. But you can’t just talk the talk, you must walk the walk !
So this year the four friends set off in a four wheel drive to visit some country towns, see the town where one of the friends grew up and spend some money and time visiting our Australia. We dubbed our trip from the Country to the Coast and what a wonderful time we had traversing winding country roads full of birdsong, now gurgling creeks and seeing the country come to life again after the rains.
Driving through Queensland
We were each picked up by our fearless driver and headed out of Brisbane at about 8am on a Wednesday morning. I was proud to have fitted my gear into my wheelie hand luggage. ( I know the girls were expecting me to have two huge suitcases for 3 days). I can still manage to surprise them!
We hit quite a bit of traffic for the first hour but only an hour out of Brisbane it began to feel like the country. There were cows, buildings became sparser, we saw fields where hay was being made into bales and everything looked like it was springing back to life after a long sleep.
Beaudesert was our first stop and a wall of heat hit us as we stepped out of the car. That couldn’t stop us. We were craving our morning coffee fix so found the lovely local bakery, The Beaudesert Bakehouse. What a beautiful bakery with so many fresh baked goods. We bought some delicious baked goods (the cornflake biscuits were a big hit) and we sipped our coffee whilst perusing the delicious range of pies, rolls, sandwiches, sweet treats and even some rice paper rolls. The coffee was great, service was friendly and these city slickers were very impressed with the quality and cleanliness of this baked goods oasis.
All too soon we hit the road again.Travelling through the ever greener Scenic Rim; past farms, country schools, wineries and inviting streams. Our goal was to cross the border and head on to Kyogle in New South Wales. The roads climbed higher and the forest grew thicker. Here cows grazed freely right by the road side.
We could see the signs of the recent flooding, with debris lining the riverbanks. It was unbelievable to think that just a few weeks ago this land was dry and scorched and the week before we came there was so much water that we would have been unable to drive through.
Crossing the border, for me, felt like entering a foreign land! I’d been to Murwillumbah once as a child and to Cabarita Beach with my cousin as a teenager so it’s been a long time since I ventured out this way. Probably 40 years since I’ve driven across the border.
Country New South Wales
Reaching Cougal we donated our coins and headed to the lookout deep in the forest, a part of the Border Ranges National Park. This park is found on the rim of an ancient volcano and adjoins Queensland’s Lamington National Park. It is one of the most biodiverse areas in Australia.
The song of the bellbirds was mesmerising. I wanted to stay here all day and gaze over this magical land. Our friend pointed out where the Border Loop spiral railway line had been forged in the distance. She remembers the excitement of her family going to watch as the lines were laid. It was great to have a local to share her stories.
We passed through more dense rainforest and marvelled at the engineering of the gigantic railway bridges. My friend had made some of the bolts in the bridges that we crossed, after helping at her Uncle’s engineering works. Everywhere was evidence of the recent flooding and regrowth. Fire scorched areas were thankfully beginning to sprout new green growth.
Soon we reached the pretty town of Kyogle. I loved the old schoolhouses, halls and bridges on the way into town. Kyogle had grown up as a timber town and when the timber cutters had cleared the land, cattle and dairy farmers moved in. There were many old timber homes, so I was surprised to see the pretty Main Street full of Art Deco buildings. It is possibly the finest example of an Art Deco Main Street in Australia and came about because fire ravaged the town in the 1920’s and 30’s. Thereafter all important buildings were built with brick and this quirk of fate helped create this Art Deco wonderland. You can do an Art Deco Walking Tour to learn more about this incredible town.
We decided to lunch at the Sugarbowl Café Bar, a quaint café on the Main Street. It‘s quite big, with inside and outside tables and a bar at the back, yet the friendly owners have made it feel cosy with quirky areas, artwork and eclectic décor. We were blown away by the quality of the food. I had a pumpkin and spinach frittata with a delicious salad and my friends loved their generous lamb wraps. This is a must do now on any visit to Kyogle.
We wandered the Main Street stopping into boutiques, the Roxy Gallery- an arts space on the site of the old Roxy Picture Theatre, the chemist which sells a bit of everything , the hairdressers where I bought some hair products and the bespoke leather shop, before exploring one of the local pubs. Kyogle has two pubs, the top pub and the bottom pub. We visited The Commercial Hotel, where a group of school children were having fun at the state of the art bowling alley attached. Nearby new restaurant , The Farmers Plate, beckoned with its French inspired menu.
The afternoon shadows were lengthening so we jumped back in the car and toured the town, seeing the high school where our friend attended, the lake where she waterskied, the home she grew up in and the sites at the outskirts of this town, which was funnily named after bush turkeys. One of the best nurseries in Australia, Daleys Nursery, is here in Kyogle, and is considered the birthplace of many of Australia’s fruit trees and edible plants. I was surprised at how big the town was and at the range of sporting clubs and facilities. There was even a hospital.
Heading out we passed Nimbin and Murwillumbah , where the Margaret Olley gallery beckoned us for another visit. Through Tweed Heads and on to the bright lights of Palm Beach where we could rest our weary heads, crack open the esky and share some of the champs and snacks we’d bought and recount stories of our day exploring the Country.
Our road trip had shown us how close our country towns had come to disaster, how quickly the bush can regenerate after rain and given us a glimpse into the lives of rural communities. It was a great way to reconnect with our Australia and if you’re able to take a day trip or holiday in our country areas it’s a great way to help our communities in need. We need to help them get back on their feet.
Next week – The Coast
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