Northern Rivers

Now, where were we…

After I crossed the Queensland/New South Wales border it began raining and kept raining for a week.

I didn’t mind it too much. Rain is nice, cool, refreshing and a free shower. It is what makes Northern Rivers so lush. Rainforests look as beautiful in rain as they do in sunshine. The flowing mountain streams provide fresh drinking water. The quick reveal of peaks hidden behind clouds is like a special magic show.

Haha! No, rain sux, especially after a few days. All the clothes are wet, the rain jacket and pants are as wet inside as out, possibly more wet inside. Things are starting to grow mould inside the backpack. The shoes squealch and begin to smell sour. Roads are flooded, the same road was flooded 5 times in 3 kilometres before it began rising into the mountains. You discover none of your dry sacks keep things dry. Walking through some of the most beautiful mountains and national park but can’t see it. Jacket hood begins causing claustrophobia as it cuts off all peripheral vision. Vainly attempting to keep your undies dry while trying to go to the toilet in the bush in torrential rain. Leaches.

It didn’t rain for an entire week. It stopped sometimes, during the night.

You know, the most ridiculous thing was that I told someone “it doesn’t rain when I’m walking through” the day it began raining.

During this week I met some amazing and beautiful people who opened up their homes to a stranger and invited me in to shelter.

Mad Dog from Norfolk Island (also living at Crystal Creek) invited me to stay in the most incredible house he built from the ground up. It is a cross between a castle and treehouse nestled deep in the rainforest.

Will and Kelly sheltered me from the rain in Uki and cooked the most delicious dinner. I don’t remember having eaten roast veggies with more flavour. Do you think the more exhausted you are at the end of the day makes food taste better? A combination of this and good company definitely. Will and Kelly are seasoned travellers understanding the needs of a fellow minimalist adventurer.

Walking through flooded creeks and over the spectacular Mount Jerusalem National Park, catching sneak peeks of Wollumbin through the clouds, listening to lyre birds and spotting a yowie (maybe) brought me to the Utopia of Kohinur. There was a meeting for the multiple occupancy communities at the hall so I asked if it was possible to camp on the verandah. They invited me to stay inside then went one better with the warm hospitality of Sam and Celia and the menagerie.

I had changed plans bringing me to the eastern slopes of the Byron Hinterland sooner than expected. This allowed me time to relax with Celia and the animals, meet a few locals including Yor, one of the creators of and we all rescued a stray cow from the road.

Charlie and Claudia, long time locals and keen bike tourers, took me in and fed me a hearty curry made from scratch. I could have eaten ALL the leftovers if I hadn’t already had seconds. Like Will and Kelly, Charlie and Claudia have many stories of their travels around Australia and the world so we stayed up late sharing, laughing and planning our next adventures.

My all time favourite news publication, the Byron Bay Echo, caught up with me at the Mullumbimby Farmers Market. I timed this little section of the walk for these markets. I used to spend a lot of time camping in my kombi here and walking to the markets every Friday morning for coffee and fresh fruit.

Both the camping ground and market are at the showground, very convenient then but not on this occasion. Because of the rain the ground was water logged so they were not allowing camping. I explained “I have a hammock so no problem” but they allow NO hammocks or camping under the trees. This is not a new thing, I am encountering more and more camping and holiday parks who refuse hammocks. In fact, some have even removed unpowered sites from their parks or made their sites too expensive for most travellers. This has often forced me to illegally camp rough in town if I arrive without enough time to walk out of town, or in the case of Byron Shire, out of the region.

I found myself in a predicament, my plans to stay in Mullumbimby for a few nights disappeared. There were not really any affordable options so I walked to Brunswick Heads instead. The holiday parks there also refused to let me hammock. The money I budgeted for Mullum I decided to use for one warm, dry, clean night in a single pub room with shared bathroom.

I’m getting good at changing plans, it happens all the time, but it is still tiring when it comes on top of physical exhaustion. Considering I was now 2 days ahead of schedule with no plans I slept amazingly well, deep sleep and slept in.

For the next 2 nights I needed to find somewhere to free camp. It was raining so I checked out all the sheltered picnic tables and the main shelter popular with local homeless people. Eventually I crossed to the beach intending to make camp in the dunes. The overcast showers became torrential rain. While waiting under the surf club I saw a lot more homeless free campers around and was told the dunes and bush were full of them. I didn’t know what to do. When I watched a couple of rough looking guys shooting up I decided it would not be safe to illegally free camp there. It felt like a bad place to be seen trying to hide.

3 hours later, still waiting for the rain to lighten up, I hadn’t moved and hadn’t a clue where I was going to sleep. Maybe walk down the beach in the dark and hide in Byron?