A full and brilliant moon illuminated our room in a spectacular fashion, silhouetting the tea trees outside against a deep electric blue dawn sky. There was quiet single syllable conversation until electric blue paled and was enhanced by warm pinks and orange, and we were up and eager. Moby Dick’s beckoned.
A hundred metres along the highway was the track leading to East Inlet and assorted shacks and a ‘gated’ section named Gullivers Rest, and then miles of beach – kilometres of crabless sand, and with enough firm sand to make beach walking a pleasure. The Nut rose in shadow in the distance and the sea’s oscillations sparkled. Were there any other humans on Earth that morning?
We watched the sun sneak up on the houses at the foot of the Nut and eventually the sand ran out and we climbed up the cement stairs in the rocky wall close to the caravan park. Bloggers had praised Moby Dick, an establishment opening daily at 7.30am and closing at lunchtime. Having peered through the windows the previous day, we knew they did eggs all ways: our food, unlike the restaurants advertising meat and fish on beds of inedibles.
What a difference a day makes! We sat in the window and were baked by sun; yesterday with rain jackets and hoods, we’d shivered outside. Bloggers had also commented on the long wait for food. We were in no hurry. Can you imagine that? ‘No hurry’ – an unknown sensation in Sydney and equally alien in our Campbell Town lives. However, service was brisk and friendly, and food arrived before we had time to settle into slow. The toast, placed close to my eggs, was delicious. I recall white bread having a taste, and here it was on my plate, and a green leaf garnish was fresh and simple. Gary had ample bacon with his eggs. Two clean plates, two coffees, and we were unstoppable.
Highfield House, way up on the top of the hill which yesterday had prompted a decision to visit by car, was now in our sights, and after walking parallel to Godfrey’s Beach we gambolled up Green Hills Road, an incline over a little less than 3 kms rising to 50 metres above sea level: views in all directions. Excluding the wind, the day was brilliant. We experimented with panorama shots and videos and successfully got a thumb and truthful recording of the wind.
Highfield House was of interest because Peter, who had done some restoration work on The Grange in our time, had also worked here. The house is fifteen years older than ours and was resurrected from a derelict state; many rooms, although ‘cleaned up’, bear witness to neglect and weathering. The layout was interesting and unconventional, and indicated a sparsity of early visitors, with no sizeable reception rooms and perhaps only one room to accommodate guests.
The walled garden was a blaze of colour. Juliana’s Grave, centred in an intimate hedged circle of flowers, was a sad memorial to a child dying before her third birthday without the experience of Boarding School in England with her siblings. One of the outbuildings with an adjoining commercial kitchen, spoke to Gary and I as a potential concert venue. A Yoga retreat and Flower Show were in Highfield’s immediate calendar.
We retraced our steps and headed for the beach. It was under water! The tide was in, our access was submerged, and the jolly 4.62kms walk in was replaced with battling a full frontal gale, soft sinking sand, and a lengthy route variation of almost a kilometre. The highlight was a bright orange brain-like blob in the sand.
There was half an unused day left and with minimal discussion we set out for Dip Falls – compensation for Wes Beckett being closed. I have since read that the access road is littered with fallen trees as a result of the devastating 2016 bushfires.
From the A2 we travelled East and turned South into Mawbanna Road, just after Black River. It was a picturesque 24kms, with a mix of pasture, forests, plantations and vibrant green rolling hills. The final 2 kms to Dip Falls Reserve were on an unsealed road and at the car park there were rooved shelters, BBQ facilities and toilets, and people with little dogs. The backdrop drone of water falling hastened our exodus and although the Falls would become a huge talking point, the recently constructed stairway to the bottom of the Falls, and viewing platform, was mighty impressive: a beautiful work of art; an engineering masterwork; a safe, anti -slip surface; a stairway with twists and turns to physically and mentally break the lengthy climb down, and up, all bolted onto the adjoining rock face which had its own little water fall.
The (major) Falls were two tiered with lots of water spilling over both levels. Like hair with a coloured streak, one strand of the Falls was tannin-stained, and also remarkable was a tree rooted between the hexagonal basalt columns where the top level pooled before cascading down to the river. Looking up, the bluest of skies was a complement to the curtain of white on black.
The “Big Tree” was signposted and we set off on foot, first crossing the bridge, and like children, tossing a twig from one side and then rushing to the other to see it appear. The apparent calmness of the water here gave no hint of the imminent 34 metre drop. What a surprise that would be in your little canoe…
Although easy walking this was an incredibly long one kilometre. There was much to look at that was pleasurable – the tall timbers, and the man ferns’ fresh fronds radiating out from their crowns contrasting with their skirts of old fronds, but the kilometre seemed endless. Another incline, another bend, another tall tree, another tree fern, another dip in the road and of course, another incline, but the Big Tree and its companions (I’m thinking ‘her’ companions) were impressive eucalypts indeed. With a girth of 17 metres the walk around the biggest tree revealed columns and deep crevices, boils and horizontal striations, green lichens and innumerable shades of brown on both fibrous and smooth and shiny textures.
We returned to the car for snacks – a pear for me and a muesli type bar for Gary – and then in the late afternoon sun made our return to Stanley and the IGA. We stocked up for dinner (having decided our own restaurant was best), gathered ingredients for Saturday’s lunch, and bought a newspaper for the Sudoku. The Bottle Shop was in the Pub (up a hill) and we exchanged our dislike of buying wine in a pub’s bottle shop based on relatively few prior experiences, however we were pleasantly surprised, as we were left unattended in the cellar. We emerged with familiar wine and cans of unfamiliar beer. It seemed the right sort of occasion.
A couple of kms and we were home in our cabin with designs of drinking beers on the verandah while we watched the tide do its thing, but it was unpleasantly windy and sitting inside was good; so good that Gary sat comfortably warm in his undies. Everything revolved around knowing that the tide would be totally out at 7.22pm: a must see.
We headed out along the West Inlet beach in the opposite direction to our first day’s walk and here the crabs and sand were replaced by smooth rounded charcoal grey rocks. We took the track that led back to the highway, crossed it, and instead of walking to the East Inlet track, selected an overgrown driveway that soon became untraversed bracken and coastal scrub over waist high. The beach seemed far less close than it should be, but the further we stumbled the less inclined we were to turn around, and eventually we emerged through the dunes with only a few battle wounds. I hope we didn’t destroy any birds’ nests as the signage on all the beaches we visited asked us not to walk in the dunes for that reason.
The water was on the horizon. The sun had retreated leaving a band of salmon colour above this dark line. This is the flattest expanse of tidally exposed sand I know.
No humans. No clouds. 7.22pm