Georgia Hopkins | September 2020
Georgia Hopkins explores the enchanting town of Bellingen in the ever-fitting Touareg 190TDI Adventure.
It’s not every day a firefly lands on your shoulder.
But so it was, while sitting at Diggers Headland on the Coffs Coast of New South Wales on a full moon, that a fancy little firefly with all its brilliant bioluminescence came and landed on my shoulder. For me, it was magic. Pure and simple magic. And it was a perfectly luminous start to what would be a very full and wonderful few days exploring the Bellinger Valley in our Touareg 190TDI Adventure.
The thing is, there’s a certain kind of magic to the Bellinger Valley and its presence can be felt as soon as you turn off the highway and drive into town. An enchanting little village on the Mid North Coast, Bellingen has long attracted a bohemian community of eclectic, consciously-minded people - artists, musicians, creatives. There is a special kind of rhythm here. Whether it be the ever present mountains or the crystal clear waters of the Never Never Creek or the Bellinger River, the endless waterfalls and swimming holes and river dips, or the lush and fertile meadows that coat the valley, there is an abundance of natural wonder in these parts. The light is fantastical.
This is a very peaceful and restorative part of the world.
Given the nature of our vehicle, we knew the days ahead were set to be full of adventure, and adventure was exactly what we found. The Touareg Adventure steered us gently along the famed Waterfall Way (rated the best scenic drive in NSW), spiralling upwards to the Dorrigo plateau, where we stopped in at the Dorrigo National Park to spend time amongst its World Heritage listed rainforest, 800m above sea level. We walked out over the Skywalk, a breathtaking elevated walk through the rainforest with views all the way out to sea, and we wandered the ‘Wonga’ walking trail though subtropical rainforest and 600 year old trees, passing the Tristania and Crystal Shower Falls along the way. We sat underneath the cascading falls, and bathed in the forest of trees that surrounded us (Rosewood, Tanglewood, Illawarra Flame Trees, Woolgoolga Black Apple, Strangling Fig, to name just a few). “The rainforest smells of seduction and fermentation and death” wrote Australian writer, Janette Turner Hospital in 1992, and it was Janette’s words that twirled in our minds as we stopped and relished in any moments where the smell of any of the things she mentioned struck a chord. It is a captivating place.
We carried on in the Touareg, stopping briefly at Dangar Falls, to find Point Lookout; one of the most popular destinations for visitors along the Waterfall Way. Perched on the edge of the Great Escarpment, Point Lookout offers expansive views across the rainforest and out to the ocean in the distance. We were told it was best visited at sunrise to witness the mist in the valley turn from orange to pink into a golden glow, but sadly on the day of our visit the rain and the clouds had set in and we couldn’t see much more than our own two feet on the ground below us. What we discovered instead however was the tiny little village of Wollomombi - as we drove a little further along the Waterfall Way - and this ended up being the jewel in our adventuring crown.
It was in the Wollomombi village that we stumbled across the Wollomombi General Store. As we stepped in the door we were greeted with a big Aussie ‘g’day’ from a chirpy fellow who would later introduce himself as Ayden, the owner of the general store come post office come pub and pool hall, the only store in the village. We learnt that Ayden runs the store with his wife, and they live in the adjoining house next door. He had an infectious warmth about him, and a classically Australian down-to-earth and welcoming demeanour that was at once likeable. We ordered a couple of his classic “Wollo Mac” burgers, played a few games of pool, and then carried on our way. It was such a heart-warming experience and it was all thanks to Ayden that we ended up at the Wollomombi Falls just down the road. We hadn’t pegged this destination as we were planning out our adventure, and we could have easily missed it had we not popped our heads into his little store. It ended up being the highlight of our trip.
The Oxley Wild Rivers National Park just down the road is home to the Wollomombi Falls, the second highest waterfall in Australia, descending from 907m above sea level in one spectacular single plunge into the Wollomombi River (near the confluence of the Chandler River). We walked around the rim of the Wollomombi Gorge and watched the tumbling falls. The scale of the gorge took our breath away. It was astounding.
We didn’t rush our time there. We really wanted to soak in the magic for as long as we could. We took a few different trails and viewed the gorge from many different angles. This really is waterfall country.
We were on such a high as we began the journey home, and were exhausted when we finally made it back to town. So it was a quick stop at the very wonderful Qudo (sister cafe to Doma in Federal in the Byron Bay hinterland) for a nourishing Japanese dinner, a quick visit to the boutique wine store on the main street of town to grab a local bottle of wine, before the Touareg gently glided us home to the Promised Land.
The pristine “Promised Land’ is only 10 minutes from Bellingen in the Gleniffer Valley at the foot of the Dorrigo World Heritage National Park, and our accommodation for the weekend was the lovely Cottonwood Cottage, tucked away on 61 acres of land.
The ultimate hideaway from which to enjoy a new level of silence and peacefulness, this luxury Hamptons-style cottage with its all-white interior and outdoor bath even has its own access to the Never Never River, where you can enjoy your own private river swims. The cottage is filled with endless beautiful and considered touches - a wall lined with more books than we had ever seen in our lives, a mini bar full of food, some lovely wine, heated floors, a Danish wood-fired heater, Bose sound system, as well as a magnesium pool. The cottage’s lovely owners Suzi and Dan are the founders of the Affirmations Publishing House which they started together back in 1988. Working out of a beautiful art deco building (c.1930) on the main street, they create a unique range of products that are designed to motivate, enrich and enlighten.
Suzi and Dan believe passing inspirational messages from one person to another creates a positive shift in values, which makes a better world for us all. They are passionate about positivity, and their enduring mission is to share uplifting messages of hope, love, inspiration, enlightenment, fun and discovery around the globe. You can sense a similar passion in the way they have created the cottage - guests have no choice but to leave feeling more nourished, uplifted and relaxed.
We slept like babies, enjoying the silence of the valley, and woke to enjoy a breakfast in the cottage before heading into Bellingen for a coffee and some cake at Hyde.
The Touareg was the ultimate companion to explore the power and beauty of this incredible wilderness region. A smooth, strong and powerful beast, it guided us with ease and superior comfort.