“Where to?” asked Karen, Australian hitch-hikee the thirty second. I had yet to consult maps and formulate any plans, but it was time to leave the comforts of Coffs Harbour’s real beds and canoes and surf and “west” felt right so that’s what I said. “Come on then, I’m only going as far as Ballingen but.” They all end their sentences with “but”.
We reached Karen’s turn-off and she looked at me and I looked back at her and then she looked back at me and I was still looking back at her and she said “I know where you need to be tonight” and she drove me an extra 5ish kilometers to the Bellingen Backpackers and told me: “You can camp here tonight and then tomorrow you can decide what you want to do.” I obeyed.
A week later I still find myself in Bellingen. Still at the hostel. Still registered as “one-night camping.” Still alive. This place is extraordinarily special – apart from Pai in Thailand and Granada in Spain – I can think of nowhere even vaguely similar!
Nobody in Ballingen wears shoes; that alone makes me want to stay forever – this place is magical! The fact that my tent stayed dry after five days of incessant torrential rain is a miracle and a half! A four-year-old told me that she saw a unicorn the other day – a white one – so today I cycled out to the Promised Land and explored Never Never Creek seeking them [with names like that I was almost certain I’d find unicorns]. Sadly I found only droppings – but I know I was close.
Everybody in Bellingen is divorced or psychotic or disturbed or pregnant or all of the above – but it just seems to add to the appeal. Over breakfast this morning I chatted to several personas of one very disturbed Melbourner and a possum. The possum made some excellent points.
There’s tubing and canoeing and hiking and the world’s most spectacular views and biggest colony of flying foxes and plenty of fields to dance in and every local tells you about their most recent alien invasion …but the real Bellingen is so much more… With my camera broken (that’s six broken in four years I think) and bed calling my name; all I can tell you is that it’s a place you need to explore for yourself… You too may never leave…
|Probably not quite the unicorn I was seeking… but close… very close…