The Road Back – Gilgai to Coffs Harbour NSW

After finishing Thunderbolts Way at Gilgai just south of Inverell I still had to get the hire car back to Coffs to continue my travels in Rhonda. I headed towards Guyra to pick up the New England Highway to Armidale. The first town I came across was Tingha. Whilst the streets were deserted it was like stepping back in time to a town from a scene of the Wild West. Buildings, whilst appearing in relative good condition, were boarded up or had bars across the windows. I was keen to visit the Wing Hing Long Emporium Museum. Alas like many country museums it was closed. These are all run by volunteers so with the extra pressure put onto small communities by Covid, many just don’t have the manpower to open on a regular basis.

Guyra is only small but there seemed to be plenty of people out and about here. Again the museum was not open but I did have a walk around the town and the adjacent Mother of Ducks Lagoon. A very clean and tidy town, Guyra is trying to lure the Grey Nomad market with a 24 hour free camp beside the lagoon and golf course.

I had not been to Armidale since I attended a school camp here in about 4th form. As I wandered down the city’s mall I thought back to when 2 of our teachers and chaperones indulged a bit too long at the pub and came back to the University dormitory that we were staying at slightly the worse for wear. Armidale is a very hilly city with great vantage points to look out across the CBD. The Services Club had good meals.

After staying in hotel and motel the previous two nights I decided to dip my toe in the water that is Airbnb. It was an interesting experience. I must say the communication with the landlord was excellent but it was a little strange to get to my accommodation and let myself into someone else’s home with a key that was available from the locked key box at the front door. The house I was told was to be treated as if it was my own home. This is a little easier said than done as it is so foreign to anywhere I have stayed before. The landlord was lovely though and made it a bit more comfortable once she arrived home . I stayed here two nights. At less than half the cost of a motel, with breakfast included it was hard to pass up. Would I stay at an Airbnb again? The jury is still out. I guess it just means some major adjustments to the thought process but as this trip is all about new things and new experiences it was something that I am glad that I experienced. A friend in Coffs has an Airbnb but it is a seperate granny flat type situation so totally different to that of having a total stranger sharing your living space.

I had a good look around Armidale. The city is dominated by its University, The University of New England. There is a good lookout to the north of the city and I had a wander around the CBD. I also took a drive out to Dangers Gorge (not to be confused with Dangar Falls at Dorrigo). It’s about 20km south. While it was a pleasant drive out and a good walkway around the cliffs that encircle the falls, the falls themselves were not running. Just a trickle. Considering all the rain we have had in the area I was surprised by the lack of water. As I am continuing my journey along Waterfall Way, there will be a few more opportunities to see falls in full flight as one of which blocked the Dorrigo Mountain road just a couple of days ago.

After Armidale I headed to Dorrigo and stopped off at Wollomombi Falls and Ebor Falls. Both were flowing magnificently. It was great to get to Dorrigo and wander the town where I started work in 1976. After taking some photos in town I went looking for the house where I boarded in Dorrigo. I couldn’t recognize the right house but found an old lady in the garden of a house just down the street to stopped and introduced myself and told her what I was looking for. She had lived in the street all her married life and knew of my old landlady so was able to tell me exactly which house it was.

After having a wander through Dorrigo National Park (see Bucket List #41) I headed down Dorrigo Mountain. It hasn’t changed in all those years. Only the road has been resealed probably several times but all the twists and turns are still there. I was glad I was going down in the hire car and not Rhonda.

Down on the flat below the mountain is the picturesque hippy town of Bellingen. It hasn’t changed, just got very busy and still full of hippies. I found the house where I boarded for a while and also took a photo of the Police Station where I was given my drivers license twice by the same copper. After that it was on to Urunga where I also worked. (see Bucket List #42). Urunga has got very busy and they have done a lot of beautification of the headland there. Again I found the boarding house where I stayed until I turned 17 years old and was then able to commute from my parents place at Coffs.

I thoroughly enjoyed this side trip in the hire car. I was able to see the things I wanted to and covered a lot of ground in a few days.

An old dunny along the way
War Memorial at Gilgai
Mural on side of building at Tingha
Museum at Tingha unfortunately closed.
Mother of Ducks Lagoon Guyra
Between Guyra and Armidale
Dangars Gorge at Armidale. Not flowing.
The City of Armidale from lookout.
Wollomombi Falls
Sometimes you have to get in the shot to prove you were there!
Ebor Falls
Countryside near Dorrigo
The old CBC Bank in Dorrigo where I started my working life. Premises now Legal Practitioners. The NAB still operates from the old Bank of New South Wales (now Westpac) premises on the corner. Good to see NAB still in town. A good indication of a rich area in the country. Banks don’t leave a town if there is money to be made.
Cafe across the road from Dorrigo Bank. I had lunch here on my first day. Ordered a pie and cup of tea. It was so cold (Monday 23rd June 1976) that the steam from both pie and hot tea gave me a nose bleed. Spent the rest of my lunch break in the toilet trying to stem the flow. Not a good look when you are wearing a white shirt and your first day.
The house I boarded at in Dorrigo. I was 16 landlady was 74 (her 94 year old mother lived in Old Peoples Home (yes that’s what we called them in those days) next to my parents in Coffs. I paid $20 per week for full board 5 days a week. My first pay was $56
Newell Falls, half way down Dorrigo Mountain. A few days before it was awash of mud and overflowing the road and the mountain was closed for a couple of days.
Bellingen main street
Police Station Bellingen where the nice Police Sargent twice gave me a Drivers License
House where I boarded when I lost my driving license.

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