A rainy weekend to end January 2013 seemed like a good time to share a trip from a couple of years ago that involved going out in the rain and the wind in the name of wilderness and avoiding cabin fever. As I write this (last weekend), a cyclone from up north is rattling the windows and whistling around the verandah ends and it’s bucketing down outside. It is reminiscent of 2010 when we had an exceptionally wet spring and summer and autumn on the North Coast of NSW. Most overused phrase of the season was ‘east coast low’ and after weeks of intermittent showers and one extended stretch of 10 days of solid rain there was nothing for it but to drag out the Gortex jackets and waterproof overpants and go for it. Forecasts at the time showed no sign of the rain letting up and Caz had come down with a murderous case of cabin fever. And when it's raining, what better place to go than the rainforest.
Dorrigo National Park, just 50km by road from Coffs Harbour, is World Heritage listed rainforest and part of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia, which tie together a string of national parks along the east coast of the country from the Barrington Tops to Lamington National Park in Queensland. For our day out, we drove past the main Dorrigo Rainforest visitor’s centre to the Never Never picnic area and parked the car under dripping callicomas. The tops of towering hoop pines had dissolved into low cloud. There were no other cars.
Beginning at the bottom end of the Rosewood Creek Track we followed it through wet forest, skidding on the red soil and slick leaf litter. Maybe it was the elevation but the rain had slowed to somewhere between drizzle and downpour. Under the rainforest canopy everything appeared shiny and glistened in an exotic collection of lush greens and occasional ornamental highlights of clean white or brilliant orange fungi, overlaid on the black of rotting timbers.
When we could hear Rosewood Creek below us, a steep off-track detour took us down and slipped us into a shallow but fast flowing straight section of the Rosewood with a Robin Hood-esque crossing log in the downstream distance. With it raining so hard there was no need to pause or concern ourselves about getting wet in the creek. In we plunged, adding wet shoes and socks to the wet everything else.
Photography in those conditions is a challenge. Armed with a small fold out umbrella, a couple of tea towels and an increased level of concentration Caz worked to keep everything dry. But photography in those conditions is also the most rewarding – the rain, the low even light. Mood and atmosphere oozed out of the landscape. Moisture on everything added a deep richness to the colours and a real sense of rain-forest. Along the creek edge the wait-a-while vines wrapped and reached to smother and hook nearby trees. A dozen different ferns lined the creek, sneaking into rocky crevasses: fishbone water fern, tree ferns, maidenhair and then the moss covered logs.
The rains had raised the level of the Rosewood River slightly and side gullies were gushing and pouring having turned from rocky moist channels into small rainforest creeks in their own right. We headed up the Rosewood and then turned up the first major side creek we came to. It stepped its way down through the rainforest in a picture perfect cascade and we sloshed and slid and picked our way through the water.
By midday our fingers had turned white and crinkly. It brings to mind this quote (seen of all places on a Macpac online ad) by Olympic middle distance runner Peter Snell: “when it’s pouring rain and you’re bowling along through the wet, there’s satisfaction in knowing you’re out there and the others aren’t.”
We were out there all day, exploring the upper reaches of the beautiful Rosewood River. We skipped a proper lunch and just snacked as it was too wet and cold to stop for long. Eventually, to return to the car, we muddied our way up off the river before the sides of the valley became too steep. At the top of the ridge, that marks the south-western side of the creek, we turned and headed down towards the walking track: everything dripping still, raining still, overpants now as wet inside as out. At the car we peeled our clothes off; skin clinging to sweat and rain-soaked shorts and socks. A garbage bag for the wet things, a towel, a change of clothes and not a hint of cabin fever left.