There’s an odour in the air. A not unpleasant fragrance of rainforest. It feels like you’re walking through it, like it’s a wall or something. After days on the high rolling plains of New England, the rain forest is as a breath of fresh air in more ways than one. The tall box woods and blackbutts have littered the forest floor with their leaves so there’s a flexing carpet on the soft soil. My knees, forever in pain on the hard inland trails, feel no hardship at all on this benign surface.
The Rosewood Trail out of Dorrigo is level at the start, if you go round it the “wrong” way, though just why clockwise is the preferred way to go remains a mystery to me. Bushwalking is bushwalking after all. The other thing about the wrong way is that when you do get there, the waterfalls are seen from a ways out, they’re enjoyed before you reach them and they’re not suddenly below you as occurs from the other direction.
At times the ferns are so dense you have to brush them aside to make headway. I’m getting into a rhythm now, the aura of towering timbers envelops one and the immersion is as a swimmer gliding through water. You’re there, you don’t want to be anywhere else, just enjoy yourself. There’s time for thought, thoughts away from today’s electronic world, thoughts of nature, friends, family and travels you’ve done before.
Here and there the forest is scarred. Lightning has struck on occasions, mud has weakened the roots of others and trees have fallen, clearing the vegetation for some new primary and secondary growth. Moss and fungus flourish on the fallen bark, continuing the recycling work, degrading the timber until, decades hence, it will merely be fodder for the new.
Elsewhere the corridor remains constant, light filters through the canopy enough so you can see but, when late afternoon is nigh, it’s banished quickly from the scene. Some of the giants are estimated to be over 1,000 years old, though you can only guess because evergreens don’t have growth rings.
An Irishman from County Galway passes and I entreat him to take a picture of me on the trail. He’s keen and snaps half a dozen in quick succession before I find out he’s working as a nurse in Port Macquarie. He’s a much needed and appreciated type in these Covid times.
Two moms and 5 children also pass, one of the little ones entreating to be carried until I look sternly into her eyes and explain, “I’ve told you once and I won’t tell you again, no carrying today!” Her mum smiles and we head our different ways while I reflect on how good it is to see children in the outdoors. They might rather be at home with a phone but, in later life, they’ll hopefully cherish these times.
The sound of crashing water now permeates; white foam flexes in the stream far below as Coachwood Falls come into view. They’re a classic cascade with a drop into a swimming hole where I’d taken a dip in the past but now, in the middle of winter, it’s not an option to be considered.
Further on come Upper Coachwood Falls, a taunting three pronged drop into an unattainable chasm. There’s branches over the top marking where the recent high water levels were. It would have been something to view that torrent first hand as the branches cluttered down and failed to take the 90 degree turn but instead jammed against the rock wall ahead.
Now you’re down in the depths of OreocaVis Gully, walking past plate fungi and hearing trickling water below, though it’s covered by matted low growth that I’m unfamiliar with that’s made a home on the solid rock bed that guides the waters.
The trail starts gently rising, climbing towards the car park. The vines are fewer in number, there’s a hope you’ll soon be finished but it’s tarnished by the thought of how relaxing and joyful this walk has been and you know you feel so much better for having done it. Perhaps you might enjoy it someday too.