I could hardly forget. I’d sat there on the step of the motorhome shaking my head from side to side and started picking. In the end there were 23. I counted them to keep myself amused, but there’s little amusement in leeches. Rubbery figures sucking your blood and leaving an anaesthetized hole for the blood to keep running through is not a subject that comes up much at dinner tables. At the time it was a personal record (later vastly exceeded in Queensland).
Still, knowledge had made me less wary of these slimy creatures, and, as I applied the wondrous Vaseline around the top of my socks I was able to look forward to the 5.2 kilometre return walk to the base of the 40 metre high Rawson Falls. It traverses three or four different types of rainforest, this remnant from before white man came and stuffed the rest of it up, though even here wasn’t spared entirely. The woodcutters saw to that.
Because the walk isn’t that popular for a number of reasons, you can usually have it almost to yourself. Lack of publicity, distance from the beach attractions at Port Macquarie and the fact that you actually have to get out of your car to soak it all up (sometimes literally) means it’s as close to pristine as you could hope to find
There was a car there already today as I set out past the ideally placed toilet block and into the subtropical rainforest, the first of three types of forest the route traverses. I love the mottled bark of the carabeen and white aspen, so artistic and no two the same. The fluted root system of the carabeen is sometimes mistaken for a strangler fig but, apart from the supports, there’s little they have in common.
The upper slopes are gentle and, as I brush past a large turpentine, I’m grateful some of the giants have recovered though there’s one I have to negotiate, fortunately with steps cut into it, that has collapsed in the recent past, probably due to the persistent rain loosening the soil. The first time I ever walked here, a few decades ago, the memory that lingers was of a large area where the sun was able to come through and birds nest and jungle brake ferns were in such profusion, the like of which I’ve never seen before or since.
There are brush box trees here that may be a thousand years old. From the family myrtaceae, related to eucalypts, you can’t exactly tell their age. Many people are unaware that most Australian trees are hard to date because they don’t have rings, unlike those where it snows.
Leaves crunch beneath my feet as the progress becomes ever steeper, requiring the trail to zig-zag down towards the first lookout. The second time I came by on this trail it was after some seriously heavy rains and the trail was impassable at this point because a minor pondage on the ridge above had flooded over and taken heaps of soil and rock with it. I momentarily put my foot in the morass and found myself in trouble because it was as quicksand and I was immediately up to my knees.
Boorganna was the second ever gazetted public reserve (1904), all 74 hectares of it, and this has allowed the vegetation plenty of time to regenerate, especially timber like the brushbox and cedar that were much sought after.
It’s so diverse that four types of forest are on show here, subtropical, warm temperate, gully rainforest and wet and dry sclerophyll forest. These days the reserve has been expanded to 396 hectares in recognition of its long term value.
At over half way you come to the platform lookout with views to the falls. After that it gets a tad steeper and the forest changes again.
There’s over 80 bird species here, including a rose robin who cheekily lands just an arm’s length away. I curse after the camera refuses to focus and the bird has flown but now I’m at the base of the falls and that spectacle has taken over my attention. Once when I was here the water was so voluminous that a constant mist was drifting by even though I was 50 metres away.
Rawson Falls are virtually unknown because their nearby cousin, the famous Ellenborough Falls, garner all the attention yet, within a 20 kilometre radius, there are many dramatic drops, including one that I was so fortunate to visit once that used to supply hydroelectric power to Comboyne.
Then it’s time to leave and I’m climbing back to the black booyongs, rosewoods and prized native tamarinds further up and rubbernecking a vine that has climbed to the sky on its host while stepping over the occasional tree root. There’s a pleasantness about walking here, deep in the forest yet not having to hack your way through underbrush, simply admire the giants around you.
It is a relief as the terrain levels out somewhat and you know the small carpark is nigh though, in some way, you’re disappointed to be leaving this wooded wonderland that’s given you such pleasure. Never mind, there’ll be another day.