In the Nymboida-Binderay National Park, the water’s power is strong; visitors are warned of it. White-water kayakers take off from here at Platypus Flat. I stay on shore — deal with a flat tyre — and simply enjoy the sound of the water.
The current-combed trees show the force of the Nymboida at times, but not now, as the whole area is in drought, even the Dorrigo Plateau where these waters arise. The rocks bear witness, with the white line showing where the water level used to be for so long.
In the Cathedral Rocks National Park, at about 1200–1500 metres, there is no rushing water, the rocks are still and quiet… and awe-inspiring. I stay at Native Dog Camp.
On the nearby short walk to Warrigal (aka Dingo/Native Dog) Rocks I see enough rocks to lift my spirits. Balanced or brooding, they are always decorated with their dependent lichens and mosses, varied according to degree of shelter and sun exposure.
It can snow here — there are snow gums and snow grass. Rocks rule more than trees.
They lead to an upland swamp and tiny creek… where the dingoes come to drink … before circling back through more mighty boulders (tors) stacked or slumbering.
Dare I walk between these two? Might it decide to back up just a wee bit more as I do?
Next day I choose to walk to the more distant and far higher pile called Woolpack Rocks, an 8 kilometre round trip.
Again I cross a totally different world of swamp and low vegetation. In this climate plants protect their precious moisture with thin, spiky or leathery leaves. The occasional flash of gold from a tall skinny wattle or the threaded circles of juvenile leaves on a eucalypt are almost a lush surprise.
Then the path leads uphill, past the prehistoric shapes and wonders of banksias short and tall, and bushes of the rare and threatened Styphelia perileuca, unique to a small area here in the Cathedral Rocks National Park.
I pass even more fantastically and seemingly precariously arranged rocks. I am quiet; what might wake this mother whale and her baby?
The track winds up through taller trees and around to a deep green southern gully of tree ferns and rock orchids before reaching the dizzy heights of the destination rock pile.
Whoever named the collection up here had no imagination. Very few look like wool packs… and I am truly not even sure if they are inanimate. I have probably read too many Patricia Wrightson’s magical children’s books, like ‘The Nargun and the Stars’, which have strong affiliations with Aboriginal stories.
As at Hanging Rock, one could lose the narrow sandy path between these monsters. It is not our world up here.