Saturday, October 6, 2012

I Left My Heart in Bellingen

Last week, we pulled into the town of Bellingen, NSW for just a one-night stopover.  Have you ever gone to a new town and immediately had the uncanny sensation that you were home?
I hadn't, until that moment.

We parked along the main street of small, non-touristy shops (of course, making a quick mental note of the gelato shop), and I already felt twinges of a crush.
By the time we strolled around the corner and my eyes fell upon the hostel, I immediately turned to Sam and informed him that we would be staying here more than one night.  There were no arguments; we were all fairly enthralled.

The boys quickly got acquainted with the pool table ("we don't even have to pay for the games!") and the chess board.  The various other kids staying at the hostel became playmates.

'Paradise' is a strong word, and not one that I toss around lightly.  Paradise evokes images of different things for different people (cue theme song to Diff'rent Strokes), but my paradise?

Well, it needs to have lots of wood--lots of trees as well as wood in the living spaces.

Set nearby Dorrigo National Park with its lush rainforests, trees are aplenty in Bellingen.  The hostel had wonderful wooden deck spaces and balconies to enjoy the view.

Another must-have for my paradise is a swimmable river.  Here, my dear Bellingen scores a double-whammy.  Just beyond a grassy meadow behind the hostel is the Bellinger River, and the hostel had inner tubes for the taking.

A scenic 15 minute drive takes you up into--and I'm not making this up--an area called the Promised Land, where the Never Never Creek runs.
Any place named the Promised Land can't be drab, barren or forgettable; here, the area more than lived up to its name with a) striking hills and postcard-perfect farmland

and b) a gorgeous river with water pure enough to drink.

I'd also like to see some interesting flora and fauna.
I am always seeing new and interesting plants in Australia, so that's an easy one.
But again, Bellingen scores high on the fauna scale with its huge colony of grey-headed flying foxes.  Seeing thousands of bats heading out as dusk takes over the land is magical, and I love that it happens on a nightly basis and isn't just a seasonal migration.

Another must?  I need me some character.  With less than 3000 residents, Bellingen is small but its disproportionally high number of artists and musicians lend a wonderful feeling to the community.
painting on the side of a house near the bat nature reserve
yarnbombed gate
I know I sound like some gushy tween who just got the latest issue of Teen Beat, but I swear I wish I could bottle the sweet smell in the air and replay the sound of the birds chirping, because it was simply everything that I picture when I think of the word 'paradise' (well, except that there was a notable absence of frolicking wombats...but you can't have everything, right?).

I don't profess to know what happens after we die, but if we are reincarnated, I can only hope my soul will find its way into any life form in Bellingen.  Platypus in the river?  Sure.  Rainbow lorikeet in a banksia tree?  Awesome.

**there is one more thing that is difficult for me to type...a major flaw that puts a chink in my idyllic image of the area.  Anyone who knows me well will understand why I see this is a major travesty, yet I am willing to (gasp!) overlook it because I love this town so much.  Ok, here goes.  The town is called Bellingen, but it is set on the Bellinger River.  Strange, huh?  Um, it is said that the discrepancy is a spelling error likely caused by the misinterpretation of bad handwriting.  My beloved town is linked to a spelling error? Noooooooo!**

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