After packing up after our quick stop on the banks of the Mann River we were ready to push on to a place that stands out in our minds as the ultimate escape from city life to paradise: Danny Deckchair land.
Ever since we fell in love with the Australian movie starring Rhys Ifans and Miranda Otto, we have wanted to travel to Bellingen where the film was shot. Danny Deckchair is about a man yearning to escape the monotony of city life. After tying a bunch of hot air balloons to his deck chair as a prank one afternoon, he literally escapes his suburban backyard to life in a small country town in the beautiful green hills of the Bellinger Valley. We were keen to find out if Bellingen was really as beautiful a spot as portrayed in the move and were not to be disappointed.
After our version of roughing it in a tent, we had hit the luxury part of the trip where we got to live it up in a plush retreat perched on the edge of the beautiful Bellinger River. The road to Easy Street Retreat weaved and wound its way around the long arm of the river, took us over lots of little one-way wooden bridges, along a deep green belt of land, edged by forest on one side and water on the other, and through neat farms whose green lawns were shaded by huge old trees.
We were one of the first people to stay at Easy Street Retreat’s River Cabin. The owner had only just finished the refurbishment of the cabin, which was a converted art studio. We loved the modern touch given to the retro furnishings in the cabin, the high raked ceilings, the warm colours, polished timber floors, stained glass windows and uncluttered look.
Well Aurelia seemed pretty happy with it.
I set up Aurelia on the verandah and kicked back, taking in the fruit trees, river and forest on the far bank of the river. I realised that the blueberry trees I was looking at were the same that supplied my breakfast – left in a wooden basket in the fridge laden with other good stuff from the garden.
Later we walked down to the river to check out the deep water swim spot just in front of the property and explore further up the river.
The river is clear to the pebble lined bottom and narrows to a series of mini-water falls widening out to larger pools.
We walked as far as the next old wooden bridge before turning around to make the most of our plush accommodation.
Plans to go into Bellingen on New Year’s Eve were put on hold when Aurelia didn’t make it up past 8pm! Lucky there was a big selection of movies and TV series in the cabin.
After three nights of relaxation, we were ready to source out a big breakfast in Bellingen. We chose to stop at the very first cafe we were to pass – a converted Masonic Temple now home to Lodge 241 Cafe.
Andrew decided on a thickshake, while I was happy to find a tasty vegetarian option on the menu. The old building is worth a look in itself. It is three storeys, with interesting architecture and history to match.
After filling up, it was time to push west to the Dorrigo Plateau for a night.
After our stay at Dorrigo, we returned to explore the town of Bellingen, breakfasting at the hip Black Bear Cafe with its fresh twist on old breakfast favourites and superb fresh baked fruit toast.
The town has a string of cafes, restaurants and bakeries. In the short stretch of road where the Black Bear is situated you will find a handful of cafes to choose from. There are also lots of interesting buildings, including the beautiful, old Hammond and Wheatley store. It is nice to see it is still operating as a department store.
I couldn’t resist trying a coconut icecream at the gelato store.
After lunch we took a short drive out to the Promised Land to escape the heat in one of the deep, cold water pools in the river. There are many different deep plunge pools along the river for a swim.
Finding your own private pool is half the fun. We also passed the little church that inspired Peter Carey’s Oscar and Lucinda.