Tucked away in the heart of Nightcap National Park rests the untouched wonders of Minyon Falls, a 100m plunge waterfall surrounded by bush walks and scenic viewpoints. Blessed with a natural beauty that enchants the inspired onlooker and compels the fatiguing hiker, it proves to be a popular quick stop for picnic-packed families, swooning lovers and nature-enthusiasts.
Matt and I had left the touristy hustle and bustle of Byron Bay and now relished the idea of exploring Australia’s more natural scenes. We left Jenny at the top of the cliffs (not as precarious as it sounds) and sighted the lookout point ahead. We steadied ourselves against the wooden railings and dropped our gaze. It was mesmerising. Nestled in the embrace of the vast, verdant rainforest plunged the sheer 100m drop. We watched as the cascades flowed over Minyon Falls into the deep gorge below. The horizon was brushed in shades of emerald where the tops of the cliffs had grown green with tall eucalyptus trees, now a sanctuary and home to most of Australia’s wildlife.
We packed a water bottle and some motivational snacks, and braced ourselves for the 9km walk (this is almost a marathon for me). The park offers two bush walks that descend from the picnic area including the Boggy Creek trek which eventually takes you to the Rummery Park campground, and the Minyon Falls walking track that leads to the glorious base of the falls.
The beaten track, thick with silt and clogged with rainwater was threaded between the tall eucalypts. We ploughed on until we approached a great river. Tranquil and still, save for the ripples caused by the hopping mudskipper, the river was graced with an atmospheric serenity and natural transcendence. It was here that I practised a few of my yoga moves upon a shallow stepping stone, as Matty, reckless as ever, practically somersaulted over a precarious fallen tree stump. We waded our way through the water until we reached the other side of the bank; I was at this point cursing myself for wearing flip-flops as though I assumed it would be an easy stroll in the park. I was obviously still very much a novice traveller (could have been worse – could have worn heels). We kept our eyes peeled for wild koalas wrapped around the branches of scribbly gumtrees, but much to my disappointment there was no sign of these plump cuties… that or we just weren’t looking hard enough. The trek itself proved to be in short supply of dangerous creatures and critters; there were no snakes slithering along our trail, nor did we see any dingos, bats, rats, lizards or crocodiles. Any spider we encountered, venomous or tame, was weaving her own intricate, silky web and had no regard for us mere bush walkers. I realised that despite the stereotypical portrayal of Australia as being one giant predator to human beings, I may not be swallowed whole after all!
We finally reached the base of the falls after what felt like a lifetime of arduous walking; moving my legs was like dragging two heavy blocks of iron (I made a vow that I would work on my poor level of fitness after that day; I have since done nothing to improve it.) The sight before us was spectacular. The cascades gushed into a great, dark pool at the foot of the cliffs spraying fresh water over the surrounding rocks. Many hikers had already arrived and were now grovelling in their backpacks for lunch; some had even claimed an area to lay out a whole picnic – I‘m surprised we didn’t see anyone lighting a barbecue and start sizzling up some snags (Australian for sausages). Some of the more daring of folk had launched themselves into the brisk water and were now flailing around gracelessly and coaxing their friends to join them. After a few quick snapshots and a swift slurp of the water bottle, we ascended back up the steep rocks and onto the trail towards the car; the wind had picked up and the cold spray of the water had seeped into every pore of my body (you’ll soon realise I can’t tolerate the cold… one reason I fled from England… Matty is convinced my body’s thermostat is broken.) The trek back was far more torturous, as it was all up hill. I was pretty much crawling on my hands and knees like an animal by the time we reached the car. Needless to say, those flip-flops hit the bin and my toes were nursed with plasters for the duration of the week.
It was a memorable day as it marked the first of my many Australian bush walks. Minyon Falls is a spectacular spot, so rich in beauty and vitality. It really is worth a visit for anyone travelling through Byron Bay.
The next stage of our East Coast adventure was upon us. We slammed Jenny’s doors, ignoring the precarious movement of the left wing mirror and thrust the key into the ignition. It was time to stir the sleeping beast. But she wouldn’t start. The engine roared and rumbled, turning over and over. Matty pumped the gas pedal with his foot but still nothing. Moments passed. Matt sat in silence tracing every inch of his mechanical mind for answers. He was seconds away from poking his head under the bonnet when he tried turning the engine over again. Almost abruptly, she kicked into life. We heaved a huge sigh of relief as though we had just revived a person back to life. I glanced at Matt with a look of sheer consternation, but he simply grinned back and said flippantly ‘well she’s working now.’
Without further ado, we set sail. We endeavoured to leave New South Wales, cross the state border into Queensland and settle for a while in the shimmering Gold Coast of Australia. We rumbled out of the national park and back onto the Pacific Highway, still a little bewildered as to what had caused Jenny to fail. Full steam ahead, Jenny’s confused companions steered towards the northern horizon, ignorant of the torment, stress and struggles she had waiting for them in store.