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I woke up too late for a morning dip, so I had a slow breakfast on the verandah after getting my bags packed and ready to go. I checked out and paid an owed $27.

Then, a walk around Bellingen town. I took the yashica and made some pictures on FP4 and bought a CD of local music from one of the groovy shops that make Bello what it is. I said goodbye to my hostel-mates, then Mat drove us (two English lads were leaving on the same train) to Urunga station, where we boarded the train for a nine hour trip to Sydney.

At least I had someone to chat to on the way. The lads are on their first visit to the city, I gave them a map and I hope they're finding their feet. I can be daunting at first, as can any new environment.

I'm disappointed I didn't get to Dorrigo this time, or Bundagen, but that's as good a reason as any to return in a few years. Oh, and I left a towel on the verandah...

The ride to Sydney was uneventful, passing through some beautiful landscapes and interesting-looking towns. The mostly sunny weather helped a lot, and I know I want to spend a year photographing this beautiful country that is mostly unknown to backpackers and tourists. There's a genuine spirit in Australia that, if one stills one's mind and appreciates what is around one, is revealed softly and slowly. the spirit of the land will speak to you and teach you, but on her terms, not yours. Those who travel will understand this, those whose minds are full of garbage won't. You know who you are.

And today, I wanna get some film developed and arrange to attend The Waifs' gig on saturday...
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As I was by the river yesterday I haerd a rumble of thunder. The storm broke last night, reaching its peak around 3am. To be honest it wasn't particularly dramatic, but today has been cloudy and cooler, although still with a warmth that an English summer would be proud of. The rain continued throught the day, showery and intermittent.

I booked a trip to Dorrigo Rainforest for today, but that's been postponed until tomorrow. So I had little to do except sit on the verandah and watch the rain. The Norwegian girls left us today, en route for Byron Bay. They were such fun to be around. I went for a walk along the Waterfall Way for a couple of miles, then to the park to watch the flying foxes set out for their nightly forage.

I've booked my train ride back to Sydney, arriving late on Wednesday evening after a nine hour trip. I really wish I could stay in Bello longer but it would be churlish to waste the hotel reservation in Sydney. Besides, I have people to catch up with.

Tomorrow I must do some washing; I thnk I have just about enough to justify using the hostel's laundry. Hopefully it won't rain so that I can dry it all.
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Yesterday was market day in Bellingen, the monthly market is an event rather than a shopping trip. The busy stalls were assembled around an arena in the local park, with a music stage and entertainments. Stalls were selling books, records, clothing, food produce and almost anything that's normally found in a marketplace. Bello markets have a wonderful, busy, vibrant atmosphere, and draw people from a wide area. I spent an hour or so looking around the stalls, then sat in front of the music stage enjoying a local female-vocal duo. A very enjoyable morning.

Later on, Matt the night manager took four of us to The Promised Land, a forested area where the Bellinger River flows through. There's a large pool of fairly still water and we took tyres or 'tubes'; since I don't swim I sat inside the tube and paddled out, managing to navigate my way fairly confidenlty to the other side. Then I allowed myself to drift with the current, which was a bit of a mistake as I was pulled over a 'rapid' and almost another. The women drifted down to the bridge and Got out there; I wasn't game so I just walked across the sharp pebbles to the mini-bus. That was fun though.

A few of us went to the Federal Hotel for some drinks; I'm amazed the changes that have been made to the place. It's been renovated and totally refitted since my last visit. Even Mike would approve!

Taday was a really humid, sticky day that just called for lots of verandah time. I went to the river early this morning, hoping there'd be a nice mist but it wasn't as thick as I'd hoped. But the other direction, towards Dorrigo, was misty along the ground but the mountain was clear, so I made a few pictures. Then I grabbed a morning dip, which was lovely and refreshing.

Sitting around the hostel isn't my idea of a great time, but there wasn't much else one could do in this heat. I found my old bathing spot at Bellingen Island, scrambled down a cliff to find a rocky foreshore, which was fine. But just along the river was a lovely sandbank which I reached with a little effort. It's like being on a beach, the sand gently sloping into the water. The cows didn't mind my prescence, so I'll definitely visit this spot again.
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Yesterday I walked to the lookout, or at least tried to, but I took the wrong road. There on the ground, just beside the road sat a nice, crisp, yellow $50 note! Yayness; that made my day -I must have done something right. :-) And I found some great views over the valley, but not over the town. Ah well, it was a nice walk anyway.

So I've extended my stay until Monday, did a little shopping and booked the moonlight canoe tour. The moon was full, the night mostly clear and I decided I'd go. The canoeing was awesome, although I had a sharp learning curve in steering and keeping up with the others in the group. At one point we went into a very dark creek where lots of logs had recently been washed up; the leader didn't even know they were there. Lots of padelling to keep myself away from them failed, but eventually I managed to bypass them. We reached a natural amphitheatre where the moon shone brightly, although a little cloud covered the stars. It was pretty amazing though.

Then we returned to the base slowly, rowing out into the centre and letting the currant take me a little way, gazing up at the stars and the moon in the quiet dark, the sounds of the insects and other night creatures all around us. When we were back on dry land, a glass of champagne and a chat with the organiser, then back to Belfry Lodge, rather wet but very happy! I'd recommend this to anyone. :-)
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I went out to the coast at Port Macquarie again on Wednesday evening for some more night photography. Well I really wanted some sunset/early evening pics but I was a little late leaving the hostel, so that when I finally arrived it was dark. But the waxing moon was almost full and cast a bright, silvery glow upon the landscape. The sea was amazing, with breakers rolling in and smashing into the rocky cliffs and headlands. If there was only one coastline I could visit, this would be it. My exposures were 30 - 40 minutes at f11 (100 ASA, 21 DIN), which I hope will gove me the efects and detail that I want.

The next morning I packed my things, grabbed breakfast and was dropped in Port M. Caught the bus to Wauchope and arrived two hours before the train was due. Wauchope is a small country town and the station was almost empty. The staff invited me to leave my bags there and take a stroll around the town, which I did, and enjoyed a lovely long black coffee at a local groovy cafe. Then back for the train, took a few piccies on the Bronica from the platform. The train was delayed 35 minutes and finally arrived. I enjoyed the slow meandering trip through farmland and small towns into rainforest land, as we approached Urunga. There I was greeted by the YHA driver and was on my way to beautiful Bellingen.

Arriving here, I took a stroll out to sere the flying foxes (big bats) that roost in the trees around the river, then a nostalgia tour of the town. The hostel has changed somewhat since I was last here, but it's still the most chilled-out place in the YHA network I've visited. This morning I went to the river with the Bronnie for some photography, there was mist but I'd missed the dawn so will attempt that tomorrow. Tonight there's a full moon kayaking trip, that should be great fun, and tomorrow is market day, so I didn't miss out after all. Cameras at the ready, f11 at 1/60th abd be there! :-)