Some of the best things are found by accident. I say this because Clarence River Wilderness Lodge more happened upon us, than we it. Looking for some other place, I was paging through “Dirty Weekends” [a book of 4WD trips in Queensland – just in case you’re wondering…] when for some reason I spotted this little gem of a place.
Located on the upper reaches of the Clarence River in NSW, this upper Clarence high country hideaway is a great place to unwind. Some will come here to walk, others for off road adventures, others to kayak through the many rapids down the river, and still others just to camp. I come here to replenish the mind. There’s no mobile reception (unless you drive about 4km up the ridge), no email, very little power, and no shops. You need to bring all your food and equipment with you, and be reasonably self sufficient for the duration of your stay. The nearest supplies can be purchased un Urbenville, about 50 mins drive. While access is manageable for a conventional vehicle with reasonable clearance. Our Subaru handles the track with ease. There’s a bit over 30km of unsealed road after the turnoff after crossing Wallaby Creek, so you won’t want to be in a hurry. (pic: view down the gorge to ‘Twin Waters’ taken about 2km form Clarence River Wilderness Lodge)
Once you arrive, you find Steve & Sharon Ross to be fantastic hosts. We do not see Steve a lot. He’s out with canoe groups, or getting firewood, or maintaining the property, or chasing the neighbours cows after someone’s left the gate open. Sharon, on the other hand, seems to have mastered the dual art of near omnipresence and seemingly endless conversation. She’ll drop off wood for your wood stove, tell you when to see the resident platypus, give you advice on walks and tracks, fill you in on local history, and if you happen to spot some of the more reclusive wildlife, Sharon positively lights up!
We occupied one of the two self contained cabins. These are compact, rustic units with huge outside living/dining areas. Tables and bench tops are constructed from solid slab eucalypt. Our ensuite was small, complete with a galvanised iron shower base and an eco-friendly (and nose friendly) composting toilet. Sharon and Steve have worked hard to make their property ecologically responsible, and by my observation they are pretty good at it. Each cabin has a small slow combustion wood heater which, once going, you find you’re down to short sleeves, even in mid winter.
Sharon told us that late in the afternoon, which at this time of year is 4pm, you can sometimes see a platypus along the sides of the waterhole. So, a few afternoons we wandered down to investigate. This time of year, the last direct sunlight is about 3:50pm, so not only did we become quite cold, we saw no platypus. On our last night we decided to take a few canoes and drift down the river, hoping to spot the elusive animal. We managed some glorious sightings of an Azure Kingfisher, its electric blue form diving and darting. We saw a small herd of beef cattle crossing at the rapids with typical bovine indecision. We saw a Little Cormorant deciding whether to fish or not (he was cold, too, I think). No platypus.
Platypus or not, the river is so incredibly peaceful. The rest of the world seems to evaporate, and the mind’s eye narrows so that it is just you, your canoe companion (in this case, Leonie), the boat, the river, and whatever you’re looking at. The canoe cuts the mirrored lake, sharing ripples either side, there’s the occasional paddle gulp, and just for a while you are impossibly lost in it.
Not everyone likes this sort of holiday. Some want restaurants, espresso lounges, clubs, shops, home comforts. For me, Clarence River allows me to back off and unwind, to loose myself from the demands of career and calling. Today the thought returned, that I should just come here and write. Come here and think. For when life’s noise is left behind, I can hear more clearly my own life voice. Things become more certain. And I get to hear and see, without distraction, the voice and the heart of the one who made it all in the first place.