I was up bright and early at Amanda Fruze’s Eternity Springs Art Farm as I wanted to see “Heaven” by day. With a brilliant blue sky as background, this really is a wonderful place and space. Try as you may you can’t lose your way in Amanda’s amazing garden as the path to this pavilion is aptly marked by the signpost ‘Stairway to Heaven’!
After a chat with God or the Big Kahuna we enjoyed breakfast on the veranda of the main house – orange juice, squeezed from fruit straight off the tree, fresh eggs laid by the chooks and great toast – followed by a cup of robust coffee. My friend, who’s vegan, was happy with the fab bread and homemade marmalade and Amanda’s homemade mulberry pie.
We could have lingered on the shady veranda but regrettably said our goodbyes and promised to be back again. We were off to the Channon markets (officially called The Channon Craft Market), 5 km away. Held in the village sport’s oval, the iconic market has been drawing crowds for 35 years, taking place on the 2nd Sunday of every month. There are stalls by the mile with clothes and food (I bought a pack of organic spiced chai and my friend – who wandered off on her own – also bought chai and a cute summer dress), buskers, acrobatic starts, a rock band or two and a guy positioned by one of the gates selling chickens and ducks. I loved the row of young girls, dressed in different-coloured bright leotards and wearing sparkly top hats, who would perform a bit of hula-hooping or do the splits, once you put a coin or two in their cup. They moved around the huge market, giving everyone a chance to watch their gymnastic antics and donate. The Channon Markets is perfect for people-watching; all sorts of people come along from die-hard alternative folk to your everyday mums, dads and their kids. You can stay for hours, browsing the stalls, sampling from the food stalls, lying under a shady tree listening to the band and trying on clothes and jewellery.
This was my second visit and I thought the whole experience was much better and livelier, with a greater variety of stalls.
Unfortunately we only had an hour to browse, which was something of a blessing as I am a market nut and would have spent a small fortune had I been let loose any longer.
Our next destination was the Eltham Valley Pantry, and as there were numerous little country roads to navigate, we set off smartly so we wouldn’t be late.
There are numerous little hamlets in the Lismore hinterland (aka the Rainbow Region) and on any driving trip you’re sure to encounter Clunes, Bex Hill, Rose Bank and Dunoon. We were heading for Eltham and while we had a map and an iPad GPS device, we still managed to get lost! It is part of the ritual for the newcomer to the region.
We arrived at Eltham to find a wee village complete with a gallery and a pub and presumed the pantry would be nearby, but it was another five km down the road, situated on a 10.11 hectare (25 acre) pecan farm in a lush valley.
Run by business partners Emma Nicholls and Kylie Bridges, the pantry opened five months ago and not only does it serve beautiful food but the interior design is outstanding and the views over the pecan trees are superb. The restaurant is housed in a 120-year-old farmhouse that was moved from Coraki some 30km away to the south.
We dined on bruschetta adorned with pansies and violas and a wonderful dish of brocolini, kale and beans sprinkled with nuts. My friend doesn’t eat meat so I had the Rillettes all to myself and they (or is that “it”) were exquisite, then I sampled just a single scallop adorned with a two slices of chorizo sitting on a bed of puree carrot. Yum yum. The cafe’s reputation has spread far and wide and the place was packed. With huge grounds and a playground, you are welcome to bring the kids, while a few diners have been known to ride their horses to lunch.
From Eltham, we hit the long and winding road to Nimbin, the hippiest town in Australia, if not the world. It took us about 40 minutes as we weren’t quite sure of the route and its twists and turns – mind you, it is a lovely little drive.
I’d been to Nimbin three times before, however this time I found it at its sleepiest. That was probably due to the pall that has fallen over the town since a fire in August devastated the quirky museum and several other buildings in the main street including the Rainbow Café. Now three months later the site has been bulldozed and is enclosed by hurricane fencing. Local folks have tied flags and pieces of ribbon on the fencing and added notes with their expressions of sympathy. That’s an example of the community spirit that epitomises Nimbin – along with its reputation as being the unique Australian town that celebrates drug culture. Whatever you feel about marijuana – love it or loathe it – Nimbin is a fascinating place and well worth a visit. The shops are filled with bright clothing and gifts and I bought a fantastic, sleeveless patchwork summer’s dress (I’m wearing it as I write this), which I’ll continue to wear with pride.
From Nimbin we snaked our way back to Eltham to stay at the pub, officially called The Friendly Ann. Built in 1902 it has been renovated and added to but retains its charm. We stayed in one of the only four rooms. Situated on the top floor they are comfortable and comprise a double bed and a double sofa bed, bathroom with terrific shower, tea and coffee-making facilities and free Wi-Fi.
The ground floor pub was fairly quiet on Sunday night but Josh, the barman, was still pulling a few beers – and there’s quite a selection on tap. The meals are great and huge; I had the roast lamb with chat potatoes, rocket, peas and feta and my friend chose the felafel and a fatoush salad with hummus. While the pub is refreshingly “untrendy” it is authentic, staffed with friendly folk (including our waitress Paula) and the food is really superb.
After a couple of wines, it was only a short waddle to our upstairs accommodation and lights out! As I sign off, it is all quiet at Eltham and I am loving it.