Here we were. Two sisters, Em and Jai, embark on a pilgrimage to saltier climes, leaving the dry plains of the North West Tablelands behind as we made our way to Nambucca, ready to experience the delights promised us. We were ready to rock and roadie. Having just returned from travelling in Europe, where we had climbed mountains in the Italian Alps, quaffed local vino in Tuscany and surfed in Wales, we were well and truly used to each others company (the good, the bad and the ugly) and excited to see what this corner of the world, which we had never before visited, had in store for us. Day 18 of #mylegendarydrive was exactly the welcome we had been led to expect.
Arriving in the area just after noon, we stop to drop our bags at Jagundami Guest Retreat, hosted impeccably by the glorious Judith Tobin. The feisty Wollongong born businesswoman, who had lived many years in the US, holds an interior decorating and fine arts bachelor under her belt; easily seen when stepping through into the guest retreat she has built in a serene patch of bush ten minutes out of Nambucca. With a sweeping vista overlooking the hinterland hills and a spacious, cool interior, this space feels like a home away from home; except better, boasting a hot tub on the deck which begs to be sat in, wine in hand. I could definitely move in permanently.
But before I pack my bags and impose myself upon Judith immutably, we have a hot lunch date. A very hot date. With a picnic box supplied by Sandy Feet Catering, whose contents are so picture perfect it feels a crime to eat them. Almost. We bump along a forest track through the Yarriabini National Park where we stumble across a picnic area, surrounded by the tall ghostly trunks of pin straight gum trees, the occasional whoop of a lyre bird heard through the bush. Dining on antipasti skewers, jars of fresh fruit and mint and two-hand-hold caesar baguettes, we are so lulled into a sated reverie we almost miss the next event.
“We’re lucky enough to be born in Australia. The smart ones move to Nambucca.”
So comes the sage observation from Dave Banks, Nambucca’s resident water and wake sports man. We are here to sample the delights of the ‘Bucca’s river from aback Dave’s ripper of a boat, which he had built himself. Based on the banks of the river for the past three seasons, the roar of Dave’s inboard motor can be heard all day every day over the Christmas period as people flock to the Lions Park Boat Ramp to float in the balmy waters, learning to ski, wakeboard and risk their marbles hooning on the precarious inflatable biscuits. With a father who honed a penchant for encouraging cartwheels across the water as he spun the biscuit behind the boat of our childhood, the relief felt by Jai and I under Dave’s experienced driving was unanimously upheld. Like Dave says, it can be as wild or as mild as you like it! (These two chickens teeter towards the milder end of the spectrum). However, the skiing was exquisite – clean, smooth, warm water lay enticing under the afternoon sun, the river’s expanse freely empty save for us and our grins. The salt water made you feel all the more bouyant, flying across the water like a skipping stone. And for our beginner on board, Dave’s finely honed teaching technique had him standing instantly, hardly a wobble in sight, unlike my own baby giraffe/gumby impression. Impressive stuff.
After all that exhilaration, it is a change of scene to head to Macksville’s Star Hotel, sitting prime overlooking the slow moving wide Nambucca river. Not to be confused with the Star Hotel Jimmy Barnes sings about, manager Adam Partridge assures me. There are less bikies and more babies here at this family oriented pub, established since 1885. And with its recent refurbishments, light airy rooms and decent pub grub of whopper sizing, the hotel, which can seat 230 patrons for a meal at a time, draws a steady and loyal crowd. After half a dozen Nambucca river oysters and a little tender calamari, it is time to sneak back to the haven that is Judiths (Judith, will you adopt me?) and congratulate ourselves on a day well lived.