In 1972 my family moved from Bourke in NSW’s far north west to the small fishing village of Urunga. Dad worked for a bank, and this would be his first post as a branch manager. We’d been in Bourke for exactly two years, but my ten months in Urunga would be amongst the most fondly remembered times of my childhood.
Our time there started badly, with our furniture van crashing into a tree a few miles out of town, furniture and personal items spilling out of ruptured boxes onto the roadway. Worse, we found that our dog Lucky had so endeared himself to the van drivers that instead of being transported separately he had ridden with them in the front of the truck. When we arrived at the scene, Lucky was missing. That dark shadow lifted within the hour, with our discovery of him playing happily in a field with some local farmers.
For an eight year old, moving to the seaside has many pleasures. Greatest amongst them for me was the Urunga Boardwalk, running from the edge of the town at the mouth of the Bellinger River, nearly out to sea. In the intervening decades it has been rebuilt and extended, so that it runs for about a kilometre out to ocean sands.
Our family would walk out here on many weekends, and on the return leg, Lucky would leap off the boardwalk and swim the last section back to shore. I caught my first fish here, a red leatherjacket (not a song by Prince).
The estuarine waters have changed so much since I was a kid, moved by the reshaped sands and mangroves have become a major presence on the southern side. The white sandy floor of the river mouth provide the setting for extraordinarily vivid blues and greens.
We dined that night in the better known town of Bellingen, just a few minutes up the river. We’ll explore it more tomorrow, as we have two nights in a cabin on the edge of Urunga.