Wednesday, October 29, 2014

ROADTRIP 8: Morning in the Promised Land

2-2014-10-29 ROADTRIP 8 UrungaWe began our leisurely Urunga day with a short drive back to a beach suburb of Coffs Harbour for coffee and breakfast. We wandered down to the beach (Park Beach South), which turned out to be dog-friendly, so Munson had what was to be the first of many swims today.

My plan for the morning was to do a country drive through an area just north of Bellingen. The 30km Promised Land loop advertised a number of water holes for swimming, and we’d be able to squeeze it all in before lunch. There’s a good tourist brochure listing these drives (downloadable here), from which the map below is available.
1-Promised Land Loop road map
The first interesting point along the way (for me at least) is the small Glennifer Church which inspired the book Oscar and Lucinda by Peter Carey, later filmed with Ralph Fiennes and Cate Blanchett. The literary version is made entirely from glass and there is no direct comparison that can be made with the wooden chapel here.
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Immediately after that we crossed a bridge over the Never Never River and pulled into a parking area by this wonderful swimming hole.Gustav of the Never-Never
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Munson had a great time cruising through the shaded waters and foraging around the banks.
2-DSCF0684 (2)3-DSCF0671 (2)As beautiful as this sheltered pool was, as cool and as its waters were, there was still  a surprise lurking below…
We thought this small fish ~20cm long blending among the rocks and leaf litter near one of the deepest points might have been a catfish.  Gustav spotted it first, even at a depth of nearly two metres, the view to the bottom was crystal clear. It never moved while we inspected it from a distance, intent on preserving its resemblance to the detritus amongst the tree roots lining the waterhole.

A friend later identified it as a bullrout aka “the freshwater stonefish”!! I can’t believe that after decades of avoiding spiders, snakes, crocodiles, sharks, jellyfish, octopuses and a myriad other hostile Australian fauna, that I nearly fell victim this charmer.

The bullrouts venomous spines cause such excruciating pain that grown men have been known to bang their heads against concrete to deal with it. Apparently morphine is ineffective in treating bullrout venom, with either lignocaine or hot water being more useful. Well known to aboriginal populations, the bullrout frequents freshwater streams from mid NSW up to the top of Queensland.

Fortunately I generally wear sandals or kayaking boots in these circumstances, but I still get a chill thinking about how easy it would have been to connect with one of those spines.
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We spent about another house finishing the circuit of the Promised Land. There were several more swimming holes but we felt we’d had enough from the first Never Never River crossing. If I’d known about bullrouts then I would have been quite reluctant to enter deep fresh water again in this area.


  1. Hi guys! Your photos have me longing for summer. It all looks so pleasant.

  2. Glad to hear about the stone fish - wink, wink : )