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May 2nd 2012
Published: May 6th 2012
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Woolgoolga is a small town 25km north of Coffs Harbour which is renowned for its sizeable Sikh community. We had planned to be there for the Curry Fest – an annual celebration involving music, dance and lots of curries! – but sadly missed it by a few days. Instead, we thought we would drop in on our way through and treat ourselves to a yummy meal. But it was a real disappointment… there was only one curry house and that was closed!Aside from a big helicopter on a stilt in the Returned Servicemen Club car park and the Raj Mahal, a derelict and graffitied temple with two giant broken elephant statues, there wasn’t much to see either so we continued on our journey to Grafton.

When we realised that the camping spot we were aiming for was actually a truck stop at the side of the Pacific Highway, we reprogrammed the GPS to take us to the Grafton Showground instead. Our Camps book assured us there would be inexpensive camping but when we got there, we realised they were setting up a big fairground, the ‘Grafton Show’. As the showground office was closed and nobody answered the phone, we decided that we would blend in quite nicely with the show/circus folk. Free camping with hot showers… score! However, the next morning we realised that perhaps we wouldn’t blend in that well after all. Big trucks were arriving and the area was filling up with workers. The two of us, eating our cereal from our little plastic bowls, didn’t quite look the part. Mostly because we didn’t want to get wedged in by a big truck and be stuck in Grafton, we moved the van onto the road instead. Later on we checked camping availability at the Greyhound Racing Club and learnt that they were setting up for a dog show. Sounded like it was all happening in Grafton at the weekend, with a fun fair and a dog show!

In the showground, I had a funny encounter when I came across a shed labeled ‘farm produce’. There were rows and rows of beautiful vegetables – everything from enormous pumpkins to tubs of small squashes. Not having my purse with me, I asked until what time they would be open. The woman in charge looked confused and asked me if I wanted to make an entry… my turn to look confused… this went on for a while until I realised it was a country vegetable prize show! You can take the girl out of the city, but not the city out of the girl, haha.

Grafton is actually the first town that we have been to in New South Wales that is mostly flat, so we used our bikes to get around. It is a town which time has touched only lightly. The streets are broad, there are wide lawns outside grand old houses, and there isn’t a highrise to be seen. There are an awful lot of trees and it’s home to the springtime Jacaranda Festival when the many Brazilian Jacaranda Trees shed their purple flowers.

We spent some time browsing the shops and visiting the Grafton Regional Gallery, a small but nice setup with an exquisite little courtyard café where we gorged ourselves on cakes!

By Friday we were both getting town fever and feeling desperate for a touch of nature. The Grafton Show wasn’t going to kick off properly until the afternoon, so we drove out to the Yuraygir National Park where we spent most of the day. It was gorgeous! We went for a long walk along the beaches, over the rocks and through the bush. Whilst collecting shells on the beach, I found some that were so beautiful they looked like they had been painted. It was the perfect way to spend the day and a much needed opportunity to charge up on nature’s tranquility and fresh air.

Back in Grafton, we hit the Show. The rain had made several appearances again (thankfully mostly during the evenings/nights) and the ground was waterlogged so they had had to bring in pumps and gravel to sort that out. The show was unlike other town fairs that we had been to as, in addition to rides and food stalls, it had everything a good country show should have: wood chopping and horse jumping competitions, alpaca and reptile displays, a country music band and prize shows for every imaginable thing: cakes, preserves, vegetables (the ones I had met earlier!), paintings, biscuits, flower displays, jewellery, photography, live poultry and Miss Grafton Show 2012!

The following morning, we both again felt that town fever and decided it was time to spend a few days somewhere peaceful. For me, this is an entirely new experience. Although I grew up in a rural village, I’ve always been a city girl through and through and it is only now – that I have stepped out of city life and am spending more time in the country – that I notice how stressful cities can be. As city dwellers, that stress isn’t necessarily a negative thing, it’s just part of life and a lot of the time we’re not even aware of it. But there’s a lot out there that we don’t see unless we make a conscious effort to go and see it, and more than ever I am really enjoying all that nature has to offer. I guess the secret lies in striking a balance between urban and rural life. Perhaps there are different phases in life when one is more helpful than the other.

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