Saturday, April 18, 2015

Australian Sojourn – March 2015

Part 11: A Journey to Northern Rivers Country

NOTE: To start at the beginning of this series, click here.

On the morning of Friday, March 20, my friend Joan returned to the U.S. from Australia. Joan had traveled with me from Minnesota to the "Great South Land" at the beginning of the month, and had shared some wonderful times with me and my family – in the Hunter Valley, in Port Macquarie, in Melbourne and its surrounding area, and in Sydney and the Blue Mountains.

That same morning I boarded a train at Sydney's Central Station and traveled north to Grafton and that area of New South Wales known as "Northern Rivers."

Here I visited my friends Mike and Bernie McGowan and two of their daughters (Mim and Collette) and their respective partners (Sam and Jeremy). I first got to know the McGowan family in Goulburn, where Mike had been the principal of the primary school at which I taught from 1988-1993. Before relocating to the U.S. in 1994, I taught two of the McGowan children – Jeremiah (in 1989) and Tess (in 1992).

I’ve stayed friends with all the members of the family ever since our shared time in Goulburn, and I always try to catch up with as many of them as I can each time I visit Australia from the U.S. Mike and Bernie's second eldest son Raph visited and lived with me in the Twin Cities for a good part of 2004. He visited me again in the U.S. in 2011. Back in Australia in 2014, he cycled over 1900 kilometers in memory of his sister Tess and to raise awareness and funds for melanoma research and prevention. (For more about this inspiring achievement, click here, here, and here.)

Mike and Bernie (pictured with me at left) live just outside of the town of Maclean. You may recall that last time I visited Maclean, I and several members of the McGowan family were flooded-in by the Australian floods of 2011.

Although my recent visit was shorter and considerably less dramatic, it was nevertheless a very enjoyable and meaningful time. Indeed joy and meaningfulness are the distinguishing hallmarks of any amount of time spent with the McGowans!

About the Northern Rivers area of New South Wales, Wikipedia notes:

The region is bounded by the Pacific Ocean to the east, the New England region to the west where the Great Dividing Range forms a mountainous boundary. To the north is the border between New South Wales and Queensland, where the Darling Downs are located to the north–west and South East Queensland directly to the north.

The defining characteristic of the region are the fertile valleys of the Clarence, Richmond and Tweed rivers and their sources, hence the region's name; and the region's white sandy beaches.

Above: A view of the beach at Yamba, with the Clarence Head Lighthouse in the background – Saturday, March 21, 2015.

Right: Sam and Mim.

Above: Jeremy and Collette.

Above: Bernie and Mike.

Above: Sam and Jeremy at work in the kitchen.

Above: Mike, tending the memorial garden for Tess.

Above and below: At Yamba – Saturday, March 21, 2015.

Above: An evening sky full of fruit bats (also known as flying foxes).

Above: Sitting at right with (from left) Mim, Sam, Bernie, and Jeremy – March 21, 2015.

NEXT: Gunnedah

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Australian Sojourn, March 2015: Part 1 – Brooklyn and Morpeth
Part 2 – Port Macquarie, Wingham, and Ellenborough Falls
Part 3 – Roving Sydney's Eastern Beaches with Raph
Part 4 – The Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras
Part 5 – Watsons Bay, Camp Cove and the Sydney Heads
Part 6 – Family Time in Melbourne
Part 7 – The Great Ocean Road
Part 8 – A Wedding in Melbourne
Part 9 – A Reunion in Goulburn
Part 10 – Sydney and the Blue Mountains
The Australian Floods of 2011
Rising Waters
"Flooded-In But Loving Life"
In Maclean, an End to the "Siege"
Yaegl Country (2011)
Angourie (2011)


Bernie McGowan said...

Your penmanship is awesome; photography most appealing; and presence at our place invaluable! xx

Raphael McGowan said...

Lovely to see a story from such a short time spent in Maclean, Mick. You captured the moment well.