Leaving the family reunion in Nimbin I headed further into the mountains of my childhood. I stopped off to visit the private cemetery where my father's ashes are buried. It's nearly two years since his long struggle with Parkinson's disease, dementia and skin cancer finished. Such a quiet and beautiful spot.
As I turned to leave I realised how much bigger the trees now are along the road than in my childhood.
I drove further upwards into the hills, the road was no longer sealed but the familiar dirt/gravel roads of my early years. Something about the dirt road makes everything feel more like home.
In the autumn afternoon I could hear the delightful sound of Whipbirds and Bellbirds calling in the damp, cooler areas.
Soon at the top of the hills I drove just past "home" to the site of our old banana packing shed. It stood just to the left of the large white gum tree, an unlined shed of corrugated iron walls, roof and windows - not a piece of glass in sight. You had to unbolt and open the hinged iron-covered "windows" to let in the light as electricity was never connected to the shed.
I spent countless hours playing there as a toddler and then helping out as I grew older, on weekends and school holidays - packing bananas, making cartons, branding wooden cases, sorting bunch covers etc. We worked together as a family so we could then go to church, play sport and have holidays away together visiting family.
Here is the first packing shed (which was gone before I was born) in another spot on the farm. My Grandfather is the man in the middle, my Dad, the youngest of seven children, is driving the tractor.....1950's. Notice they are using a homemade sled, not the wheeled trailer of later years. The building in the background is the old dairy.
My Grandfather was the first to grow bananas in the district and my Dad one of the last. My Grandparent's house is in the background. We lived in what had been the share farmer's cottage further down the hill. My Dad is on the left, Stanley - one of his five older brothers - on the right, in their work clothes. They worked hard but mostly loved it.
The views and countryside are amazing. This is the view of Mount Warning, named by Captain James Cook as he sailed up the east coast of Australia.
The families were early pioneers, original settlers. The couple standing in the sulky are my Grandparents, the older lady standing is my Great Grandmother whom I never met.
My Great Grandmother again, I'm sure she'd have some stories to tell! Notice all the ring-barked trees in the background. The first settlers had to fall trees to even pitch their tents. Viewing photos like this once made me proud of the pioneering feats of my ancestors but I have mixed feelings these days as I consider the damage they wrought on this wonderful landscape.
From our home on farm we also had sweeping views of what is now Border Ranges National Park. As I stood on the road atop these hills you can see we are at the foot of the mountains beyond. The current owners of our old farm have made many changes, turning it into a permaculture property and seem to have planted a screen of some type of bamboo all along the roadside in the hope of providing a privacy barrier.
The first settlers in this area were primarily dairy farmers. The older gentleman with the cap and moustache is my Great Grandfather. I presume the buckets and barrel were for carrying milk.
Definitely one of my all-time favourite views and places. This is taken from the road which my father walked each day between our home and the packing shed. He had the pleasure of growing up here, Mum and Dad only sold and moved due to Dad's ill health in his later years. Our old home still stands, out of picture to the right of the newly installed windmill.
My Grandmother in her much loved garden. She was 70 when I was born and lived on the farm until she was 90 then amongst family and aged care until her end aged 94. I have fond memories of her garden, kitchen, and times spent together. She was a keen photographer and gardener.
One last look down the now sealed road which bisects the old farm. How I love the mountains, fresh air and the lush green of the area. Time to head back to my now-home and young family, a couple of hours drive away to a flat, dryer riverside town. Each place is very special to me, yet my eternal home in heaven will have the best of both worlds and a whole lot more as well.
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