Let me begin by saying, I like Mullum, (as it’s affectionately known by the locals.) I must. I’ve been there more times than I can remember.
Despite it’s reputation as a hippy haven, Mullumbimby has more in common with the multitude of small country towns that dot the northern border of New South Wales than it does with the legend. Unlike say Nimbin*, there are not dealers on every corner trying to sell you wacky weed. Instead, Mullum is a pleasant mix of rural meets alternative lifestyle. The population is large enough to support two pubs in the three block main street. It’s a place where the health food store can compete with the IGA supermarket, (the Woolworths is hidden in a back street like a corporate sister the residents are a little ashamed of.) A place where fine vegen cafe’s are nestled next to pizza joints. Apart from the guys at the end of the street having a session, the whole “Mullumbimby Madness “ thing is pretty much invisible while we’re there.
Start with a brunch at the Poinciana Cafe, which is a testament to the bygone days of the hippy movement. The place screams peace and love, starting with the combi in the car park (See above).The tree growing through the centre of the building is a nice touch, as are the rusting toys around its trunk and the epiphytes shading a Buddha in the branches.A rusty scooter from the 60’s takes pride of place, the thin wheeled kind with the hard black rubber tyres, surrounded by various mementos that look like their owners parked them there in the 60’s, a reminder of a childhood left behind. The place is more like a large shack, but the Vibe is relaxed, the service is fantastic and the cakes are to die for. Yes we’ve been there once or twice.
After brunch, take a stroll around the main street and see a great example of the rural/hippy dynamic. Mullum is a perfect mix of alternative lifestyle adherents and redneck charm, the harmonic balance revealed no more clearly than in the juxtaposition of a large organic health food shop on one corner and the succinctly named Middle Pub on the other. Here you can sip on an freshly made juice from one of the shops and peruse the variety of artisan shops or arty/crafty little nooks and thrift shops or, should you be in the market for some farm machinery, there’s a place just around the corner.
Come for the atmosphere leave in a tractor.
If you’re in the area come for a few hours and chill out, it’s well worth it.
Three Days in Mullum
Our latest adventure was the first time we’d chosen to stay in Mullum itself, rather than parking the trusty Jayco camper in nearby Brunswick Heads, (More about Bruns. another time)This latest sojourn to the eastern edge of the Rainbow Region begins with our arrival at our plan A for setting camp, the local showground. Despite being told to “Just turn up” to our plan A, Plan A informed us on arrival that it was full and we should look for a Plan B. Now every good traveller knows, you always need a Plan B, however most travellers also know to check a place out. (We did this on Wikicamps, but thought, “It couldn’t be that bad.) Always listen to other’s reviews.
Our Plan B was the Mullumbimby combined footy club/golf course/caravan park at the edge of what can only be described as the closest thing Mullum has to an industrial estate. In hindsight, the small amount of road that remained, woven between the potholes, should have been a clue as to what we could expect. Once we’d run the asphalt 4WD gauntlet, you arrive at a lovely little spot by the Brunswick river, where you can plug the van into power and water and for $30 a night, have a reasonable sized site to yourself.
I’ve become relatively efficient with whole wind up roof, wind down legs, setup of the camper and forty minutes later I’m sitting under the annex with a cold beer in my hand, cooling off and taking in my new habitat. The caravan section is basically a large flat area of grass nestled between the river, the 11th hole and the footy ovals, and there’s perhaps 20 – 25 other vans, tents and motor-homes taking up positions all over the place. There are no riverside sites, as all of these are taken up by the permanent residents, who along with the she-oaks, line the bank. There they are afforded a perfect view of the mangrove mosquito nursery across the water.
It’s not long before some of the locals, introduce themselves. Everyone is very friendly, from the caretaker who leaves mince out for the mother magpie and her chick, through to the couple across the road, who turn out not to be a couple. Their relationship was somewhat ambiguous and it just seemed rude to ask. There’s barely any smell of marijuana in the air and I begin to forget the pocked road that got us there. The laid back atmosphere lulls me into a false sense of security and the place doesn’t seem half bad.
The Mullum combined leagues club/golf links/caravan park has everything you could want, and quite a few things you don’t. Most of the negatives can be found in the amenities block. It all starts with the five minute walk to them, a short stroll in the warm light of day, but quite a different proposition when undertaken at two o’clock in the morning when you’re kidneys refuse to behave. It becomes a battle between thought’s of wet grassy feet from traipsing to the toilet or the sure knowledge of the mess an exploding bladder might cause. After tossing and turning in bed trying unsuccessfully to ignore the wave motion this sets up internally, I give in and head to the toilets.
In the morning, the wife and I use the showers and this is where the fun really begins.
The amenities block is shared with the leagues club, so the showers are what you’d expect in a country football clubs communal showers. A large stainless steel bench, wooden benches around the walls and five showers, only one of which has the benefit of walls and a door. Now showering with a bunch of blokes might be fine for some, but it’s not my idea of fun and brought back a few too many memories from my Catholic boys high school, with the Christian brothers showing far more interest in our hygiene than was appropriate. You learn to maintain eye contact at a young age.
Later when comparing notes with my wife, she tells me that the women’s showers at least have brown modesty curtains, though the original colour was impossible to ascertain. When I told her she was lucky to have some modicum of privacy,she countered by reminding me that plastic sheets were no match for curious toddlers and on top of that, only one of the toilet doors has a functioning lock. She wins. I’ve come to the conclusion that privacy might be a foreign concept around these parts.
We stayed three days, though I realise now that my wife would really have preferred us to move on. (To be honest, I didn’t want to have to break camp and setup again after only one night. Laziness mostly.)
The three days were nice enough, with trips to Byron Bay and walks along the beach at Brunswick Heads, but I think in the end we were both happy to move on, driven away by the imagined threat of fungal infection from the showers. We love the Rainbow Region, but the Mullumbimby Leagues/Golf/Caravan park has been scratched as a plan B.
*We didn’t visit Nimbin this time, though everyone should visit the place at least once, if only to see whatever happened to the revolution. Nimbin and Mullum aren’t that far apart as the acid casualty flies, but by road you have to take the long way around, and if you’ve seen Nimbin once, it’s probably enough. (More on that little adventure here.)