It’s almost cold enough to see my breath in the morning as I gaze north from the veranda of the cottage at Casa Comboyne.
It’s windy, with gusts pushing the morning fog and low-lying clouds off the surrounding mountain ridges, opening up glimpses to the green pastures below.
A lone young wallaby hops right across my viewing site, not 10 metres in front of me, making his way across the steep slope with ease.
It’s quiet, and beautiful, worth rising early for despite the chill in the air. And the whole day is ahead.
Casa Comboyne, on Koppin Yarrat Road less than 10 kilometres from Comboyne township, about 60 kilometres west of Port Macquarie in NSW, is two buildings, a full-fledged farmhouse that sleeps about 10, and a smaller, more modern cottage, with two bedrooms that is comfortable for two couples or four people.
We are staying the cottage, having stoked up a blazing fire in the wood heater upon arrival the night before. There is plenty of good, dry wood – perhaps ironbark – cut to easily fit, with a good supply of kindling, too.
Although we arrived late from Newcastle, the property owner, Harry Stathis, was extremely welcoming, having even prepared a luscious lamb dish with the offering a very cheeky Argentinian red wine with it.
The property includes a generous garden of herbs and vegetables which are there for guests to enjoy and use as needed. Our best catch was a handful of feijoas picked off trees that lined the road next to the property. We didn’t know what they were, but took a chance anyway. Sweet and sour, creamy and citrusy, good on their own, super with yoghurt.
On this wintry occasion, we weren’t up for a bushwalk through of the highly-regarded reserves in the area, with Ellenborough Falls recommended by many. But we will be back, when it’s warmer.
We toddled around sleepy downtown Comboyne (population 700), which had enough cafes to be tempting. The Bower Bird, Udder Cow, a general store and a superb community centre complete with locally-made clothing and farm goods. We also took note of The Lutherie Teahouse Cafe, run by Graham Caldersmith and his wife, Angie. Caldersmith is a luthier, a guitar-maker, of world renown.
The ladies at the community centre, Leonie and Margot, were a wealth of information, and a great source of community pride.
The town is spotlessly clean, which probably accurately refects their pride. The Billabong dwelling at Comboyne showground is a remarkable community project, and appreciated as much by locals as visitors. The Billabong is a tribute to traditional architecture, and the spirit of community willing to improve itself.
We venture further, driving off the plateau down Comboyne Road toward Byabarra, where we stop for lunch at one of the coolest roadhouses around, The Byabarra., not 15 minutes from Comboyne.
Hosts Lisa and Glen, who only recently took over the business, offer a modern take on country hospitality, serving up excellent Allpress coffee, decent wine and beer and a truly metropolitan spin on easy, grazing food. The mezze board of chorizo, marinated feta, olives, wood-smoked ham, tzatziki and sourdough is outstanding; the pizza choices are not far behind.
The forested setting immediately puts you at ease, with huge windows inside and an extensive veranda at the back. After lunch, we stroll down to the property border at the gently rolling Thone River, picking a few mandarins from the extensive orchard along the way. There’s a studio apartment on the premises – now filed away as a great option for a getaway weekend.
We pass several avocado farms in the area, full of unripened fruit, and dream of coming back just to buy a basketful of local produce (the blueberries are also notable). Maybe we’ll take the back roads through Wingham next time. Or visit Port Macquarie, less than hour away.
There will definitely be a next time.
The writer was a guest of Greater Port Macquarie Tourism.