With Dharma Care Board Member Arif Matthee
Sine Cera is a bit of a home away from home for me.
As a Dharma Care Board member for over 12 years, I spend time there whenever I can. I go there for exercise, the beauty of untouched nature, and to reconnect with myself. I also love taking my friends and colleagues on walks to let them see the enormous variety in the natural environment there. I love doing that.
Arif (third from left) and friends at Sine Cera
Sine Cera is a pretty special place. It is located adjacent to the Border Ranges National Park – one of the great national parks of the world. Its unique flora and fauna led it to being given World Heritage status in 1986.
Sine Cera was established soon after – in 1990. It was built by Dharma Care members with the help of many local volunteers over a period of many years. It can accommodate 100 people and is unique in the Northern Rivers region, both for its wilderness location, and its flexibility for many different types of groups.
One of Sine Cera’s rainforest gullies along the Creek Walk
Being located next to the National Park, Sine Cera has many of the same landscapes and wildlife. Data from the BioNet Atlas of NSW Wildlife website reveals there are 660 species of flora and fauna in our area, including some that are rare and endangered. If you sit down by the creek in the morning, you will see the wallabies, lace monitors, and all sorts of birds – including red flashes darting through the trees that are the Crimson Rosellas.
Brindle Creek Trail – Boarder Ranges National Parks.
But it is the forests that are the main attraction of the area. As the Sine Cera website puts it: “These forests have survived since Australia was part of the ancient supercontinent of Gondwana that existed between 510 and 180 million years ago. It is difficult to exaggerate the beauty and significance of these forests. They ‘include the most extensive areas of subtropical rainforest in the world, large areas of warm temperate rainforest and nearly all of the Antarctic beech cool temperate rainforest. Few places on earth contain so many plants and animals which remain relatively unchanged from their ancestors in the fossil record’ (Department of Environment, 2014).”
One of the most spectacular forest trails through the National Park is the Brindle Creek Walk – only 40 minutes by car from Sine Cera. As the Aussie Bushwalker site explains: “you’ll think you stumbled into a timeless rainforest wonderland. Here you’ll see huge hoop pines and massive ancient Antarctic beech trees whose trunks grow thick and hairy with lichens and fragrant ferns. Keep your eye out for the huge helmholtzia lillies that thrive in the damp moist air. This high mountain plateau is a cloud factory all year round and you could be enveloped in mist even in the middle of summer.”
Bushwalking is one of my life’s passions. I take every opportunity I can I to walk in Australia, New Zealand and overseas. But if you’re not quite so passionate and don’t want to go into the National Park, there is a mix of easy and more energetic walks you can do at Sine Cera.
One of Sine Cera’s Swimming Spots
I love the sense of challenge and exploration that comes from walking around Sine Cera’s 200 acres. The country ranges from Sclerophyll forests on the ridges, to lichened rainforests down by the creek.
You can explore the creek – clambering over rocks to find small swimming holes or marvelling at the grandeur of some of those huge trees; or you can take on the challenge of climbing the ridge from where you can see into the next valley or west to Mount Barney. From that spectacular vantage point, Sine Cera is just a cluster of small buildings far below. That walk will get your heart thumping !!
The kids that come to Sine Cera love the ridge walk. They don’t need the ropes tied between the trees that their parents – and I – need to get to the top. The ridge walk usually takes me a couple of hours. I love doing it first thing in the morning when everything is cool and fresh – and some of my other Board members are still in bed !!
View from the top of the Sine Cera Ridge
Those walks clear my mind and I feel at one with nature – I thrive on that. It also makes me feel as though I have achieved something – and it keeps me fit.
I always get something out of visiting Sine Cera and going up the mountain – something for my personal life. Sine Cera is a bit of a sanctuary. There’s something special about the place, and I think it’s got something to do with all the people who have been there over the years. Thousands of people who have enjoyed connecting with family, friends and nature, and sharing their thoughts and feelings.
I have always loved bushwalking. I have a clear memory as a child in the Netherlands of walking on a disused railway line that never seemed to end, and my father encouraging me and my brother to carry on until we nearly collapsed. By the time I was in my teens, I had developed a sense of adventure through visits to Wales and Scotland where I did a lot of hiking in the mountains.
So, bushwalking for me is a great way to exercise and to have an adventure, but also a way to connect with myself – and even to overcome one of my fears. I am afraid of heights, believe or not – perhaps because I was born in that very flat country of the Netherlands! But when I get to the top of a mountain, I often have tears in my eyes from the gratitude I feel from experiencing the peace and beauty of nature.
Arif enjoying a quiet moment with the mountains at Sine Cera
I hope anyone out there reading this will get to Sine Cera at some point. It’s definitely worth it. It’s a wilderness adventure only two hours from Brisbane, Gold Coast, Byron and Casino.
Sine Cera Rainforest Retreat takes a minimum of fifteen people and is a self-managed facility. There is an expectation that guests will leave the place as they found it so we can keep prices affordable and preserve the pristine beauty of our environment.
In addition to all that beauty, families and charities get a 30% discount. We do this because Dharma Care, that built and operates Sine Cera, is a charity that works with families in Australia and overseas. Check out the charitable work we do at www.dharmacare.org.au.
I am very biased, but I love walking around Sine Cera and I think you will too. Come and try some of its walks, its wildlife and variety of landscapes. You won’t regret it.
Arif Matthee long-standing Dharma Care – Board member and avid bushwalker. This is how happy Sine Cera trail walking makes Arif. Interview with Arif and article written by Irwan Freeman Wyllie.