Surf's up!

Trip Start Oct 03, 2011
Trip End Dec 25, 2011

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What I did
The surf!

Flag of Australia  , New South Wales,
Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Ah... Byron Bay. Home of hip surfer dudes and aged hippies. Not quite as poetic as you might think though, the bay is named after Captain Cook's father, not the poet...

We disembarked from our penultimate greyhound bus in the late evening just around the corner from our accommodation (for half of our stay at least), Nomads. More on that place later. Back to the evening: Michael had done his research - our arrival time was 9pm, it was a ten minute walk to the hostel and then down to the cinema. The latest in the Twilight saga started at 9:15. Job done. We cut it fine but made it a little late (we don't think Oz has quite as many adverts and trailers as the UK, as the actual film had started by 9:25) and Amy got her fill of dreamy vampires on cheap night Tuesday!

The following morning we took a quick trip to the supermarket to stock up for our stay and feasted on Weet-Bix and beans on toast. There were a fair few envious glances as Michael grated some cheese on top (of the beans, not the cereal!) from fellow backpackers, we even got into an in-depth discussion of Heinz vs the local variety. I won't bore you with the finer points. We set off to explore the small town and the main beach but didn't get too far before settling down under the shade of an over-hanging tree on the beach for a few hours. Amy occasionally dared to show her legs the sunshine (which she later regretted!) while Michael took time out from sunbathing for a quick paddle in the pristine clear waters. We eventually roused ourselves onwards towards The Pass, a rock formation that is ironically un-passable, which marks the end of that stretch of beach but is responsible for some excellent surf so we are told (and would later experience). We climbed upwards and spotted our first eastern water "dragon"- it was a pretty big lizard - before reaching the "most easterly point of the Australian mainland". Cue tourists lining up for a picture. Scenic coastal surroundings were then traversed up to the lighthouse which handily included an ice-cream shop. On the benches outside, much to Amy's amusement, water sprayers were placed to shoo away the birds interested in our well-earned treat. On the way back down into town we encountered another, even larger lizard (maybe 1.5m) prowling amongst the trees.

The following morning was the big day. We arrived at the Black Dog surf school and met the others who were venturing out, as well as our two instructors - one of whom was Swiss and quickly embarked on some footy chat with Michael (Basle had just knocked Man Utd out of the Champions league). Of the 12 in our group, we were the only beginners and so were paired with our own tutor. After a brief run through on the beach we joined the rest of the veterans (with 2/3 lesson experience) in the water. 3 hours or so later and we emerged tired out but happy Michael managed to stand upright impressively once, where as Amy managed it many more times (she was extremely good in getting in the "bum up in the air" position!).

The following morning we had to switch hostels to the slightly out of town Belongil beach. Byron Bay is a backpackers mecca in this part of the world and so getting 5 nights accommodation was a tricky task. Thankfully we were happy to leave Nomads. The huge hostel has a big party vibe and was full of "schoolies" (kids just finished high school) and with 8 in a dorm sleep was difficult to come by, as were bowls in the kitchen (there were 3 for the hundreds of guests!). Easier to locate however were inebriated folks and piles of sick in the communal bathrooms... Our nice new guesthouse involved an arduous 20 minute walk along the beach into town and live music every night from the cafe next door. Brilliant!

After checking in to our private room we went for a quick lie down on the beach (a red torso ensued unfortunately for Michael) before venturing into town. We had booked our surf lesson with one of the many tour companies in Byron that subsequently offered us free internet and bodyboard hire for the rest of the week, an offer we were happy to accept! Semi-pro body-boarders already from our visits to Cayton Bay in Scarborough, we had a ball as the waves kept on coming, often ending in 30m rides all the way to the shore. Again, brilliant! The day was topped off by fish and chips on the beach. Byron has 2 recommended chippies, Amy gave her custom to one, Michael the other. The jury was out as to who made the best decision but both were very satisfying. Earlier in the day we had time to buy Amy a rashie top to wear in the sea which we are happy report stood up well to todays watersports.

Our final full day in the Bay saw us repeat the exploits of yesterday; beach lounging and bodyboarding taking up most of our time. We hit the hay early and set the alarm for 5 a.m. to catch the sunrise. Donning a thick layer and santa hats we strolled to the beach over the road from our guesthouse. We were quickly joined by a handfull of other crazy people (they must have been to be up at that time) and were rewarded with the (slightly cloudy) sights of the beach at dawn. Back to bed for a top up on sleep and we were off to the next stop: Brisbane. Unfortunately the free bus offered by our hostel was full and we nearly missed the bus. Luckily one girl volunteered to get the next lift 15 minutes later so we could hop on... Phew!

Happily onboard our final Greyhound bus with ubiquitous personable driver we set off: goodbye New South Wales, hello Queensland! The only noteworthy thing to include here on our journey is the inexplicable time difference (one has daylight savings, the other doesn't) and so as we reached the twin cites of Tweed Heads and Coolangatta we time travelled back an hour. Logistically this could be a nightmare if you lived here (and worked in the other state...). Happily we arrived on time at our last stop in Oz: Brisbane!
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