Trip Start Apr 30, 2004
88Trip End Jan 28, 2005
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It's a doddle travelling in Australia, the tourist industry is a well oiled, user friendly machine. The 3 1/2 bus ride to Byron Bay was comfortable and left bang on time. Having stopped to drop off and pick up in several places we arrived in Byron at lunchtime where we were met by Stuart, from Backpackers Holiday Village, where we had booked 2 nights accomodation. Along with a few others we were given a quick tour of Byron in the hostels minivan before we checked in.
The accomodation here is shared apartments, so we had our own vedroom (just bigger than the double bed) and shared the bathroom, small kitchen and lounge area, with another befroo, housing 4 people, 2 english girls and 2 dutch girls. Here's hoping my naked sleepwalking doesn't return.
Well Mr. Sherrard, sharing an apartment with 5 lovely ladies, heaven or hell?
After a look round and a bite to eat we did what is compulsory in Byron and hit the beach. And what a beach. The main street in Byron leads directly onto Main Beach, which to the left is an endless slightly curving stretch of sand that disapears in a distant haze, and to the right the beach follows the tight curve formed by Cape Byron, Australias most easterly point.
Row after row of white breaking waves pound the beach, and beyond the sea is deep blue. But its choppy, the onshore wind is about force six. With a million acres of sand its not difficult to find somewhere to sit. I coat Rene from head to toe in factor 30, she says it's too expensive to use on me and gets 8 ounces of beef dripping from her bag and covers me in it.
Rene lies down to read her book and I trundle off to the sea looking like I'm going to swim the channel, and smelling like a zoo. At home the water numbs your feet and in Malaysia its like a warm bath, here its refreshing. In fact, it's nigh on perfect. If you're hot it cools you down, but staying in for hours on end causes nothing but wrinkled bits.
It would be hard to find a more sense invigorating 2 hours than being pummelled by endless powerful waves, I couldn't have had more fun even with a board. I was a low quality human surf board. It was like being in a giant washing machine and I lost count of the number of times my shorts were ripped off. My only injury was slight chafing of the scrotum.
The wind direction and strength meant the waves were poor for surfing, so there weren't many surfers in the water, but we did manage to see one of the surf schools in operation.
The strengthening wind and resultant sand blasting eventually removed us from the beach and we strolled the 20 minutes back to the hostel.
A trip to Woolworths (supermarket) means we have something to put in our section of the fridge, including a 4 litre box of white wine for A$10 which tasted as you'd imagine wine at 1 pound/litre would taste.
Expenses (A$2.5/pound): Taxi 9.20, lunch 15, accom 63, supermarket 13.90, wine 9.95, internet 2.
Tuesday Sep 28th - Day 154
We made use of the hostels free bike hire and went off in search of cheaper accomodation which we eventually found.
Twenty minutes of leisurely pedaling got us to Cape Byron where we wlaked part of the coastal path. The views from the clifftop path looking down on Watego beach towards the end of the cape, and out across the South Pacific were stunning and put me in mind of parts of the Cornish Coast.
After a self prepared feast of a packed lunch (2 egg baps, 2 cheese and tomato baps) we spent the rest of the day on the beach, me in the sea, Rene reading her 800th book. If only I'd learnt to read.
It was just as windy as yesterday but slightly warmer, still no surfers about, only a few speed freak windsurfers and a certifiable para sailor were braving the onshore gale.
Later at the hostel it was BBQ night, $12 for all the food you can eat and all the wine you can drink. $9 for the veggy option. The food was good, with lots of pasta salad and bread, the wine wasn't, but what do you expect for $9. Anyway it flowed freely on what was a sophisticated cultural evening which culminated in the presentation of a T shirt for the first girl to stand o the central table and bare her breasts. Despite my desperate need for a new, clean T shirt, Rene couldn't be pursuaded from her seat and therefore didn't win, and because of an ill placed bush I couldn't see who did.
Everyone headed across the road to Cheeky Monkeys Bar for their Tuesday night trivia quiz. We were teamed with a couple from Yorkshire, a girl from Motherwell and Roger from Utrecht. We didn't win the $100, but they were good company and we shared a few jugs of Toohey's together before retiring to bed and dreaming of perfect waves and no wind for tomorrows surf lesson.
Expenses: Bfast/lunch 8.20, accom 63, BBQ 18, book 8.50, beer 8
Wed Sep 29th - Day 155
At the very end of the 8am sports bulletin on a Sydney radio station I learn the overnight Chamions League results. A player from Liverpool scored a hat trick, only he plays for Man United, Liverpool were apparently lucky to only lose 1-0 away to Olympiakos and quickly need to banish their away day blues.
Up and out fairly early as we were changing hostels and it needed to be done by 10am in time for surf school.
At the beach, Rene and I are totally different. Rene can lie all day reading, snoozing and taking the odd dip, whereas as I find it hard to lie still and spend most of my time in the sea. So with the opportunity of 3 hours peace and quiet beckoning Rene decided against having a surf lesson.
With its worldwide reputation for excellent surf it's no surprise that Byron Bay has plenty of surf schools. I opted for the cleverly named Byron Bay Surf School. Having loaded the boards onto a trailer and put on our sleevless, ;eg;ess wetsuits, we left for the beach in a minivan driven by Marco, who was our instructor for th morning. My dream of good waves and little waves hadn't been realised and as walked towards the sea we were sandblasted by the onshore gale.
It was a small group, containing 3 children and a woman who were all on their third lesson. They all went straight in the sea while I was given a quick 5 minute lesson on riptides and how to lie on the board.
The training boards were hige, like a 7 foot dining table covered in foam insulation. On a calm day I'm sure they're great, but in the strong wind it was like moving a sheet of plywood round.
To be honest it was a bit farcical and the lesson shouldn't really have gone ahead. There was no one else in the water because the waves were coming from all angles, it was more like white ater rafting conditions.
I had 3 hours of battling out far enough to try and catch a wave and then more often than not being dumped to the seabed by one from the side. I did however catch a few half decent ones and even managed to stand up half a dozen times, so I was more than happy. Despite the conditions it was incredible exhausting fun and I was absolutely knackered walking back up the beach.
It was a tough afternoon of reading and relaxing.
At the Backpackers Inn hostel we've moved to the rates are cheaper because we're not in a so called apartment, but our room is much bigger. Every thing else is similar, with a small pool, good clean shared toilets and showers and a large well equipped communal kitchen. Oh, and loads of backpackers.
Wednesday night is BBQ night at Backpackers Inn and never being able to shy away from an 'All you can eat for $5' sign we purchased a pair of tickets. We did though manage to resist the 'All the sangria you can drink for $5' sign. It was a sham, we were given a paper plate with 2 slices of bread, a potatoe pattie/burger and some lettuce. That was it, no more.
Well, Rene was fuming. She'd had her starter but was now being denied the main course. I couldn't stop her as she ran over to the man in charge and punched him real hard in the kidneys, as he doubled over in pain she fireman lifted him onto her shoulder and dumped him in the pool.
That may have happened in the movies, but we actually just went back to our room and drank cheap boxed wine out of mugs.
Expenses: Accom 58, surf school 65, lunch 18, supermarket 24.20, BBQ 10, smoothie 4.90, internet 2
Thursday Sep 30 - Day 156
A lazy morning in Byron, floowed by a long walk along the beach in the afternoon. It's a struggle. We walked up the beach a good few miles. Past Belongil beach and Belongil creek where a large area is fenced off to protect the endangered Little Tern, who nests here each year. They're similar to terns at home but with a black tuffed skullcap.
Apart from a naked swimmer (Belongil beach is clothing optional) we hardly met anyone. The beach is pristine with no litter dropped and absolutely nothing washed ashore,there's nothing for beachcombers here.
The well equipped communal kitchen, appliances not working, which ment long queues to cook your meal. It was like ready steady cook on fast forward, at least it was in the other half of the kitchen. We got stuck behind two girls, who could have their own show called can't cook, shouldn't cook. They took bleedin hours with a frying pan cooking 1 red pepper, a small tine of sweetcorn and a tine of chopped tomatoes (yummy) and boiling some rice. The chef of the day trophy went to a skinny lad who looked about 14, who appeared with a white loaf and a jar of chocolate peanut sauce and set too with the toaster.
It's certainly a younger age group in the hostels in Australia, the vast majority are either taking time out before or after Uni, so not the place to say for a bit of peace and quiet. It's thumping music until 11pm then the clubbers usually return at about 3am, drunk and disorderly. The walls are thin and there's no escaping the noise, but with no work in the morning it's no big deal and if we're up and about early we get our own back
with plenty of door banging. Childish but satisfying.
Expenses: Accom 58, supermarket 22.60, laundry 3, crisps 3.20
Friday October 1st - Day 157
30mm of apparently much needed rain last night and a morning of thundery heavy showers. We read and wrote and lolled about.
It cleared up a bit in the afternoon and we managed a walk round Byron and a swim. As well as its beaches and surf Byron is famous for its hippies, who are still here in numbers. From the odd sight of about 15 alternative lifestylers (cult) sat near the beach, chanting in a Hari krishna stylee, while their leader sat at a table upfront serving veggy curry to anyone who made a donation, to the endless dreadlocked stripey legginged youths who tumble in and out of rainbow painted camper vans, hippyism is alive and well in Byron.
The shops in Byron reflect this too, so alongside all the bars, restaurants, cafes and surf boutiques are shops selling anything from recycled wares, palm and astrology readings, blueprint healing, cranio sacral balancing, crystal singing bowls, life coaching, yoga, crystals, chocolate scented incense, sarongs, didgeridoos, locally crafted jewellrey, wheatgrass juice and veggie burgers. Byron is bustling and a pleasant place to walk around. It also has a very good supermarket where all the top backpacker chefs ome to clog up the discount aisle.
Expenses: Accom 58, supermarket 15.45.
Sat October 2nd - Day 158
A beautiful clear morning, the wind has finally abaited and the surf is up. A barefoot run along the beach and a swim is a great way to start the day.
Close to Byron the beach was already busy but out beyond Belongil it was once again deserted apart from nuddy swimmers. I can sort of see the appeal of skinny dipping here, with the sand, sun, surf and seclusion, but the thought of a barracuda biting your bits would be enough to keep the shorts on.
On my way back past Belongil I saw in the near distance a man walking towards to me. He was about 60 with a grey beard, a baseball cap and a small backpack. Apart from that he was naked. It put me right off my mini banana and 2 tangerines I was going to have for my breakfast. If nudity is your thing, why wear a baseball cap?
Our day was speant leisurely walking along the beaches and steeply undulating cliffside pathways of Cape Byron.
At Wategos beach we were enticed into the sea by irresistable waves before we climbed up to the 1901 constructed Cape Byron lighhouse. We enjoyed our picnic linch at Captain Cook Lookout, with magnificent views over the cape and out across the South Pacific.
Captain Cook named Australias most easterly point after the grandfather of George Gordon Lord Byron, who sailed round the world in the 1760's.
Despite the quality waves, the days highlights consisted of wildlife viewing. We saw humpback whales, dolphns, turtles, bush turkeys, fish eagles, pelicans, cormorants, a large frill necked lizard and a small Jack Russell puppy.
Back on main beach we had another swim, but the outgoing tide had flattened the waves making it slightly less fun.
Later, we had no choice but to phone the fashion police when a man with a sculpted goatee beard appeared nearby, and proceeded to change, using the towel round the waist trick. He unveiled a pair of way too tight black trunks with the word SPANK emblazened across the backside. He then neatly folded his clothes and nonchalantly minced his way to the sea.
The beach is pretty safe, but there are still lifeguards patrolling. All decked out in the red and yellow gear, the two men patrolling Byron must have been from te Dads Army Lifeguarders, both were well over 60.
As we left the beach we caught a glimpse of Byrons famous Sandcastle man. He's renowned for creating incredible sand sculptures and was putting the fnishing touches to an amazing disneyesque castle, all he seemed to use were water, a putty knife and a small paint brush.
With another BBQ in the offing back at the hostel, we decided to give it a miss and take a walk into town. The Great Northern Hotel is a cavernous, traditional, boisterous corner pub in the heart of Byron. It's a regular venue for live music and is full of locals atching horse racing and rugby league on the TV screens.
A pint here is known as a schooner, so after a few schooners of Toohey;s we finished off another relentlessly enjoyable day with a bag of barramundi and chips.
Expenses: Accom 58, suncream 42.90, fish and chips 14.50, drinks 18.10
Sun Oct 03 - Day 159
Up at 6am to pack our bags, on the bus and leaving Byron behind by 7am. Making our way to Hervey Bay was a long and smooth uneventful ride. The bus stopped at several places to pick up and drop off. Noosa appeared to be the nicest, with beautiful coast and awesome waves.
There are so many beautiful places on the east coast it's impossible to visit the mall, so in a conscious effort to avoid packing bags every other day, we're picking out towns where we'll base ourselves for a number of days.
It was 5.15pm when we reached Hervey Bay. Had we known how far it was to our prebooked accomodation we would never have walked the four miles, loaded up like a pair of packhorses. Not a bus or taxi in sight. Our basic map had no scale and it didn't seem that far to the Fraser Lodge Holiday PArk. But powered by swearing and whingeing we eventually made it.
Mainly on the recommendation of Ange and Mike we've decided to try staying at a caravan site. We booked 3 nights in a standard cabin at a slightly cheaper rate per night than a room at a hostel.
To be honest we weren't expecting much, a tatty old shed in a corner perhaps. What we got was, for us, a palace. A vast cabin with double bed, table, couch, en suite with toilet and shower, a kitchen area with hob, fridge, microwave, kettle and toaster and TV. Bargain. Plus there are 2 swimming pools, a free tennis court, a shop, outdoor gas BBQ's, laundry, internet and no hordes of grunge monkeys to compete with for use of toilets, showers and kitchen.
A quick stock up at the nearby supermarket meant we just made it back in time to watch the Rugby League Grand Final. At half time Rene realised she was missing Australian Pop Idol on the other side. Shame.
Expenses: Accom 62.10, BIG4 membership 30, water 1.40, food 7, juice 2, supermarket 15.50, booze 21.60, dinner 11.80