Surf's up dude!

Trip Start Sep 12, 2005
Trip End Sep 11, 2006

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Sunday, November 6, 2005

Hey guys, where was I?

Oh yeah, left Brisbane Thurs (3rd) and got to Byron about 4 hours later (funny how these distances seem so small - 4hrs in the UK would easily take me to Liverpool) and checked into a really nice hostel with a great atmosphere that Emily was staying in for her last night. Another lazy day was spent on the beach and catching up with Emily, swapping stories etc, as we hadn't chatted properly since Airlie Beach. The higlight of that evening was going out for a meal for $2. Not bad at all.

So Fri (4th) Liz and I got up early in order to nab a couple of surfboards as they were free at our hostel and headed down to the beach. Hmm... firstly, we were cream crackered before we even reached the beach as these bloomin boards were soo heavy and large that our arms could barely reach round the things to carry them. Then we hit the surf. Chose a really bad spot where we were getting dragged miles down the beach, and I was having problems even swimming in it. So, feeling rather defeated, we headed back after an hour or so, but not after a 5 year old kid had given us an zoology lesson on the critters which had been washed up to shore including puffer fish "they're nasty - don't touch them, they have spikes on their backs", to the blue bottle jellyfish "they can't kill you, but they really hurt". Hmm... suddenly wasn't so keen to be getting in the water...
That night the gaffer and I spent a rather dull evening at the cinema watching Elizabethtown with Orlando Bloom - a real take it or leave it kind of film.

Sat (5th) We tried again with these surfboards. This time unfortunately we couldn't blame our poor performance on the conditions - we were just plain crap. Having learnt on huge 9ft foam boards in Noosa, we just couldn't get up on these 7ft fibreglass ones, even though all other surfers would tell you they're a piece of cake. And I can officially verify that the damn things hurt like bugger when they hit you on the head during a wipeout! That evening we got chatting to our rather pikey English roommates and after playing some drinking games with them at the hostel with some rancid white wine we went off to the local bar and partied the night away (see photos).

Possibly not the wisest move as I had booked myself on a dive for the following morning Sun (6th). Somehow managed to drag myself out of bed at 6am and trudged off to the dive centre. Kitted up and waited for everyone else to arrive and then we all set out for the nearby Julian Rocks in a huge pupose built dingy. You had to cling on for dear life as you sat in it though as I felt like I was in a Jame Bond movie. On the short trip over we saw a pod of dolphins, maybe 20 or so of them about 50m away. We then mored up by the rocks and got in the water. Unfortunately for her, my buddy had a bit of a panick attack on the surface (perhaps it was the thought of going down with me?!) and so she ended up just going snorkelling. I was then teamed up with the oh-so gorgeous dive instructor. As soon as we'd descended to the bottom we saw a nurse shark. I couldn't beleive my luck. They had said that there would be a pretty good chance of spotting them, but I had been so unlucky on the Great Barrier Reef as far as spotting big fish went, that the most I was hoping for was a turtle. Little did I realise what an awesome dive this was set to be... Anyway, this shark was just so serene and completely indifferent to us being there that I was mesmerised. Must have been between 3 and 4 metres long. It just swam past really slowly checking us out. We swam around a little bit before one of the other two guys in our little group started to panic as well - not sure why - I think he was having trouble with his buoyancy - a problem not helped by the fact that he decided to drop his weight belt! Yup, so naturally he went racing up to the surface which is NOT a good thing, closely followed by a rather concerned dive instructor. So there was I with this other guy down at the bottom waiting for them to decend again. The guy is trying to retrieve his buddy's weight belt when I spot a second nurse shark. Just as big as the last. I must admit, I was a little more scared this time as these things are ferocious looking buggers and with only one other person with me (who was, at that point, scambling between some rocks) I did feel at tad exposed. However, I needn't have worrried as although it swam up to us to check us out, you could tell it really wasn't that interested. They're an endangered species here and the same rules apply as if it were an endangered whale - no killing, obviously, but also no following or getting in it's path either. Eventually the other two decended again and we set off once more. We then turned a corner and saw the largest turtle I have ever seen in my life - it was the same size as me - chomping at the algae on a rock in front of me. It was beautiful, a loggerhead apparently. I was transfixed. It was close enough to touch and I just stayed there watching it for a couple of minutes - I could have stayed there all day. Fantastic! Next, I saw another 3 sharks lazing on the sea bed, again about a metre from me - they were Wobbegong sharks - harmless and about 2-3 metres long. I also saw lots of puffer fish, two rays no more than a metre in diameter and what I think was a couple of cuttlefish, though I could be wrong. The two guys then indicated to our instructor that their air was running low and it was time for them to ascend. I still had 100 bar left and the instructor signalled that we two could go on together while the other two ascended. I was soooo chuffed. Had time to see a cod fish (massive), another shark of indeterminate species (sandy coloured and about 2 metres long) and a lionfish (deadly). So all in all, had a fantastic dive. I was grinning like a cheshire cat the entire time - so much so that occasionally my grin would become so wide that my seal on my mask would break and water would leak in. Still can't believe I saw 6, yep, SIX sharks, all at really close range on one dive. Definitely got my money's worth there.
After the dive I joined Liz on the beach where we tried the surfing again. This time we hired out a huge foam board from a shop and had a much more successful time out, aided by two guys who we'd met the previous day who'd obviously realised we were in need of some coaching. Well, they had the patience of a saint, that all's I can say! Oh, and we managed somehow to scam a free night out of the hostel we stayed at, so that was even better.

Tried again Mon (7th) as although we were checking out that day, our bus didn't leave till 6:50pm. So had another day out practicing. Not really improving much though to be honest. Really felt like I could have stayed in Byron another couple of days - I certainly thought it was the best beach place I've been to on the East coast. A great atmosphere and a lot of fun.
Not looking forward to the 12hr coach journey to Sydney though. But sure I'll survive...
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