Day 309-315: Surfers Paradise to Coffs Harbour
Trip Start Sep 12, 2004
57Trip End Jan 05, 2006
Scott dropped me off at the hostel about 9, enough time to pack up, have brekkie and check out. Getting the 1.15 bus so time to kill, went into the city and used up as much net time as possible before heading back to the hostel to get the shuttle bus to the Transit Centre ready for the coach. Journey to Surfers was only 90 mins. The Islander Resort and Hostel was right next door to the bus station so a nice short walk. It's part hotel part hostel, with backpackers scum having their own reception in the basement of course....wouldn't want the 'proper' guests to see us. Checked into a 4 bed which again was full so top bunk for me :O( No one in the room when I arrived but worked out that they were japanese/asian based on the stuff lying around.
Weather was good with the sun out, but being right on the ocean the wind was pretty nippy. Got my bearings and took a few pics of the beach and the skyline. The shoreline is just crammed with towers and apartment blocks, some of which is looking pretty dated. Was pretty quite out and about too, but it was late afternoon and it was pretty cool. Just wandered around aimlessly getting my bearings and working out what's where.
In the evening went for food at the Down Under bar next door. They have a 'free' meal deal - well free in the sense that you get the food free when you buy a $5 drink...still a pretty good deal. Bangers and Mash tonight which actually was pretty good, wasn't totally full but won't do me any harm to reduce portion size! Carried on wandering the streets in the evening and then went back to the room. Wanted to watch TV - yes there's a TV!!! - but the other blokes were in the room listening to a crap radio station. I was right, well sort of, they're Koreans....didn't really talk much as their English wasn't great.
Wanted to have an early start but after having a crap night sleep, waking every couple of hours thanks to noisy Koreans getting up in the middle of the night for a drink and a piss, snoring, murmuring and then getting up at 7am. So ended up sleeping till about half 9. Dragged my arse into my jogging kit and went for a jog along the beach. Jeez it was hard work! Killed my shins for some reason, dunno what was different about today but was real hard work, ran back on the beach which was a little easier on the shins but running into the wind this time. Great location for a jog tho, along the beach, sun out, but a nice cool breeze. Just chilled on the beach after the jog for a bit watching the surfies and the stupid people swimming...far too cold and windy for that.
Cleaned up at the hostel and had late late brekkie...someone had left 1 english muffin in a back on the free food shelf so had that, don't worry, not that poor that I don't have any food, just saw it and fancied, bloody lovely especially with some free butter too...mmmmm. Walked back to the beach area to sit and read for a little while. Afternoon was spent bumming around, did want to hire a bike but the hire shop at the hotel only hired bikes with no gears (!?@?) and couldn't find another bike hire place in town...well not a cheap one anyway. The weather was starting to cloud up and the forecast showers looked like they were on their way anyway.
In the evening I went for the $5 meal again, fish and chips tonight. Plus tonight was karaoke night and I simply couldn't resist after getting a taster for singing again on Scott's Singstar game. Ended up singing four tracks during the night; Blinded By The Sun - Seahorses, Your Song - Elton John, Need You Tonight - INXS, and Common People - Pulp. Place wasn't that busy but got the odd ripple after each song...and got one whole free drink for singing...woohoo!
10.30 bus to Byron Bay...started raining on the way there, hope it doesn't do it for the next 3 days. Plumped for J's Bay YHA as recommended by Paul the Manc. Apparently the weekend is gonna be real busy for the Splendour In The Grass music festival....was gonna leave Saturday anyway so not really a problem. Booked in for 3 nights and got to the dorm...the usual crap strewn all over the place and another top bunk. Went for a wander once I'd settled but started to rain so nipped into Travelbugs to use some of the 10 hours free net I've got with them.
Explored Byron which took all of about 15 mins, much smaller place than I thought it would be. Guess it probably has a real cool vibe in summer when the sun's out but in Winter when it's cloudy and raining on and off it's not quite so cool. Walked up to the bay which is pretty and then went for an afternoon cup of tea, succumbing to a double chocolate muffin...must go for that jog tomorrow.
Back at the hostel met the messy bastard sleeping underneath me, German bloke who's been here for a week or so, learning to surf hence the board under the bed and the wetsuit hanging off the bunk....seemed a nice enough bloke, just needs to be tidier. Also met another dorm-mate, Enrico an Italian bloke. There's one other, Dan, an America but haven't seen him around. The hostel is spitting distance from a Woolies and the kitchen is big and clean which is all marvellous and meant I could finally buy some groceries and cook for myself.
Evening was pretty quiet, other than a little drama whilst cooking dinner when a flourescent tube exploded. Don't really know whether it just dropped out of the fitting on the floor, or exploded coz of the heat in the kitchen. Either way it was because it didn't have a plastic cover over the fitting....a lawsuit waiting to happen. Luckily no one got hit and no glass ended up in my curry! Watched some telly and due to extreme boredom went to bed just before 11.
Bloody rubbish nights sleep thanks to the American snoring almost constantly, and German boy under me was a fidgety bugger. Could see the sun peeking through the curtains so looked like it might be an ok day, but once I went out for a jog there was a lot of cloud around. Jogged out to the bay and along the beach, getting back only a few minutes before it started bucketing down. American had checked out by the time I got back...excellent! Moved into his bunk so I didn't have to clamber over the German's crap just to get to bed. Hung around wandering what the hell to do in the weather, was thinking of cycling but the showers kept coming in...killed some time on the net. Brightened up slightly in the afternoon.
Headed back to the hostel to hire a bike, they're free of charge and as you'd expect you get what you pay for, no gears and rusty as hell but hey, two wheels and it moves so it'll do the job. By the time I'd headed out it was much nicer, sun was out and warmish. Cycled over to Belongil Beach and walked along there as far as you can before the creek cuts the beach in two, got some good piccies. Then cycled across town to Tallow Beach which is on the opposite side of the Cape, another ridiculously long stretch of sand, but because it's on the opposite side it was now in shade so a bit chilly to hand around. There were a couple of hangliders making the most of the wind floating around in the sky.
The contrast once you got over the hill was amazing, still in the sun it was lovely and warm so stopped off at the far end of Main Beach to just chill and watch the sun go down. The whole feel of the place changes completely when the weather's good, sitting on the beach with the sun warming you up, listening to the waves crashing and watching people go by....that's the way to waste some time. Got some amazing pics of the sun going down, some great cloudscapes in the sky.
When I got back to the room there was a couple laying in the bed left by the American, turns out that they've got seperate beds supposedly, tho of course I'd bet my life on both of them sleeping in this dorm. Didn't do anything in the evening other than sit on the net for a bit, sat and read my Lotus Notes book too....very exciting - tho the one good thing is it seems to be coming back to me quite quickly. Fell asleep for an hour or so before being woken by the couple coming back and attempting to have a shag, it's just delightful listening to the slurping noises eminating from the room. I was almost about to tell them to fuck off when the German came back to the room and put them off, then they gave up and went to sleep.
Yay, suns out and not many clouds in the sky. Was supposed to move to a 12 bed dorm today as there wasn't any 4 beds left, all booked out coz of the Splendour In The Grass music festival this weekend, tho when I went down to move they said I could stay in the room, guess they did some shuffling around. Bonus tho coz I'd paid for a 12 bed for the last night so ended up getting a whole $2 off tonight....what will I do with it???? Went for a walk this morning around the walking tracks which take you to the Lighthouse, to the most eastern point of mainland Australia, along a couple of beaches and through some rainforest. Took about 3 hours in all and the weather was great. Found the platform where they launch the hangliders from, great view from there so just sat and chilled for a while.
Timed it pretty well, by the time I'd gotten back to the hostel the cloud had started rolling in, and by the time I'd had lunch it was raining again. You could definately see the difference in the town as the weekend gets closer, much much busier, this weekend being busier than normal coz of the music festival. Got chatting to a couple in the kitchen, they'd just come from Coffs Harbour, said that you can go Whale Watching there for only $28 which is ridiculously cheap, and they stayed in the YHA there and said it was great....very tempted to stop off there now for a couple of days before hitting Newcastle. Stayed out of the rain in the net cafe for the rest of the afternoon.
Got chatting to an American guy in the evening, Brian from LA, only in Oz for 2 weeks!! I mean how on earth can you fit stuff in that short amount of time. We hung out for the evening, watched Pirates of the Caribbean on the TV, love that film and that's about it.
Had to check out this morning, then got picked up for the Nimbin Tour I'd booked. Nimbin for those that don't know is the hash capital of Australia. Reason being that in the 70s there was a music festival, but being a very very small town there were only a couple of police officers. Being full of hippies there was a lot of pot smoking going on, the police realised that they simply didn't have the man power to arrest everyone who was doing it, so they turned a blind eye. Trouble is they set a precedent which could be used in court to defend pot smoking in Nimbin, so basically, although it's not strictly legal, on the streets of Nimbin you can possess and use Cannabis without getting arrested. It's still illegal to deal but again that seems to go unnoticed. Hence since then Nimbin has been a popular place for a short trip....about an hour from Byron.
However our first stop was to a 'farm' run by some bonkers eccentric New Yorker called Dr Paul Recher. He came over to Oz in the 70s with the other hippies and decided to stay, bought a load of land and spent the next 30 odd years planting thousands of plants and trees on the land. His farm - which has no animals other than the wildlife - is now listed and protected by the Botanical Garden Society (or something like that). He came to say hi wielding a large kitchen knife which was mildly disturbing, tho we later discovered that this was so he could cut some fruit up for us. Dressed in a lumberjack shirt, pink shellsuit bottoms and with long straggly hair - but no beard - he led us around part of his farm. We stopped off at the 'pond house' which was this cool little shack right on the front of a swimming pond, complete with internet, music, tv...etc. So although he's a hippy he still likes the creature comforts. Despite being slightly bonkers he was a really interesting bloke to talk to.
Next stop was Nimbin....and it is tiny, just one street really with a few shops and cafes on each side. Went with a couple of others for some food at the Nimbin Hotel (ie pub) as it was way past lunch and we were starving, 3 lads on the bus with us went straight off on pursuit of some pot. Being a bit of a lightweight I decided not to buy anything to smoke...plus the driver had warned us that the stuff up here is VERY strong, however you can buy cookies which are supposed to be strong, but you can eat as much or as little as you like. After lunch we took a stroll up the street - which took about 30 seconds...well not quite but not long anyway - it was very bizarre to be openely offered weed and cookies on the street.....everyone was pretty chilled about it. It was $5 for one cookie or $10 for 3...so went with the 3 option. Having been warned about the potency I just had half first....felt bugger all after 30 mins so had another half....still nothing after over an hour...so another half....oh dear.....
Things started getting a little strange on the bus home, massive paranoia, shakes, felt like every muscle in my body was tensing up, started worrying about the fact then when I get back to Byron i'm gonna be on my own, no room to go to coz I've checked out, plus a 3 hour bus trip to Coffs Harbour!!!! Occasionally for a few seconds I got a chilled happy feeling but generally it was all intense paranoia. Had no clue what to do when I got back to Byron so went and sat on the net for an hour....typing was interesting! Drinking plenty of water and slowly the effects were wearing off, but very slowly. Still felt a bit weird when I got on the Greyhound down to Coffs. Arrived there just before 11, no hostel pickup at that time so had to bung out $10 on a taxi. Luckily feeling much better now. Put my sheets on the bed and went straight to sleep!...a very interesting day....by the way, chucked the other one and a half cookies in the bin...
Woke around 8ish...nights sleep wasn't great but felt much better this morning. Checked if there was a whale watching tour this morning and there was so booked up and rushed round to get ready. Reception blokes directions were shite so ended up having to run back to the hostel to find out where the hell to go, was a little late, hot and bothered but made it on time. Only $28 but the boat was pretty big so loads of people. Weather was fantastic, calm and blue skies, perfect for being out on a boat. We were on the water for a couple of hours, in that time we saw about 6-8 whales, in one area there was about 4 of them and there was a pod of dolphins with em too....sooo cool! They were a little way out but you could still see them playing around, then a couple of dolphins came over to the bow of the boat and swam along side...amazing! Well worth $28.
Hired a bike for the rest of the day, only $5...bargain...and brand new too. So explored the sights of Coffs, there's a few nice places to see, good lookouts and a nice beach...bit too chilly for sunbathing tho. Spotted a dive place so went in and had a chat, only $115 for a couple of dives, the weather is supposed to be good tomorrow so as it'll possibly be my last opportunity to dive for a while thought i'd give it a whirl...need to keep practicing. Cycled into town (as the hostel is a nearer the beach than the town centre) and sat and chilled with a tea & scone...how very very English!...and the Sunday paper. Love just sitting outside in the sun watching the world go by.
Evening was pretty quiet, hostel doesn't seem that busy and typical YHA there's some oldies and bonkers people around. Prepared myself for tomorrow's dive, gotta be at the dive centre at 8 and gotta check out too....went to sleep feeling a little nervous....