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After departing from Sydney via a 14 hour overnight train and bus combo, we arrived in the little surf town in northern New South Wales, known as Byron Bay. We get to the bus stop at 6am and already see the hippies moving about the streets, doing whatever they do. After a nice little morning waiting out the rain in the bus stop, we find our new hostel and book ourselves into our homebase for the next 5 days.
We head out into the town to explore a little bit and find that wearing flip-flops is just a tad too touristy. Everyone is in barefoot and taking it easy. There are surfboards everywhere and every different type of character you could imagine. It is the quintessential surf town on the Gold Coast of Australia.
Because we are still nursing our sunburns, which have gone absolutely nuclear, we do not make it to the beach during the first two days. We stay inside, for much of the time avoiding random rain showers, and enjoy one of the many books we are reading. [As a side note – we are absolutely crushing books, having read over 5,000 pages each so far] Finally the weather turns and we decide that we are going to learn how to surf. We book a half-day lesson, join our instructor, and head down to the beach. If you could imagine the most laidback surfer-dude, in the surf town, this is our instructor. He teaches us how to pop on the
beach and makes sure our feet are in the proper position. He jokes around and makes sure that we “aren’t trying too hard, because this is all about fun.” Yea, it was incredible. Soon enough we were pulling our longboards into the surf and attempting to merely stand on the board while the instructor pushes us onto waves. After a few wonderful falls, both of us are standing up on our boards. We are starting to feel real good about our skills – the confidence is overflowing – we are kings.
This lasts for all of 5 minutes, until our instructor tells us that it is now our turn to actually paddle and catch our own waves. In all of our confidence, we had forgotten that the instructor was pushing us onto waves and yelling instructions. He was now going to only yell “paddle… harder… HARDER!!!” until we either caught the wave or were tossed around like a rag-doll in the surf. We were rag dolls for quite some time. After a solid dose of humble pie, we did eventually catch our own waves and stand up on our own. We were surfing.
After glorifying our surfing prowress, we headed back to the friends that we had made at the hostel and began to partake in the evening’s events, which would not end well for anyone. It is at this point that I would like to introduce everyone to “Goon.” Goon is a terrible, terrible drink that should never have been made, but the Australians and backpackers drink this stuff like water. It is essentially wine in a bag/box but without any of the taste, more of the hangover, and none of the dignity. They pour it into buckets and make any game that will have you guzzling it faster. It literally feels like a sweet and sour poison going down your throat. I will be the first to tell you that I enjoyed college life and all that it offered, but my lord this stuff was bad. It makes Natty Light and Kamchaka look like top-shelf booze. This stuff was hell. In any case, we “gooned” for our first, and definitely our last time, and had a splendid time. We did received the following comments the next day from our fellow hostel mates:
“You Americans actually do know how to drink.”
“You are the first Americans I have ever liked while drinking”
“Well played boys, your first goon and you didn’t go to the hospital.”
So while nursing the hellish goon hangover from the night before, we decided that we would explore the national park next to Byron Bay. We ended up going on a 3 hour hike around the shoreline, which took us to the most easternly point of Australia. This point sat upon a cliff, jutting out into sea, overlooking dolphins, turtles, and sea rays playing in the waves. It was truly a spectacular sight , which we did our best to enjoy despite the sunburns moving into their next stage: bubbling.
Over the past few days we had heard how nice the sunrise was at the easternly point, so we decided that we had to see it for ourselves. The next morning we woke up at 4:45am and put our running shoes on and headed out into the night with only our headlamps and the moonlight showing the way. We basically retraced our steps from the hike the day before, but were much more terrified because we couldn’t help but think of all the poisonous spiders and snakes that were hiding in the bushes along the side of the hiking trail. [We took turns going first for different sections of the trail, deciding that if one of us were going to get bit, we might as well share the risk] We arrive to the cliffs and ocean just as the first few rays of the morning start to break though the cloudy skies. We sit there for the next hour and a half, watching the lighthouse send her rays far over the ocean and the sun rise with majesty onto the entire continent of Australia. It was a pretty magical experience.
On our final day we decided that we were tired of eating peanut butter sandwiches all day, so we grabbed some of our roomates in the dorm and decided to make a feast for dinner. It was one of their birthdays the next day as well, so we had even more reason to get creative with the food. After an hour in the kitchen, Ryan and Jack had cooked up a storm, much to the entertainment of everyone else in the vacinity, and ended up with the vegetarian feast: filafel, salad complete with avacados, tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers, esparagus, spicy noodles, and a bit of wine. It was truly a nice way to end our time in Byron Bay, which turned out much better than we expected that first morning in the bus-stop in the rain, with sunburns torching our skin, avoiding the creepy hippies.
Byron Bay was incredible.
Current Location: Byron Bay, Australia