The past couple days have been great. Fine weather finally, sunny and +25-30ish every day and enough breeze to make the waves crash.
The rest of my Coffs Harbour time was pretty relaxing. Not long after posting the last update I took a walk out to the Muttonbird Island Nature preserve at the end of the harbour. Looking back at town gave a fantastic view of the bay and the buildings rising up on the hills then you could cross to the other side and look out into the open pacific and at the waves crashing below. Colour aside the Pacific just has an epic feel to it that the Atlantic can’t match. On the way back to town I stopped by the aforementioned fisherman’s coop to get some tasty fish and chips. Absolutely delicious but the seagulls were beginning to swarm around my park bench to Birdemic levels by the time I was done. I ended up walking along the coast to the south for a while afterwards, but after a while I was simply jonesing for a swim.
After walking back to the hostel and changing I headed down to the Jetty beach and walked out onto the jetty. It was close to low tide so the thing was more or less at its highest as I walked out to where everyone was splashing down. Pleasantly enough there’s actually stairs up from the water at that point so one doesn’t have to swim all the way to shore (probably 200m or so) in between jumps. I ended up jumping a few times, but it was quickly getting close to sunset and I wanted to hang out in the waves a bit before heading back. The water was lovely and warm (despite some aussies whimpering about how cold it was) but the waves were fairly gentle since it was such a protected beach.
That night I decided to treat myself to dinner out since I was pretty wiped from all the walking and swimming and found a decent thai place not far up from the hostel. Afterwards I was going to go for a beer at the same hotel as the trivia but there was a cover in place because it was apparently topless waitress night so instead I grabbed a bottle of wine from the bottleshop and headed back to the hostel. I ended up sitting around the pool for a while in between doing a load of laundry. By the time I went to bed at around midnight there was still no one else in my room so I celebrated some privacy for once… I must have been tired, because when I woke the next morning there was a guy in the other bottom bunk and enough unpacked that he must have had the light on and been making lots of noise. It must have been late though as he hadn’t so much as stirred by the time I left the next morning.
Annoyingly the bus out to Byron the next day wasn’t leaving until five or so. I had to throw my luggage in day storage and pay a day fee, but I made up for it by walking up to the creek that cuts the town in half and walking up it a ways to the Botanical Gardens. Afterwards I walked down to the surfing beach and then across the creek and through the waves back to the harbour wall. For whatever reason there are few things I enjoy more than wading around where a river/stream meets the sea. Something about the rapidly changing currents trying to knock you over and the swirling different colours is just a blast. The beach on the other side of the creek is known for strong riptides and waves that crash right onto rocks on one side so it isn’t meant for swimming. It is however without question the most beautiful off leash dog park I’ve ever seen and I was visited by a number of very cute (and mostly very wet) pups as they flew around enjoying the sand.
The bus to Byron ended up having a few of the same people I’d ridden into Coffs with (a few of which I hadn’t seen at all since checking in) though we all do seem to be taking fairly different paths after Byron. One of the girls was a German named Sabina who was interested in learning to surf and is (at least initially) intending on spending two weeks in Byron Bay. (Side note: I have met and become friendly with 9 German girls on this trip so far. All but one has been named either Sabina or Andrea…) We ended up chatting a bit since she wanted someone to split a chip combo with her at the meal stop. She’s actually been here since September but worked the first 3 months, we’d done a fair number of the same New Zealand things so we gave an English bloke a few tips before he heads off there from Brisbane in two weeks.
The meal stop was a story in itself as we pulled into a petrol station/terrible lunch counter combo. We passed a fast food plaza at the top of the hill 2 minutes after getting back on the bus and no one who had ordered from the gas station was too impressed. Sabina and I had done the two bags of chips for four bucks combo as I anticipated the food would be pretty terrible which was quickly confirmed. Bad food aside, the real adventure of the meal stop was the hippie Christian commune that seemed to be located next door. The moment we started emerging from the bus someone ran down from the weather beaten old mansion next door and turned on a spotlight, some twinkling lights and some blaring Christian country/rock. The spotlight lit up their “Jesus is the lord of our nation” placard and the music was the sort of thing you’d expect to hear driving through Alabama. They had a little hut of sorts on the edge of the road that I think they offered people coffee from during the day. The best was yet to come though as soon after we emerged from the petrol station a guy resembling a fat hippie jesus and wearing what seemed to be white cotton pyjamas exited the house and began dancing and swaying down to the music. Occasionally a whiff of pot drifted our way as well which wasn’t exactly a surprise given the atmosphere. Hilarious though. Hippie Jesus waved goodbye as we pulled back onto the highway.
At first glance Byron Bay didn’t really seem like my type of place, lots of 18 year old looking clubs, tons of drunks wandering the streets and very much the vibe of a place that I’m getting way too old for (and never enjoyed in the first place.) Unfortunately the hostel reinforced this, incredibly loud, five of us (and three surf boards) packed into a room that by all rights should have one double bed. It was not the most pleasant night and I was really wishing I’d booked a motel here (however it’s both expensive and usually packed here, sadly no RCI either.) Poor Sabina is in a ten share which I can’t even imagine, she said it’s basically one and a half motel rooms stuffed with bunk beds and no storage space. No storage space to start with AND a second German luggage invasion. The only thing it had going for it as we checked in was that they’d given us a shuttle ride from the bus stop. All that being said, the rest of the town made up for it come morning. The hostel is close to the beach and has free boogie boards. (Ugh, I actually just discovered that this hostel doesn’t actually provide dishes, you have to rent a dish set… seriously YHA, I thought you had standards, this place sucks)
I actually started off my day with a hike up to the lighthouse and the more easterly point in mainland Australia (I guess Lord Howe Island is probably the easternmost point?) This was a beautiful hike through a few of the remaining pockets of rainforest on Cape Byron. In a somewhat scary reminder to stay on the trails, after stopping to tie my shoe about 20 feet into the trail, I looked in the forest to see a two meter spider web and a spider with a leg span the size of my fist. She didn’t seem to be a venomous type thankfully. They weren’t kidding when they said steep about the trail either and the high temps and humidity made me thankful I’d brought a bunch of water. Here and there I caught sight of Tallow Beach to the south (a more dangerous beach open to the ocean that’s less used.) Eventually the lighthouse itself came into sight towering above the tallest point on the cape but it took another few minutes to get there. From the lighthouse you can apparently often see whales at the right time of year (sadly not now) but I did see some dolphins riding waves as well as some sea turtles feeding in some of the backwater pools. Pleasantly enough there was also a tiny cafe in one of the assistant keeper cottages so I was able to snag a Bundaberg Peachee soda and just watch the waves crash for a while.
Continuing the loop meant a bunch of stairs going down and a variety of lookouts along the way. I saw a few more turtles as I wound my way down the path, taking a few pictures and videos along the way. The tip of the cape was one of the most gorgeous spots. Every few seconds spray would shoot into the air as a wave crashed into the narrow rock barrier. Beyond it a couple very brave surfers set out to catch a wave that would carry them all the way back into the main bay. The rest of the loop back passed a series of gorgeous beaches and exclusive looking private homes and vacation rentals. By the time I reached the hostel again I needed a rest so I hopped into a deck chair by the pool (the only nice part of the hostel) and enjoyed the shade for a bit.
My short walk had turned into more of a trek than expected so by the time I was ready to go down to the beach it was already reasonably late. I couldn’t resist free boogie boards so I ended up riding waves until just before sunset. The nice thing about this beach is that the only real rip is a horizontal current trying to pull you away from your towel. The water itself is such a crystal clear green that you can look down between waves and see the occasional fish dart by your legs. Then if you’re me you get engrossed by a school of something blue and pretty and get a 12 foot wave in the face that whips your boogie board around into your skull! Fun times! I actually ran into Sabina down there again boogie boarding as well, she’d been heading out as I left for the lighthouse, but she’d apparently gone back for lunch in between. The waves were running really well for our boards and I was in there for hours, just thinking about packing it in when an absolute monster wave came in. Hopping up into it I got an amazing ride but also incredible pain… My poor legs, exhausted from the up and down then current fighting for hours had decided this big jump was enough and my left calf and right hamstring muscle locked. I had to sit there getting smacked by subsequent foam surges pressing on the muscles to get them to bend again. I did take the signal though and went to sit on the beach and watch the sun set over the mountains.
Tonight I’m going to try to find a decent pub and have a drink or two, I might even brave one of the other clubs, anything to delay coming back to this flophouse.