To Byron and beyond

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To Byron and beyond

Updated 15 years, 6 months ago

As the final curtain loomed for young(ish) Walder in Australia, before having to start the dreadful trek back to the UK (well, okay, not that bad. I am going back via a month in Thailand) for his beloved Sister's wedding, our hero found himself in the surf mecca of Byron Bay.

Byron Bay, as well as being known for surfing, has also been a hotspot for "alternative" lifestyle folk and I checked in to a well-renowned, nay revered, hostel called the "Arts Factory"; long established as a haven for these types. All "karma free" veggie food, fire twirling, tee pees, painted VW buses and dreadlocks. It seemed to me though that the "hippy" image belied more commercial imperatives, reminding me of some places I stayed in South Africa.

Everyone saying " hey wow, we're hippies, peace, man........oh yeah we do accept credit cards and that's $25 a night and $10 for a sheet, $5 for a pillow, $5 to urinate, water is free, but air is $1 a lungful"- you get the picture. They even charged me $10 "key" deposit for my tented dormitory, which I found bizarre due to the absence of "door" and therefore "key". I thought such business acumen was at odds with "hippy" ethics. Had to sell some more of my pack to pay some hippies for toilet paper (environmentally sound, recycled- naturally).

The "Arts Factory" was a great place to stay though, with a great veggie restaurant next door (specialising in Indian stuff), very sociable and live bands most nights- some not bad, even for Aussie bands. They even had a "talent show" every Monday, which was not as gruesome as it sounds, but great entertainment. After the normal whingy, traveller, naval gazing, acoustic guitar dirges, there was a top rendition of "insane in the membrane"(or whatever) by Cyprus Hill. A Canadian bloke half sang, half rapped, with didgeridoo, guitar and drums as accompaniment; whilst fire-twirlers and fire-breathers cavorted about. There was also a Scottish chap who sang Robert Burns ballads and old folk songs with no accompaniment whatsoever.

Getting sick of didgeridoos. Played well, they can sound fantastic; bloody marvelous. However, being woken by a group of "Flower Power" Poms making raspberry sounds into wooden tubes right outside your tent, whilst another bastard beats away out of time on fucking bongo drums, makes one's enjoyment and appreciation start to pall. It was like having a group of flatulent elephants trying to fart different tunes simultaneously, out of tune, for your morning alarm call. This caused you often to wake in dark mood, fantasising about hanging them from the nearest tree by their dreadlocks and beating them with their didge's. Not very "peace and love", I know, but "for each action there is an equal and opposite reaction", some famous chap has said and I agree.

All this apart, I loved Byron Bay. It was such a great place to loaf, chat and generally chill out- all things I do well. Okay, the repetitive chanting of the "Hari, Hari, Hari Krishna" crew on the beach began to bore after a while, but the old 60's refugee who stands nearby, surrounded by signs saying "nothing for sale", "love everyone" and so on, says "Hey man, you're beautiful", making you feel great before you go and take the plunge in the famous Byron waves.

Having no cash meant the many activities available were out of the question, so a more simple existence beckoned: A diet of cheese and tomato sarnies, with lots of fruit to follow; plenty of swimming and body surfing in the large waves; more chilling out and daily walks to viewpoints nearby. My favourite being the hike up to the lighthouse to see the view; and what a view! The most easterly point of Oz, you could see right across the bay, gorgeous sunsets (how many of these have I seen now?!)silhouetting Mount Warning, bathed in pink and gold, with dolphins curving gracefully out of the waves behind the surfers. Spectacular. Talking of surfing, I would love to have a go as it looks amazing, but this I shall save for another time when I can pay for lessons- it looks hard to me, being a weak kneed Pom with no idea of how to start.

Left Byron sadly for Sydney, arriving in the big city after zero sleep courtesy of McAfferty's bus company's assiduous attention to customer comfort. Met Andy Bromley at work in the city, my mind slightly dull and foggy, thinking food, maybe a bed and sleep. He promptly took the rest of the day off and we went to the pub. Bear in mind it was 10.30 a.m. and I think you see what's coming. Well, the next few days in Sydney passed liquidly by and I think a great time was had by all, though most participants looked quite jaded by the end, my healthy Byron glow had diminished considerably. In between the customary Bromley revelry, I saw a few sights, Bondi Beach(Think Scarborough, but in Italy), the great views from "The Gap", lots of walking around Sydney and boat rides on the bay- Sydney really is a scenic city. My highlight though was going to see the Waratahs play the Brumbies in the Super 12 semi-final. No love lost there and the Waratahs got spanked, but I enjoyed it immensely. Big crowds, unbelievably cheap ticket($30- off a tout!) and then a night in the pub at Bondi junction. Had a great time and it came as quite a shock to realise I was leaving, not just Sydney but Australia, for Thailand. So far I've loved Australia and can't wait to get back there, after my sister's wedding. Still so much more to see and do. So off I went with mixed feelings for my first taste of the Far East.

Next: Dan Thai's himself in knots in Bangkok (I'm sorry).

see youse later.

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