Despite a slight delay with our Greyhound Bus, we arrived in Byron at about 10pm & headed straight to the Arts Factory Village. Through my contact working at British Balls in Sydney, I'd managed to score a great discount for us ($17 each a night instead of $28) so we'd booked our own 'teepee' hut for 7 nights. We'd heard great things about the Arts Factory, it was named one of the Top 10 hostels across whole of Oz so we were really excited to be staying there & for such a bargain at that!
As soon as we arrived, we could feel that the place had a very different vibe to all of the other hostels we'd stayed in. It really is it's own village in one...it has it's own cafe, bar/restaurant, cinema, kiosks, tour desk, pool/spa/sauna & campsite on site. And they run free workshops for things like poi/firestaff throwing & bushtucker walks to learn how to get medicine, water & food from trees & plants. It's very hippy-esque (lots of guitar sing-a-longs out the back at night) but it has a really nice atmosphere & when you stay there, you wouldn't even need to venture out to town if you didn't want to because there's so much on your doorstep.
Anyway, back to the 'teepee'. More of a little shak really, a bit of a walk from the main site & bathrooms etc, suspended on decking over a large pond. It was nice & secluded though & we had our own little porch/deck to sit on at night so we were happy enough at first but due to the fact that the walls of the hut were basically a tarpaulin over the top & then wire mesh on the bottom half, not only was it freezing cold at night but we had far too many blood-sucking visitors & scary jungle sounds of creatures running along the top of our hut at night for our liking! So after 5 nights, we transferred to a 10 person dorm & then 2 nights later, moved to our own triple share dorm - much more like it!
Our friend Tiff who we'd lived with in Sydney got to Byron a day or so after us so we met up with her & all decided to get up at 4.30am one morning to go on the Sunrise tour at Cape Byron lighthouse, which is the most Easterly point on mainland Australia, so the sun rises there before anywhere else. Despite the anti-social hours, it was an amazing sunrise & well worth it for the photos (see albums). That same day, the 4 of us went to Nimbin. Rather than paying $35 each for one of the day tours, we decided to just hire a car & go ourselves. It really is the strangest little place I've ever seen. The history of Nimbin is that many years ago a festival was held there & evidently a number of people loved it so much that they decided never to leave, so it's now a hippy commune. It's most famous amongst travellers as the place to buy hash cookies & they even have an annual festival called 'MardiGrass', so as I'm sure you can imagine, we met our fair share of colourful characters when we went to visit! The day after we went to Nimbin, the weather went from average to fantastic overnight so we were treated to 7 days in a row of glorious sunshine & lazy beach days. The main beach in Byron is beautiful - but it has sqeaky sand?!
Not long into our stay at Arts Factory, we decided to initiate ourselves into the backpackers tradition of 'goon' drinking. Goon is a universal name for the cheapest, nastiest boxed wine you've ever tasted (regardless of brand) & you can bag yourselves one of these beauties for as little as $10 (less than a fiver). Our first night 'on the goon' we were all amazed to find that the 3 of us could get pretty steaming drunk on a box between us - so basically, a guaranteed good night for a quid-fifty each - I've never known anything like it! And once you get past the first stages of wanting to have your tastebuds removed, it actually starts to go down all right. 'Goon' is an absolute craze amongst backpackers & as soon as you start to get involved, you feel like you've been welcomed into a special club or something. People start teaching you all sorts of drinking games like the 'Ring of Fire' - hours of fun! We've made lots of friends here - most of them Israelis who we've passed hours with teaching them funny English expressions & trying to learn a bit of Hebrew in return. 24th April was the Israeli Independence Day, so a big party was held at the on-site bar the night before & we had a great night joining in their celebrations.
One night just as we finished dinner, we heard an announcement asking if anyone wanted to clean the kitchens in exchange for a free night's accommodation. So of course we jumped at the chance & while Lin & Jill blitzed the main kitchen, me & our mate Dan from Devon got to clean the delightful campsite kitchen - complete with it's own resident toads, snakes & hunstmen spiders! Luckily I only spotted the toads, or else you would have heard my screams back in Blighty! After that, we hoped to get longer-term work in exchange for accommodation, but they only offer it to people living on the campsite itself & they didn't have enough work for all of us anyway.
Byron nightlife consists of a few pubs that have live bands 7 nights a week, best of which is the Beach Hotel, & then a handful of cheesy clubs. Cheeky Monkeys is probably the most well known (for its wet t-shirt competitions & dancing on the tables) & I have to say that the hour that I spent in there was more than enough for me, especially as the average age appeared to be 15. La La Land was more my cup of tea, quite small but with a decent size dancefloor & good house music.
We all like Byron so much that we decided to go job-hunting & see if we could find work for the next month. Our 2 hr trawl of each & every establishment in Byron was very disheartening. Having been given an inpromptu exam when we applied for a Barista job in the Beach Hotel, we were all mortified to learn that we underqualified to make coffee! They take their coffee very seriously over here, apparently our frothy English style cappucinos are awful & when asked what our favourite blend is, we had to bite our tongues so we didn't blurt out 'Nescafe'! Everywhere else we applied said that it's now low-season here now so they're cutting hours etc, so sadly it looks as though we'll be leaving Byron on Monday 30th April & heading to Surfers Paradise/Brisbane to try & find work.