Much to the disappointment of most of you I'm sure, I didn't try my hand at surfing during our stay at surf camp. I thought the price for the 2 hour lesson was too expensive (like most things in Australia) and the whole sport doesn't really appeal to me. Its not something I could ever see myself doing again, and the whole surfer scene just grates me for some reason. I guess its the whole image obsession of it all, and the guys running the camp exactly fitted the stereotype - long blond hair and drunk all the time! Our camp was situated in the village of Arrawarra in the Coffs Harbour region of north New South Wales. We had a beach to ourselves, which would have been nice if the weather wasn't cloudy, windy and even a tad on the chilly side. The sea here is still cold so I was much more at ease sat on shore watching the others fall over constantly. It looked a really tricky sport and no one seemed to get the hang of it from our group.
In the evening there was unsurprisingly a huge outdoor party where all the surfer people got even drunker, as did most of our tour group (a couple of people were paraletic before 11pm). They put on a camp fire for us, and some woman sat by it playing an acoustic guitar - thereby ticking off another one of my surf camp stereotypes. I was quite glad to escape the place early the next morning as we headed north in the direction of Byron Bay. The weather was once again cloudy. Following on from the hottest November on record in Australia (which bizarrely followed one of the coldest ever Octobers here), the weather has become very English summer. 20C highs and lots of cloud and rain showers about. It really wasn't what I was expecting. Fortunately there was a small pocket of sunshine in the Byron Bay area during our 2 hour stop there, and it really lit up what was a stunning area. Rugged Cape Byron is the most easterly point in Australia, and we were driven up to the picturesque lighthouse atop its cliffs and dropped off to take some photos. Myself and 2 other people decided to walk back to the town much to the astonishment of many of the others, who couldn't comprehend doing a 40 minute downhill walk through beautiful coastal scenery for pleasure. We visited the most easterly point itself and then passed by some of the huge mansions on the cape. Russell Crowe, Nicole Kidman and Olivia Newton-John once had homes here and its still a popular spot for Australia's elite. We then walked along the white sands of Byron Beach back into the town itself.
Up until the late 1980s Byron Bay was a popular destination for hippies, and although they have long since moved to the hills it still retains a new age feel, with corporate chains very regulated (McDonald's were refused permission to open a store in the town) and high rise buildings banned. It was still overrun with tourists though and the main highway runs right through the town, so it was very congested as well. But of the places I've seen on the east coast so far it is easily the nicest due to the scenery on the nearby cape.
Following on from Byron Bay we drove one hour north to Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, which was just across the state border in Queensland. Annoying we had to put our clocks back one hour when entering Queensland as for the summer months they do not implement daylight saving unlike New South Wales. This means it gets light at the stupidly early time of 4.40am, yet is dark by 6.30pm. They believe it helps lower rates of skin cancer and stops the cows getting confused, but I am not a fan of the idea. The wildlife sanctuary, which was included within our tour, was a real highlight. I'm not usually a big fan of zoos but as it was all native creatures I was much more interested - Australia has the most unique animals in the world. I saw a surprisingly active bunch of koalas (they sleep 23 hours a day), loads of deadly snakes, wombats, kangaroos (which I'd already seen on the roadside), tasmanian devils, crocodiles and dingoes on the walk round, and it was a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon.
I'm now in Surfer's Paradise and the weather is once again overcast. About to go on a rainforest tour this afternoon and I will update about that, as well as last night's activities, soon.