Well we'll be leaving Byron Bay at midday today and getting the Greyhound bus to Surfers Paradise. Thankfully it only takes a an hour and a half. Check out at our hostel was 10am so while we wait for the bus I've found a place that does free internet for backpackers which is good and the sun is now shining because it's been a very wet couple of days!
Packing and moving out of our room went smoothly on Monday and because our landlord, Frank, is decorating the room we didn't have to clean it. We posted some things home, closed my bank account, had coffee & a bite to eat at Le Paris Go Go cafe and then Frank let us chill back at our room until it was time to leave for the bus and Frank even dropped us off at Central Station which was a godsend!
We slept on and off on the 13hr bus journey to Byron Bay, which is on the far north coast of New South Wales, and arrived on Tuesday morning at 7.30am to lots of rain. We found a hostel nearby, called the Aquarius Backpackers Motel, with a double room attached to a dormitory for $70. Settled in, had really nice, cheap coffee & danish at Cafe Wunderbar then walked to Main Beach, which is immediately infront of the town to watch the hardcore surfers. We then had a walk around the town, which is about the same size as West Kirby, and went back to the hostel to read and get out of the rain. The rain thankfully stopped in the afternoon so we were able to walk to Cape Byron, named by Captain Cook after his grandson, George Gordon Lord Byron. It is Austalia's eastern most point and sometimes you can spot Dolphins, turtles and at certain times of the year you can see hundreds of Humpback Whales. Unfortunatley we didn't see any of them but we had a great views of Byron Bay and it's surrounding beaches. On the way up, to the picturesque 1901 lighthouse, we walked past Clarks beach, The Pass, Captain Cook's lookout, Watego Beach, Little Watego's Beach. At the top we had our picnic lunch and then made our way back to town, via the quicker road way, passing the spectacular Tallow Beach which extends 87km south of Cape Byron. It is an amazing stretch of sand backed by Arakwal National Park and fronting rugged open ocean. After two hours walking we went back to Main Beach to sit and watch the surfers. Later Jem cooked a very cheap but lovely meal of pasta, bacon and tomatoes. It's funny watching what all the other travellers eat, it ranges from beans on toast to cereal.
Yesterday we spent the day in the tiny village of Nimbin which is about an hour and a half West of Byron Bay. Since the 1973 Aquarius Festival, which attracted lots of hippies and student, Nimbin has had a very ecofriendly, alternative an laidback vibe! We booked our day trip with the 'Nimbin Shuttle' ($25) and had an amazing driver called Alan. He had basically gone backpacking in the 1970's and fallen in love with'Beautiful Nimbin', as he put it, and quit his job as a top accountant in London and moved to Nimbin, where he has been with his wife and family ever since. Alan drove us to the Far North Hinterland, with it's lush valley and dramatic mountain ranges, passing through the village of Bangalow, the town of Lismore (the regions capital), past Nimbin Rocks, which is sacred to the Bundjalong people who are the Indigenous people from the area, to Nimbin. Here there is only a population of 700 people in the village but in the surrounding hills there are around 7000 people. They are all self sufficient and grow their own food and get the energy they need from the sun, wind and water.
In Nimbin we had a look at an art exhibition in the local hall while listening to a band playing the harp and cello which was beautiful. It was raining in Nimbin so we decided to go on Alan's Alternative Explorer Tour round Nimbin with a German girl called Stephanie. He took us to the Rainbow Power Company, Nimbin's biggest employer and Australia's original alternative energy centre with demonstrations of solar, wind and water energy sources. Apparently a guy, known as Pete Peddles, from Nimbin decided to get his household energy from riding his bike and later set up this company which is now worldwide. Next stop was the Djabung Gardens Permaculture (means permanent and agriculture) Centre, owned by a lady called Robin Frances, which demonstrates sustainable sources put into practice i.e. organic gardens and creative water systems. I was really interested in this and there's a guy from Nimbin who has set up his own centre in Wales which I'd like to check out. On the way to our last stop we drove past the 'free' outdoor swimming pool for all the village to enjoy and arrived at Nimbin Candle Factory which produces handmade candles in every colour of the rainbow. We saw how the candles are made and then decorated which was a great experience. They make a 'Log Candle' which is massive, in major demand and costs $100 which we really want. Unforunately it won't fit in our, all very full, rucksacks - damn!!! On the journey back to Byron Bay Alan drove past Mt Warning and told us about the amazing New Years Eves he used to have up their with his friends as it's the first place to see sunrise. We also stopped in the cute town of Uki for a break which, after research, was apparently the safest place to be if a Nuclear bomb is dropped - don't ask me why?? When we arrived back in Byron was headed to the beach to share a 'long neck' (big bottle of beer) and watch the surfers by The Wreck, which is an old ship wreck on Main Beach. Found out, from the news, that a 15yr old local boy had been killed by a shark near to Byron Bay.
Today we got up bright and early, packed and headed to Byron Farmers' Market, Butler Street, which happens every Thursday from 8-11am. It's a great place to sample the local produce, has a really chilled atmosphere, lots of hippies and music, I felt like we were at Glastonbury. We bought some nice sourdough bread for lunch and Macadamia Honey for our brekkie!