I wasn't going to write a blog about this trip. After all, it was just five days. But travelling with Daniel makes it so funny all the time, so I decided to write a little something.
Daniel bought his surfboard around six months ago. He's had about three attempts at surfing with it. The main reason he hasn't done it more, though, is because he works six days a week and good surf is at least an hour away. Fair enough. Plus, he did surf in Thailand in between. So, we're going to a place synonymous with surfing, it's only natural that Daniel wants to take the board. I didn't think it was a great idea as it meant we'd have to drive and park in the long term car park, which I think defeats the purpose of driving. But anyway, that's what we did. It was the Tuesday morning after the Easter long weekend and I said we'd need to leave early as there will be traffic. He's like 'why? There won't be much traffic, everyone would be home already!' um, heard of the business travel market Sir? Or people finish their holidays on all different days?! So yes, we got stuck. But luckily, we'd left mega early so we were fine. When we'd booked the flights three months ago, we'd somehow thought we'd get by with hand luggage and only 15kg luggage between us. Well, the board and our one bag managed to weigh in at 28kgs! And at $15 per extra kilo, Daniel had a nice $180 bill to start the trip. This was after he'd refused to rent a board in Byron as it was about $115 for the whole time. Hmm.
An uneventful flight (though Daniel managed to almost s*** himself with the minor turbulence we had!) and we arrived in sun kissed Ballina. We'd rented a medium sized car and picked it up at the airport. But, as my friend Chris had asked on the weekend "is that a stand-up paddle board?" - Daniel's board was long. Almost too long for the Holden Cruze we'd rented. We squeezed it in via the boot and the seats, though we were both hugging the fronts of the car as our legs were so close to the dash. The woman at the counter offered us extra insurance for about $40 a day (I think that increased the cost by about 50%) but Daniel decided he's a good driver that doesn't need it. I was slightly worried as he'd recently had an accident and this excess was $3,000 but I decided to leave it to him. Little did he know how bad the drivers are, especially the bus drivers down Jonson St!!
We drove the scenic drive from Ballina to Byron with no hiccups, although Daniel learnt that locals don't wait to see if you'll let them in, they'll just go.
We arrived at our accommodation Breakfree Eco lodge. I'd read the reviews on the net about how there's nothing Eco about it (which is true) and how it's a fine basic place but everyone hates that you have to take your own garbage out or pay a $30 fine. I think this is standard of motel type accommodation in Australia. But anyway. After our recent trips to Bali and Thailand, we were quite surprised that that didn't clean our room every day or give us fresh towels unless we pay for them. You get a bit spoilt over there.
So we decided to start the trip right - with fish and chips. Went to Fishheads on Main Beach - bloody awesome, I enjoyed every piece. The weather was sunny but also very windy which wasn't ideal. Daniel decided that none of the surfers he could see had wetsuits, so he wouldn't wear one either dammit. So, he goes to buy a rash vest that had long sleeves (ie the top half of a wetsuit) for $60 and wear shorts with it. So much for the custom-made wetsuit from Phuket. Anyway, we go off down Belongil beach and he gives the surf a crack while I try to work out how to use the digital SLR that was his birthday present (for his upcoming birthday the day after we get back) and walk off some of that lunch. He was a solitary surfer, he just wanted to give it a try close to our accommodation. I finally sit down and gaze off into the ocean when I realise a local is talking to me - asking me if that's my boyfriend trying to learn how to surf out there. I had two options, and one of them was denying I knew him. But I decided given this guy is nice enough to chat, I'd be honest. 'Yes....'. I can't remember quite the whole conversation but there was something about how did I notice there were no other surfers around as this wasn't a great place today. He wasn't at all patronising but he gave really good advice - to go down to Watego as it was protected from the wind and he'd had a good surf there this morning. His dog gave me a lick goodbye and they were on my way - and so was I, to make the boy get out of the water before I was given any more advice.
He was pretty freezing after that (aha - apparently even Torquay is not too cold to surf in when he's wearing the wetsuit - who would have thought!!!) so went home for a shower before we went exploring a bit. I was busting to go down to Santos the whole foods store but not before trying a coffee at One One One. Nice. I had big plans for a nice dinner, but given D had woken up at 3.30am again that morning and woken me up in the process, we decided a picnic at home was fine (if not probably the same price once I bought all the lovely goodies!).
It rained all night which was nice. We woke up and headed to The Pass, a nice little section of because that's one of the 15 top beaches in the world or Australia or something. Daniel was a bit intimidated by the locals surfing there, so he settled for just a little bit down the beach. The rain had brought on some stunning rainbows so i got some really nice pictures.
We went looking for The Top Shop which looked great but seemed packed. So we went back to One One One for breakfast and sat next to some film industry types talking about how 'if a film maker takes and audience on a journey.... Blah blah blah'. One of them was an old film critic, off something on tv ages ago but Daniel couldn't remember who he actually was. The others seemed to own the Piggery cinema. I love a cafe where you can ask for no toast (and not get charged for it) as well as ordering stuff like silver beet and pumpkin with the good old bacon and scrambled eggs.
Next stop was Naked Treaties to see Jemma Gawned's little shop with raw, vegan, sugar, dairy and gluten free treats. Amazing! We got some coconut ones like fake Bounty, some mint choc balls and some cranberry bars. Jemma served us and we'll definitely be going back.
There's some pretty shocking roads around Byron and on the way to Nimbin. Daniel thought it was pretty ironic that there were a lot of pot holes on the way to the one place in Australia where it's legal to buy marijuana via a loophole dating many decades back.
Nothing had changed since I last was in Nimbin. Cute little town but I can't imagine Witchery or anything opening here any time soon. We hadn't been there more than ten minutes before being offered our first hash cookies. Spent some time looking around before Daniel made his purchase. I didn't think that it would be so underground, but he said yes to an aboriginal woman who took him into her art gallery and made him pretend to be checking out her paintings. Apparently they did so much fumbling, it reminded Daniel of the first time he had sex. I was a bit too grossed out by the thought of the uncleanliness the cookies might have been made in to actually have any myself. So I instead went to Happy High Herbs and bought some guarana lollipops and some mouth spray. The girl behind the counter was a real tripper who was telling me the spray tingles and I can spray it "in other places" if I desire.
Stopped via Bangalow for some nice smoothie/juices (nice town) before heading to Tallow beach - beautiful beach but a very windy day. We were entertained watching a psycho kite surfer flying through the sky getting the ultimate thrill. He went up about three metres or more. Feeling lazy, we had an early dinner at the (apparently) award-winning O-Sushi, which was delicious.
That night, the rain pelted down. Man oh man. But that didn't stop us making the most of the day. Daniel had sworn he was going to be up and out the door before I woke up but once again, he woke up with me (still 6am!) and went off for an early surf (more successful than the last few) while I did a walk of the town. Luckily I decided not to go for too long a walk as it started pelting again! I was beginning to think I didn't bring enough warm clothes. We met back up and tried another recommended food place - Dip. Yep it was pretty freaking awesome, daniel's banana pancakes and my wild rice porridge. We decided that despite the rain, it was time to explore the lighthouse. So, off we went walking, leaving the car in town. Only, we couldn't figure out where to go and it was raining yet again, so we got the car and drive there, paying $7 to park up close. I felt so guilty that we were being so lazy, but that was soon forgotten as I realised that past the lighthouse there are a ridiculous amount of walking tracks, with lots of lovely stairs. We even saw a mountain goat who appeared to be stuck on the side of the mountain but we assumed he knew what he was doing. Unlike ourselves who walked all we could around the tracks and thought we were going in a circular motion back up to the lighthouse but ended up walking around residential streets (admiring the awesome houses) and getting very hot in our jeans even though it was mildly raining a lot too. So many steps I realised that is why I didn't do the inka trail all those years ago
That afternoon I wanted to get into the good food again as I was mildly panicking that the trip was fast coming to an end and I still had so much to try. So it was off to the conscious cafe, a vegetarian place that I'd heard about. Daniel was a bit perplexed as he couldn't even order a drink that had dairy in it. But, he actually loved his omelette even though he'd asked for vegan cheese which actually looked like runny mustard. After that it was back to Naked Treaties for some more, well, treats (and I discovered that there's an awesome range of shops in Melbourne that stock them too) and then I sent Daniel on his way back out to the wild seas for more surfing practising. It was time for me to get a massage - which was absolutely awesome. I warned the girl Leela that my shoulders were right. She didn't quite believe me for a while but told me so at the end!
Daniel came back, tired and sad that his surf wasn't as fruitful as the morning's one, but he was really tired and didn't have the energy to get up. Plus, he'd decided to defy the local's advice and went back over the wrong side of the beach. I just stared and smiled when he told me.
The night ended up much nicer than the nights before: no rain and quite balmy. We went to the Beach hotel, I thought we couldn't come to Byron Bay without going there. Daniel decided to have the most exotic (not) chicken parmigiana. I decided on the pork belly. What I love about only getting in to pork belly for the last year or so is that every single place you get it, it is totally different. But, always delicious. I definitely picked the dinner winner there.
Our last full day and Daniel actually got out of bed 'early doors' and went out for a surf before six. I got up a bit later and went for a walk on the beach. The surf was particularly rough even though the weather was better than we'd had in days. I couldn't see Daniel in the water and was walking up the lookout when I saw him, contemplating the other surfers and looking for some tips. He was disappointed as he wasn't as good at surfing today as yesterday. I told him he's learning some good life lessons about adaptability.
We then tried another recommendation for breakfast. Bayleaf. Nice, very cool but the breakfast wasn't as nice as other places.
I'd remembered going to the cool little town, Mullimbimby, when I'd travelled to the area alone, so Daniel drove there for us to have a look. Cute town but we'd just had breakfast and didn't feel like a spa treatment so there wasn't a lot to do.
We'd been eying off the takeaway Mexican place on the corner of Jonson st all week, award winning OzyMex. So we decided to give it a go for lunch - the best enchiladas ever, and eaten on Main Beach.
Daniel was itching to make up for his lacklustre surf that morning, so he was off for another one in the afternoon, giving me some perfect relaxation time. He came back with quite the smile on his face as apparently he'd worked out what he was doing wrong and had overcome it. Happy to have him happy.
Our final night we stayed in an enjoyed an early night. Even on holiday, they're our favourites.
Daniel was up and out the door before sunrise on our last morning. I walked on the beach and met him - once again, I wasn't intending to but we just met up. He didn't have a great surf again and wasn't that happy about it. He discovered that one of his fins had snapped off somewhere, maybe that wasn't helping. He's trying to get me to write that he was riding a 20 foot wave along the reef just before I arrived and that's when it broke. So, that's what I wrote...
He said he'd never take his surf board anywhere again - he'd rather rent one. Phew, they're so annoying. Our last meal in town was at Top Shop, a local favourite that we'd been wanting to try. It's a house on a hill that, if I was a skinny boy, I'd be going to every day as they have quite the array of baked goods. We'd heard about their omelette rolls, so Daniel had one and it did look delicious. He said it was. I had a quinoa porridge with a bit of fruit on top that was ok, but it was small and cold and after my other warm meals I wanted more.
Daniel said he thought Byron seemed like it was stuck in the 70s in terms of the vibe - people don't follow the road rules, they're all chilled out. In many ways, that's the perfect description.
We drove back to Ballina via Lennox Head. Really nice little town, we'd probably stay there next time.
Normally, I want to stay and live in Byron when I go and visit there, but this time I was ready to go home and although I'd considered buying a flat there to retire, I decided that I don't think I want to retire there. Which is good in one way but still leaves the question wide open as to where. Oh well, plenty of time to decide that.
I'd booked our flights with Qantas and Jetstar almost three months out. Over that time, Jetstar changes our flight time two or three times. And Qantas just twice, but by over an hour. To me, that's pretty ridiculous. Turned out that we were actually flying Jetstar which annoyed me for a few reasons, including that I thought we'd get a meal included and the one takeaway joint at Ballina airport was terrible. But the flight itself was fine - apart from Daniel whining that he'd spilt coffee all over himself and the seat in front of him. He claimed it was the male flight attendant's fault, but he was the one who didn't put his tray table down when he got his coffee!
Daniel had thought he was so smart parking against the long term parking attendant's direction to the E part of the car park. He was so chuffed that he'd driven to A where there were so many car parks. Which was great, when we were flying out. But on the way home, it meant we were out of the bus last.
So, the weather could have been better. The room didn't clean itself and we had to do the dishes and clean the garbage ourself. We don't get spoiled in Australia like we do in Asia. But, it was a pretty bloody good time anyway.