Byron Bay is great. It's my favourite place in Oz so far. It's slightly less mainstream, with an alternative feel which gives it a really nice atmosphere to stoll around browsing the quirkie little shops. Heaps of cafes to sit outside and watch the surfboards walk by.
We took a drive around and up to a lighthouse for amazing views of the bay. We had lunch at a nearby beach, sitting in the back of the camper with the back open, under a palm tree, a cooling sea breeze suppling tempoary relief from the fierce Ozzie sun, we watched the surfers and body boarders... it was perfect!
We set of north and inland about an hours drive to a place called 'Murwillumbah', passing on route a place called Moo, with the whole town taking on the black and white cow look. The petrol station was clad head to toe in cow print, even the petrol punmps.. Only in Oz! Murwillumbah was pretty but not much substance. Ed missed Byron Bay, so off we motored back to Byron! The idea was to head out to town after dinner to devour some beers. But by the time we'd eaten, we were both falling asleep on the table, so we hit the sack.
The next morning (Fri 23rd) the weather had broken and it was overcast. Not nearly as upsetting as you may think: It was actually nice to have a little relief from the sun and give our skin a rest for the day. There were a couple of heavy downpoors, but nothing lasted too long. Everyone here is greatful for every drop of rain, we're in the middle of a seriour drought. After a wonder around the shops, we returned to our little beach by the lighthouse. Ed took it upon himself to try 'n swallow as much sea water as possible while diving through the waves. The waves are powerful and big enough here that its as much fun going in without any board and just body surfing. The idea is you swim out to where the waves are breaking and are at their biggest, wait for the biggest wave and swim with it back to shore. Enevitably you end up tumbling aroung in the swell, trying to gasp air at every possible oppertunity. On a really good wave you end up with 10 or so people being washed up on the shore looking like drowned rats, but with huge grins... its so much fun! Rachel sensibly stayed on land!
In the afternoon we drove north to Tweed Heads, found a caravan park just in time to make it to the local Tavern for a beer. It was a sports bar and Rachel was the only female, but the beer was good so it mattered not!
Tweed Heads, again was a really nice place , but quite expensive.
We went to the local wildlife park which was really really good. We saw all the usuall Kangaroos, Koala etc. But we also got to see the quite rare Tree Kangaroo, which actually looks nothing like a normal kangaroo! But it certainly doesn't look like the type of animal you'd expect to be 50ft up a tree. Have you ever seen a goat up a tree? its kind of like that, you'd think they'd just fall straight out, but are actually really good climbers .
We also were fortunate enough to visit on 'Croc Feeding Day. They only eat every few days and only when its hot. We watched the Huge croc leap out of the water and catch a rabbit, (I should mention it was already dead and being dangled from a safe distance by the keeper) . It quickly turned form a rabbit, to pieces of rabbit as it repeatedly slammed the lil bunny against the water until it broke in two. Quite amazing to watch the power.
We were also treated to an Aboriganal dance show, they showed us several dances and explined what they meant.
Rachel managed to feed a local insect (we suspect an ant) 17 times during the night, how kind is that!!
We set off up the coast to Surfers Paradise. Totally bizare place. There are huge , I mean stupidly massive, appartment blocks all the way along the seafront and hundreds of them. Its seems to be the 'in' place to live. Everything was very expensive. Someone tried to sell us a luxury appartment, for $335,000 which will be ready in 2009. It was nice, but I didnt like the Kitchen units so we politly declined .
It was really windy (up to 40mph) so unless you liked being in a sandstorm, the beaches where a no go. We took a drive up the spit snd spent the afternoon watching the dive boats and snorkelers explore the harbour.
We also took a walk up the pier thing and watched the waves crash against the rocks.
Having booked a "swim with the dolphins" experience at the Sea World resort for Tuesday (they had no spaces on Sunday or Monday) we spent the Monday in Surfers Paradise, exploring the shops. We took a drive and eventually, by luck, found 'Helensvale Lakeside Reserve' where we went for a lovely walk through the forests. There were wild Kangaroos everywhere. They soon hopped off when they saw us coming.
Later that night we took a walk though town and saw a HUGE fruit bat flying around, taking up it's upside down perch on a local palm tree. When Flying they are about the size of a seagul.
On Tuesday (27th) we took off early to Sea World where we where going swimming with DOLPHINS!!! AHHH!
Sea world is a cross between a theme park and a zoo / aquarium. It has animals such as Seals, sharks, dolphins, polar bear. But also has theme park rides lke a rolla-coaster, log flume etc. We donned our wetsuits and headed to the dolphin arena. We met the trainers briefly the took our seats to watch the dolphin show. A 20 minute or so show with 7 dolphins performing loads of amazing tricks and flips. After the show we got to go backstage and talk to the trainers about how they put the show together etc. We then got in the water with a dolphin and got to make them do some tricks for us. We got to stroke them and even got a dorsal-pull which is where you hold on to their dorsal fin and get pulled along. The whole thing was amazing. We even got to see the dolphin that orginaly played Flipper in the TV show! Needless to say we enjoyed it very much! :)
We spent the rest of the day in the Sea World park, getting wet and getting stuck on the log flume... long story!