Byron Bay, Australia (15th Jan 2008)
We arrived at the Holiday Village Backpackers in Byron Bay and were shocked to discover the accommodation was going to cost us $33 each a night (expensive when most of the accommodation up the east coast ranges from $20-£25!) and then thankful that we were only staying one night. We could check in straight away so we went to dump our bags in the room and discovered that for $33 a night we had to walk 50 metres outside to the toilet, had no air conditioning and to top it off we didn't even have sheets on our beds! The only bonus was that there wasn't a bunk bed in sight so there were no fights as to who got the bottom and who got the top.
Not wanting to stick around for too long we decided o go out and see what Byron Bay had to offer. It is the region's most celebrated haunt and has quite a reputation as being the promised-land where people flock to experience the laid back, organic lifestyle that seems to be emerging. As much as everyone raves about Byron Bay we were glad we were only staying one night as it seems all there is to do is eat, sleep and surf, perfect if that's what you want to do but we need something more. We were soon at the beach which seemed to stretch as far as the eye could see in both directions but rather than have some time there Kara and Sam decided we would all go on a little walk which soon turned into a mini trek. Byron Bay is home to Australia's most easterly point known as Cape Byron, named by Captain Cook after the Grandfather of the poet Lord Byron who was a renowned navigator in the 1760's. On top of the headland sits Australia's most powerful and of course most easterly lighthouse. The lonely planet guide suggested a 4km walk around Cape Byron but not wanting to subject the boys to that we started following the path that would lead us straight to the lighthouse, or so we thought. It wasn't long before we realised we were in fact on the circular walking trek of the headland and rather than try and navigate our own way to the lighthouse we thought it would be easier this way and we would get to see Cape Byron along the way too. On the way we passed some beautiful little beaches with houses built into the hillside over-looking the ocean, it was clear that this was where the money was as some of the houses were just amazing. It didn't turn out to be the easiest of walks as it was constantly changing from climbing to descending but every now and then a clearing would appear and the view would make the hard work all worth it. We didn't actually go all the way to the farthest point of Cape Byron as we missed the turn off but we got spectacular views from up above where it was a hop skip and a jump to the lighthouse, finally we made it!! It is at the highest point that between June and July you can catch sight of dolphins and migrating Humpback whales. The lighthouse was tiny and really quite quaint but at night manages to project a light that can be seen 25km out to sea. There wasn't really anything to do once we reached the top so as soon as we got there we pretty much started the descent down, manoeuvring ourselves around the traffic that was chugging up the road and hurtling down. Back at the hostel we relaxed for a while as we figured out what to do with our only night in the infamous Byron Bay.
Byron Bay had quite a party reputation so you can imagine our surprise when we found out there are only two bars/clubs that are open after 12am. The one that we had previously been told/warned about was called Cheeky Monkeys and was located right across the road from our hostel. Here is the review of the place as written in our lonely planet to give you an idea as to what kind of place it is. 'A backpacker's bonanza - cheap food, cheap drinks and cheesy tunes. Expect (dodgy) table top dancing, instant friends, long nights and sleazy fun'.Despite the warning we decided to give it a try as the food was stupidly cheap and there wasn't really anywhere else we could think to go. As soon as we walked in the place there was a distinct Magaluf type vibe about the place with bar girls dressed as cowgirls and a host up on stage with a microphone. We didn't mind though as we were too busy tucking into our huge main meals and jug of beer that all cost $14, the cheapest meal we have had so far. The bar games soon began and thankful that we were hidden away at the back we watched from a safe distance. It wasn't long before boys were down to their underpants and girls had their boobs out, all in attempt to win a prize and all before 9pm. God knows what it would have been like later in the evening when the fun really began! We spent the rest of the evening walking around and realising there is quite a nice cafe culture feel to Byron Bay but you need to have the wallet to be able to enjoy it properly.
We enjoyed a nice lie in compared to the previous few days before having to check out at 10. As the bus wasn't leaving till 3 in the afternoon we left our luggage in storage and decided that today would be a beach day. Still on a high from the previous days surfing, Mark hired out a Surf Board while Johnny and Sam opted for Body Boards, Kara stuck to the sunbathing option. So off we went and after a bit walking found what seemed to be an ok spot to set up camp and enjoy the sand and the surf. Johnny, Sam and Mark headed out to sea while Kara relaxed on the beach. They weren't in the sea all too long as it was quite hard work with currents dragging them to the side and back out to sea. Mark did however manage a few more stand up's but eventually all the boards were left on the sand and we all went in for a swim and a mess around. Time ran away with us a little bit so we made our way back to the hostel, got changed, had some lunch, went to MojoSurf's office as we decided we did want the photos after all and before we knew it we were back on the bus headed for Brisbane.
The first stop off on the way to Brisbane was the Sunshine Coast which appeared to be Australia's answer to Miami and where quite a few people got off. The next stop was the one we had been waiting for, the opportunity to go Zorbing. An accurate description of what Zorbing is is pretty much a big inflatable ball with a hollow inside that gets partly filled with water then you climb in along with 2 other people and get pushed down a hill. So off Johnny, Sam and Mark went and had the time of their lives, getting to know each other quite well on the way down!!