Our time in Byron Bay was a blur of meeting people, partying and surfing. We arrived, armed with our new tent and looked for the cheapest camping site we could find. 'First Sun' would be our home for the next 6 days and just hours after pitching the tent we were in the sea taking the first of our surfing lessons with Terry and the rest of the 'Kool Katz' team. Terry, the founder of the surf school was a brilliant laugh - bringing out all the clichés about English cricket and accents with his enthusiastic and rather loud Aussie personality! We lay our boards down on the beach and Sean, our instructor for the day (suitably donning long blonde hair beneath a Quicksilver hat), and learned the basics of how to mount and stand on your board. The rest of the lesson was spent in the water and we both took to it pretty well actually. The boards we were learning on were huge but it didn't stop us from feeling "rad" (cringe) as we rode to shore with the sun on our backs, arms outstretched every time we surfed a decent wave. Feeling pretty smug/cool, we headed back to the campsite to make some pasta. We are quickly learning that backpacking in Australia is all about meeting people, and the atmosphere on campsites definitely adds to this. After our second day of surfing and a night of scouting out the beach side bars we met three guys - Tom, Ollie and Harry, all 19 and on a gap year, travelling up the east coast in their campervan. We hit it off really well with these three and ended up going out every night with them for the rest of the week - good banter. Byron as a place was really cool and friendly - the streets were a mix of bars, eateries, surf shops with backpackers and locals mixing with ease. It was a great atmosphere to be part of, I think we both could easily live there! That is more than can be said for Nimbin, a tiny town we visited on a day tour. A very surreal place, famed for its lawlessness towards marijuana and it was obvious the moment we got there - 70 year old men rocking in their chairs on the streets and long bearded hippies telling us about the rules of Nimbin - an interesting experience without a doubt!
For our last few days we partied hard. Spending the day on the beach jumping into huge waves and letting them throw us around like a washing machine! We also had a couple of games of beach football - the first was a 2 on 2 battle against a Brazilian and a German. Inevitably the mix of flair and discipline was too much for us and we ran out losers - but we did exchange contact details with the Brazilian guy, who we hope to meet up with in Rio. The second game was a much less ordered game! A mixture of England, Scotland and Canada took to the sandy fields and no-one really knew what the score was in the end but Westall set up the winner in 'next goal wins' so that was settled! Byron will probably by remembered for the surfing, the partying and the people, from all over the world.
We really are having the time of our lives here and it got even better when we went to Fraser Island, it's just a shame that getting there was such a hassle! With the bus full for the journey up to Fraser Island we were left stranded - we could only get a bus as far as Brisbane and after that we were stuck - public transport up the East Coast isn't good enough Australia! So, with time against us we were left with no choice but to hire a campervan and drive ourselves. An expensive but cool way to travel we decided and we were right - particularly when we were driving along 'Steve Irwin Way' on the Australian M1 with Kings Of Leon blasting on the Gold Coast FM radio station! After a stop off at 'Hungry Jacks', Australia's answer to Burger King, we arrived at 'Pippies' guesthouse and prepared to meet our 9 other camping companions for the next 3 days…
Fraser Island blog to follow shortly,
Mark & James