Beaches and bongs

Trip Start Nov 21, 2008
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Trip End Mar 31, 2010


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Where I stayed
Backpackers Inn on the Beach and couchsurfed

Flag of Australia  , New South Wales,
Friday, November 13, 2009

Byron Bay- the holy grail of Australian travel. At least that's what I've been hearing ever since I arrived in Australia almost a year ago. "You'll love it!" ..and I did.
It's known for being a laid-back, hippie town with a great beach. I've become a bit weary of having too high of expectations for anything as they can easily lead to disappointment but as I stepped off the bus that first morning in Byron, the sun was out, and I was damn excited to be there. I was definitely smiling.
The hostel I stayed in was a 30 second walk from the beach and after settling in there I walked around the town and did a bit of shopping. Even on a budget I have to be able to buy some souvenirs! I purchased a brightly colored peacock top to wear out that evening as it was also the weekend and that added to the Byron excitement, and a sarong which has quickly become my towel, beach blanket, and dress.
The town is infinitely popular to all Australians and travelers alike but it doesn't feel too exploited and full of itself, it still holds on to it's charm quite well while having enough of a party to satisfy any backpacker.
The beach is absolutely lovely as well. Australian beaches are far reaching, wide, with soft, white sand, and clear blue water that sometimes lightly laps at the shore and sometimes comes crashing in with force, depending on the coastline. Even the popular beaches are not too crowded and it's easy to walk down the beach for 10 minutes and feel like you are enjoying a personal paradise.
After my bit of shopping I spread out my sarong in my 'personal paradise' and my head filled with thoughts of happiness. With all the planning and stuff to think about I still make sure that I enjoy moments like this. The water was nice and the waves fun to play in. I read and soaked up the sun.
That night there was a classic Aussie (say it Ozzy) BBQ at the hostel which means snags- basically the worst kind of mystery meat overcooked on a piece of white bread. I must be turning Aussie because besides adopting the local speech (which I swear I'll have to lose before I come home) I ate 3 snags....oh where's my nutrition sense now!
There was no bar attached to this hostel which is better because then you don't have to hide the personal stash of alcohol you will inevitably have. I played drinking games with some Canadian girls before we went out for the night. I also met the CS host who would host me during my last night in Byron and we all went out to the bar.
The night ended with an invigorating dip in the ocean and I woke up feeling great the next day. Maybe because I don't drink the 4 liter, $10 goon (box wine) that most of the backpacker girls drink.
I was feeling like maybe I should do something that day so I took a walk up to the lighthouse and the corresponding 'Most Easterly point on the Australian Mainland'. It was a hot, and exhausting walk but the views were beautiful and it was a great way to spend the day.
The third and final day in Byron Bay I took "Jim's Alternative Tour" to the town of Nimbin. This is where the bong part comes in. The town of Nimbin went from being a sleepy stretch of street in the middle of nowhere to a haven for hippies and potheads when a political demonstration against the Vietnam war brought in thousands and a couple hundred of the alternative-minded folks decided to stay and set up shop.
The village now consists of still just one road host to about 2 dozen headshop/ hippie shops that all sell the same fare consisting of bongs, hemp clothing, funky jewelry, handmade goods, and anything else goofy you could think of. There's also the funkiest museum I've ever seen. Basically a converted house with a bunch of relic hippie junk/ treasure who's point is to stick it to the man and smoke a big joint while doing so.
Passengers are allowed to drink in vehicles in New South Wales and we were encouraged to have some beers during the bus ride through the country and on the way to a hippies haven we were going to check out, so I obliged. I sat up front with the driver and chatted to him about how he would pick magic mushrooms from cow shit in the fields. I was definitely having the most fun on this tour as all the other people were most likely missing the hippie gene, undoubtedly passed down to me from my Pops.
I wasn't sure if this hippie we were to meet would be putting on a show since he was probably meeting backpackers everyday, but he was genuinly pretty crazy in that excited, informed, fucked-up way that can only come from an ex-New Yorker who's been living in the woods for 30 years. He greeted us with the unmistakable NY accent and explained to us how he planted every tree on the property and we could easily see that is was an amazing accomplishment as an extremley diverse range of foliage directed your eyes high into the sky. It was hard to believe it grew so high and thick in 30 years. He walked us around the property and engaged us in conversation, much of it conspiracy or attempts at goofy jokes about the same kinds of problems we all face, women, government, etc. We sat on the porch of a one-room funked up purple house perched on the end of a pond and cracked macadamia nuts (the trees are native in this area) while we chatted and chilled.
After the hippies we made one more stop at a scenic look out and pulled out the cameras one more time. At this point in my trip- after being to New Zealand (where awe-inspiring nature is the norm), visiting several National parks, Mountian ranges, and Wineries, as well as a host of other gorgeous places, I think about all of the scenery that has graced my lense. While I'm never unmoved within I wonder how many pictures one person can take! I hope I enjoy them all at a later date and remember how beautiful this world is and how lucky (and how motivated I was) to see all I did.
That night I stayed at a couchsurfers. Ray is a New Yorker who lives in Byron Bay half the year and NY the other half. He is a professional musician who wrote a book about party travelling and made a accompanying party documentary 10 years ago. After listening to his interesting life and eating one of the best Quesadilla's I've ever had we jammed out on guitar. I needed some help remembering the chords but once I did I fell right back into it and it felt great. I love guitar, and even if I don't have the discipline to practice lots and be great, I have the genes (again, thanks Dad) and the fingers to be able to rock a Janis tune; good enough for me.
Ray was definitely part of the small-knit community and that was apparant when the bus driver of the tour knew him and personally dropped me at his door. Later Jim's son (of Jim's alt. tour) came over and jammed out. A free place to stay, sometimes food, getting an inside look at someone's life, and hanging with a local are the joys of Couchsurfing and I was about to have more good luck with the venture in Surfer's Paradise on the Gold Coast, which is my next destination.....
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