Hippy, Hippy Shake

Trip Start Sep 08, 2011
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Trip End Jan 08, 2012


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Flag of Australia  , New South Wales,
Friday, December 9, 2011

"Keep on movin',
Don’t stop..." (Soul II Soul)

Back on the road again. Destination: Byron Bay. It’s just a hop, skip and a jump from Brisbane (approx 4.5 hours) and there were no dramas in getting here. I arrived at about midday and, while waiting to be picked up by the hostel, I made my way to the visitor’s centre, which quite handily was right at the bus stop.

Equally useful was the assistant who attended to me. She managed to sell me 2 tours. The first would be on Saturday night. It was a night vision walk, apparently the only one of its kind, where we would go out to the bush with military night goggles to see nocturnal animals in their natural environment. Now, if you’d asked me before coming to Australia, if I’d have done something like this, the answer would have been a resounding 'no’, but, hey! I’ve had a python wrapped around my neck, held a live crocodile, fought off kookaburras and leeches and engaged in mortal combat with flies the size of bees and cockroaches. How difficult could this be? The other ‘tour’ would be to Nimbin, apparently Hippy Central.

Arriving at the hostel, immediately I knew I’d made a mistake. It looked very nice, it had a lovely pool, great gardens, even a lake, but there were two problems:

a)      I was staying in a six-bed dorm. I’d completely forgotten about that, and though I’d much rather have a private room, I wasn’t too fussed about being in a 4-bed dorm. But six? That was far too many people.

b)      The hostel was huge, and I was, by far, the oldest person there. I stuck out like a sore thumb. Never mind it would only be for three nights.

In the afternoon, I went into town to have a good look at it. I was struck by how different it was to all the other towns I’d been to on the east coast. Without knowing too much about it, it certainly felt bohemian. That was, of course, until you ran into all the schoolies (school leavers). This was their party town. They’d descended on Byron Bay from all over and were set to paint the town red – this was their Ibiza.  

Undeterred, I was walking down the main road, when I saw an intriguing sign. “Free BBQ – for real!” I looked over and on a common, I could see people crowding round a table and then queuing up at another table. I went over to take a closer look and yes, it was true, free bread and salad (with tomato ketchup or BBQ sauce) and then you could go and pick up your burger (or falafel, for the vegos – ‘vegetarians’ to you and me).  Of course, I wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity of free food, so I even had seconds! The catch, and there always is one, was that it was organised by some religious group, who then wanted to save my soul. “Thanks, but no thanks.” With that I headed off to the beach.

As helpful as the woman had been at the visitors’ centre, she had got it wrong about the sea. I asked her if it was safe, she replied that yes, it was. That’s right no nasty animals to sting, bite or ravage you. What she failed to mention was that the sea itself was anything but calm. It looked like a scene from Point Break; I half expected Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze to walk out of the water. This was surfer’s ville. There were so many of them in the water that it looked like a flooded anthill!

As I sat down on a rock to survey the scene before me, a bongo drummer did the same. Then came another one...and then another. They started jamming for little bit, as yet another one turned up and joined in. Little by little, a whole band was assembling, lots of bongos, the odd guitar and even some old hippy with spoons. One person even rocked up with a didge (didgeridoo). Then they had a monster jam session on the beach. Actually they were very good. When I asked one of them about it, he just said that it was something that happened most nights (at sunset) – people would turn up with instruments and jam.

One other thing that I noticed at the beach was that people were openly drinking alcohol (a big ‘no-no’ in Oz) and smoking dope. Clearly one set of laws for Australia and another for Byron Bay. Or, as one hippy I met put it so eloquently, “I don’t tell them (the government) what to do, so why should they tell me what I can or can’t do? F*ck ‘em!”

Byron Bay: free food, free music and spaced out dopeheads galore. Welcome to Hippy Central. 






 
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