Published: August 8th 2007April 28th 2007
Beautiful Byron Bay
It's a truly stunning place.
My thirtieth year started off with a bang. Well crash may be more appropriate, but we'll come back to that in a moment. Fortunately it was not of the plane variety. I boarded my plane at just after midnight, my first activity of the day, and I proceeded to fall quickly to sleep. I asked for an upgrade, eager that my birthday would hold some sway, but the pretty girl at the counter replied with a bat of her eyelashes: "I'm sorry, but we're chock-a-block full tonight." That's alright, I had butter on my bread - that may sound nonsequitor, but I assure you it is pertaining to actually having butter on my bread on the flight and not some abstract reference to something entirely unrelated. It was a good start to my birthday for a big-boy with increasingly lower standards for the attainment of my personal happiness.
I landed in Sydney at the butt crack of dawn with barely an hour's sleep to my reckoning. Melanie was meant to pick me up, but forgot what time it was that I arrived. She told me to come to central station where I would then call her. Unfortunately the battery on
Atop the Rocky outcrop of the easternmost point of Australia
her phone chose this moment to die, and I ended up with the complicated task of trying to find her hostel among many. It was very different from trying to find a needle in a haystack; instead the task was like trying to find a specific piece of hay in a haystack, when you're only clue is that it is indeed hay.
So I gave up, went and sprawled out on a sofa in a posh hostel, and waited (only a short time) for here to call me. The rest of the day was lazy, and wonderful. Back to the hostel, where we slept until early afternoon, then a breakfast of champions: Toast with vegemite and peanut butter. It is a breakfast of champions. We wandered around Darling Harbour and went to the wildlife zoo they have there, followed by a great dinner that her friend, Colin cooked for us, and we ended up watching the movie 300, a brilliantly (if also historically) creative film about the Spartan's stand at the Gates of Thermopylae
against the forces of the Persians.
Now to the crash. The 23rd, the second day of my 4th decade here on Earth, was a
Mel in the Garden
Okay, I just like this one.
bit of a stressful one. I was stressed because I ended up being responsible for booking our transportation northward, which was not meant to be my responsibility, so in a ramshackle fashion, I managed to put together transportion plans that were only moderately cheaper, and dependent on gas (petrol, if you wish) prices. We rented a Wicked Camper, emblazoned with the G-Force, for our journey up the East coast.
Well, the rain, the dark, the confounding change in directional information, and most importantly the Round-about led to an accident that is in all probability my own fault. It was a bummer - but that's what insurance and an unfortunate $1000 dollar deductible are for. Doh! (At least it's on the credit card, so it's post-travel, post-teaching summer school in California money). It put a bit of a damper on my already stressed spirits. I wanted to pack it in and turn in the van at the nearest convenience, but a good long meditation session in the morning cleared my head, and I realized the lesson inherent in the situation - Damn you Universe, couldn't you provide cheaper lessons! I guess it could have provided a more expensive one, so
Cory go Boom. Okay I did done wreck this, but a little duct tape and it worked like new...-ish.
The night was spent on a roadside rest stop, which suited us, because the town of Port Macquarie where we hoped to stop turned out not to be a place we wanted to stop for a good deal of time, it was in many ways just a town. It did, however, have a beautiful heritage house, that had been restored to its original humble grandeur (how's that for a oxymoron), and the Koala Hospital that it houses on its grounds. The hospital is well worth the visit, and full of good information; it left us with a real appreciation of the difficulties a Koala faces in a world populated by people. Some come in hit by cares, burned by wild fire, or just have a bad case of the Clap. Someone should teach them how to use a condom. On our way out we went the wrong way and ended up seeing some great lakeside towns before making it back toward the so-called highway.
Australia is a vast place, but also a slow one. If you plan on getting anywhere in a hurry - Australia will tell you - "Negatory Good Buddy." Even when you find yourself on
Koala, resting at the hospital - he's a fatty, but a cute one.
something called a highway (which resembles a highway on in its namesake, you will find that every 10- 20 minutes there is a sign to tell you "Ha, and you got your hopes up of getting there before dark - slow to 60 and go back three spaces." Speeding is also not to be brooked, as there are speed cameras everywhere. To Australia's credit they provide you with 4 signs warning you of the approaching financial hazard
1. Please Slow down
2. What's you're speed?
3. Speed Camera ahead
4. Speed Camera, heavy fines, loss of licence
If you get a ticket you're a dumb-ass (Or not paying attention). This having been said, I hope I haven't earned one with my brash declaration. Perhaps the worst aspect of Australian roads (at least in this part of the country) is the turning lanes. You have to brake with approximately the same intensity as if you were about to slam into the back of a large truck, bus, or stray elephant in order not to drive right through it, or try to make your turn at 65 kph. Today, I had to decelerate from 100 to 25 to make a
You have to appreciate the no bullshit approach to instructions Wicked Campers provides.
tight left turn (which is the equivalent of a right turn back home) in the distance that would hardly span a large living room. Let's hope that ice is never introduced to Oz.
So it's been kind of slow going, but we've passed the time by pondering over questions such as: Where does 7-Eleven get its name? The answer in case you're wondering is thus:
The original Oak Cliff location was an improvised storefront at an ice manufacturing plant called Southland Ice Co. Despite the presence of small grocery stores and general merchandisers by 1927 in the immediate Dallas area, management at the ice plant found that selling convenience items such as bread and milk proved popular with their growing customer base. Eventually, several locations would open up in the Dallas area. Initially, these stores were open from 7 am to 11 pm, which was unprecedented at the time, hence the name; however, most 7-Eleven stores are now open twenty-four hours per day, seven days per week.
As I've let it go of the crash, and the monies it will negate from future travel savings, I've managed to enjoy the time working up the coast. We stopped in the delightfully charming little town of Coffs Harbour where we decided we'd go for a walk through the intoxicatingly beautiful botanical gardens, that led us walking through it and down to the harbour, where we decided it would be best to stop for fish and chips. The blue whiting
, a fine tasting, albiet ugly little fish proved to make perhaps the best fish and chips Australia has yet offered me. One disappointment, as it ever seems to be here in Oz, is that I had to pay $2.20 for a dipping cup of ketchup. You're forever tacking on
Be it ever so humbel, there's no place like home, home on the road, where the koalas and kangaroos play.
an unreasonable fee for condiments, the whole damn bottle doesn't cost that much, much less when you buy it in bulk. Although I admit it is petty, I cannot help but hold this as a blemish against the Australian service industry. Their chicken salt almost makes up for it, but not quite - not quite Australia.
We blew out of Coffs after a visit to the Big Banana, the original "BIG" in Australia that not only spurred on the Banana industry, but the Australians' love of all gi-normous objects, and headed off for the Backpacking mecca of Byron Bay. Byron Bay is Australia's answer to California's Santa Cruise. It's a gorgeous beach town that has everything going for it except one: it's full of backpackers like Mel and me. What can you do? Otherwise, it is full of cool shops and funky places to eat and drink, surfers and shamans, organic growers and raw foods enthusiasts. The laid-back atmosphere makes a place I feel right at home in. So it came to us as a bit of a surprise to find it the unlikely scene of a most interesting adventure.
I locked the keys in the car. This
It's Not A Tumour!
It's Jack Fruit actually, a very weird looking, banana-tasting, stringy fruit. "Jack Fruit: Tasty, Weird."
was unequivocably my fauly. I saw the keys in the back from the driver's seat and declared, "Oh, there's the keys I'll come grab them." On my way, in a Homeresque (Homer Simpson that is) fashion, I got distracted by the fact that I needed to grab my iPod cord to charge it up in the internet cafe. Satisfied, I locked the door, closed it and was never so unaware of an oversight of this magnitude. We went out and got icecream, wandered around the shops, and went to the internet cafe, all blissfully unawares that I did not have the means to retrieve our belongings, enter our abode of slumber, or otherwise move from the soon to be illegal parking space. We realized our mistake, only upon arriving at the vehicle - well, almost. It first occured to us that we must have lost them, and only after retracing our steps did we conclude hopefully that they must be within the vehicle.
We eventually convinced the police to help us by shining a torch inside to retrieve our free roadside assistance number, but declined Constable Cusak's offer to smash the window when we asked if he knew how
Cory the Clown
I've always said, nobody's afraid of me. But now, for a limited time only, is your exclusive chance to be afraid...be very afraid.
to jimmy a lock. We contacted roadside assistance, who told us they'd be there within an hour to relieve us of our predicament. It was at that moment that the sky decided to have a bit of a laugh and opened up on us. As the rain poured down, we ran for the cover of a small awning, which helped mitigate the onslaught until help arrived. We were in, but we pushed the police too far - almost.
Sidling up to a curb we parked the van and slept for the night. We awoke to the banging on the window to a sarcastic constable, whose name escapes me, who gave us 30 seconds to get dressed and move the van - whoohoo free night! It worked out well, because we awoke in time to partake in a brilliant little farmers market, where we bought a small bit of jackfruit and some other delectations before heading to the beach for a wander. But before we left, we took up an offer from a wonderfully charming lady who invited us to her place for a guided meditation. It was an offer that was hard to refuse, both because of her demeanor
The colourful, and fun farmers market here in Byron Bay.
and kindness, but also because Mel had never meditated before and had asked for help to learn the skill. Help arrived in the form of Ishia. Leaving her place, we drove off into the night in search of a highway rest stop to hunker down for the night where we would not be disturbed by the cheeky popo that drive the streets in search of fee dodging tourists like ourselves.
On our last day here in Byron we woke up well before dawn in the hopes of catching a brilliantly radiant sunrise, but it was not to be. I strated the day by kicking my tea across the parking lot instead of drinking it, but that was mitigated by the fact that my right leg didn't fall asleep all day. We made our way back to Byron proper looking for said sunrise, but were instead treated to a great, if cool walk up to the lighthouse and out to the eastern tip of Australia amid the crashing waves and misty morning air. After we had our fill, we wandered into town for a coffee and hopped onto the net. It was our sincerest desire, after taking care of business,
Here I am Atlas-like at the Big Banana
however, to try and locate our first shower in five days. Our best hope was the YHA, where like any cheap and cheeky travellers we would attempt to walk in like we owned the place and walk directly into the bathrooms and leave when we finished. It was a smashing success. The only hitch was that I forgot my towel and had to dry myself with a dirty shirt. A small price to pay for a shower to wash away my ferral stench.
We had a bit of a stressful afternoon as we tried to work out our itinerary. The problem we realized was that we did not have time to get to where we had intended to get (Rockhampton, or at the very least the Town of 1770) and return to Sydney in time; Melanie needs to catch a plane to Perth after all, and I have a committment to work shortly. So the Great Barrier Reef is out for the moment, but I will indeed see it before long. Mel and I have committed to meeting in Cairns in the near future to Drive down to all those places we've missed owing to our over-ambitious planning. In
Soaked and Bedraggled
Here we are looking rather like drown rats, albeit ones in good spirits, after escaping the rain waiting for the nice men to break into our car for us.
the next 9 days, however, we will see a great many things that will surely dazzle the browsers and awe the readers. For now it's a secret, but one that will shortly be unveiled for all to see.
There are more photos below