I can’t figure out what type of animal is making strange cackling and growling noises outside my bedroom window as it wrestles through the bush to peer at the strange girl on her laptop in the middle of the night… It’s not the kookaburra birds that sound like laughing monkeys at 4AM, and it’s not the opossums that are actually adorable and remind me of a cross between a cat and a raccoon… I’m clueless.
Good news though – the sun came out from behind three weeks of menacing storm clouds, finally! It pushed its way through last Friday morning when we left for Byron Bay with QUEST. I didn’t even care if half the day was spent on a bus if it meant watching the blue sky and brightly-lit earth fly past me as we whizzed closer and closer to the coast and to a weekend get-away.
Upon arrival at around 2:30 PM (well, it was 2:30PM in Byron but 1:30 PM in Brisbane since apparently Brisbane doesn’t apply daylight savings time) we checked into our hostels. 50 of us went to Nomads, 100 to Arts, and 50 to Backpackers Inn (where I was located). Lauren, Laus (Canadian Lauren), Zoe and I signed up to share a room. I was selfish and dove at the only double bed calling “DIBS” loud and proud. I was highly impressed with my very first hostel room. It was clean, had good natural light, and just outside our door was a stairway to the pool, hammocks, and a short path to the ladies room.
The first thing listed on the itinerary was a BBQ at our hostel. Sausages, patties, chicken wings and salad were piled high on our plates, served with a cup full of… happiness… to wash it down. After filling up and sharing some laughs, we attached our wristbands to be admitted to Byron Bay’s one and only Cheeky Monkey’s club (bar, really).
When we walked into Cheeky’s, straight ahead was the bar, and to the left, something more interesting; there were stands (like stadium stands kind of) that faced each other – two rows of them. On top of each “bench” I guess you would call it, were the dancing monkeys (us). What a night. Everyone at the bar – friends, strangers, acquaintances – was so fun and welcoming and crazy. It was completely different from any bar or club scene I have ever witnessed. When it was time to go home, I headed out with a group of my Norwegian friends and hurried to my room to hear stories about everyone’s night.
The next morning wasn’t as bad as I expected. The weather, ahem, was only slightly cloudy but the sun would appear in just a few hours… First stop was a Mexican café for a delicious coffee, and then we walked to the surf shop to pick up some boards for the day. My group of friends entrusted me with the title of “surf instructor” for the afternoon, and thankfully I was able to actually teach them some things without making a complete fool of myself. I absolutely loved the feeling of pushing them into a wave and watching them catch it and stand up – right before getting swallowed every time by the undertow. The current was actually a bit strong and made me question my safety multiple times, but after the final time of getting towed out too far, I somehow made it back to the sand to recharge in the shining sun.
They’re right about the sun here, you know, that it’s extremely strong. Apparently the ozone layer is particularly thin over Australia (or at least Queensland that I know of). I thought to lather up and spread SPF on areas the sun likes to target the most, and luckily I was only pink in one or two spots the next day. Unfortunately, not everyone followed suit, and Brian and Zoe had the best proof of Australia’s less than adequate ozone layer. Sorry to say, I don’t have photo evidence.
Eventually we all got hungry and went to an amazing café that had variations of baked regular and sweet potatoes, salads, and wraps. This would sound boring back home, but this place had an incredible array of toppings and sauces that would make a food poisoning victim drool (sorry if that’s a bit much). I elected the baked sweet potato with red curry sauce topped with peas, sprouts, spinach, chicken, and more creamy curry sauce. ALSO! I found a fro-yo place! I think I was almost as excited to see the shop as I was to see sun for the first time in Brisbane. Dessert was of course purchased there, and my afternoon was entirely satisfying. Most of us ventured back to the hostel for naps (including myself), in order to prepare for yet another night exploring Byron bars. Tonight’s dinner menu included pizza and nothing else (not so lucky for us celiac, lactase-enzyme-lacking, soy-intolerant people), so I walked around the beach town with Sherry to find some grub. Awesomely enough, I stumbled upon a café, which kindly catered to my food sensitivities, and ordered a roasted veggie and chicken salad (more chicken and roasted delicousness than lettuce and uber satisfying).
The gang departed from the hostel at approximately 8:15PM and headed over to Woody’s, a mellower bar than Cheeky Monkey’s, to socialize and dance badly. It had what reminded me of a 70’s theme with wood paneling and vintage photos on the walls. My favorite part of the night was when two different Bucks parties (bachelor parties) crashed the bar, invading in their super-hero costumes. My favorite costume was Bumblebee from Transformers – complete with freaky lit-up eyes in the helmet and a full body suit. His company included Iron Man, Superman, Batman, and Gumby tagged along. The other gang wasn’t quite as creative, but they gave a bunch of us free Woody’s hats because the majority of them were actually employed by the bar.
When I was tired of making a fool of myself, I walked back to the hostel with my Danish friend, Anders, and several of us went out to the beach to watch stars. We actually ended up watching clouds, but the way the light managed to reflect off the huge waves and sea foam made it appear as if there was a light coming from the ocean floor every time the lighthouse revolved towards our side of the cove. I walked back up the sandy path just in time to miss the rain. Poor old Anders who passed out on the beach and refused to move when I tried to shake him awake was not so fortunate… although he did wake up when the torrential downpour began.
Lauren, Laus, Zoe and I somehow all came back at the same time and stayed up being girls, enjoying the traditions of a sleepover complete with embarrassing stories from our pasts.
Sunday morning came all too quickly and we were packed up by 9:45AM. However, the bus wouldn’t arrive until 2:30PM, so we still had daylight to burn. First came breakfast at the same cantina. They had almost everything listed on the menu available as gluten-free, so I chose the Bircher muesli made with quinoa and chia seeds, greek yogurt, cardamom, a shot of maple syrup, and strawberry slices. I also got my same beautiful coffee, but enjoyed it while people watching instead of getting it to go (called take-away here).
Friends and I embarked on a hike to the easterly-most point of continental Australia, next to the lighthouse at the top of a long ascent. The view was breath taking (and the hike was filled with heavy breathing); every stair to the top and back was worth it.
Laus and I descended back into town to grab some nourishment before the 2.5 hour bus ride home. We stopped at a smoothie shop where she had experienced an amazing chai latte earlier that morning, and ended up with some satisfying lunches. I got a power-packed smoothie with a watermelon and acai berry base, and she got a beautiful acai berry bowl with banana slices and muesli which all-together tasted better than ice cream – no lie!
Then, before I knew it, we were cramped on the bus and trotting towards Brissy. My evening was spent picking up a few groceries (but holding out on produce till Wednesday farmer’s market on Queen’s Street), cooking, and making a batch of amazing chocolate pudding for my lovely family [a.k.a. roomies].