Oz: Byron Bay, Surfers Paradise and Brisbane
Thanks to a friendly German (shoutout to Lennart), the six hour bus journey from Port Macquarie to Byron Bay went pretty quickly. Getting off the coach, I instantly loved it. Greeted with reggae music emanating from the park next to the bus stop, and backpackers every which way you looked; the atmosphere was one of a kind. Heading first the wrong way then the right way, we found our hostel just down the road from the main street. A YHA hostel, it was pretty high standard; air conditioning and all. We settled into our room and met one of our two roommates, before heading out for some dinner. Tonight was a memorable one; ‘twas the night we discovered $5.75 Dominos. Let’s just say it was the beginning of the end for us. Once we’d tasted that deliciously cheap goodness, we couldn’t get enough. Our first Dominos was enjoyed in the aforementioned park, chatting to some locals and enjoying the live music and weird dancing. Pizzas completed, we strolled with full bellies fifty feet across the neighbouring car park to The Railway, an outdoor, slightly rough-round-the-edges bar with live music. We sat, enjoying the fact we were in Byron Bay, before getting approached by some weird Canadians and retreating back to the park and then the hostel for an early-ish night. Upon returning to our room we met our second roommate, an Austrian girl called Clara who became a recurring character on our East Coast trip (shoutout to Clara). In the morning we found breakfast in a quaint local bakery before getting ready for a day of exploring. Now before I continue, there is one thing you need to understand about the East Coast of Australia. Any main street frequented by backpackers at any popular stop off is littered with travel agents of all shapes and sizes, with reps that are paid on commission. This means their future with their respective travel agency relies on how successfully they can shove their various deals and packages down your throat. We fell into this trap on that fateful morning in Byron Bay, spending an entire morning in Greyhound Wicked Travel, booking all of our main activities for the East Coast that we were too disorganised to book beforehand. In fairness, we were lucky to get on some of the tours (shoutout to the Greyhound guys), so the time spent in their shop was probably necessary. Emotionally and financially drained, we finally arrived down at the main beach by the afternoon. We sunbathed until I got bored and threatened to throw a tantrum, and then walked down the beach to the lookout point, which offered stunning views in every direction. One more quick swim and then we headed back down the beach and back to the hostel to get ready.
We rocked up to the Greyhound travel shop where they were offering free pizza, goon, a selection of prizes, and free entry to Woody’s; a slightly retro, slightly small club/bar across the street. Of course, free pizza meant one slice, free goon meant roughly an inch of liquid, and we later found out that it was free entry to Woody’s anyway. We did get a free drink at the club as well, but I chose ale which was possibly the worst decision of my entire life. Despite my moaning, it turned out to be a pretty good night. Beginning the evening with my German bus friend and his mates, at the club we met two groups who were from the neighbouring county back in England, and ended up down at the beach (again) chatting with a couple of them about trivial bullshit gossip from back home. Not exactly scintillating philosophical conversation but a laugh nonetheless. The next day it was time for us to leave Byron Bay. But not before we’d hit up the beach one last time for coffee and a foggy morning walk. It brightened up by the time we caught our bus in the afternoon however, making saying goodbye to what is still our favourite place on the East Coast, that much harder.
Arriving in Surfers Paradise in the early evening, the humidity hit. We got to our hostel sticky and flustered, and only became more so when we found we were sharing the one fan in our room with four other people. Seeking refuge outside with Austrian Clara (who’d caught the same bus as us up to Surfers) and a friendly British guy (shoutout to Ben), we started organising hostels. This is when things got stressful. Every hostel we tried for Noosa (our next stop after Brisbane) was full, meaning we had to think about rearranging our whole plan for the next week. Frustrated, we whipped up some dinner and characteristically decided to hide from our problems until the morning. It didn’t take us long to get out of our funk, as the hostel took everyone on a night out to a club that I can’t remember the name of. It was a fun night getting to know new friends and experiencing a small part of the Gold Coast nightlife. Had a bit of a ‘mare at the end of the night but I’ll spare the details because my mum will be reading this at some point. Hi mum. The next morning consisted of chilling out and having a laugh with our hostel friends, getting our shit sorted (which we did) and sheltering from the blistering heat. Cindy and I took a very short trip down to the beach to see what all the fuss was about and then quickly returned to the shade. By the afternoon us and some of our new friends were on an air conditioned Greyhound bus up to Brisbane.
Thank god; we’d picked another YHA hostel. It was magnificent. A rooftop pool and seating area offered insane views of the city, the kitchen which we did not use was huge and well facilitated (apparently), and the air conditioning was so good you woke up with a cold. We like that. We got to Brisbane in the late afternoon and spent a few hours getting ourselves together; food, laundry, alcohol, money, all that jazz. Feeling less like trash from our experience in Surfers the night before, we headed up to the roof for a drink with an extremely gay Australian man (shoutout to ice man) we met in the laundry room. A few sips of his litre Smirnoff bottle later, he was happily informing us and everyone in the near vicinity about his cocaine habits and the fact that there’s a g spot in the male anus. Who knew. Sadly we had to make an early exit from what was quickly becoming a very uncomfortable situation, as we were meeting our Gold Coast friends for dinner down the road. The first proper dinner we’d had in what felt like years, I chose chicken schnitzel served with chips and gravy, and salad. Chips and gravy. Just thought I’d repeat that. It was orgasmic. A few more beers and then Cindy and I headed back to our hostel for a nicely air conditioned sleep. The next morning we took full advantage of the free hostel breakfast before setting off on a walk through the city to Brisbane’s man made beach. More like a community pool, I wasn’t too keen, but we found a nice spot to sit in the shade where Lucinda read and I sat and twiddled my thumbs for a few hours. Back to the hostel for mid-afternoon and then off to catch our next bus to Noosa, we were really only in Brisbane for 24 hours. It’s a nice city, but definitely more time for exploration and a few decent nights out was needed. Definitely on my list of places to go back to when I return to Australia.