(Port Macquarie, Byron Bay, Brisbane)
08.12.2011 - 12.12.2011 35 °C
After another VERY heavy night with Nele, Kaido and the new german Martin I spent most of the morning in bed feeling sorry for myself while Jayne went for a swim and a gym session. Once I was able to move without the risk of throwing up on the keyboard, I started booking our accomodation and bus tickets for the next few days. I didnt want to leave Gav and his nice apartment in Sydney but knew if I booked other things then I'd be forced to. With plans made for the next week and everything booked and packed it was time for another nap! Jayne arrived in around lunch time so after a quick sandwhich it was off to the Australian Museum over the road (it was about as far as I could muster the energy to walk!).
We managed to get discount using our YHA cards and once in was suprised as it was better than we thought it would be. Lots of stuffed animals, interactive displays and Skeletons to look at.
The museum shut at 5pm so we headed back to Gav's for another snooze and got wet in the process as it had started to pour with heavy rain. 8pm came around and the decision was made to venture into the rain again and buy a salad for dinner and a case of beer to thank Gav for his hospitality. The salad and rissoto went down a treat as we shared our last few beers with Gav before an early night.
Up at 5am (urgh!) so that it would give us enough time to tidy the room and get ready before catching the 7am Greyhound bus to Port Macquerie. Gav was up to say farewell and I was very sad to shut the door of his apartment for one last time and venture into the streets of Sydney with my heavy pack once again. Time was against us as the bus left from the main station about half hours walk away so Jayne flagged down a cab and we trundled off to the bus station in relative comfort. Boarding the big red Greyhound bus with a slight tear in our eyes we sat down and got comfortable for what was going to be a 7hour + bus journey. The bus drove over the harbour bridge and we really felt quite sad to see the opera house and the towering buildings of Sydney slowly fade into the distance for one last time.
The journey was uneventful, although the driver was a typically mad ozzie who kept asking over the mike "How is everybody?" at every stop.
A little over 7 hours later we arrived at Port Macqueire happy that the rain hadn't seemed to have made it here yet. As Jayne was desperate to get to a Koala hospital for feeding time, we hired bikes from the hostel and took off at breakneck spead to find the poorly Koala's. The bikes hired werent quite what Jayne was used to as they were more of a sit up straight, wide handle barred, single geared cruiser than a chin down bum up speed machine.
But they were VERY comfy and great fun to ride.
Arrived at the Koala Hosptal just in time for the walk around chat by the head keeper and to watch them receiving there formula. (They feed them formula as it is much better for them when trying to recover from an injury than their normal diet of just leaves).
They sleep for around 20 hours a day (like some people I know!) as digesting the leaves is like eating nothing but cardboard all day long and takes a lot of energy but gives very little back in return. So it was a real privelidge to see them moving around and sucking on the formula filled pippetts with much gusto!
After the very cute Koalas we stradled the low riders and headed to the nearest beach for a walk/ride around the coast. There were several very nice small sandy beaches with stacks of young kids trying to learn how to surf on them.
A gentle ride back to the Hostel and a leftover brick of a sandwhich later it was time for bed (it had been a long day!) ready for ANOTHER 7 hour + coach journey tomorrow to get us to Byron Bay.
Jayne - Our bus was leaving at 2.15pm - or so we thought! so we decided we would have enough time to head down to the beach and check out the local surfers whilst we top up our very faded Fiji tans. After an hour of chilling out on a pretty beach on the other side of town, Chris was texting a friend to tell her what we were up to that day when he suddenly realised we should have been on the Midday bus - not the 2.15pm DOOOHHHHH. Chris spent half an hour on the phone re-organising the next few days travel and accomodation, luckily with-out incurring too much of a cost and I decided that it wasn't the worse mistake in the world as I got to sit in the sun watching some nice tanned Aussies running around with their surf boards!
That evening I popped out for a lovely 10k run down to Settlement Point which is a piece of land that jutts out into the sea with some big posh houses on. Once back at Ozzy Pozzy backpackers, we ate far too much food as it was the only meal we had since breakfast (eyes bigger than belly scenario) and went to bed early.
Jayne - I thought I should pop out for another run, so this time headed for the beach and ran along the coast path for 30 mins before turning back. The surf was pretty high and all the locals were either on boards, running or doing yoga classes on the beach. Back at the hostel we sent off some more couchsurfing requests and replying to a woman called Jane (a GP by trade and gold hunter in her spare time!!) who had offered us a room at her house in Airlie Beach for the few days before Christmas - YEAY
On the way to reception I also had a friendly encounter with a local bird who seemed to really like the taste of my hair!!
Popped down to the town beach again for another wee sunbathe - well, Chris went for a run while I stared at the nice men with tans. Then, we did actually make it to our coach on time today :-) for another 7 hour journey - boo! The people on the coach were all really friendly and all backpackers - we chatted to a German guy called Alessandor who looked just like Tom Cruise when he smiled. He was pretty funny so we arranged to maybe meet up with him again when we get to Brisbane.
The coach dropped us off at 9.30pm in the middle of Byron Bay town center which was full of drunks and we stood in the middle of them all waiting for our lift to The Arts Factory Lodge - which never came! We decided against walking which meant a shortcut through a dark car park and back alley as we wern't sure what was lurking down there, so we jumped in a cab instead. The Arts Factory has been around since the 60s when it was a REAL hippie commune. It's based in the bush and the sleeping options are tippees, dorms, tents or the luxury option as we had choosen, 'An island retreat'. This sounded wonderful but he reality was it was a double bed - in a tent! Chris had his sad/angry and scared eyes on when he realised we had paid £60 to share a barely 7 foot square space with the best of Oz's wildlife/insects - the stagnant lake outside didn't cheer him up either - neither did the neighbouring brewery/bar pumping out the drum & bass. Hooo Huuuum. After a swift drink from the juice bar, I managed to drag a reluctant Chris back to our 'Luxury' tent where we got out the silk sheets and buried ourselves in them for a dodgy night's sleep.
Chris - I woke up nice and early, covered in sweat and half strangled in my silk sheet as I had tried to seal just about every millimetre of it to prevent being eaten by the wildlife. I was actually suprised that there wasnt that many strange creatures sharing our 'luxury' accommodation in the end. Outside however there were plenty of large water lizards roaming around (some around 2 feet long) and a few wild turkeys enjoying the sun!
I did try and book a YHA in the town centre but it was really expensive and after a little negotiation with the reception at Arts Factory, managed to get some money off our stay. This and the fact that In the light of day the place didnt look half as bad, led us to the decision to stay on 1 more night.
The local free bus dropped us off in town and from there the short walk to the beach was hot and my eyes were dazzled in a never ending stream of tie died apparel every colour of the rainbow often topped off with dreadlocks.
Byron beach is stunning, I can see why it is world famous. There is golden sand as far as the eye can see and clear blue waters with perfect surf. We sat enjoying the sun for most of the day, watching the sea gently depositing rubber clad people all over the beach like assorted sizes of human shaped driftwood.
Jayne went for a swim in a nearby pool, (I suggested the sea but she was worried about Jelly fish stinging her and other things lurking in the depths with rows of very sharp teeth) while I had a snooze. We treated ourselves to Dominoes pizza before a slow walk back to the Arts Factory. On the way back a local brewery seemed to good to pass up so a few local beers later we arrived back on our own private balcony and decided to watch a couple of movies on the laptop in our compact and bijou tent.
I woke up quite early this morning as Jayne was mooching about getting ready for an early morning run to the beach. It was very hot and stuffy in the tent so I decided to get up as well and pack my bags for the next part of the journey. I think it was the shock of coming here after a long coach journey and being so spoilt in Sydney recently that made it look so terrible on that first night. It wasn't all that bad and at least it looked pretty in the daylight with all the lizards basking in the sun and having some privacy is something not to take for granted these days.
I tidied and packed then made a light breakfast of toast (couldn't have coffee as there were no mugs left in the kitchen!) and cereal. We caught the free bus into town which dropped us very near the Greyhound bus stop and waited only a few minutes before our big red chariot arrived. The driver was an absolute beast of a man, goodness only knows how much he weighed but was friendly enough and had a joke with us about not locking the toilets on board!?
The journey was shorter than recent ones but seemed so long and boring as there was nothing to really look at on the long straight highway. We were even more annoyed when after stopping for a rather old looking sausage roll in a service station, the driver told us we had to put our watches back an hour as this part of Australia doesn't have daylight savings! This meant an extra hours journey we hadn't expected.. DAM IT!.
Finally arrived in Brisbane and stepping off the coach was like stepping into a sauna. It was soooo hot it took my breath away and I was starting to wonder if I would cope with the even hotter weather yet to come! After a short walk up a steep hill (sweating instantly) we found my old friend Kirsty who was going to look after us and give us somewhere to stay for a few days.
It was great to meet her again as it has been about 6 years since the last time we met in person (Facebook and MSN were the only way we kept up recently).
Woolworths was the next stop for supplies before heading on to Kirstys pad (at this point the car registered the temp as 45 degrees C !!).
It is a gorgeous (and by english standards bloody HUGE!) house with private pool and games room. Kirsty showed us into our own double room and had even supplied fluffy white towels, which by now were the height of luxury for us as travel towels resemble rubbing yourself with a damp chamois! Her place is stunning and we were very grateful of the hospitality and the warm shower which made us feel human again.
After several beers with Kirsty and Paul and a hat show from little Charlie (she even tried wearing 6 hats at once!) we had a fantastic indian curry and stuffed ourselves to the point of exploding with gorgeous food before retiring to the comfy double bed for the night.