#9+#10// Byron Bay, surfer chic, bad tap water & a dead phone
The first thing you must know is that Byron Bay is a very chilled out town, everyone wears long flowing skirts and crochet crop tops, people walk around barefoot carrying surf boards and it FEELS as if the Beach Boys should be playing in the background at all times. It's the kind of place chiselled, tanned cool people ride waves super easily whilst chatting to each other on their boards. Nat and I want in on that (who wouldn't??) so we book the cheapest surf lesson available in Byron and head out the morning after we've arrived with Terry. Terry immediately instils confidence in his group by informing us that if we land off the board wrongly we could dislocate a shoulder or break a leg. Or if we hold the rope round our ankle between our fingers the webbing of our hands will be torn in two. Talk about an exciting "safety briefing". Thing is, that's pretty much all Terry tells us, but after two hours in the water this is what I learn myself:
Surfboards are big and really hurt if they hit you on the head
It's very embarrassing if it's your own surfboard which hits you on the head
Sand-burn grazes are a thing
It is helpful if your instructor tells you what to do instead of pushing you off into waves telling you to "get on"
It is not helpful if your instructor tells you you're "slow in all aspects of the word"
Weeing in the wetsuit your instructor provides is not a satisfying method of revenge
Honestly, I'm still coming to terms with the fact that I am not the effortless surfer girl I had envisioned. Nat and I hire boards from our hostel later that day (I thought that maybe without Terry and the continual warm reminder of my poor choice of revenge that I might feel a bit more surfer chic). I wade into the sea, ready for another crack at surfin' those waves, only to be absolutely wiped out by my own board a couple of steps in. When I look back Nat is literally doubled over laughing, and I know this isn't the life for me. Annoyingly, Nat is much more resilient than I am and is busy persevering when ANNA AND LIAM ARRIVE! After a lot of potential meet-up messaging in New Zealand and resigning ourselves to thinking we'd just miss each other, it turned out the day before that Anna (a University friend) and her boyfriend would be in Byron Bay at exactly the same time as us. We make a pretty good quadrouple - to Nat's delight Liam actually arrives with a surfboard under his arm ready to hit the waves, and I am able to catch up with Anna all afternoon. We're so impressed with Nat and Liam's hours of attempts at surfing - Nat was already at it for a while before they arrived and Liam literally abrades his stomach raw from all the practise. A favourite moment is watching Liam surf onto someone else's head. Later Liam's friend Izzy and her friend Maddy also join us and over the next few days we all hang out, later extending our stays together.
After 8 weeks of constant companionship (pretty sure we're only apart when we go to the loo) it's refreshing for Nat and I to be able to socialise separately - after all, there are only so many comments I can make on the NBA (very, very few comments, if you're wondering). Over the next few days Liam and Nat do a lot more surfing, we all go on a walk to Cape Byron Lighthouse, Anna and I spend two and a half hours in a jewellery shop (I think Nat would rather gouge his own eyes out than spend longer than twenty minutes at a build-your-own-necklace desk) and we all go to a free concert together. Said free concert is SO FUN - Lisa Hunt sings all the Motown classics and even gets guys from the audience onstage to striptease to 'It's Raining Men' (Nat and Liam not included). Anywhere else in the world and you wouldn't want random men stripping to their underwear, but in BYRON everyone has tanned abs and it's a treat! Pretty sure Lisa kisses almost all of them and I'm starting to wonder if this isn't becoming VERY odd when she reverts to the safety of Stevie Wonder.
One of the days we all head to Nimbin, a popular day-tour out of Byron, well known for its hippy-leanings and widespread celebration of the sweet Mary-Jane (!). It's very quirky but everyone there seems to be quite desperate looking and whilst we're in an unassuming art gallery we get asked furtively by the artist whether we'd like some "special cookies". It's quite amusing because she violently gestures the young people in the gallery to follow her round the corner, away from a middle-aged couple innocently admiring the art, to show us a wicker basket absolutely chokka-block with cookies which she covers up with painting canvases. The day's a bit of a washout (literally - it rained all day) but it's something that Evil Kate said was a "must-do". We don't know it yet, but this is just the tip of the iceberg on Evil Kate's poor recommendations.
Byron Bay is an exciting place to be because it is where Chris Hemsworth AKA Thor lives. I can't deny my attraction to the God of Thunder and by the time we leave Byron I have neck ache and eye strain from my persistent attempts for a glimpse of him. I lose my cool (did I ever have any?) and ask nearly every local we chat to whether they've seen Chris, and I attempt to make Nat look equally desperate by prodding him into asking too, but he reveals his true colours and betrays me with the classic "my girlfriend would like to know..." Not making THAT mistake again. I must admit that googling "Chris Hemsworth home address" felt like a new low (but it does bring up a result! If you're interested, it's south of the lighthouse. You're welcome). Sadly I catch not even a fleeting glance of that golden haired hunk, and we leave Byron empty-handed (figuratively speaking, though who knows - if I'd seen him I probably would have tried to take him with us) to continue to the Gold Coast.
Surfer's Paradise is alright but feels very tacky after the earthy goodness of Byron Bay. The tap-water is a solid 3/10 (for scale: 1/10 involves waterborne maggots) - it's the worst I've ever tasted and I think of myself somewhat as a tap-water connoisseur. We actually spend most of our time in a chemist discount store (wild) on their free health test machine. Turns out I am at less risk of diabetes than Nat and eating three cookies for lunch never felt so good. We stay in an echoey private room which sounds like a bathroom - great for acoustics. I spend the evening singing "Pie Jesu" Katherine Jenkins style and the next day we head on to Brisbane. Brisbane is UNBEARABLY hot and when faced with a fifty minute walk from the coach station to our hostel (on the other side of the river) which involves a very steep flight of stairs, I diva-out on Nat and he carries my large rucksack as well as both of his own. We spend most of our time in Brisbane in the botanical gardens reading. Nat has recently become a John Grisham fiend, and I've been immersed in Ken Follett's curious world of medieval delights. ~(Side note/bag brag: Ken Follett writes absolute TOMES and I have been carrying his 1000+ pager in my bag around like an absolute BEAST. Except when there are steep flights of stairs and it's too hot.) We leave in the evening of the following day to get to my godmother's house on the Sunshine Coast.
We have a marvellous six days with Lorrae and Phil and Nat's jump into vegetarianism is cushioned well by Lorrae's absolutely delicious cooking (Lorrae is given the accolade of the 'best cook ever'!). We watch a lot of Westworld with Phil, hunt for jobs in the area, visit Noosa, climb Mount Coolum, and Nat has another go at surfing (I stay at home). We do a lot of swimming in the pool, and, feeling emboldened after a successful trip into the sea with my phone, I decide that it's waterproof enough for a lengthy underwater photo shoot. We take many, many photos and several long videos of Nat pretending to be James Bond (I enjoy my role as director). I have just uploaded to Instagram a shot from my mermaid inspired photo shoot when my phone's home button stops working, it gets very hot, loses all of its battery and then dies. Luckily, because I'm stupid, I am not new to the careless water damage of an iPhone, and I know exactly the steps I need to take. I say hello to a container filled with grains of dried rice (and a few complementary packets of silica- thank you Lorrae!!) and my phone spends some alone time in there. Forty eight hours later - IT'S BACK! And I've learnt my lesson - no more filming of underwater action sequences.
All wonderful things must come to an end, and all too soon we are saying farewell to Lorrae and Phil and heading to Rainbow Beach, where our troubles really begin. But that's all for now! I bid you a cheery adieu!
...For those interested, this footage is what I broke my phone for: