Where I am
Byron Bay was a recommendation of the very helpful young man at Countrylink's Sydney office in answer to my stated desire to get out of the cities for a while. It's a relatively small town on the East coast known for it's laid back, mildly pretentious, middle class, barefooted hippy vibe. Pretty much my idea of heaven then.
It's full of backpackers, many of whom came for a few nights and stay a few months, a town where spontaneous drum circles seemed to break out at random and a girl playing a ukelele while sitting in a tree attracted no surprise, just appreciation. In fact the whole main thoroughfare was a series of musical interludes that brought me out in smiles and saw to it I'd no change left in my purse.
Where I stayed
Aquarius Hostel in an 8 bed girl's dorm with one combined shower and toilet. Nicht gut, as the 7 other occupants of the room would say. Still, what it lacked in cleanliness and basic facilities it did actually make up for in good (cheap) drink prices, free dinners and great atmosphere. It is the first hostel I've stayed in (perhaps bar the Nunnery in Melbourne) that went out of its way to help its guests get acquainted.
I first thought a free (well, free with a $3 drink from the bar) dinner was way less cool than a free breakfast, but actually people are far more apt to pursue conversation at 7pm than am and I met some very lovely gals to pal around with for the rest of my stay.
What I read
The Guardian mostly. Thought it was good to touch base with the rest of the world for a little while. The Guardian Anywhere app downloads the days news to your 'device' whenever you get near wifi, so you don't have to be connected to read it. Genius. Also, the rest of the world feels very far away. It's hard to feel involved.
What I listened to
All the buskers - pretty dreadlocked boys with guitars, an adorable ten year old boy playing the trumpet, two girls sitting in the park jamming with their ukeleles, 'grown up Mowgli' plucking tunes from a sideways held guitar...
The plinky refrain of the 'coconut song' played by the man selling cocnuts from a cart to alert lazing sunbathers to his prescence.
My secret sleeping weapon, Sufjan Steven's Seven Swans, to lullaby me off despite all the chattering German girls.
What I nommed
Mokha's $12 muesli (I may never recover from my sense of outrage) because they had free wifi at the cafe. For a backpacker hub, there were no cheap restaurants. Gap in the market right there.
The most amazing tasty and filling Vegan salad at Manna Haven. It's not often you can put the words Vegan, amazing and salad together sincerely, but it really was nummy and decently priced.
A slightly underwhelming ice cream, possibly so because I built it up in my head all day.
Pad Thai from the Noodle Box. Half the size and twice the price of the lovely place in Portland.
The actually very tasty and generously portioned dinners at Aquarious, bought by drinking the 'Jungle Juice' house speciality cocktail. It wasn't half bad.
What I did
Wandered the artisan market that sprang up in the Railway Park over lunch.
Went for a run out of town and found it to be far more jungly than I expected with huge green trees looming over the path and brightly coloured birds catching my eye as they flitted from leaf to leaf.
Talked myself out of buying a skateboard. But only just.
Went swimming in the local pool, because the sea was too rough (and full of creatures). Was intimidated by all the kids having swimming lessons and being all good and stuff.
Enjoyed chatting to people at the hostel's 'cocktail night'. Read jungle juice from plastic tumblers, barefoot by the pool, not coifs and dresses and martini glasses. Funny how many of the other residents' stories started with, "Well I just planned to spend a few days here, but that was 6 months ago..."
Chilled in the sun at Railway Park and watched the world wander by.
Went to Cheeky Monkeys at the behest of the lovely German girls, only long enough to walk in, think, 'I'm not 17 and I'm actually ok with that,' and walk out again. If you are 17 (or 29 and with all your friends in an ironic fashion) it looked like sweaty, rammed fun.
Got sandblasted sitting on the beach attempting to sunbathe. The beach was beautiful, but the wind really was too high for it to be fun.
Walked the looooong hill to the Lighthouse at, you guessed it, lunchtime. Apparently mad dogs, English(wo)men and lovely Belgian girls go out in the midday sun. It was very picturesque both on the beach road up and the jungle trail down, with a pleasantly breezy and satisfying view from the top. And we almost saw a whale, but not quite.
Was disappointed that the sign I saw on the way into town - 'Do you like music? Books? Coffee?' - that I resoundingly answered with yes, yes and yes proved elusive until 8pm on my last day when my perfect store was already closed. It looked nice through the window as I pressed my face up to it pauper Victorian child style.
Bought some threads and beads to make an anklet. Put it on. It's Byron's fault I tell thee!
What I did not do