I think several posts are due on this space. I have spent more than 5 weeks away from home now, and these five weeks have been a tremendous experience. Even though I have not ventured out of the city too much, there are many things that I have to say about my sojourn in Brisbane, and some about the beautiful beaches of the Sunshine coast. But for the while, I will skip it and dive straight into my lovely day trip to Byron Bay.
I heard about Byron Bay a few months ago, when travel-writer Yossi Ghinsberg described his house there in a Holidayiq get-together. Placed in the middle of a rain-forest, it sounded enchanting. So when I traveled to Brisbane, I was sure that Byron Bay will be quite on the top of my list for weekend getaways.
Byron bay is a small coastal town in northern NSW, and is incidentally the eastern-most point of Australian mainland. It is known best for its beautiful beaches, rain-forests and cliffs. I personally was enchanted with the photos of its cliffs extending into the sea, and with its more than 100 year old lighthouse. It is about 175 km south of Brisbane, and there are some buses available to go there, but I believe these are not very frequent services.
I booked myself on an express coach on Brisbane2Byron, which leaves at 8 in the morning and reaches at 10. They also have return at 11 in the morning and at 4 in the evening. However, since I was going only for a day, I was not keen on returning so early. Hence, for return, I booked myself on a Countrylink coach, which leaves the bay at 8:10 in the evening and returns to Brisbane at 10:20 in the night. Countrylink was cheaper, but for some reason, though they have a direct return, they did not offer me a direct onward option.
Brisbane 2 Byron was a very comfortable ride, and sadly, I slept through most of it after my long Friday. But once in Byron bay, I was super active. The bus stopped at Johnson’s street bus stand, and there is a tourist information center right behind it. I picked up the quintessential map, and figured that walking will be the mainstay of my day. Before heading towards the lighthouse and the beaches, I wanted to explore the town (and also have some breakfast) – so I moved in the opposite direction to the beach. However, it is a very very small town, and begins to thin out quickly after Johnson’s street. I found a homey cafe – Merlot, and decided on a sumptuous meal of scrambled eggs and toast with a flatwhite. It was a good breakfast, and the place seemed to be seeped in the mood of ‘relaxation’. which is apparently also the mood of the entire town. I chatted a bit with the owner of the place, mainly about Mumbai and Brisbane, and about Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, which I am now reading and he had read a long time ago.
So without stalling further, I turned back towards the sea, and very soon landed at a beach, which I gather must be the ‘Main Beach’. The sight was breath-taking – sparkling emerald water lined with a shining white sand on one side and some random smoky hills on another. For me, it was instant love. I walked a while parallel to the coast, until I could resist no further and landed on the beach which was beautiful and then patronized by a handful of walkers. Far away, I could see the lighthouse standing atop a cliff.
At the end of the beach were a few cliffs and atop one of those was a beautiful lookout (not sure if that is the Captain cook lookout!). The steps to the lookout are cut off from the beach with a small stream of water and you have to take off your shoes to get on to the lookout. I was not yet ready to do that – so I walked on. On a trail that starts close to the lookout and goes all the way to the lighthouse.
I took the path up which keeps climbing till you reach a point from where you get excellent views of the sea and the Watego beach on the right. The Watego is the heart of Surfer’s and you will see many people stuggling to ride the waves. Someday, I will train myself to do that.
I expected to keep going up or walking along the cliff to reach the light-house. However, things are not that easy – for you have to climb all the way down and then climb back up on another cliff before you get to the promised land. So I climbed down, dwindled a bit at the Watego, and then started to climb back up again. This was a much harder and steeper climb, which, with my blocked nose and sinused brain, looked even more tiresome. But the place was so beautiful that you could barely stop going.
I soon reached up to Headland lookout – the easternmost point of the mainland. The day was all sunshine, swung by a cool breeze, and as I sat down to take a swig of water, I heard Eddie vedder remind me of being part of everywhere by feeling the wind. And I remember being very very happy in that moment.
The lighthouse was still some distance, but thankfully there were no climb downs and climb back ups – just a bit more of upward journey, which I made without too much strain. The lighthouse, was – well a lighthouse. It is one of the few which still are use as shipping aids. It is not the typical eerie lighthouse that haunts imaginations, but maybe thats because it is still being used.
I spent a few moments there, and retraced my steps. I wanted to get on a cliff at the beach, which looked very inviting. (If you see the next photo, you will find it inviting too I suppose). For me, I have a passion for cliffs and seas. (And that’s why I loved both Biarrtiz and St Malo so much!)
So I reached my cliff , found a place on the grassland around, and spend a good one hour there: looking out to the sea and reading my book. I saw one dolphin in the distance and though I could make out the presence of some more whales/dolphin in the sea by water patterns, I couldn’t really see them.
After my one hour, I retraced my steps and after some detours, reached back close to the Main beach. I was hungry by then, and my reserve of water had run out as well, so figured it was a logical time for a lunch break. I went to a small garden cafe close to the end of Main beach, called The Pass. It was a nice shaded place, and I could see the sea (didn’t want to lose sight of the beautiful waters). A very insistent turkey joined me for lunch and refused to leave. She very graciously finished everything I had left from my mediterranian sandwich, but I have to say she waited patiently till I moved my plate aside!
After the lunch, I headed to the beach and spent the rest of the evening there. I took off my shoes, dipped in the water, walked, played with the waves – and then, finally tired, sat down with my book. I didn’t want the day to end, and was grateful that I had taken an 8 o clock bus in stead of the one at 4.
In the evening, as the light began to thin out, I walked some more. Caught a few people playing a traditional drum, others simply enjoying the evening in silence. After living in Bombay so long, where quiet evenings are uknown, it felt like another world to me.
Once it got darker, I headed to the city. I thought it would be a good idea to get the flavor of a local pub before I left. So I went walking, and right next to the bus stop, found the charming Railway bar. It was brilliant. I enjoyed the live music (which apparently is a daily feature of the place) and my drink amongst the relaxed banter. I chatted awhile with some people from a group of about 12 friends, who were there to enjoy a 4 day long bachelor’s party for their friend who was getting married in 2 weeks – they seemed to be enjoying as hell! I felt a little jealous – why did we never live like this in India!). I simply loved the bar (better known as The Rails)
Well, soon it was time for my bus, which turned out to be an hour late as I stood worrying and cold on the bus stop. It seems some bushfires in Sydney were the culprit. But I can’t complain too much. AFter all, I had such a grand day!