The East Coast: Chilling at Byron Bay and Surfer’s Paradise

From Spot X to Byron Bay was only a four-hour Greyhound journey – simple compared to the last two, right?

Wrong.

My bus was at 3am! The 7am was full, ugh. That being said, it got me into Byron just before 7am and that gave me a full day to explore (after dropping my gear off at the hostel again). Although, the driver kept talking into the microphone throughout. Not cool, dude. Not at that time!

Now, Byron Bay isn’t huge but it’s full of independent and boutique shops and restaurants so plenty to sink your teeth into. It’s also very chilled out, more so than other place I’ve seen so far but everyone still goes about their day. It’s a calming chilled out and I felt really happy and at home there, despite it being smaller than every other place I’ve lived – or considered living.

I also almost got rained on properly for the first time (outside of the F1). A ten-minute downpour that, thankfully, I was already undercover for on the way to the hostel. It would have soaked me to the core in less than thirty seconds but then it dried up in less than an hour. Madness.

Killen Falls

Killen Falls

That night, I met a local, who I befriended in Doncaster many years ago, and she drove me to the Lighthouse for the latter end of sunset. It was amazing. Then we hit a few bars and had a good catch up before I totally crashed out.

The next day was even better. I was taken on a drive around the area, having a look at some of the villages around Byron Bay and stopping at a number of spots and lookouts for pictures. The best spot was Killen Falls, a waterfall after a dam that is part of the water supply for Byron. It was a sheltered cove where people would come and relax in the shade and swim and I’m so jealous I didn’t have my swimming gear – I could have spent all day there!

Then again, I wouldn’t have seen anything else if I had!

Sunset in Byron Bay

Sunset in Byron Bay

We rounded the day off with more drinks and food in the local RSL club (t’s been so long since I had a roast dinner so it was definitely needed) while watching the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony, a timely reminder that I’d be heading up to the Gold Coast shortly.

My final day was spent with friends from Spot X who’d finally arrived in Byron. We took the coastal walk to the lighthouse in the afternoon, arriving with plenty of time before sunset, and seeing the whole thing blew my mind. The colours, the sound of the ocean, the pure peacefulness of it all. I definitely prefer sunsets to sunrises but that might be because I’m already awake at that time!

Surfer's Paradise

Surfer’s Paradise

Then it was a short Greyhound to Surfer’s Paradise in the Gold Coast. There’s a lot going on here because of the Commonwealth Games, so there are stages everywhere with music and performances, but it’s also a party area of the city.

Great for groups but less so for me, since I prefer pubs to clubs! I spent most days exploring and chilling on the beach (as well as catching up with some work and writing!), using this time to recharge before next week, which is going to be pretty full on.

I did see another friend here, too (met in Doncaster but a local here). We had food and drinks one night and just a really good catch up, which I’m sure won’t be the last one!

While it’s a nice little holiday destination, there are probably other parts of the Gold Coast better suited for me and in the future, I’ll come back to find them, but taking some time to chill was definitely needed. Also, my body has almost fully recovered by now so when I’m next able to get back on the surfboard, I will!

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The East Coast: Sydney and Surfing

This is something I’ve been looking forward to since booking it on day one of my Australian adventure. I spent a lot of money sorting it and I have a lot of things planned, which I won’t spoil here – you’ll just have to wait and see.

Now, you’ll know I don’t drive so I’m relying on public transport. There were a few options but I chose a hop-on-hop-off Greyhound pass. I booked the journeys in advance but pay just once. It makes sense. The first trip was from Melbourne to Sydney – a twelve-hour trip that I booked as an overnight journey. This means no accommodation costs for that night but that I wasn’t likely to get much sleep, and so it proved.

Obligatory selfie with Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge

Obligatory selfie with Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge

I was sat next to a guy (who had the window seat) who kept falling asleep on me and leaning into me. I’m not ashamed to say he got a few elbows and nudges over the trip, which woke him up grumbling but I’m not a damned pillow!

It was a relief to get to Sydney. An hour’s sleep, maybe two at most. Couldn’t check in for a few more hours but stored my gear. Went north and found the Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House, walked over the former (then back) and around the latter, taking plenty of pictures. The botanical gardens were right besides the opera house and I’d been told there was a great spot to get a picture of both and to the obligatory selfie. I did that and then explored the gardens.

Bondi Beach

Bondi Beach

I actually bumped into some friends from Melbourne back at the hostel, leading to impromptu drinks, which was a great way to round the day. The following day was more drinks with another friend who I met in Melbourne but lived in Sydney followed by a pub quiz where I got a free pizza for coming in last – but remember I was playing alone!

Of course, I had to go to Bondi Beach and it was beautiful. I took a coastal walk south to find Clovelly Beach, which was also beautiful and ran into more people along the way. It really is a small world, huh? The walk took longer than it should, thanks to my excessive photo-taking habits.

Checkout was the next day and I was very boring and responsible by doing work for most of it, as I had another overnight Greyhound trip to surf camp!

I can surf!

I can surf!

This was at Arrawarra Beach, near Woolgoolga, at a place called Spot X. We slept in converted shipping containers and you know what? They were actually quite comfortable!

I surfed every morning and afternoon (but the morning lessons could be as early as 8am! Ugh) but it wasn’t until the second day I was able to stand up at all, thanks to some great instructors who took the time with everyone to make sure they were doing the right things. After that, it’s just practise. By the end of my three days, I could stand up most of the time, speed up and slow down as well as turn…usually.

It was really fun but I ruined myself. Covered in bruises from head to toe, board rash on my legs and rubbed away half the skin on both hands. That meant there’d be no surfing for me for a while until I healed. A bit annoying since there were some good spots coming up but better to play it safe.

Sunrise at Spot X

Sunrise at Spot X

One thing I did do at Spot X was get up one morning for the sunrise at the ungodly hour of 5am (so I had time to fully wake up). Trudging to the beach wasn’t fun and, typically, the only clouds in the sky were over the horizon. A bit annoying but I waited anyway.

And I’m glad I did. Seeing the sun rise over the clouds and hit the beach was incredible. Such a beautiful way to start the day with gorgeous colours and tones hitting the water and sand. I wasn’t alone, plenty of people made it down, ad when you combine that view with the soothing sound of the ocean…yeah, I can see why people do this so much.

Not saying I’ll do it all the time, but every so often? Yeah.

A lot of the friends I made at surf camp are doing the same trip as me, but slower. I was one of the first of ‘our group’ to leave and head to Byron Bay.

Melbourne and the F1

Forgive me, I’ve fallen a little behind so there’ll be more frequent updates this week as I catch up. Sometimes there’s a lot to say about a place, and others not so much.

So, the flight back from Perth was uneventful but it wasn’t a budget airline. I flew Virgin Australia and it was great. Entertainment, drinks and food included. It was as cheap as the budget this time, somehow, but I’m not complaining. I’ll keep this in mind for the future.

Then I’m back in Melbourne! Perth was good, chilled but almost to an extent that if I’d stayed for a month or longer, I’d have gotten bored. I like Melbourne, it feels like home for me here. I’ve only been to two places so I can’t say that with certainty but so far, it fits!

One of the Ferrari's

One of the Ferrari’s

I decided to stay at Nomads in St Kilda for the next few weeks – because I had one room for the duration and it was close to the F1 and the guys back at Base. I spent a fair bit of time there seeing people and it was really nice noticing that they did miss me, or at least notice I’d gone. I don’t regret the choice though, I needed to sleep!

I did make a booboo, though. I had already booked to stay at Base for the F1 weekend, but then also booked in at Nomads. That cost me a few bucks once I realised!

Not much to really say about this. I spent most of it under the radar, a few drinks here and there but mostly in money saving mode. Half-assed job applications got me nowhere, obviously. The room I was in was good. Another Scottish guy and two Irish lasses, and then the other two beds were filled with randoms. Felt kinda sorry for them, given how fast we spoke at times. They must have had a lot of ‘what the hell’ moments!

Albert Park before the F1

Albert Park before the F1

Before I knew it, it was F1 time, but not before I spent a couple of days beforehand walking the track before they closed it off. It was so cool to be able to walk it before it all kicked off, getting some great pictures (just a shame I couldn’t be THAT close during the racing!) and enjoying the weather. I’d walked around Albert Park before but not while the barriers and grandstands were up.

The F1 itself? That was something else entirely. I’ve been to Silverstone a few times in the UK, and its great fun but here I was, on the other side of the world, on my own, at a four-day grand prix event! Excited doesn’t cover it.

First off, it’s cheaper. That’s unusual to say about Australia but a 4-day general admission ticket at Albert Park cost the same as a race-day general admission ticket at Silverstone and there’s more to see and do at this event. Now, I know it’s all about track funding and costs etc, but not once was there a shortage of people, even on the Thursday!

I met Louise Goodman!

I met Louise Goodman!

I spent that day getting driver autographs and photos. I missed out (by a few meters) on a wristband for one of the big four teams (Mercedes, Ferrari, McLaren and Red Bull) but got quite a few. Even better, and a highlight of the weekend, was meeting Louise Goodman! Boom!

The start of the remaining three days was spent at Melbourne Walk, where the drivers and teams enter the paddock. More of a free-for-all here, but got some good autographs, including Daniel Ricciardo, Adrian Newey, Christian Horner and Claire Williams, to name a few.

Then I started hunting for spots to watch the action. Just after turn two, on the inside, is good but not much happens. After exploring most of the circuit, I settled on either turn ten and turn eleven, on the outside. Good views and potential overtaking spots, judging by the other categories.

Saturday began with a downpour, soaking me through and making me hide in a pub for four hours and watch the action on TV. It dried quickly in the afternoon, though and with all the racing, including the Australian V8 Supercars, the track dried quickly too. It was so cool to see them racing here as part of their championship for the very first time. I’m hoping to see more of them in the future.

A big crash for Bottas in F1’s qualifying session followed by an equally stunning and ridiculous lap by Hamilton set up a great race for the Sunday, when I would have company!

Sitting on the #AUSGP sign

Sitting on the #AUSGP sign

A new friend’s very first F1 event. Normally I’ picked my spot and camp there all day but she was only attending for one day so I wanted to show her around, including Melbourne Walk, the displays around the track and what was on offer before we landed at turn 10 for the Supercars and F1. I won’t talk about the race, plenty of people have since then but even with little overtaking, it was great fun and I’m glad she enjoyed it!

Then an early night before beginning my East Coast Adventure!

A Trip to Perth

This one’s a little late but due to my laptop needing a new hard drive, that kind of took priority! So, after two awesome weeks in Melbourne, I was set for a 4 and half hour journey to Perth on the west coast.

First things first, it’s hot over there! I thought Melbourne was warm but bloody hell, this took it to a whole new level. Absolutely gorgeous, though. Some of the countries best beaches are that way, I had been told, and I can confirm that now (from what I’ve seen so far).

There’s so much more than that, and I was lucky to have a friend over there to show me around some of these really cool places!

Kings Park

One of the views of Perth from King's Park

One of the views of Perth from King’s Park

This is quite possibly one of the biggest parks I’ve been to. I spent over four hours one day wandering through it and still missed so much of it. It is HUGE! It’s also on top of a big hill (why do I do this to myself?!) but once up there, there were some stunning views.

Memorials, the Botanical Gardens (which is split into different regions) and views over the CBD and harbour. Remember the weather is essentially perfect so I had to delete a lot of duplicate photos!

Even better, along the edge of the park, closest to the water, is a

Quokka

Quokka

walkway with viewpoints and also a glass bridge! Not going to lie, that freaked me out a little (I don’t like heights, after all) but I still went over it, of course.

So. Many. Animals

So, after seeing penguins in St Kilda, I knew I was going to see these cute buggers called quokkas on Rottnest Island. They are ridiculously cute and very happy to approach people (but don’t feed them) for pictures. I also tried snorkelling for the first time. It was strange but with more practise I’ll get there.

Dolphin

Dolphin

Another trip took us to Penguin Island. We did a boat trip first and saw dolphins! They even chased the waves the boat made. That was cool. On the island itself, we saw a penguin feeding but the wild ones were hiding during the day. We did see one in a little cave, though.

We also went to a wildlife park where I was able to feed kangaroos, meet a koala and a wallaby among many more. That was an awesome day, too. Lots of pictures from that day – animals don’t listen to instructions very well!

Geeky heaven

Inside White Dwarf Books

Inside White Dwarf Books

One of my favourite things about Perth happened a couple of days in. I discovered a bookshop called White Dwarf books. Now, everyone knows I love books but this store goes to a whole new level as it’s a store specifically for science fiction and fantasy.

YES, YOU HEARD ME!

I stayed in there for hours chatting to the staff, who were cool. I actually missed a bus tour around the city, but I regret nothing. I could have bought everything in that shop.

Inside The Nostalgia Box

Inside The Nostalgia Box

About a ten minute walk is a place called the Nostalgia Box, a retro gaming museum. It’s a neatly packed place going through the history of video game consoles from the beginning through to the last generation and even though I knew a fair bit, I came away with a little more knowledge. Bonus.

And, of course, a bunch of consoles to play, too!

Cider and Pork!

Music at the Cider and Pork Festival

Music at the Cider and Pork Festival

The last weekend of my stay in Perth happened to coincide with the Cider and Pork Festival. This was a great night with good drinks, even better food and decent music.

I met some really cool people, one couple in particular stood out. We were chatting and they asked about my book. After explaining it to them, and what my job involves, they practically demanded I stay in the country longer than the current plan. It was really nice to hear people that enthusiastic about my work and I admit, I am tempted to stay longer if I can.

I want to point out here that these events in the UK are ridiculously expensive. While alcohol is generally more expensive in Australia than back home anyway, the prices I paid for these drinks were about the same as in bars, so it made no difference. A festival back home has a definite increase in price.

This is just a snapshot, we did so much! Those two weeks ended too early, I think. Back to Melbourne for a few more weeks with the F1 coming up fast!

Arriving in St Kilda, Melbourne

As I mentioned before, three days in Hong Kong just isn’t enough but I was ready to get to Australia at last! Another long flight loomed. This couldn’t be worse than the last one, right? Mostly.

I was on an aisle seat, which was fine. Two Chinese women were next to me and one wanted the aisle seat and the other the window seat. I didn’t want to be trapped between them so I politely said no. Unfortunately, they spoke no English. The flight attendant translated for us but somehow I got stuck in the middle anyway!

Without going into too much detail, I think I either got adopted or married, honestly not sure which. The only phrase they knew was “I love you” and it was said to me over and over! They were fascinated with my eyes and kept showing me pictures of their families. I fell asleep for an hour and woke up wrapped in three blankets. And they kept feeding me food! How awkward. Still, better than kids.

Anyway, I’ve been in St Kilda for just under two weeks and I’ve loved every moment…well, except one part.

Settling in and defeating jetlag

The first day was wasted, but it’s normal. I sorted out some boring stuff like banks and orientation and took myself on a short walk but mostly chilled at the hostel. A few drinks in the evening helped me settle and I met my first friend, who works at Base. We get on really well and this isn’t one of those who I’ll spend time with and forget, I’m sure we’ll keep in touch!

If you had told me before I arrived exactly what kind of hostel Base was, I probably wouldn’t have booked in. Too much partying and noise for an old git like me but actually, I think it was the best thing. It forced me to do things and get involved and that helped me get out of my shell a little. You might not think I need help with that but being so far away and knowing no one, that little push helped me get involved a little quicker. I’ll pop back every so often but I don’t think I need it anymore.

St Kilda Festival

The rock stage at St Kilda Festival

The rock stage at St Kilda Festival

Less than a week after I arrived, St Kilda Festival arrived. I didn’t know this was happening before I arrived but I was excited to go. It takes over the entire area, and is one of the biggest free festivals in the southern hemisphere! About 400,000 people were expected this year with stages and displays and arts stuff going on throughout the day.

Of course, I found the rock stage.

Saw some good bands and spent a nice day wandering and chilling in parks with some of the friends I’ve made since arriving. To have this right on my doorstep, literally, was a stroke of luck and while I get why residents avoided the area for the day or weekend, it was good fun and I didn’t see any fights or riots that happen in festivals back home at times.

A feel for Melbourne

One of the pieces of street art/graffiti from Hosier Lane

One of the pieces of street art/graffiti from Hosier Lane

I’ve spent a lot of time finding my feet so far, going on walks around the area, visiting the beaches – some of which are really nice but I’ve been told they’re nothing compared to elsewhere! Melbourne is a very friendly place overall, and despite the busy areas feeling a little overwhelming at first, I feel like I did in Manchester. I love it here.

I’ve heard mixed things about Hosier Lane but I found it really interesting. Some great graffiti art here and I took a lot of pictures. It was smaller than I expected, though, and I saw someone working on a new piece. Having a place for people to do this is clever, as I’ve not seen as much graffiti as back home generally.

There are also penguins living on St Kilda pier! They come out at sunset and go hunt. They’re not phased by people at all but I did feel like pushing people away when they were trying to get past the crowd. It was so cool but it’s important not to feed them to disrupt their cycle.

A missed opportunity

A Penguin at St Kilda Pier

A Penguin at St Kilda Pier

Being slightly out of the city has its perks, it’s easier to relax a bit more and still be close to everything I want to do. Getting out of the holiday mentality where I feel like I have to do something different every day has been hard but I’m getting to the stage where I’m happy to have a chill day, especially knowing I’ll be back again.

However, a few days ago I was out on a pub crawl and my drink got spiked. I didn’t know at first but soon I was unable to stand, see straight or do anything. The next day I couldn’t focus my mind, see properly, eat anything and more. It was awful. It took me over a day to fully recover but I’m fine. It’s happened now and it hasn’t put me off doing things – I just need to be a little more careful.

The sad thing was I missed White Night, which is a 12-hour light show in the CBD with music and such. From the pictures and videos, it looked epic. Next year, I’m doing it!

Moving on

Sunset at St Kilda Pier

Sunset at St Kilda Pier

Tomorrow I fly to Perth for two weeks to see a friend from back home and spend a little time exploring the city and the area. I’ll be coming back to Melbourne after for another few weeks to explore more and find more sunset views like this before a big, month-long adventure!