Admirin' Byron

Thursday, March 08, 2007

We came into the fabled town of Byron Bay only five hours after leaving. In that four hours we stopped for lunch and I bought a scratch and win ticket which I also won at. I’ll take that as a good sign for Australia. Norm’s friend, Myra, who has joined us on the trip, created quite a scene as map hoarder this morning and it was somewhat amazing to me that someone so old could act so young. Still, we got to our hostel and the morning’s drama had long faded, and once we saw our accommodations, they were utterly forgotten. We have five cabins very close to the beach, tennis courts, a full kitchen, and all sorts of other good stuff. There are two rooms and, since it was Anthony’s birthday, we gave him the room with the queen bed while we took the bunks. Then we ran down to the beach to see what we had in store and were quite pleased to discover lots of big surf, gold sand, and well, we got excited. After some deliberations with the man of the hour, it was decided that we would hang out in our newfound paradise for the night and make a nice homemade dinner of steak and salad – given that we hadn’t had a good meat-centric meal in a while, this was an exciting proposition. We set off to begin what would definitely be a memorable night on the trip.

After grabbing our groceries, we came back home and since we weren’t quite hungry yet, we opened up a beer and watched some Simpsons before starting on dinner. Then we got started. Brad had some sort of cream reduction with rosemary and thyme that he wanted to do for our t-bones, and I did the salad, garlic toast, and cooked the steaks. Unfortunately, the grill was hot and our steaks a little thin, so we wound up eating medium steaks instead of medium rare, but I thought it was all delicious. A very tasty dinner like I’ve only had twice on this trip: the rack of lamb in Christchurch and the steak in Akaroa. We’d not even finished dinner when the other half of the birthday celebration, for Kristen, came into the cabin and the party really begun. They handed out streamers and noise makers (which we would later come to rue) and other implements of destruction. We found ourselves singing along to songs and playing our kazoos like trumpets for Sixteen Military Wives among other songs (like Final Countdown). We decided we were going to go down to the beach, which was probably a bad idea anyway, but we set off. No sooner had we started down the path then it started pouring rain. Hard. By the time we got to the beach, it was actually stinging us, and we called Anthony back and ran for shelter. Take it as a sign, swimming was not wise.

Not soon after we came back it let up and others came wanting to swim, including Anthony. He promised he’d not go beyond knee-depth and others went with him, but I figured I’d take my warning properly. Pretty much everyone went except for Katie and I, and we spent the ten minutes or so sitting on the deck and debating going or not. Then Anthony and Brad came back, Brad at least partially covering himself and Anthony missing a pair of trunks that the rising tide swept away with his modesty. He had no problem standing there and trying to convince us that we needed to go. They went away and soon the whole group was back to convince us and we caved in and went down to the beach. Pretty much everyone that wasn’t in town went skinny dipping, but I certainly wasn’t feeling like it and so I stood at the edge of the beach where I couldn’t really make out anyone and watched. I kind of wish I didn’t care, but I do so what choice did I have?

As a reward for my discretion, the owner of beach houses we’re staying in came onto the beach with a flashlight and was very upset at the noise (likely from before in the cabins, though we couldn’t hear partying in other cabins at all) and that other guests had seen a couple guys running around naked. He was all but ready to kick our group out of the place, which seemed a bit excessive as we were far from any cabins and not noisy enough to be heard anymore, but it was not the time nor my place to argue. I tried my best to calm him down (thankfully at this point I was clothed) and tell him it was not our wish to cause anyone displeasure and also that most of the people were clothed and swimming. I don’t remember what else was said, just that he said he’d be talking to us in the morning and I told him we’d stop everything now. And so we called everyone in and retired to our cabins for a more clothed atmosphere though the drinks didn’t stop at this point. Kristen was punching anyone that would let her, Chris went into the shower and was forgotten, and who knows where everyone else went. Heck, we forgot about Chris in the shower until an hour later when we discovered him asleep on the shower floor with hot water raining down on him. Waiting for rain, he said. We sent him to bed and decided to do so ourselves.

The next day we went into town early to use a little bit of the excessively slow internet. I got a few photos uploaded and went to the beach to watch some people surf hoping to see our group. I was in the afternoon class, so I grabbed a quick muffin and went to my class. It was my first time surfing and I was very excited to try it out. With a little bit of a lesson on how to get up, when to paddle, and so on, we were out in the water. I got on my board and the instructor told me what to do and helped me catch the first wave. And, on my very first attempt, I stood up and rode the wave almost all the way in! It was incredible to me. Unfortunately, all subsequent attempts were not as successful, but it was ‘heaps’ of fun and I did catch one really sweet wave which, sadly, I botched by putting to much weight on the front of my board and nose-diving in. My arms were tired but I was still craving lots more when it was time to call it quits. Maybe tomorrow.

We came back home and cleaned up the mess from the night prior and our ridiculous ant infestation. They first attacked when Anthony missed the toilet the night prior calling for Ruth, and now they were all over our counter. We sprayed the crap out of them and got the place looking like a cabin instead of a dorm, had some dinner, watched some shows, and just hung out and chatted until about 1AM.

Our final day in Byron some of the group had to wake up early for class, in part because some of the group wanted to go to Nimben (sp?). We, on the other hand, were going to stay behind and learn to trapeze. I called the place and set us up for some lessons at 2:00 and then we went into town and hung around until 1:30, using the internet and getting some errands done. I drove the bus for my first time today and did okay, but it’s a wider vehicle and second gear doesn’t particularly shift easily and I got stuck between gears in the middle of a traffic circle. Sort of funny, actually. We got to the trapeze place and after a bit of a wait passed by watching some Cirque du Soleil, we were on the low bar learning the basics of what we’d be doing some 8m above the ground. The plan was to basically start off with dangling from the knees, then learn to backflip down to the net below, then combine the dangling with a catch from someone else on the trapeze, and finally combine the catch with a backflip down. It was scary that first time crawling up the rickety ladder and leaping out onto the trapeze but definitely a lot of fun and while I managed to do most of those things, I failed in my one shot at being caught and then backflipping down – I wasn’t ready and just dropped instead. I sliced my toe landing on the net on my feet since it was already cracked.

With some time left, Brad, Chris, and I rented some surfboards and went to surf on the beach. We had little to no success getting any surf, though and naturally with us having surf boards, the sky clouded and was looking intimidating again. I was also stung by something in the water, maybe a small jellyfish or something. It puffed up and, well, stung, but wasn’t that bad. Just a nuisance. After unloading our boards on the bus, I went to help Katie load groceries and a girl walked by that looked very much like Meagan from Saskatoon. I knew she was supposed to be in Australia as well, but I thought the odds were definitely against running into her here s randomly. Still, the girls convinced me I should go find out and I did and sure enough… what are the odds, really? I find it difficult to contemplate.

We returned to our place and had dinner as the rain began, and hung around socializing. Jess, a girl I know that is living near Byron Bay, called me and came by the house for a little while and we caught up. So weird to just see someone and start chatting about the last year from where we left off in Budapest. She was gone almost before she got there, though, and we had a few slideshows and chatted in our living room before closing our eyes on Byron Bay for good.

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