Sunday, 13 January 2008

Byron Bay

Last Sunday Kate, Eliza and I flew north for a week of R&R, and hopefully some cooling off, in Byron Bay. It seems odd to have to go to northern NSW to escape the heat, but there you are. Climate change and whatnot.

It had been raining up there for a week and our arrival heralded the first day of sunshine. The weather was just starting to get hot again. The ground was steaming and the air was humid.

We picked up our Prius from the airport and headed south in a cloud of smug.

It was a couple of hours before we could check into the house we'd rented, so we decided to take a quick detour to Nimbin to pick up some 'supplies'. You know, postcards and stuff. Unfortunately, the road was flooded (as it was in many places around there) so we went back into Byron, only to confront the mother of all traffic jams.

We thought the crawling traffic was because of the once-a-month market in the town, but after a few days we realised it's actually like that all the time. Once we made it into town we wandered around said market for a while, got our fill of hippiedom (and local sausages - very nice) then went to find our house.

The house was in Suffolk Park, a three minute walk from Tallow Beach and far enough away from the madness that is Byron Bay proper to afford us some peace and quiet. The owner insisted on giving us a long, comprehensive and mostly superfluous guided tour before asking for next-of-kin details, on the off chance that we were all to perish simultaneously in (for example) a car crash. And she actually used the word 'fireball'.

Debbie and Danielle were arriving on Monday afternoon, so once we got rid of the owner, we had the place to ourselves for the first night.

The next few days consisted of doing nothing but laying around the house reading, laying around the beach reading, and playing cards on the deck overlooking the oddly lush (well, for a Victorian, anyway) tropical garden.

This, um, activity was broken up by a spa visit on Monday for massages and sauna, and on Tuesday another attempt, this time successful, to get to Nimbin. While in Nimbin the heavens fairly opened for a storm the likes of which had not been seen for at least a week (apparently) and we were thinking we might be stranded there. But just as we were starting to think this might not actually be a bad thing, the rain stopped and we left. Oh well. Great town, though.

On Wednesday Kate and Eliza braved the very choppy surf of Tallow Beach while I sat on the sand reading and snoozing. Same again on Thursday, although this time the surf was even choppier. The dirty foam lining the sand was knee-deep and before long it started to rain. We didn't stay long that day.

We got up early on Friday to pack up and get out before the owner got there and subjected us to another half-hour spiel on some irritating minutiae. (We just made it as it turned out . . . we saw her sitting in her car outside as we drove off).

On the way out of Byron we stopped off at the famous Sharky's Tattoo to get some ink. I got a Möbius strip on my back (so sticking with the nerdy vibe), Kate got 'miel' ('Honey' in French) in white ink on her wrist and Eliza got her father's (my uncle's) initials on her back, in memory of his passing away one year ago yesterday.

Our flight out of Coolangatta was in the evening, so we had almost a whole day to kill in the north coast hinterland and the Gold Coast.

And kill it we did. We drove through the Tweed region, which was reasonably entertaining and pleasantly eccentric. For example, the Tweed town of Mooball has taken its branding potential to a somewhat ridiculous extreme, with just about every surface (including power poles and the occasional rock) painted in black and white cow spots.

We stopped in Murwillumbah, a pretty little town with a cinema that the tourist lady breathlessly told us (two or three times) was original art-deco and had, would you believe it, bean bags. Gosh.

We had lunch in the cutely-named Tumbulgum before driving through Coolangatta to Surfer's Paradise. I'd not been there since our 1988 family holiday and it doesn't seem to have changed a lot. The architecture is staunchly 1980's tack (there must have been a bylaw passed requiring this) and the whole place screams North American Tourism. The mini-golf course is even named Putt-Putt Golf. We stopped at the beach for two minutes to dip our feet, then got the hell out of there.

We ended up being a little early for the flight so Kate did what she does best, and sweet talked the check-in guy into getting us on an earlier one. It's just as well she did. All the flights were delayed by a few hours and the earlier flight ended up leaving at our original flight time, with our original flight leaving much later.

All in all, a great relaxing week. Now it's back to work. Sigh.

And here's some photos.

Before: Footy field on the the road to Nimbin when we arrived on Sunday afternoon.

After: the same footy field 48 hours later.

Soaking in the atmosphere in Nimbin.

Tropical garden at the house. Thankfully the water feature (the pipe and tub contraption on the left) wasn't working. I hate water features.

Your humble correspondent faces the mighty Tallow Beach surf . . .

. . . before having a snooze.

Kate's feet. This is the only photo of her she'd let me use.

Eliza and Debbie playing Chinese Checkers. I think I'm reading Famous magazine.

Eliza and I at Surfer's Paradise. We didn't stay long.

No photos of the tattoos at this stage. I'll post some in the next day or two.