Byron Bay is a very laid back city on the border between New South Wales and Queensland quite popular among backpackers. The city itself is quite small with one main street where you find mostly clothing stores, souvenir shops and restaurants, but the beach there stretches as far as eyes can see. At the end of the main beach in the north there is a lighthouse on a hill where the South Beach starts, so where it is best to surf depends if the winds are coming from north or south, but conditions will always be good on one of them and courses and board rentals run all year long.
Our hostel, called the Arts Factory Lodge was also a good one, situated right next to the city brewery where they had some of the evening events while there were free yoga, survival skills and didgeridoo classes there in the day time.
There are a lot of alternative people also in Byron Bay, just like the people who made art in the sand
As if Byron Bay is not laid-back and alternative enough there is a city less than two hours away called Nimbin where people are still living like the Vietnam War was never over.
I had booked a day trip through my hostel where the driver was an old stoner playing music from the 70s and telling stories over the speakers. When stopping at Nimbin Rocks, a mountain at the outskirts of the town he told us that it used to be a sacred site for aboriginals and attracted alternative people when loggers wanted to cut down the woods.
Today it is just a small town with less than 400 inhabitants and just one main street withmostly cafés and handicrafts shops. Cannabis is openly sold and consumed, and the police in town seem not to care at all about it although it is illegal in all of Australia. It was quite a unique place worth seeing on a day trip but not a place I would spend more time in.
It was finally time to do what I had been looking forward to the most on my Australia trip which was surfing. I had picked the Spot X surfcamp by Mojosurf as my base as they are one of the biggest surf camps in Australia with a capacity of around 350 surfers. I had heard only good things about it and it absolutely lived up to my expectations.
The accommodation is basic where you either sleep in big Indian style tipis, classic Australian swags or some nicely done container apartments, all right on the beach. There are daily activities going on for the guests like kangaroo golf, kayaking and ocean rafting and it was always a good atmosphere with tanning on the camp grounds, volleyball on the beach and food and drinks in the common areas.
Arriving there on a late Saturday afternoon there were already lots of people playing games with their “goon” in the camp “sweat box”, the camps noise isolating party room. It was a great way of getting to know the people at the camp, who woke us up for surfing at seven am for surfing the next morning.
The waves around the camp were not very big, but really clean and predictable, which was great for the learners and good for me to play a bit around in. Tomorrow I will be heading up to Byron Bay to try the waves up there as well.
Just a few kilometers away from the Spot X surf camp there was a town called Red Rock, which had a nice little river that we paddled down with kayaks. Along the way we paddled past some giant pelicans and some armies of soldier crabs.
Towards the end of the river we reached our camp for the night with a couple of tipis and a bonfire. With full moon in the skies and some fish and potatoes on the grill we had a good time. Having surfed and been kayaking that day we were all pretty worn out and ended up going to bed quite early to be fully rested for surfing the next day.
Driving from Sydney we got a chance to stop by Cessnock in the Hunter Valley to do some wine tasting. The McGuian winery pulled out around ten different wines for us to taste, which made the rest of the drive up to Barrington Tops more fun.
As soon as we arrived the Twistops Retreat in Barrington Top we were asked to put on wetsuits and get ready to go tubing in the river. There were some rapids that managed to tilt a couple of us, but most of it was just a chilled ride down the river in the sun.
When we got back the chef had prepared dinner for us right in time for sunset and a rugbymatch on TV. The rest of the evening was spent playing pool, dart and table tennis with a couple of beers.
The Twistops lodge was far off the beaten track, with absolutely no phobebseevice, and it was great to have an evening to just sit back and relax out in the nature where plenty of wild kangaroos were jumping around. Tomorrow we will be early up to do some surfing.