Byron Bay Day's: The Place That Backpacker's Never Leave
Byron Bay, a place we didn't have any expectations or knowledge of before arriving. We got there via a hitch-hike from Nimbin, from a french guy in a 4x4, who took us directly to our hostel, the infamous Arts Factory Lodge, which featured in British comedy film 'The Inbetweener's 2'. So we knew a little something about Byron, and had heard that it compared to Bondi in terms of the eclectic people and awesome surf.
Nimbin had been a super intense weekend in terms of camping discomfort; setting up our tent in the pouring rain, negotiating the most basic showers and toilets ever, and having two cold and painful sleepless nights. So I was a tad emotional that afternoon when we got to the hostel. It seemed hectic and bustling, with friendly staff, all good signs, but when we headed to the camp-ground, nicknamed 'Tent city' I had a mini break-down of sorts... There was just tents, tents everywhere! Many had clearly been there a long time. And we couldn't find a pitch for our small but perfectly formed 3-person palace.
Two people said 'Welcome to the Jungle', which felt like a grave prison greeting for me in that moment (dramatic I know). I put it down to the tiredness, because by the next day we had decided to stay in the camp-site and in Byron for the foreseeable future!
The hostel is home to water lizards, greedy birds, lots of pesky bush turkeys and many mosquito's! The guy who does the entertainment has a cockatoo who says "Let me out!" It's quite a cool setting, with a pond, lots of bush-land and some lazy hammocks to relax in.
We saw a sign for 'Work for Accommodation' and the next morning signed up to begin working to cover the cost of our tent pitch and use of all the hostel facilities, saving us each $120 a week! I was assigned to toilet cleaning and Taran to maintenance. On our first working day I spent 1 and half hours longer working than I was supposed to, cleaning 6 well-used bathrooms in such a busy hostel is no easy task! Taran had a slightly easier time, raking and sweeping around the site. But it felt good to be useful people once again, and made our relaxation time even more deserved!
Work for accommodation is kind of what you make of it, you either accept the challenge and try your best or you throw in the towel at the first sign of hard-work. By the next day I had got my work time down to the 3 hours, even if when I finished I was exhausted from the sheer pace and intensity of my efforts.
There were some blocked toilets to plunge, many a wad of wet hair to dispose of and many people treating the 'Closed for cleaning' sign as a hurdle, only to find sweaty and wild-haired me sending them on there way to another loo. I will be Scary Cleaner Lady within a week, I hope.
People got on my nerves to varying degrees over the next few days, due to large amount of guests at Arts Factory, I found it hard to find a peaceful space to just chill and not be bothered by the incessant noise of the place. And then there was a drunken incident involving a guy who decided to step onto the table I was working at, sending my mug flying and shattering, spilling drink over our laptop bag, also bashing the table into my knee. A pretty horrid experience followed by the guys friends laughing and me sat there, on the brink of tears.
Homesickness had set in that day... I wanted quiet, peace, my bed and my family, and then some idiot decides to get up in my grill and brake my precious stripey cup.
After that fun incident, I wanted to leave this place before the first week of work was even finished, but we had committed ourselves to it, and thankfully, the place started to feel more comfortable and actually quite nice in the coming days.
There's hammocks for lazing in the sun, some cool nights like Talent-Show Tuesday, and plenty of places to people-watch as you a sip a hot coco, plus its only a short walk from town and the best bit about Byron, it's coast-line.
This fortnight hasn't been the best we've had in Australia. Any week where you've had to plunge a toilet full to the brim with 'stuff' or dealt with insensitive travellers whilst feeling sad, is always going to take a bit of positivity to push through, to try and find some joy where possible.
I've found that instead of feeling insular and self-contained due to the amount of people, many whom I now hold a grudge against after they broke my mug and nearly my knee, I have actually felt a sense of affection for some other travellers.
Seeing people eating alone or recognizing that familiar look in the eyes of someone who's tired, a little bit lost and seeking something that all us travellers are (and not looking for it at the bottom of a bottle). We've made some good friends too, with really kind people, from all over the world.
And this week was also good because we caught a sighting of dolphins, bouncing among the waves, glinting in the sun, exuding pure happiness at being in the beautiful Aussie sea.
The Byron Bay to Lighthouse walk, whilst a tad tough in the heat, has to be done, if not for the Dolphins then for the potential Whale sightings, and the stunning panorama's across the bay.
Byron might be over-run with backpackers and thus bound to have a few idiots, but even in such a traveller mecca, you are bound to want to stick around and if you want to just pass through, there's always a beautiful beach and a really good shop in town selling yummy brownies for 5-bucks. Oh and an awesome Gelato shop selling the best 9-dollar Gourmet Milkshakes. So there's that.
Thanks for reading!
Hannah and Taran here. We hail from Southern England, where we met online and are now realizing our mutual passion for travel here at Nomad'erHowFar. We discuss Nomadic Living, Simplifying your Life and Long-term Travel, to empower, motivate and inspire our readers. Get to know us here!