Got up early, packed the rucksack, and was on a Greyhound to Byron bay (via Brisbane). Again, it was relatively empty and was an easy journey. Stopped in Brisbane for a two hour stop over (after a 4 hour drive), so popped into the nearest pub for lunch, had a couple of beers and a wicked steak, and stole some wi-fi from somewhere. Then it was back on the bus for the 5 hour trip to Byron. By the time I got there, it was dark and in the middle of a torrential downpour. Realising there was not much I could do, I quickly grabbed a cab to the B&B - the Byron Springs Guest House - I was staying at.
The place was really nice – I had a huge bedroom, and access to a couple of really nice clean and modern shared bathrooms. But as it was raining heavily and I had no idea where I was, all I could do was watch a film on the laptop then go to bed – and hope it stopped raining tomorrow.
Luckily it had stopped raining! Got up early, had breakfast, met the B&B owner (who was really helpful and friendly), then wandered into Byron Bay town. Had a mooch round the shops and kinda noticed there was lots of hippy types and tattooed people here. Walked past a barbers shop and ran in for a well needed head shave. I didn’t bother trying to attempt it myself this time. After that, I had a massive walk along the beach and up to the lighthouse. The beach, was incredible, massive and sparsely populated as usual, apart from a few surfers. Wandered through a bush/rainforest walk up to the lighthouse, which was thoroughly knackering, especially as it was an incredibly hot day. The walk to the lighthouse took me past some amazing cliff views, looking out at more surfers and empty beaches. Got to the lighthouse, took some photos, found out I was covered in bites (and hadn’t realised earlier), then took the long walk back to town.
Popped into the main pub in Byron, the Great Northern Hotel. Part of the pub is used as a venue, and looking at the list of bands that have played and are due to play there, it seems it’s a major place. Had a massive fish’n’chips, and a few Coopers Pale Ales, served by a thoroughly miserable barmaid! The Coopers was awesome though – the best beer I’d had since arriving in Aus.
Feeling sweaty from the walk, and dirty from all the bites, I decided to head back to the B&B and have a well needed shower. Grabbed some food and beers on the way and spent the evening chilling at the B&B, drinking Coopers and updating the blog. I thought I’d meet some other people that were staying at the place, but it was pretty quiet. Everyone that appeared seemed put off by my music and ran away pretty quickly. Although I was playing it quietly, obviously there aren’t many Refused fans in Aus. Later in the eve, one of the other residents joined me for a beer and a chat. She was an underwater photographer and was pretty interesting – but after an hour or so, I started feeling a bit tiddly, tired and unsociable. So I excused myself and went to bed (after covering myself in insect repellent)!
Aaaaaaaand – it pissed down again with rain the previous night and morning! Luckily it cleared up by mid morning so popped out to the Arakwal National Park, which was behind the B&B. Walked though another bush/rainforest trail out to a huge deserted beach and took some photos of the Tern that were hanging around there. Then watched a Sea-Eagle circle round the beach for 20 minutes – these things are MASSIVE, and its an awesome sight just watching him swooping around. Unfotunately he was too quick to take any pictures of! On the way back to the B&B, I got harassed by a couple of Masked Lapwings who had a couple of babies with them. The closer I got, the more these things squawked at me, but they eventually backed away and let me past. Mental.
In the afternoon, I popped to the cinema to watch the new Kevin Smith film “Red State”. I quite enjoyed it, but definitely think Kev isn’t cut out for horror films. I stopped to watch a bunch of hippies in the park shouting about stuff, who then gave way to a dreadlocked girl singer with an acoustic guitar. Watched her for a few songs, then headed to the Great Northern for a couple more Coopers and a rather wicked pizza, when it started to piss down with rain again. Great. I still had to go back to the B&B to get my rucksack and get back to town to catch the Greyhound. Eventually it calmed down enough for me to catch a cab and get my bag. By the time I got back to the Bus Pickup, it was obviously nearing crazy time for all the local drunks, as the area was flooded with the biggest bunch of drunk wankers ever. One guy chased his mate around everyones backpacks, while he had his willy out, ready to pee over his mate (and everyone else). Luckily the Greyhound turned up in good time, and they all buggered off. Said hello to the Greyhound man (who was the same guy that had dropped me at Hervey Bay), and settled down at the front of the bus for my 13 hour night trip to Sydney!
I quite liked Byron Bay, but the insect bites and town drunks had reduced my appreciation of this little hippy town. I’m glad I stopped here a couple of days and briefly saw the place. But I was glad to be on my way to Sydney and my final stop before Perth.
The thirteen hour drive was pretty uneventful, and luckily found I slept for most of the journey. And apart from a grumpy bus driver that took over halfway through, it was a relatively straight forward experience. Woke up as we passed Port MacQuarie and stayed awake to witness our arrival in Sydney. Was pretty cool realising we were driving over the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and seeing the Opera House come into view. Arrived at the main station at 9.30am, said goodbye to Grumpy Bus Man, and jumped in a cab to my hotel (The Pensione) – which was in bloody Chinatown AGAIN!
Couldn’t check in so early, so left my gear and was directed up George Street towards Circular Quay and Darling Harbour. Realised once again that I was in an area surrounded by Chinese restaurants and supermarkets (and weirdly enough, sex shops), but I eventually found a bar that was open and that was doing breakfast, so stopped for some food and a tomato juice.
Got back on my walk and 20 mins later reached Circular Quay. Saw the bridge, the opera house and took loads of photos. It was cool seeing such well known places in real life, and although I was pleased to be back in a bustling big city again, I kinda had a big sense of déjà vu. City with a harbour/bay/waterfront – check (see NY and San Francisco), city with an iconic bridge – check, again NY and SF, and finally, city with something iconic in the harbour – see Alcatraz and the Statue Of Liberty! I figured I’d need to see much more of Sydney to get a better feel of the place, so headed back to the hotel to see if I could check in, via a couple of pubs (and some Coopers) on the way.
Checked into my room and was delighted to find it was almost as small as my Brisbane cell, except with a bathroom. The hotel itself was ace – modern, clean, all mod cons etc. However, my room was small and coffin-like. And I’m not exaggerating. I couldn’t spin round in the room with my backpack on, and the main room was literally the width of the bed. When I was lying on the bed, it was like sleeping in a grave! The joke was, the bathroom was very spacious – couldn’t work out why the room wwasn’t reversed. Anyway, it was clean and groovy, and I was relatively happy (apart from the fact I had nowhere to put my gear).
Head out later afternoon/early eve and try and find somewhere to eat – which was pretty difficult considering A) I had done no research at all on Sydney and had no idea where I was and B) was in an area of town populated by Chinese restaurants and/or massive hostels! Eventually I stumped for an evening meal at the local food hall – a thoroughly enjoyable chicken curry and a VB. After that, I popped into the nearest pub, The Yardhouse, discovered an awesome new beer (James Squires One Fifty Lashes PA) and watched the rugby (Australia Vs NZ I think). The James Squire beer was incredible, and spent the rest of three days in Sydney drinking it wherever i could find it! Pub was empty apart from a drunk dude that attached himself to my table later on in the evening. Once I finished my third beer (and watched Australia lose), I managed to escape the drunk guy to a Karaoke bar across the road. Had another One Fifty and watched drunk people sing very badly. Then gave in and went back to the hotel.
I needed some help. I’d gone through my guide book and a local guide I’d picked up but not really come up with anything, and I still wasn’t really sure where I was in the city and what was local to my location. I certainly didn’t fancy heading to Kings Cross to hang out with drunk backpackers. So I figured I’d post a “So I think Sydney is overrated – what am I missing, people?” status on Facebook, hoping people could send me some ideas. Thanks to the people that gave me great ideas for the following two days. No thanks to the people that just left (continued) sarcastic snotty comments about how great Sydney was, but offered no ideas whatsoever – cheers!
As it happens – things got better and I was a bit gutted I’d only booked three days here. But more of that later!