Time for the tale of last weekend. Not sure if my two friends are happy to be named so for the sake of the story I’ll call them Hayley and Selena.
Hayley and I live together. Selena we met at campus last year. Selena has been living back home in the Blue Mountains for the summer and we planned a girls trip a few weeks back including two other friends. Sadly these two extras couldn’t make it so just three of us ended up going.
I picked them both up after I finished work around 5:30 in Sydney. Selena brought the tent, Hayley brought the snacks and I brought the car and my stunning personality. We were loosely planning to camp around Newcastle and then visit Hayley’s dad on the way home – about halfway between Newcastle and Sydney.
We got on the road, filled up petrol and off I drove. Pretty soon it started to get dark. We went on a mission to find alcohol – as usual 20 year olds do. Hayley was insistent so I found a place that was 40 minutes away; mind you it is 9:10pm by this time and the bottlo shuts at 10pm. We made it to the location 3 minutes faster then expected so we had a relaxing 13 minutes to chcoose our alcohol. But as we looked to the right where the shop was meant to be, all we saw was a residential street. We decided to turn around and head towards the village centre sign we saw. There were lights, bottlo lights!! We pulled around the back and watched the worker leave in his car. How deflating.
Hayley decided to relieve herself in a park because we couldn’t see any public toilets. I turned to Selena and suggested Byron Bay because otherwise it was going to be raining. She was unsure, realistic and yet not a ‘nay sayer’. Hayley got in the car and was apprehensive at first but I was happy to keep going until we got tired. I think she saw the determination in my eye and knew not to fight it.
We passed the next few hours with conversations about everything; death, best friends, dreams for the new year, events of the last year, philosophies, books, news. We actually barely listened to music – not even in the background.
As if suddenly, we started to see the sky become lighter and as we hit a plain and were out of the mountains, we realised we were half an hour from Byron Bay. By this point it’s about 5:30am and I have driven continuously since 6pm the night before. Now obviously we had toilet stops and what not. We actually met a lovely young German boy making his way to Port Macquarie.
Anyway, we pass the “Welcome to Byron Bay” sign at exactly 6:00am and soon after that we make our way up to the light house (essentially the Eastern most point of Australia). We walked up and Selena and Hayley walked way ahead – I had the camera out of course. It was beautiful. The sun was just breaking the horizon when we arrived. We watched the sky change from pinks and pale blues to bright yellow. Facing the other way there was the bay and mountains in the distance that were doing that faded thing that you usually only get at the beach or in polluted areas. The sky was perfectly clear and the moon was shining bright up there too. Photos will be coming up on my instagram @jayquelinetravels for those that are interested in the beauty that is Byron Bay.
Eventually we realise how tired and hungry we’re getting so we go down to the main beach and jump in the water. We also haven’t showered so we have a quick beach shower and wash the salt off. We find a beachfront cafe and all enjoy skme fresh Byron Breakfast. By this point we’ve woken up again and are waiting for everyone to text us asking why we’re in Byron – we then realise that it’s only 7:30am on a Saturday and that the only friends of ours that are up, are working.
After breakfast we start to get drowsy and Hayley finds a closed cove beach sort of thing for us to go to – but alas we can’t find and there are all these signs telling us it’s illegal and we will be persecuted so Selena, who’s relieved me from driving, turns us around and after quite a while we manage to find access to the more southern facing beach (the wind is much more manageable on this beach compared to main beach). By this point it’s roughly 10am and we are officially buggered. We head to the beach and realise it is extremely hot, sunny and we are very tired. We fall asleep under a palm tree side by side until about 1pm by which time the sun has moved around to the point where it is hitting us in the face. Selena and I get up and get in the water.
This was it. The moment. I’m standing there looking out to the ocean, looking at the open landscape on the long beach we’re on. Selena in front of me running towards the water. The blue skies are starting to become covered with those thin wispy white clouds. And the sun is beaming down with a light breeze to keep it bearable. I touch the water and instantly feel goosebumps. Not because it’s cold but because it hits me. It’s a surreal moment when you were sitting at work in Sydney less than 24 hours ago and now you’re standing in the blistering heat with two of your best friends in Byron Bay – a place you’ve always wanted to visit but never thought you could without making some big elaborate plan. Having a car and enough money to fill a tank can create amazing moments, memories and bonds with the right people.
Eventually Hayley woke up – came and joined us. I did the instagram photo shoot for the girls to make sure they got the perfect photo and together we lay in the sun, went in the water, lay in the sun, went in the water a few times until our hunger got the better of us.
Side note: keep in mind that we have only been in Byron Bay for less than 8 hours at this point.
We head into the centre of town – grab some subway and head for main beach. There’s over a hundred people with the same idea as us. Live music, people in the water, people tanning, people eating, laughing, sleeping, reading. Everyone was a collective but at the same time individual too. The live music started and we sat there and soaked up this atmosphere that our wanderlust had been craving for so long.
Selena had a family friend who lived in town so we walked over and sat in the shade for a bit – resting our bodies from the heat. We talked through what we’d done and what he was doing. Managed to charge all our phones at once. A luxury we had since given up. Having one charger and 3 iPhones was a tough gig. One phone charging providing maps, one doing music and one doing snapchat. It was a tough life for us first world white girls. So back on track, we were talking to the old timer about life up north. Unrealistically toying with the idea of dropping everything and picking up life there. We heard about how everyone commutes to the Gold Coast so naturally I ask “How long does that take?”. Selena is oblivious but Hayley glances at me sideways. “Well now that they’ve built the freeway, only about an hour”. I look at the girls with my eyebrows raised. Hayley drops her hands in her head. She knows what I’m thinking and she knows I’m already decided.
We leave old mates and head back to the car – back on the road we go, this time heading for a seemingly ‘short’ drive to Broad Beach; the centre of the Gold Coast. We arrive at just short of 6pm and in time to get a bit more sun on the beach. Hayley grabs her doona from the boot and heads straight for the sun – reasonably so. We are all pretty exhausted by this point. Lucky me gets put on the side where the wind is coming from so as we, for lack of a better word, fuck around for a bit, I am constantly getting exfoliated by the generous wind whipping the sand onto my legs and all through my hair. Eventually we settle down and try to nap. Mind you that only lasts about 10 minutes before it gets too uncomfortable to stay and we decide we want dinner.
Dinner proved to be a good halfa out of our way for the plans we had next, but alas, Grill’d was absolutely necessary at this point. We ate the most delicious burgers and then went snack searching because let’s face it, Moaom’s and corn chips were getting old. Eventually we started heading back to the car, we drove 40 minutes north to Yatala. Why Yatala? For the drive in cinema of course. Selena and I had never been so it was a very novel experience for us. We parked the car and got set up for one of the worst romantic comedies I’ve ever seen. Hayley was sprawled across the roof wrapped in her sand covered doona while Selena and I shared the bonnet. We used my blanket as protection from the roasting engine and used Selena’s sleeping bag as cover from all the mozzies.
By the time the movie was over Selena and I had escaped to the front seats of the car to avoid second degree burns on our butts. Hayley fell asleep and then realised where we were so started throwing food through the windows at us. We decided it would be best for us to sleep in Byron that night to make the most of the day ahead.
We left Queensland around 12:30am Sunday morning – just over 30 hours after we left Sydney. I drive us the hour south, the tiredness starting to settle in obviously. We also lose an hour going back over the border so we arrive at the ripe time of 2:13am. I park us up a the lighthouse, as close to the gates as we can get so that at first light we can head out and really get the whole Byron Bay sunrise experience. Selena and I (in the front) recline our chairs and Hayley manages to squeeze her small body underneath our chairs in the back seat. I put everyone’s windows slightly down and we rest to try and prepare ourselves for the next 24 hours ahead of travel.
Suddenly at 3:46am I’m (rudely) awoken by a smack on the face. Selena hits me and as I open my eyes, I can see why. There’s a massive thunderstorm practically on top of us and we are up this hill in a car right next to this lighthouse. The lightning was closer than I’ve ever seen in my life. So groggily I drive us down the hill to a place we can park without getting a fine. Once we’re down the hill the torrential rain hits so I wind the windows up (conveniently forgetting about the backseat). Due to the extremely humid and warm weather up north, the car continuously fogged up for the rest of the night so I would wake up in 20 minute intervals and turn the car on for 5 minutes to cool us down. Around 6:30am I get hit again. This time it’s Hayley – I’ve left her windows down and both her face and her feet are drenched. She mumble-yells some abuse at me and I wind her windows up. We go back to sleep. For 20 minutes only of course. Eventually we all start moving about, and slowly wake up. We look outside and see the clouds covering the sky. Despite our best intentions we had indeed not out driven the rain.
Hayley gets in the front and we begin the drive home. Whilst good conversations proceeded, there wasn’t the same hype, excitement and energy in the car. It was disappointing and we were still in disbelief that we had been in the Gold Coast just 8 hours earlier. In an effort to bring us back to excitement and that desire to travel and explore – Hayley pulls into one of Australia’s iconic landmarks… The Big Banana. Yes we made it to Coffs Harbour. Hayley fulfills her childhood memories of chocolate coated bananas and a necessary photo with the monkey and I jump in for my leg of the drive.
During my drive we do a few toilet stops and what not. It’s very much the road trip montage you get in movies; people sleeping, moving seats, singing loudly, debating important topics, gossiping (not that we would ever do that) and all that stuff. Eventually we make it to Hayley’s fathers place in Gosford. Neither Selena nor I have ever been here but my God it is beautiful. Looking over a lake with this very nice house and garden. We are famished and they give us a bit of sustenance to get us by for the afternoon. We only stay about an hour – so we’re back on the road from 5pm. This time subjected to Selena’s more than questionable driving. I made a joke about us having three near death experiences before she was back into it (Selena doesn’t get the opportunity to drive very often) and I was not wrong. But then two and a half hours later we were there. I would say driving up the driveway but Selena had to jump out so I could get in and do it – that’s not Selena’s driving, the driveway is kind of ridiculous.
So at 7:42pm we roll up the driveway – walk up all the stairs that eventually bless us with that amazing view our house has and we see everyone back at home. We make some form of dinner – grab the rest of our shit out of the car and put on a movie. And just like that our weekend was over. We’ve come back to a house with all our friends and we feel so different yet everything is exactly the same. It’s been 50 hours and we’ve learnt so much and seen so much and experienced so much. And what do we have to show for it? A whole lot of sunburn, a bit less in our bank accounts and a few sunrise photos. But in the end – travel is for you anyway so what does it matter if my whole life doesn’t change.