Welcome to Hippieville a.k.a. Byron Bay

Welcome back, friends.  I would like to first openly state that my last travel blog was written in a hurry since I was going out camping for a few days and it was insisted upon that it was finished before I left-which made it the not so much best work I ever did.  Now, where was I…?

We arrived in Byron Bay, NSW Australia on Saturday July 15th at around 10am.  The shuttle bus from The Arts Factory Hostel (the link is worth clicking-this place is rad) was there waiting to pick Us up and We were whisked away to Our new home for the next 6 days.

The welcoming party
One of the walls outside the Arts
Another wall outside

It was quite busy in the receiving area that morning so We put down Our packs, left a passport for collateral and took a self guided tour around “The Arts”.  We had a $4 breakfast of eggs and turkish toast (I only mention the price because in Australia, that’s cheap) and then explored the grounds including the campsite where We intended to stay.  Checkout wasnt until after noon so We had time to look around and decide which accommodations We would prefer.  There really was no question about it-the campground, a.k.a. tent city, was the only option We would be considering.  As We walked the path out to the campground and away from the bustle of the main area, the vibe changed and it felt like We were in a different place than We had been in only a few paces back.  It had its own outdoor kitchen and food storage, its own bathroom and showers, a covered pavilion with several tables to hang out at communally, a no campers under 18 rule and the generally respected rule of keeping the noise to a minimum.  There were tents everywhere.  Not in designated numbered campsites, but on whatever patch of sandy dirt their tent would fit, possibly next to someone they knew and arranged to provide the best interaction (or lack of) with their neighbor.

Neighborhood 🙂
Organized chaos.
A resident of the Arts

The laid back attitude of every single camper made Us feel at home in about 45 seconds.  We chose a spot to build Our house, and it turned out that We had chosen Our neighbor to be the same guy who picked Us up from the bus-Sam.  Our first impression of Sam had been nothing short of great (“and here we are at the arts factory, this is the bar that has happy hour nightly and live music, and here is the cafe.” he had priorities 🙂 ) so from the beginning this little hippie commune of sorts looked to have promise.  We had looked at the weather for days before We got to Byron and knew it was intended to rain for the first 3 days, which was how We ended up choosing to visit Byron in the first place.  It was going to be raining at every Greyhound stop up the coast and the decision had to be made of where to get off and spend time camping in the rain.  We investigated the hostel/campsite options in those areas and came across The Arts Factory.  Sleeping in a teepee sounded fun and the beach was a ten minute walk so when it stopped raining, We would be able to spend time by the ocean in the sun ❤ WIN.  After setting up Our house, We hung out in the common area on the wi-fi (oh yeah, and there is wi-fi) until happy hour at the bar next door, which also happens to be the Byron Bay brewery.  Already We could tell that it was freaking genius to have all these things (including the spa and cinema I havent mentioned yet) all sort of connected by the walking path in front.  And still, the campsite community felt like it was a whole different place!  People stay in the dorm and teepee and cabin parts of the hostel for a short time and they go on, people stay in the campsite, meet other people, enjoy feeling like a family and sometimes don’t leave.  We learned early on that the most common story in Byron Bay, especially from campers and employees, started with the words, “Well, I was only going to stay a week or so, and then…” and end with “so, now I’ve been here for _____ (insert a time period from 3 months to a few years)”.  Wow.

We had seen a few flyers posted that said The Arts was accepting work for accommodation volunteers so, I asked if there was anything I could do.  Around 8pm I was informed I could drive the shuttle bus from the hostel to the greyhound stop from 7am-1pm for the following day and the day after.  For driving the shuttle 16 times total, I would receive 4 free nights of accommodation in the campsite.  Sounds great, there is just one problem- I’ve never driven on the left hand side of the road, from the right hand side of the vehicle.  Actually, I felt weird just being in the vehicles here when other people are driving who do it all the time.  I expressed this to the lady, and I was told I would be fine.

“Ok, then, I’ll do it.” 🙂

The next morning I got up early and went to work.  Weird.  I was given the keys and directions to the pickup/drop off point, and shown the schedule of when I should make my trips.  The first time I got in the driver seat that morning, it was disconcerting to say the least, and by the time I pulled out of the lot I was feeling kinda freaked out.  It didn’t seem natural to be intentionally driving on the wrong side of the road!  I’ve been driving more than 10 years now and driving on the left side of the road only happened on one way streets or on accident.  It only took 2 trips there and  back before my anxiety turned to confidence and since there was only about 1 trip an hour I could read or check Facebook in between and drink coffee.  Plus, that meant I was the first impression for all travelers arriving during my shift.  😀 Pretty sweet deal if you ask me.  I drove the shuttle for those 2 days and following the last trip, We finally headed to the beach for some sunshine.

The beach was popular when you first step on it, but it is called Main Beach so We weren’t surprised.  Since it gets substantially colder as it gets later, and it was only an hour or so before sunset, I hadn’t worn my swimsuit and We didn’t stay long.

I so love the ocean.

I love the sun too

We saw some surfers (I love watching surfers), and took a couple of photos before leaving with the promise of returning the next morning.  Return We did…for 3 days in a row 🙂  The beaches in Byron are simply beautiful.  We didn’t venture much further than the beaches walking left from main beach, but We didn’t need to.  Once We got to the next beach, there were hardly any people so We plunked down in the sand for a while to watch surfers, sunbathe, listen to music and read.  Cali took His camera along and got some more amazing shots-here are some and in His blog www.calidbs2011.wordpress.com are many more.  He is quite the photographer 🙂 Some of my pictures, however, were taken with my phone camera 🙂

Finally sunbathing! The way July is supposed to be for this TX girl.

Did I mention it is winter here in Australia?

Those few days We spent hanging out around the Arts and going to the beach, We met a few people who lived at/near the Arts and We could be found hanging out with the “local wanderers” when We weren’t off being alone together.  There were people from many different places around the world that had all found themselves in Byron, usually quite by accident, and hadn’t managed to leave again.  It made for a wonderful experience walking around and hearing all the different languages being spoken and then english being spoken in the many different accents.  There were a few nights We stayed up with the others and had some “goon” (wine from a box that has the box removed and is then just a bag), and passed a few around, and enjoyed Ourselves.  At any given time there was fire spinning, hula-hooping, guitar playing, singing, strap-walking, story telling and random dance breaks.  It was a group with an aspect of “realness” to them that was quite alluring.  Almost hypnotizing.

We met one girl in particular that We even became friends with.  I mean, We had several friendlies and enjoyed the company of the people We hung out with, but this girl We became like Facebook friends and exchanged phone numbers and stuff.  She is a musician and a fantastic singer and she’s pretty, but best of all-she introduced me to a loose leaf chai that she was pretty damn good at making.  There is a shop not far from the Arts that sold “Byron Loose Leaf Chai” and I have to admit…Byron produces awesome shit.  Miss you Jess!!

On Wed the 20th, after Our daily trip to the beach, I went on an informative bush walk at the Arts and learned some pretty useful things-some of which I hope I never need to remember, most of which could save my life.  That same night was “Trivia  Night” which was pretty entertaining to watch.  It was a $2 buy in, 5 people teams, the winning team got to divvy up the entry fees for themselves.  Also, everyone who bought in wrote their name and what they would name the book of their life story on a slip of paper that went into a large pot.  Throughout the competition, names were drawn from that pot and awesome prizes were given away.  Prizes like cruises, pub crawls, day trips, surf lessons, trapeze lessons and skydiving.  We did not buy in, but it was fun to watch.

The next day would be Our last day at the Arts.  We had made a friend who had a tent with an actual bed in it (I told you, most of the campers LIVE there) and said We could pack Our house and use his tent so when We woke in the morning We wouldn’t have to tear down before leaving.  Super cool.  We packed all of Our stuff and at that point realized that sometime during Our stay We had unwillingly picked up a roomie.  A mouse had chewed a hidden hole in Our tent wall to get to the oats in my pack.  Oats and mouse poop galore in my bag and under it.  I didn’t so much mind that there had been a mouse, but I didn’t particularly care for the idea that I was sharing my home with snake food :/  Never did see the rascal, and obviously didn’t die from a snakebite, but learned the “keep all of your food out of your tent if you can help it”  lesson.

We spent Our last evening in Byron hanging out with Jessie-Rose, the girl I told you about a minute ago.  She invited Us to visit her at her house-she used to live at the Arts, but now lives not far from it-and We all hung out talking until it was time for bed.  We were able to have a nice fire in the pit in her yard, which was fun watching her try to start and in the end Cali getting to play with it.  She had asked 2 friends if they wouldn’t mind coming over and spinning fire for Us privately and they agreed!  It was really cool to watch and the sound fire makes when it is spinning is almost as soothing as the ocean.  We enjoyed a few hours of mostly philosophical conversations before saying Our goodbyes and going to sleep.  A wonderful night indeed.

Where would the bus take Us the next day?  Somewhere awesome to see someone awesomer.

Stay tuned…

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