2. Exploring Australia's East Coast
Discovering the Natural Wonders
A Coach Ride Under the Stars
I bid farewell to Sydney and moved up the coast. Taking the Greyhound coaches is an affordable way of long-distance travel in Australia. Also, booking a room in advance, including a free taxi pickup service at Byron Bay Backpackers, proved wise.
The bus drove on along the endless highway. Although the sky looked like any other cloudy night sky, the bright stars and visibility of the Milky Way stunned me. It was an incredible sight, contrasting with the light pollution I was used to seeing back home in England.
The bus had scheduled stops through the night, which would boost the small towns' economy. I refrained from buying anything due to the higher prices. Fresh food was not allowed to cross state borders in Australia due to potential pest and disease transfer, so I held back until the main locations. As a bonus, I could then carry less baggage that way.
Traveling at night was an excellent tip because I could sleep on the bus seat and save money on a separate room. I watched poor-quality movies all night, ignoring my body's plea to sleep. Though traveling and sleeping are challenging, at least the starry sky kept me company.
Byron Bay Blues and Beach Life
I arrived in a small town early in the morning, and the buildings were plain and had wooden exteriors. Despite its old architecture, it was not shabby but charming, giving off a cozy vibe. As two Canadian backpackers left the hostel, I realized that the backpacking world was a constant flow of people coming and going. The enormous maple leaf on their backpacks showed their Canadian nationality. One expressed annoyance when people mistook him for an American. His flag now completed his work for him.
In reception, I searched for local information as well as maps to avoid getting lost in unfamiliar areas. After dropping off my belongings at the hostel, I went to the beach. I longed to visit the beach like a ravenous dog dreaming of a juicy steak. Despite being a popular surfing destination, the area has a cozy and familial feel. The nearby trees framed the bay, and the buildings allowed an unobstructed view. The tide was calm, and although there was little swell, a few committed surfers gave it a shot. The long curve of the beach made it a tranquil spot. I sat and watched the surfers catch waves, finding how they did it intriguing. However, my inability to swim would have been my downfall.
I let my mind drift away as I strolled along the beach, listening to the calming sound of the sea lapping against the fine sands. Walking toward a rocky outcrop on the far right of the bay, I noticed dolphins swimming close to the shore. After a long travel and climb, I reached the top and saw the breathtaking view of the bay, which was well worth it. I took several photos from here, my all-time favorite images from Australia.
I returned to the town and stumbled upon the Great Northern, a large pub allegedly owned by actor Paul Hogan. It was noticeable, being much larger than most other buildings.
The Great Northern had a warm and welcoming atmosphere with its vintage-style wooden paneling interior decor. I sat by the window, sipped my beer, and watched the games on TV. The friendly atmosphere and comfortable setting made it a place I recommend to anyone visiting Byron Bay.
It was time to eat lunch after a late start to the day. Bay Burgers had the aroma of authentic home cooking, setting it apart from the more well-known chains, so I knew I had found a delicious burger. I was shocked by the zing from the beetroot slice inside. After all, it was an 'Aussie Burger.'
That evening, I ventured to the Railway Bar in a different part of town to enjoy some live music. Although blues was not my cup of tea, the opportunity to hear it performed live in the charming atmosphere of Byron Bay was too tempting to pass up. Not long ago, this place was a functioning railway. So many iconic photos covered the walls.
Back at the hostel, I met James and Alex, two fellow visitors from the UK, and we spent the night enjoying drinks and playing cards until the wee hours of the morning. Even though I lacked experience in the game, I winged it and had a nice night.
The next day we started late again. We unwound on the beach, chatting about our future travels while killing time. As time passed, we watched the sunset, despite the mountains making it difficult to see. Later, we strolled to a beachfront restaurant and watched another live band. Byron Bay's laid-back pace sharply contrasted with bustling Sydney, making it feel like a different country.
The next day, we returned to the Great Northern Pub in the afternoon, where I dusted off my pool-playing skills from my wasted youth. As we played, we noticed a minor television star who had appeared on the show Heartbreak High. He was struggling with something related to his stardom. It was unfortunate that he failed to achieve the expected recognition.
Then, it was time to bid farewell to the wonderful people and lively entertainment of Byron Bay and make my way to my next destination, Brisbane.
Beach Bliss in Surfers Paradise
Before I headed to Brisbane, I stopped in Surfers Paradise to look at the beach, eat, and unwind. I noticed that the more north I went, the more the temperature increased.
Surfers Paradise was a perfect place to relax, and the atmosphere felt more upscale to me than Byron Bay. Unlike the larger buildings there, Surfers Paradise had towering skyscrapers.
The view was breathtaking, with the towering buildings appearing from the sand and the sound of waves breaking along the strait, creating a continuous roar that seemed last forever in both directions.
After relaxing for a few hours in Surfers Paradise, I continued to Brisbane for the next leg of my journey.
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