Land Down Under Pt. 2 (Exploring the East Coast, Byron, Nimbin, Gold Coast, Noosa)

After 5 days chilling in Sydney I began to move up the east coast.  My fellow mate and another American decided to cruise up in a four-wheel drive, for it would be the cheapest method of travel. Our first stop was Port Stephens.  We took a dip, ate lunch and continued to drive North.  I was excited for this portion of the trip because it was my turn to drive.  Driving on the left side of the road is a mind fuck, but after an hour I was comfortable.  My copilot did have to remind me to go left around the roundabout.  I probably would have crashed if it wasn’t for him, for my mind constantly drifts when I drive and I get lost in the music.  Most times I don’t even remember getting home.

Port Stephens
Two Americans and an Australian at Port Stephens

Our next stop was Port Macquarie, or McFlurry, as we pronounced it.  This small town is located at the mouth of the Hastings River in New South Wales.  The views from lighthouse were amazing.  One can easily get lost in thought staring at the view.

Port Macquarie
View from the light house

We continued to move north to the tunes of Johnny Cash and CCR.  Daylight was evading us so it was time to find a camp ground and rest for the night.  I can’t remember the name of the campground we stayed on, but there was a beach nearby.  Prior to bed we took a dip and enjoyed the sight of an overcast sunset.  The mixture of colors in the sky encouraged reflection ones more.  Standing in the ocean at sunset looking at a storm in the horizon approach us is like something out of a movie where the protagonist awaits valiantly for the troubles ahead.  Unlike the movies this protagonist had no troubles awaiting him, instead he stared into a storm of the past and all he could do was smile.

Our next stop was Coff Harbour home of the Big Banana.  Pretty cool spot to check out, it’s a tiny little attraction perfect for kids.  Our time was limited so we race on to Byron Bay.

Byron is an absolute fucking dream.  Not only is the beach fucking awesome, but its hippie vibe is very welcoming.  Yes, it is a huge tourist attraction but this place is still great.  This is my favorite place in Oz, I could live here for a couple of months.  Memorable moment of Byron was swimming in the ocean while it rained.  Water coming from below and above reminded me of Forrest Gump, “it even came up from under you”.  About an hour away is the small town of Nimbin, a hippie haven where we saw Tijuana Cartel take the stage.  If you are looking to partake in smoking the peace pipe, this is the perfect place to do it.  Unfortunately, my photos of Byron our stuck in my not-charging GoPro but he’s a picture of Ben approving the message.

Ben-Taco Message

Byron Bay was the last stop for me and my companions.  I would continue the rest of my trip solo.  My next stop was the Gold Coast.  I was not impressed by the Gold Coast.  The beach was long and endless, but it lacked the aesthetics of Byron.  For a place deemed surfer’s paradise, I did not see anyone surfing, although there were plenty of waves.  Its downtown area is geared for drinking so the night life is pretty good.  The beauty about backpacking is that every day is the weekend.  A good time can be found any day of the week. I stayed at Surfer’s Paradise hostel which is good, but nothing to brag about.  I did meet a cool couple here whom I ended up drinking with.  Just another cool story of two travelers who met and vibe very well with each other so they decided to travel together.

I decided to follow the advice of my mates and skip Brisbane, and head to Noosa.  Noosa is gorgeous. The main beach is crowded, but if you take a short coastal walk not only will you enjoy beautiful scenery, but you will end up on an empty beach.  I was pouring sweat from my run, so I jumped right into the ocean to cool off.  Another place I could definitely live, but more of a summer getaway.  Unlike Byron, Noosa contains a yuppie atmosphere with homes ranging in the multi millions.

Noosa-Private Beach
My private beach in Noosa

I stayed in Nomads, which is a party hostel.  Living conditions were good and pretty standard for a party hostel.  I was bunked with a group of Irish folks who were way older than me.   I could understand the ones who were living in Australia but the one that was visiting was a different story.  I forget how strong the Irish accent can be, holy shit I could not understand this cat.  I like this group of people, they were very welcoming and told me stories of when they were young backpackers.  They admired what I was doing and encouraged me to keep going.  I left the next day with a neck pillow as a gift, and words of wisdom, “May the road rise to meet you and may the wind be always at your back”.

The Land Down Under – Sydney

Sydney is a great and beautiful city with lots to see.  I tend to compare every city I visit to San Francisco.  To me San Francisco ranks number one, but of course this is a bias opinion since I grew up in the bay.  However, every traveler that I’ve met who has visited the states ranks San Francisco as their favorite American city.  Like any city SF has its flaws, but it is the cultivating cities that make up the bay area that make it a great place to live.  Similar to home, one can escape Sydney and head over to Manly for a more relaxed vibe.

Walking through Sydney it’s tall buildings resembled those of the skyscrapers from back home.  As I walked from the ferry station to Bondi beach I stumbled upon many different districts such as the gay district on Oxford street.  I could have easily mistaken this area of the city with that of Castro in SF.  As I escaped the financial district of the city I entered a posh district, once again on Oxford street.  A series of suburban homes followed before I hit the infamous Bondi Beach.  Bondi did not strike me as an impressive beach and had more of an industrial feel causing it to lose its charm.  I suppose the hype over the beach also did not help, still this beach is better than anyone we have back home simply because you can enter the water without risking hyperthermia.

bondi-artwork
I did however find this remarkable (Bondi Beach artwork).

What I was looking for in Bondi I found in Manly.  Manly beach in my opinion is greater than Bondi and delivered the beach town vibe that I was looking for.  Regardless of what I say you should still visit both beaches and form your own opinion for I have encountered mixed reviews amongst fellow travelers.  I visited Bondi against the advice given to me by my fellow mates who said the beach was filled with tourist and not worth my time.  They forgot I was a tourist and wanted to do touristy things.  My advice to you is to always visit the major touristy landmarks of any new city you are in.  Don’t be that retard know it all hippy traveler that is to cool for that.  In my previous travels I was advised against Oktoberfest in Munich by fellow travelers (the retard hippy) and locals because of the same reason, “it’s too touristy and crowded”, my response, “ummm, I’m a tourist and I fucking love crowds”.  I had a great a time at Oktoberfest by the way.

In both places you’ll find several shops, eateries, and watering holes, but be warned Australia is not a cheap place to visit.  Unlike my Europe excursion, I actually find myself in the kitchen prepping meals.  I can definitely afford to eat out in Oz, but not if I want to make a year of traveling a reality.  I do enjoy the curious eyes of my fellow backpackers as they assume I am cooking for two and are left surprised when I consume the entire meal.  Typical American and his large servings.  Actually it’s just me, I’m a fat ass.

There were many highlights to my Sydney trip such as attending Field day and watching Chance The Rapper and Childish Gambino perform sick sets, two artist who have rekindled my love affair with Hip Hop.  I’m going to tell you about a personal highlight that might not be significant to you.  As I walked through Sydney, carefully choosing busy streets for the sole purpose to stumble upon city landmarks, I stumbled upon one rarely visited by tourist and locals.

ww1-memorial-sydney

From the moment I saw it I knew this building was special but I had no clue what it was till I walked up the steps and asked the guard many his post.  “It’s a memorial to the Australian soldiers who fought and died in World War 1”.  The inside was small and circular with a statue of a fallen figure drenched over a sword.  On the hollowed parts of the wall, battles the Australians were involved in were carved into the wall, with Gallipoli being one of the most famous.  It’s easy to forget that such a small nation who was just formed in 1901 was involved in such a large war.  Since then our Aussie mates have fought alongside us in every major conflict.  Let us not forget these top blokes.  Till Valhalla mates.

fallen-on-sword

I was fortunate enough to be in Sydney for NYE.  Entering the new year in a foreign city watching the fireworks from underneath the Harbour Bridge I stared at the Opera house with a smile on face knowing it was one of many to come.

Cheers! And safe travels friends.