Saturday, August 13, 2016

Byron Bay Shire, Australia: I'm in Australia!

I'm in Australia, I'm in Australia!  I never thought this moment would come.  Well anytime in the near future, anyhow.  To clarify, Australia is definitely on my "to-see" list, but I had always thought I'd hit up all the grittier countries first in my life before making it out here.

I was in China messaging Jesse, deciding where to fill up my last month (PANIC MODE, so much still to seeee) - he has returned home to Australia, and he mentioned he'd be here and able to show me around and do all that good stuff if I came to visit, especially since he's searching for a job and has time free now.  The icing on the cake was when we found a very cheap one-way flight from Hong Kong.  When else would I get to go to Australia and have Aussie's best one-man personal tour guide??  And here I am!

What It's All About:
Jesse spent two weeks showing me all around his hometown of Goonengerry (that is a real place. really), Brisbane, and up the Sunshine Coast.  I'm theming these next few posts, "A Day In the Aussie Life."  It was really nice because it was a more local feel of Australia, and it was awesome getting to meet Jesse's fam and experience life on a daily basis here.

Our trip started off in Jess' hometown of Goonengerry - about an hour away from Byron Bay (and in the shire of Byron Bay. What is a shire? Nobody knows.), the most easterly point in Australia and kind of right smack dab in the middle of the Eastern Coast of Australia.  He basically grew up in the sticks. I am basically now an Australian farmer.

I am carrying a chicken. Jess' mom has two chickens she keeps, and we ate fresh eggs every morning. You can call me Farmer Connie.

Cliffnotes of the Day:
  • Jess picked me up from the airport early morning, then we made the hour-long drive to his mom's house in Goonengerry.

On the way, we stopped for a quick coffee in the tiny town of Mullumbimby. Seriously, you couldn't make these names up.

This is Jesse's old high school. They knew I was coming!!

The drive to his mom's house involved a very winding, very narrow country road

And here we are! Jesse's childhood home

View from the veranda (this is what they call porches), where we often had our morning cup of tea

I fell in love with his mom's dog Ava

I like this photo because apparently Jesse made this concrete ditch himself after their driveway kept flooding. Like, he literally poured the cement and fit the grates to drain the water. Mind. blown.

  • We spent four days at his mom's house - which was hilarious for everyone. For them, because I was that weird city girl that knows absolutely nothing about country life and I got the biggest kick out of very everyday things to them - fetching eggs from the henhouse, mowing the lawn, holding the chickens, feeding the neighbor's horses, lighting bonfires for legit purposes other than s'mores-making, hanging the washing from the clothesline, etc.  I'm sure my ineptitude at country life was just as alien to them as actually living a country life is to me.

"Mowing the lawn" on a tractor with a beer. Fun fact, the chickens loooove the tractor because it kicks up a whole lot of dirt and unearths all the bugs they like to eat. So they come running when they hear the tractor - but they're not exactly smart enough to understand that the tractor is dangerous and will run them down. So riding the tractor is more of an exercise in dodging the chickens than anything else.

Fetching an egg from the henhouse. I had delicious fresh scrambled eggs every morning.

Hanging out the washing to dry with my little apron of clothespins. Jesse got a big kick out of seeing the "city girl" do all the normal, everyday country things.  Him and his mom were flabbergasted when they learned I'd never hung out washing to dry on the line before (or before this trip, anyway).

Picking a mandarin from the mandarin tree: anytime I wanted.

There was no cellphone reception at the house - so I had to hike up to the top of the driveway to get any kind of signal to do the blog.

  • We did spend a lot of the days sightseeing in nearby towns - but we also spent a lot of time on the property (Jesse's mom has 23 acres!), doing things that were probably very ordinary, but that I thought were amazing.

Taking a walk through the rest of the property. Jesse's parents built that structure to house energy or something back in their hippie days.

Most of the walking we did was more like "fighting our way through huge weeds and bushes"

Ava the intrepid dog followed us everywhere - this foray resulted in Jesse finding ticks on her later and having to pick them off.  Maybe I am a city girl, but TICKS?! DON'T THOSE CAUSE LYME DISEASE

In awe of all their property's giant trees

A rousing game of croquet. My first ever. I felt like I was in Alice in Wonderland

Jesse barbecuing on the outdoor grill

Home-cooked meals, I have missed you!

And we had a giant bonfire to burn a bunch of the dead branches and grass that had accumulated over time!  I mentioned we should do s'mores, which was apparently an idiotic suggestion because this fire was so huge, you couldn't get within 50 feet of it without having your face burned off.

Jesse and the giant bonfire. Yes, he is wearing a bright orange safety suit.

I even had to wear my own safety suit so that the branches and stuff didn't tear my clothing.

Another thing about country life? Beautiful sunsets.  And not just sunsets, but at night, there were millions of stars. And the sky was so clear you could see the Milky Way. I will never get sick of either of these things.

  • As mentioned, we took a bunch of day trips to nearby areas. First up was Byron Bay, which is a well-known surfer's spot - a lot of backpackers come here to chill for awhile.

An overlook on the way to Byron Bay. In the upper right corner, you can see the peninsula that is Byron Bay jutting out into the water.

Byron Bay! Which is apparently a hippie surfer's paradise.

There it is! The most easterly point of the Australian mainland

See? The sign says so

View from the lookout on top of Byron Bay. See those two gray figures in the water? THOSE ARE WHALES. WHALES.

And then we encountered a bush turkey. These things are everywhere, but I was fascinated and kept taking photos of it. I suppose it's kind of like when you see tourists in America taking photos of all the squirrels, but reverse.

I don't know if you can see this, but in the wave is a huge pod of dolphins. DOLPHINS.

And at the very top, the Byron Bay lighthouse!

Such a pretty view of the coast

We made a stop down by the beach

  • Our next day trip was a hike to a nearby set of waterfalls, called Minyon Falls. Which, up until I saw the sign, I had thought was "Minion Falls."  

Minyon Falls!

Jess, his mom, and me at Minyon Falls

You can hike from the top of the falls down to the bottom, which takes about an hour and a half

Giant trees

And then we reached the bottom of the falls! And sat on a rock and watched the falls and ate mandarins

Jess and his mom from the bottom of the falls

  • Our last day trip was to a small crazy-hippie town called Nimbin.  This is also apparently very well-known on the backpacking circuit - it's super laid-back and full of dreadlocks and weed and incense and funkiness and all that good stuff.

    Welcome to crazy-hippie Nimbin!

    Rainbow fence. Like.

    Hippie stores. Like.

    Weed-themes everywhere

    "Hemp bar"

    A nice cafe I had a veggie burger at. I asked if they had WiFi and the lady was like "uhh no." And that is how you know you're in Nimbin.

    On our drive home from Nimbin - LOOK AT THIS SUNSET. AND THE VIEWS.

    I may have made Jesse stop the car every five minutes for a sunset photo. Sorry not sorry.


    Fun Facts of the Day:
    • In Australia, chickens= chooks. And for short, they call them "chookies." Also, did you know they lay eggs like, every other day?? Why don't we all have chickens?? FREE LIFETIME SUPPLY OF EGGS.
    • Did anybody else have the incorrect perception that Australia was eternal summer?? This is false. It is chilly. My one fleece is working OVERtime here.
    • On that same note, did you know that Americans need visas to visit Australia?? I was under the impression we didn't. I thought we were friends. You know, the whole "ignorant arrogant American" thing, which I played up to a T when I was at the airport in Hong Kong trying to get to Australia and the check-in lady asked where my visa was. (Convo that followed. Her: "Where is your visa?" Me: "I need a visa?" Her: "Uh. Yes." (while glaring at me like I was a complete idiot.))  Luckily, I was able to log online and get one online ASAP.  Unluckily, they are suspicious of people who get their visas on the same day they fly, so I was pulled aside at Australian customs upon arrival and questioned and searched for over an hour. (They even made me pull up Jesse's Facebook to prove he was a real person. Way harsh, Ty.)


    1. Connie that's just a ride-on lawn mower. Tractors are much bigger and not used for trimming the lawn :D

      1. Maybe what you call "ride-on lawn mowers," we call "tractors" in the U.S.?

        *she asked hopefully*

    2. Haha had a good laugh reading this. Good you got a good aus experience :) . And thanks for the roller skate add-ons!! Am defs going to try them out this wknd.
      Enjoy the end of your awesome world trip :)

      1. Thanks, Seb! Glad you enjoyed! So sad to have missed your performance, but Jess sent me a video as consolation.

        Take photos of the roller skates! Hope you'll be skating all over town in no time. :)

    3. I think this might be my favorite post with the real country living. My secret dream is to be a hermit in the country side once I traveled the world, but we'll see... Didn't know we need a visa for Australia too so glad I know that know. Is the worse when you check in at airport and find out something something stupid like having a visa or return flight. Don't they know we're Americans? Lol