Cheer up, slow down, chill out: Byron

A colourful hand-painted sign reading “CHEER UP • SLOW DOWN • CHILL OUT” welcomed Ari and myself into the cute town of Byron. And in short, that is exactly what we did The vibe is so relaxed there, it’s hard not to give in. A mere two hours from Brisbane and one time zone ahead (which, by the way, saw us count down from 10:59 to midday, at which point we both looked at each other and exclaimed, “It’s lunchtime now!”), Byron is famed for its hippy and surf culture. Though more of a tourist hotspot nowadays, it is still popular with surfers, young and old, and a very pleasant place in which to unwind. 

We arrived on Tuesday afternoon and checked into our lovely hostel, just 2min walk to the beach. Which is exactly where we headed for the rest of the afternoon! Before heading back that evening, we felt entirely justified in enjoying a late afternoon glass of Aussie bubbles and walked back along the beach as the sun was setting – we couldn’t see it as such but the soft light as the large moon rose over the ocean was beautiful. 

On Wednesday morning, Marianne and Kristin joined us at our hostel for our morning surf lesson. After getting kitted out, it is off to the beach we sauntered. Our Scottish instructor was great, giving us some theory, warm-up exercises, “sand practice” and current explanations before accompanying us into the waves. The situation there was altogether different! 

With an unusual northerly wind, the (bigger than I expected) waves were crashing in all directions and suddenly I had a flashback to those few surf lessons I had back in the day: spending most of your time as a beginner battling the ocean to get out far enough before being washed back to shore in mere seconds. But it was fun! The thrill of getting onto a wave and feeling that push is so exhilarating – even if I didn’t quite stand up (for more than a second anyway!).

Unfortunately, our lesson was cut short after half of our group got stung by bluebottle jellyfish. These can be quite nasty but as they were only tiny, the stinging pain dissipated after half an hour or so and has just left a nasty and very itchy rash on both my legs where the filaments wrapped round them. 

After all that drama, it was definitely time for some tasty burgers that were so big, cutlery was a must. Shock horror, I know. 

Thursday, Ari and I made our way to the beach for an early morning yoga practice before heading to Combi for one of the best breakfasts ever: think healthy bowls of beautifully arranged superfoods and flowers accompanied by fresh green juices – Ari’s idea of heaven! It certainly gave her the brain power needed to finish her PhD proposal that afternoon. 

Finally, yesterday, our alarm clocks went off even earlier than usual as we had (perhaps lazily) booked a taxi at 5:15 to take us up to the Lighthouse to watch sunrise from the most easterly point in Australia. Though the early start didn’t particularly appeal to us, it seemed silly to miss out. Of course, once we got there, there were hordes of people and even a drone, but we managed to find a tiny secluded spot where we watched the sun peep out from behind the clouds and did our sun salutations and morning meditation. A beautiful moment and one I’m glad to have shared with such a close friend. Let’s not forget we’d taken a little picnic brekkie with us too!

We hung around a while, waiting for the others to leave, enjoying the stunning light and being surprised by two ridiculously cute wallabies bouncing around, minding their own business. And then there were more! And more! We must have seen a dozen and as much as the locals doing their morning fitness routine didn’t bat an eyelid at them, we were as excited as children on Christmas morning. 

We also spotted an array of other wildlife, including various birds, lizards, rabbits, etc.

After some more window and actual shopping, a last trip to the beach and packing up our stuff, we made our way to the local taqueria for a bite to eat before our 13hr Greyhound to Sydney, both a little sad to be leaving this lovely place where the pace and quality of life are valued and people of all ages seem to love being active outdoors. 

More soon from Sydney!




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