Sunday, April 13, 2014

byron bay, minyon falls, the first wallaby

That night was our second and final night in Brisbane. The next day – Friday – we hauled our luggage to the train station, a couple of blocks from our hotel. The plan: take the train to the rental car agency at the airport, rent a car, and drive a couple of hours south to Byron Bay, about which I knew nothing other than Kevin had an old colleague worth talking to there (we’ll call him Cousin Peter), and something about a beach.

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Waiting for the train. By now, I’m pretty much in love with Australia.

 

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Selfie in the car.

As Kevin is actually left-handed, he does more-than-fine driving a right-side drive car, even standard transmission, which this was. His only issue was adapting to turning on the wipers, when he meant to use the turn signal. He re-wired his brain pretty quickly, and we whizzed down the coast, listening to the radio. They talk funny. I practiced my accent. It doesn’t seem possible to be an asshole with that accent, although I knew from personal experience that it can happen. It was a novelty spending the DAY with Kevin, as we’d each been in independent spheres for the previous three days.

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Ahhhh....I see we are entering familiar territory: hippie-land. We found our hotel, threw our gear in the room, and immediately headed back out on foot toward the beach, through a vibrant commercial district devoted to anything a chilling-out tourist might need.

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This dude on the beach was creating major good karma. It was getting onto late afternoon. There were surfers in the water and folks still out sunning themselves. We made our way down a grassy embankment to the water.

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My goal is to have a picture of Kevin with his feet in the water, for every major water body on the planet. This here is the Coral Sea.

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Campervans, some obviously people’s homes, others apparently for rent, filled the parking lot. There were guys drumming. Overflowing outdoor cafes and bars right next to the beach. Just what you might hope to see.

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White wine for the lady was procured. People watching occurred. The ocean’s within view here.

We eventually met up with Kevin’s old colleague (Cousin Peter), Peter’s wife Laura, and their colleague Russell for dinner. Talked a bit about work – Peter, like Kevin, is in the study abroad field – a bit about life, and had good food. Afterwards they went to the next room, pretty much, for a Billy Bragg concert. Kevin and I headed back to the hotel and fell down, went boom. Zzzzzzz.

The next day, we swapped our hotel for a B&B a few miles away. The original plan had been to make our way back to Brisbane for Saturday night, but that taste of the beach made us realize the error of our ways. So instead, we found the B&B and chatted with its owner about nearby sights. He recommended Minyon Falls, so we piled into the Nissan Micra and took off.

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I don’t think this will quite do the landscape justice – it was positively rolling, and green as can be, dotted with the occasional farm house. And with the ocean in sight. Fabulous. It took us a while to find where we were going, because apparently a guy who lives near there gets irritated by the presence of visitors so he messes with the road signs.

Minyon Falls is a waterfall where Repentence Creek falls 100 meters over a horseshoe-shaped gouge in a hillside. You can drive to the top of the falls, or you can drive to just short of there and hike to the base of the falls. From the base you can do a much longer hike to the top (up a series of switchbacks). We elected to just hike to the base of the falls, and then go back out the way we’d come. Afterwards, we drove to the top of the falls.

The hike down and back up was lovely and other-worldly. Tree rooting strategies I’d not seen before. Gigantic leaves. Palm fronds longer than my body adrift on the path. Clusters of red berries dripping down from what the hell is that? Bird calls that sounded like nothing I’d ever heard before. Crickets, crickets, crickets everywhere – or cricket-like-sounding insects, at any rate.

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Approaching the falls. And, the teensiest of sound snapshots:

It’s been so dry, we’d been warned there might not really be a waterfall to see, and that turned out to be the case. So we just made our way back out, and drove to the parking area just down the road, near the top of the falls.

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View of the top of the falls from the viewing deck. Just a seep, really. I was reminded: I have a thing for cliffs.

So that was about 2.5 or three miles, we think. We headed back for Byron Bay, getting lost in the process by missing a turn, but Kevin’s sense of direction was unfazed and he got us back after first taking us through Mullumbimby, The Biggest Little Town in Australia. If you say so.

Cousin Peter had recommended a hike involving the Byron Bay lighthouse, so we pointed ourselves in that direction, parked the Micra in a lot at the end of the end of the beach, and started hiking.

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I don’t mind this.

 

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I don’t mind this one little bit.

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I could do this all day.

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We have arrived!

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It was a loop hike, so after staring slack-jawed at the stupendously huge ocean, we barreled on past the lighthouse and down through the woods.

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...with the occasional “I have died and gone to heaven” views...

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...til we were well and truly in the woods.

This is where I saw the wallaby.

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This is super-zoomed from my camera, so it’s shoddy, but you can see two ears sticking up, right? We contemplated one another for several minutes before another hiker came along and spooked it, whereupon it bounded away.

We were actually pretty close to people’s back yards during this bit of the hike. At the bottom, it was time for one more dip in the ocean, food (nothing memorable – pizza at the same place we’d gone out with Cousin Peter), and crashing back at the hotel. At this point, we’d each hiked maybe five or six miles total – nothing too extreme – in sports sandals, and for whatever reason, for each of us, our right calves were killing us. The B&B was just outside town, and a riot of evening birdsong serenaded us. Except for the part where we got a symphonic treat from the downstairs neighbors, who were feeling...romantical. Let’s just leave it at that. 

We realized we’d read our own itinerary wrong – we had a flight to catch from Brisbane to Melbourne the following morning, early than we we’d realized, and there is also an hour time change between Byron Bay and Brisbane, so we had to haul ass out of there at O’ Dark Thirty. No worries.

Next up: Melbourne.

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