Donning the North Face sack immediately felt the weight cutting into the shoulders. This was not an ergonomically designed pack like the Osprey left behind in Sydney. No…this 23 kilos felt like 50 kilos! Ouch. Add the front day pack and the shoulders were seriously overloaded. Have to figure out a better solution. Still have many thousands of miles to go. Ah well…trust in Karma and the Good Lord to provide a solution. Had tried to find one earlier that day at a luggage store. While they did have a clunky luggage folder with no redeeming features, the price tag was $40. Have to pass on that and “Butch up.”
Let me say that Butch was a hurting fellow by the time he got to the bus terminal. When you wear a pack on the front and one on the back the two resultant forces restrict the flow of blood to the shoulders making it somewhat uncomfortable to say the least. Bitching aside, boarded the bus for the short hour or so hop down to Byron Bay. On the way…the pack was heavy. Sunny day, sitting up front. Nice day for a little road trip. The longer one was to come tomorrow.
Arrived at the terminal. Struggled with the gear for a couple of blocks with some permanent damage being done to the old shoulders I’m sure. Thought wheels were going to be necessary. Checked into yet another Nomads hostel. Carried all the junk upstairs. Key wouldn’t work. Back down. Guy made another. Back up. Key didn’t work. Back down. Gave me the room next door. Key worked. Turned on the air conditioner…it blew hot air. Back downstairs. Got the guy. He brought up the remote and got it working. Cool. Went out for look see around the town. Went down to the ocean. There was a little swell but the surf was pretty blown out. Sign said to turn off the a/c when you left. Did so. Returned to the room. A/c was blowing hot again. Went back down. Guy gave me the remote. Sorted it out, got it working, never to turn it off again.
Set out to explore the town of Byron Bay. It is a rather hippie type of real surfers paradise with a goodly sprinkling of trendy high dollar shops thrown in to harvest the tourist dollar. A curious mix of polo shirted tourists with dread locked white kids, surfers, and young English, German and international tourists. Liked the town. Would come back here to hang for a bit…but not in the party hostel. Only reason booked there was to use up the bed hopper pass booked in New Zealand.
The rooftop common area was starting to get rowdy. Games like beer pong were well underway. Even though tomorrows bus didn’t leave until 3:45 pm …didn’t know anybody there so decided to just go out and check out the town. Found a couple of happening clubs, but didn’t like the music. Kept walking to the park on the edge of town. There was a tiny pop up type 10’x10′ tent with a little musical trio. One guy playing an electric guitar as backup. One guy beating on some box keeping the beat, and one exceptional young lady with the voice of a perfect pitched angle playing rhythm on a hollow body six string guitar. They were part of a church group performing for free. They were also giving away free pancakes and hot chocolate. Yumm.
While watching, saw a few homeless older guys sitting on a park bench. It was on a little slope. One of the guys was passed out flat on his back. His head was significantly below his feet. He was lying on his back and starting to choke, even though he was passed out. One aboriginal fellow was struggling to get him up with no luck. OK, chancing whatever diseases he had, helped him get to an upright seated position. Wasn’t long before he started to come to, a few coughs and chokes and he was breathing again.
Times like that you wonder if you really saved a life or not. If you did, are you then responsible for that person from then on? Hope not. Over the years have saved quite a few lives in unlikely circumstances. Never felt the obligation of continued care. Think of it as more of a good karma thing. Speaking of karma… some was headed the way of the bumbler…just wait to find if it was good or bad!
The next morning…
OK…that’s long enough…hate to keep you dear readers in suspense. So as you know…the damn North Face bag was really hard to lug around. Wandered to a toy store in search of a scooter. Thought if one bought a scooter one could scoot around cities rather more quickly. One could also place one’s cumbersome luggage on two wheels and have an easy time getting to and fro…or so the theory went. Problem was that the only scooter they had was a pretty good one, but it was $250. Oh. So much for that plan. Hit the thrift or “Opportunity” shop. No luck. Went over to the thrift shop. No scooters…BUT…there WAS a 70 liter Kathmandu rolling duffle. A little worse for wear, but serviceable. Guy wanted $30…offered him twenty. He took the deal, not because of shrewd negotiating…rather because he was a nice guy. Sweeeet! Problem solved. Back at the hostel, judicious amounts of soap and hot water were vigorously applied with scrubbie sponges. Set it out to dry in the sun. Looked much better.
While out and about stopped into a Woolworth’s. For older people from the USA this connotes the old 5 & 10 cent stores of our youth. Haven’t seen one in a while in the US but here they are an upmarket food store which is thriving. They had a good deal on a stir fry seafood mix. Picked some up and the rest of the fixings for a grand stir-fry at the hostel This was done as the pack cleaning process ensued. Lacking proper lubricant for the wheels, kitchen canola oil was pressed into service with satisfactory results. Ready to roll dude.
Had heard that a good trek was around the beach and up to the lighthouse on top on the hill ? Mountain? Cliff? By the sea. Walked by the beach for quite a ways before reaching the headland. In fact it was a delightful walk on a good day. As I started to go the distance to the trail, walked into a private area, as I was backtracking to find the road saw a couple of guy who were working there. Asked the way to the lighthouse trail…they pointed to the road behind me. Thanked them and started off. Minute later heard a voice calling “Hey Mate..”
At times like these if you are a solo traveler one must carefully consider the response to any hail from anyone you don’t know. It was one of the guys just spoken to, wondered if it was a come on or just a guy being nice when he offered to drive me up to where the trail began a couple of kilometers away. Asked him is he was going there, he said “naw, but I’ll give ya a ride mate”
He was a local fellow by the name of Mick. Really. Crocodile Dundee notwithstanding, he seemed like the real article. Nice guy. Took me most of the way. Chatted about a lot of stuff. Said goodbye. More good karma.
The trail was easy to follow and well maintained with steps for the steep parts. Lots of folks along the way. Pretty coves with dramatic surf pounding the rocks. Saw a pod of porpoises surfing far below the cliff. On the way back down saw a group of people in a secluded beach all dressed up. Huh. Wondered if it was some kind of church group. The answer came walking up the trail toward me 5 minutes later carrying her train. What was that…her train? In fact she was a beautiful bride. When Saying thought there was something going on at the beach, she quipped “ Oh no, I always dress like this” Funny girl and a lucky guy. Back at the hostel did the repack for the forthcoming trip.
It was Friday night. There was a “Footie” team up from the south for their annual end of season blow out. They were nice guys and well into a large garbage can full of ice and beer. Joined in the fun for a while. Yet another group was there with a large funnel and tube to pour beers down throats.
This was going to be good night to get out of town and take an all night bus to Sydney. Packed up and hit the road with the easy wheeling luggage. Nice.