Being back in Brisbane, was quite strange. So much had happened since last being in the city and it was quite strange to be in Brisbane and not be totally broke for once! We spent a few days just relaxing around the city and getting a few bits ready for the next stage of the trip.
From Brisbane we traveled south to the world famous Gold Coast. We decided to stay just south of the central Surfers Paradise in a small town called Coolangatta. Staying here in ‘Cooly’ was something I was really excited about. Rather than the huge theme parks, high rise blocks and plastic posers on Surfers Paradise which the Goldie was famous for, Cooly had something that was seriously worth seeing. Coolangatta is home to a number of famous beaches which have some of the most famous waves in the world, none more so than Snapper Rocks. Just north of Kirra Point, Snapper is famed for the longest wave in Australia and when the swell is big enough, some of the longest barrels on offer anywhere on earth. For myself and budding surf fans this was a mecca of Australian surfing. I spent a few days enjoying some of the longest rides I’ve ever had out at Snapper which was fantastic. Since being on the trip I’ve really got into cruisey long board rides, and Snapper can be perfect for that. At one point I was on my board out back and an enormous stingray swam straight underneath me! Don’t get that back in the Kernow!
Another reason for the Cooly surf scene being so famous is for the Rainbow Beach Surf Club which hosts the prestigious annual Quiksilver Pro, the first event on the World Championship Tour each year. I even managed a cheeky visit into the surf club its self which was fantastic. The walls were littered with famous photos of surfers walking in the same steps I was. As you go up the stairs to the club the names of every winner of the Quiksilver Pro are imprinted into the steps. Coolangatta pumps out world class surfers at a crazy rate. Two time world champ Mick Fanning is from the area and both the current male and female world champions are from Cooly too, ladies champ Stephine Gilmore and one of my heros Joel Parkinson. Unfortunately I didn’t catch a glimpse of either of them surfing their home break!
After a few days in Cooly we headed down the coast leaving Queensland for the first time since being in Australia. We entered in New South Wales and arrived at the famous Byron Bay. The Bay has always been one of my favorite places in Australia. It has a vibe like no other town in the country. Byron is a small very slow paced surf town on the most easterly tip of Australia. Its been famed for free love, hippies, sexy drugs and rock and roll. The town has almost a feel that it is still stuck in the 70’s which is brilliant. Such laws have been enforced to keep as such, its illegal for any buildings over 4 stories tall to be built and its against the law for any big multinational corporation like McDonalds to build there. In fact there was a huge petition to prevent KFC from setting up shop in the Bay. It keeps the Bay’s heritage and its roots firmly intact.
There is a brilliant feel to the town, everyone comes to the beach in the evening for sun downers, live music and entertainment, there is always some sort of hippy-esque enthrallment’s to keep you captivated.
Byron was only meant to be a stop for a few days, time for more surfing, site seeing and a causal trip to Nimbin, more famed for its Cannabis festival! However mother nature ensured our stay in the Bay lasted over a week! A few days into our stay a tropical cyclone of biblical scale hit the coast of Queensland and northern New South Wales and lasted what seemed like ages. it was probably the most severe storm I have ever been in and whats more it ruined Australia Day which was a total wash out! The days before it got to Byron it was blue sunny skies, a big beautiful beach with nice clean waves and within hours it and turned to mayhem! 140km+ winds were smashing the small coast twinned with thunderous heavy rain. We took a walk up to the beach and saw that the cyclone had wipped up the ocean into a frenzy of huge 8 metre waves. The entire beach had completely dissapeared under the enormous swell. Even after days of the storm first arriving and cooling off the waves continued to be massive. A couple of days past that the winds died down and the swell turned really clean and Byron was once again pumping out some great waves.
We were planning another stop after Byron before Sydney but because we got stuck in Byron we were running out of time as we needed to get to Sydney. Flooding was widespread across the area. A town which we needed to pass through south was completely submerged. A bridge runs over the river in the town and during its peak in the storm the equivalent of Sydney harbour was passing under the bridge every 7 hours! An immense amount of water. Eventually however the weather relaxed and we were on our way to Sydney.
Even though I have been to Sydney a number of times, the sight of the harbour bridge and opera house is still a brilliant site. We spent the first few days staying with friends in Bondi who we had bet while traveling through Africa. They showed us around the city and also a great walk around from Bronte Beach to the famous Bondi Beach. After we left them we spent a few days staying in the city and exploring everything it has to offer.
Much like London, Sydney is massive and has a large number of suburbs each of which seem to have their own feel and community to them. It was great to walk among these and really get a feel for the city as a whole. We spent sometime at a couple of museums and one of the of the first site in which convicts stayed on arrival into Australia. That was a big eye opener into how Australia came to be how it is today. It was also quite an eye opener into the British attitude of taking over the world. There is so much to see and do in the city its hard to fit it all in. We took a boat trip around the harbour itself which was great. It gave great view of the city from the water and took us all the way up to Parramatta. We also had lunch in the famous golden tower which looks over the city. We had a buffet in a revolving restaurant giving us incredible 360 degree views of the whole city.
One of my highlights was a visit to the stunning Blue Mountains. Just to the west of the city these mountains seem to act as a rocky barrier between the city and the outback. We took a tour and learned a great deal about how the ancient indigenous people would live among these beautiful mountains. We also heard stories and myths about their tribes, stories which are still told today.
The mountains were a great way to end our time in Sydney, before we knew it we were packing up again ready for the next stop on the adventure. Where we would go next proved to be hands down, one of the most amazing places I have ever been.
We were headed east; into the blues of the Pacific…