Saturday, February 18, 2012

The first e-tome

(What follows is, by now a retrospective: the first Facebook note I posted about my recent ravels on the east coast of Australia.)

I'm sitting in the spare room of Dan and Phoebe's house in Goonengerry, near Mullumbimby in northern NSW. There are two "Dan and Phoebe"s, in case you didn't know. There's Danny Duck and PB down in Melbourne, and then there's this lot, recently of Docker River, NT. We've spent a few nights with them in the last week - and we is me and the Germans. Sarah and Marco are sleeping in Roland, their trusty Holden Jackaroo, although I reckon the sun will just be waking them up by now.

It's hot sleeping in a car, so I'm usually pretty comfortable with my choice of vehicle for this trip. I ended up with a 2002 Camry station wagon. It's just big enough to sleep in at a pinch, although so far I've been very happy in my swag. It's one of the deluxe models with three little poles that form domes at head, waist and toe - plenty of room and a reasonable foam mattress to boot.

You know the start of The Lord of the Rings, how it takes them a while to actually get anywhere and get going properly on the quest? (No? Well, take my word for it.) Well, I think I've finally arrived in Rivendell. From here on in it gets serious...

The trip began in Adelaide, where Mum helped me buy the car and I spent some lovely time with family while stocking up for the trip. My first long solo drive was the familiar road to Melbourne, Triple J alternating with Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy on CD, and a night with Theresa and then another at Candy St before heading to Canberra for a couple of nights with Dave. I drove into our nation's capital listening to the Senate on the radio, and with Dave hung out at the National Library, the Rob De Castella running track, the local pool and a sinophile dinner party.

All very, very civilised - unlike the first experience striking out on my own. From Canberra I drove to Newcastle, where I had my first ocean swim of the trip before realising I was due up in Byron Bay the next evening for a 6pm rendez-vous. Somehow I'd lost a day already. So I pushed on north and ended up just north of Port Macquarie as night fell, hoping desperately to avoid sleeping in a highway rest area. Thankfully the little town of Crescent Head turned out to be a great find, and I spent the night in a deserted carpark by the beach with my swag beside the car. At first I experienced a slight combination fear of rangers/ drunk locals/ Wolf Creek scenario, but somehow I feel safe in my swag. What or who could harm me in there? How would they even be able to see me? I slept like a log.

Waking at dawn and walking on the beach was a magical experience. I had the whole place to myself, the surf was beating down on the shore and I wandered sleepily around collecting beautiful shells that seemed to be everywhere. Then I climbed the headland for a view as the beach began to fill with runners and dogwalkers. I think I'll be back in Crescent Head before too long...

The drive to Byron still took most of the day, but by 5pm I had negotiated the descent from Bangalow and had arrived in what seemed to be the right place - but without a single sign welcoming me to Byron Bay. Was I in the right place? My iPhone confirmed that I could have just kept driving and hit the beach, so I got back on the main drag only to see Sarah and Marco walking up in the opposite direction. After a quick hello I parked right on the seafront and jumped in the water - it was raining, but I needed a wash and had already broken my rule about swimming in every beach you walk on that morning.

The Germans had already been in the area for a week or two, and had a found a nice place to camp a few days before - only to be moved on by the irate owner of the property! Undeterred, they found us another secluded, empty block of land a short way along the road to Bangalow. It's a good spot, and we've spent a few nights there already when we're around Byron.

Have you read The Byron Journals yet? When I wander around Byron I keep thinking about Melbourne Dan's novel, as well as all the stories that didn't make it in - could there be a second book on the cards... Bullshit: The Real Story Behind The Byron Journals??? (I taught the Germans 'bullshit' as part of my very brief Surfing 101 class, which also included how not to drop in and get your lights punched out by psycho locals - and Sarah hasn't seen Point Break, and neither has Phoebe, so we are building towards an epic viewing at some stage soon.)

We've experienced the drum circle, complete with Byron hardcore local boys trying to pick up dolled-up tourist girls, and the Pass and Tallows, although the waves have not been great at either. We've been camping more regularly at Brunswick Heads just 15km north, a pretty little town with a great beach and river that is perfect for swimming - a rope swing to jump off and local kids doing back flips off the bridge. And we've got our hippie on up here around Goonengerry, swimming at the foot of Minyon Falls, eating 'organic doughnuts' at the Mullum markets and mostly raw food feasts on D and P's beautiful deck overlooking gardens with wallabies and pademelons... and, last night, visiting the outdoor compost toilet in the dark and then keeping perfectly still, heart in mouth, as a large snake slid slowly across the path. I think that one was the friendly local python, but Phoebe has video footage of two brown tree snakes FIGHTING IN THE LIVING ROOM from a few nights ago.

The two funniest stories from the trips so far both happened around here. After the first night we spent here, almost a week ago when it poured with rain, Daniel (as Phoebe calls him, and it might be easiest if I do too) and I got up and went for an early morning run. It sounded doable, 5kms return to the orchard where you can pick up custard apples on the side of the road. I hadn't factored in the steep climbing driveway however, so I was buggered before we even made it onto the road, and exhausted by the time we made it back - with Daniel carrying all three custard apples. We stripped off for a dip in the waterhole (and yes, skip this part if you are squeamish), and I waS feeling almost human again and was giving myself a, ahem, cursory wash when I noticed something that felt unusual attached to the side of my scrotum...

We had already been enjoying Daniel's "leech on penis" stories for a while, so I feared the worse... but upon exiting the water it became clear that it was, in fact, a tick. So it was the naked walk back up to the house, where Phoebe, Sarah and Marco were relaxing on the deck - and Phoebe used her apparently renowned anti-clockwise rotation technique to remove said tick with the trademark popping sound. "We're friends for life now, Seb" she told me.

So, story number one is the tick. Story number two is a more straight up Seb travel story.

On Friday morning we woke up at Brunswick Heads, and after my morning swim we headed up to Mullum to rendez-vous with D and P at the Farmers Market. I drove into the carpark with the electronic dub sounds of Bluetech blasting through wide open windows, before we wandered around drinking cane juice (amazing)... and ran straight into Fred, a Melbourne man who lives ON CANDY ST, and who told me with a big smile that his band Lubdub were supporting... you guessed it, Bluetech that night at the Buddha Bar in Byron Bay!

So Friday night was a surprise party night. We chilled out in the afternoon with a swim at Brunswick Heads, the now traditional lunch with way too much nutella, and then Dan drove us all down in the Camry. The Buddha Bar is at the Byron Bay Brewery, and out the back in the beer garden a band played covers of U2 and god knows what else while inside the launch party for the Earth Freq festival 2012 was going down. We missed Lubdub but caught The Mollusk (that guy could get a dance floor going in a morgue), then Kilowattsplayed a mix of broken beats and crunchy dub techno before Bluetech took over for an hour and a half of thunderous bass and waterfall melodies that, apparently, made Daniel need to go to the toilet five times during his set.

It was an indoor venue and, with the exception of The Mollusk, the music was mostly on the chilled side of party, but it was still a shoes-off dancefloor with lots of smiles, interpretative dancers up the front, the occasional smelly hippie and LOTS of beautiful people. I ran into a few friends of friends too, so have a few more people to hang with if I stay in the area a bit longer. Bluetech played only three tracks I recognised, and at one stage I confidently declared (with the holier-than-thou certainty of the fully sober) that his fourth track was one of the best bits of electronic music I had ever heard. I'm not sure if anyone was listening.

But enough! It was fun, and a lovely coincidence - and afterwards I was the designated driver doing 30kmh up the dark winding roads to Goonengerry, and we all arrived safely home to listen to happy hardcore on the deck (it's a long story, but a true one).

By now you must be as sick of reading this as I am of writing, but I did want to check in with my friends and family and assure you that ALL IS WELL! The only downside is how much I'm missing Theresa, but we have skype chatted the last few days and I'm looking forward to a Tassie adventure with her in the New Year. Oh yeah, if you have an automatic car - or even just a licence because she will soon have use of a car - and want to take her for a drive, do it!!! Her Ps test is in a couple of weeks :) :)

All that remains is to say I LOVE YOU ALL (obligatory) and I'm sorry not to be writing to all of you individually - I'm sure you understand. Be assured I am driving carefully, eating too much and never showering.

The next few weeks I'll head up to Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast, hang in Lennox Heads with my mate Joe, and who knows what else? Oh yeah, and tonight I think we're going to the premiere of a new indigenous-themed doco in Mullum, with Xavier Rudd playing live - sounds all right, hey?


Oh yeah...

Reading: American Gods by Neil Gaiman (next is The Turtle Diary by Russell Hoban). Marco is enjoying the copy of Hating Alison Ashley I bought him and Sarah at an opshop.

Listening to: my iPod on shuffle, Marco playing the guitar, Spiral Tribe.

Eating: coconuts, mangoes, bananas, hemp seeds, strange berries, avocado, crumpets with nutella.

Learning: German, driving, hopefully sewing because my stubbies are in trouble.

Growing: what is euphemistically being described as "a beard".

P.S. I forgot the story about trying to find a bush doof, going down a dodgy track, puncturing a tyre, not being able to get back up the track, calling 24-hr roadside assist, getting the tyre changed on the slope and then towed back up, completely missing the party which was shut down and then moved 30kms away but deciding maybe that was for the best because everyone who stopped and asked us for directions seemed a bit weird and possibly too stoned to be driving safely... oh well, that's not a very good one anyway.

1 comment:

crayon said...

Beautiful writing, you talented gorgeous boy.