Day 37: Brisbane to Byron Bay
Riding long distances is easy once you get used to it. It's the moments between rides that make traveling alone challenging. Throughout the trip, there are conversations I'd have with the locals, or smaller incidences that I don't write about. Travel will always make you see another perspective of things. Leaving Melbourne was hard, but I think I was always distracted by the excitement of the upcoming adventure of the day. I'll never be sad that I did the ride. In fact, it will probably be the single best thing I've done in a long time.
My dog is my absolute best friend. Kirbie and I would go on motorcycle adventures together (it's legal for animals to be carried this way in Canada) to the park or the beach. He would get excited when I pulled out his little harness. He wasn't too keen about the doggles but safety first. When I left Canada, I didn't know how long I would be gone for. The original plan was a year, but as people and circumstances change, so does the outcome. I haven't been able to hug him since May 23 2015.
Traveling alone is not for the faint of heart. I certainly love it and I think it's one of the best things to build character. At the same time, you have to be willing to let every emotional trauma you've ever experienced to come and haunt you for hundreds of kilometres at a time. A lot of things have happened in the last few years and when I created Flying Solo Gear Co, it was my first take on how to look fear in the eye and do it anyway. I was afraid of coming to Australia at first, but the general mentality of this country is "give it a go", so I learned how.
I can say that riding alone in the outback has changed me for the better. You really can't change anything that has happened in the past, but you can learn from it and move forward. There's no sense in wasting time wishing something was different. And I'm genuinely happy things turned out this way.
Dave and I took the soulless highway route to Gold Coast because he had the day off and well, I wanted to see the famous beaches of the area. He was familiar with the area so we went to some cool spots to take photos of mini-Sheba and Sheba. Porta-Sheba can go on the sand and looked "real".
After lunch, we said our goodbyes and I headed south toward New South Wales while Dave headed north back to Brissie. Coolangatta was our last stop before we went our separate ways, which was only a stone's throw from NSW. It was very warm in Queensland and I had just slapped on another layer of sunscreen before hopping back on the bike. Literally right at the border, I pounded through a thick, grey wall of misty rain and it came down hard. Thunder and lightning was right in front of me and I could barely see from the sprays of the trucks around me. I'd like to also point out that exactly on the NSW border, people started driving on the left side instead of both (the way it should be) and people didn't speed up when you tried to pass.
The highway was full of cement slabs that had linear grooves running in the same direction as the road. I'm not sure if it was for water or so the cement can expand in the heat, but either way it felt a bit dodgy when I rode on them. This is my first cold rain of the entire trip, and I was quivering as I tried to find signs for Byron through the downpour.
When I rolled past the turnoff to Byron Bay, the clouds parted and the sun came through. What the heck? I looked as though someone flushed me down the toilet and someone else felt sorry for me so they put a tanning lamp over me. I was both burned and damp simultaneously. There was a queue to get into Byron Bay but I skirted onto the shoulders all the way into the town centre. This was also the first time I didn't pre-plan my accommodation. So I parked on the footpath (it's illegal in NSW but the place seemed relaxed) and sat on the beach to Google some spots. After receiving directions from a friendly young French receptionist I made my way all of 2 blocks and parked in the undercover carpark she suggested. I unpacked some of my gear, still soaked, and trudged over to the lobby. It looked like a high end spa inside and had a concierge. As I waited for the receptionist to check the availability, a small orange puddle formed around my feet. I guess it's my first time being soaked inside out and some hidden outback dust is finally making its escape.
She didn't bat an eye at the fact that I was a disheveled, leather-clad sponge. At the time it also didn't occur to me that she was very Australian.
"We have a studio for $280, would you like to take it?"
Almost by coincidence, I started choking dramatically and she paused while I took a sip of water. I could have just as easily emptied one of my boots into my mouth but I'd probably get arrested.
"On the website it said $40 for a dorm room?"
She cheerfully responded "Oh! You must mean the Beach Hostel, we are the Beach Hotel. They're right across from us. Do you need help moving your bags?"
I thanked her for her time and made a quick getaway. When I finally did find the hostel, the French receptionist was joyful I made it safe and sound for those 2 blocks.
"The rain comes and goes around here very quickly. We have a room for you for $40 for a 4-bed dorm, do you want to take it?"
It was a much better option than spending 14 petrol tanks on an overnight stay, so I happily agreed. She added, "I'll put a note to make sure we use up the other rooms before we add any more to yours." and smiled. I went into baby rhinosceros mode, gathering all of my packs onto me in impressive strongman-style lifts. As I started to walk up to the 2nd floor (3rd floor in Canadian speak, as I learned), French girl stops me. "Wait!! You forgot your sheets!"
Halfway up the stairs, I turn to look at her. She's holding a small pile of white sheets over the front counter. I go back and get her to place it neatly on top of my bags.
As soon as I entered the room, I threw everything onto the floor and took off everything I was wearing. It turns out the sheets are rubberized and partially waterproof. Waterproof rubbery sheets. Hostel life. I put those on the bed and curled into a fetal position.
After a hot shower, I walked around sunny Byron and admired the very cool, contemporary-hippie vibe that filled the place. People were mostly young and very free to be who they wanted to be. I fell in love with the place right away. Oh my goodness, they sell sushi!
I had four for dinner and another 2 after the best massage of my life. It was near the end of the massage when I heard a loud knocking on the door. It was a banging sound, repetitively, and it didn't stop until the end of the session. The therapist decided not to open it and we continued for the full hour, and all the while I was wondering who the hell wants a massage so badly.
When she opened the door, nobody was there, but the banging still continued. Apparently she had heard this sound the whole day on and off. It was thunder and rain hitting the roof. I was in shock and awe. People get cold after massages because you go into a calm, lower energy version of yourself. I was freezing my ass off as I went into the torrential downpour on the streets. The water had taken over the whole road and started to flood the footpaths. I was a bit disoriented leaving the massage place so it took me a good hour to figure out how to get back to the hostel. I had a quick (overpriced) Japanese dinner across the street before tucking in for an early night, listening to the rain outside.
The sounds of home are starting to come back - the chatting outside, the smell of rain, the Asian food, the conveniences. Sometimes people take some things for granted - I'm one of them. I can't see tap water or tree shade or phone reception the same ever again. If there's one thing I know, I'm riding back home a changed person.
Tomorrow, I get to see my beautiful good friend Kate in Coffs Harbour.