Byron Bay promised rain but delivered glorious sunshine every day. Well, to be honest, the first full day we were there, it was due to be sunny and get up to the late 20’s, so we figured that if we were going to spend a day on the beach, we should probably do it then. It actually got up to 30 and we got through a massive amount of sunscreen! We’d spent the previous day travelling from Sydney to Byron, which was an excessively long journey, so we were pretty tired and a lazy day snoozing on the beach was definitely what the doctor ordered. But before we rested, we wanted to earn it, so we arranged to do a trek to see the sun rise over the famous Cape Byron Lighthouse.
We’d done a little bit of research about our route up to the lighthouse, and some people had said it was a half an hour walk, some people said it was a 45-minute hike, Google maps said 25 minutes. We decided to err on the side of caution, so for a 5.40am sunrise, we left the hostel at 4.45am and walked in the general direction of the rotating light. I’m not trying to be funny, but if you’re going to be walking about in the dark before the sun has come up, a lighthouse is a great destination. It was a hike. A serious trudge up and down natural hills at the most eastern parts of mainland Australia, sometimes fairly close to the edge of the cliff, sometimes we were so enclosed by the trees, that we couldn’t even smell the sea nor feel the breeze. There were stretches of steps that just looked like they went on as far as the eye could see and I was struggling. I was just so tired. Thinking back, it was a hard walk, but I reckon I was finding it so difficult because my body was getting ready for a full on cold. Throughout the time we spent in Sydney, I’d managed to keep it all together, my immune system was happy, but a 14-hour bus journey with good A/C and wet hair from the sudden torrential downpour we suffered through on the way to the bus station at Sydney Central was taking is toll but I just didn’t know it yet.
We got to the most eastern part of Australia and I thought that was it. We took some lovely pictures and marvelled about how bright it was before the sun had actually risen, there was a little bench and I chomped through a cereal bar and drank some water, as the sky dappled white and pink to red and the deep night grey gave way to the brightness forcing its way through the clouds.
Having got my breath back, I trudged the last few flights of steps up to the Lighthouse lookout point to see the brilliant sun poke its head up above the horizon and it was so beautiful. I sent some pictures back home to my parents and Dad sent me a message back saying it would be nice to see the sun at any time of the day at home! Bit of an exaggeration I think, since the UK had their warmest Christmas since 1920. Apparently in December, some parts of the UK were hotter than Tenerife! They’re paying for it now with snow and temperatures in the minus figures, but 15-17⁰C in December? That’s warm enough to crack the shorts out come April.
We’d been told to keep walking past the lighthouse to other lookout posts further along the trek, plus an incredible and secluded beach on the other side. Honestly, this little stretch of sand was truly beautiful, and first thing in the morning there was no one there either which made the experience even nicer. It was my granddad’s 80th birthday coming up and I wanted to send him a personalised card (sidebar, no matter where you live, you need to get a hold of an app called Touchnote. It turns your actual photos into postcards or greetings cards, they print them in your home country and post them from there too, so you don’t pay any more for postage. Best app I’ve had for travelling!). So there I was, discarded branch in hand, writing my message in the sand before 7 o’clock in the morning. Made a great picture though. Here you go – I’m never gonna get to use it again, so why not immortalise it on the interwebs as well as in print form?
This little beach is called Watego, and we ended up going there twice; the second time was in a kayak in the sea. Not on the dry land. Yup, we went kayaking in the sea. For those of you who have read all of our adventures to date, you’ll know that I’m not the most active human being. In fact, I’d go so far as to say I am really quite unfit. Well, maybe not majorly unfit; I do my fair share of walking, it was my primary method of transport whilst living in Cambodia. But sports? Not really my forte. I’ve kayaked before and I know it is really hard work. Plus, that cold I was talking about/ It was just about to get going full blast. I was really lucky that I didn’t sneeze once whilst I was out on the sea, but all morning before and then for the remainder of the day, I was a walking talking snot fest. Lush.
The kayaking was totally worth it though, because we got to see dolphins up super close. And loggerhead turtles. Obviously, we weren’t able to take our phones or cameras out in the sea, but the tour group took a whole bunch of pictures on the GoPro, posted them all up on Facebook and they’re all free to download and use. Oh yeah, and even better? The guys who were running the tour took one look at Helen and I and said he wanted to split us up! Worked for us, it meant we both had an experienced kayaker on our side. Helen was with the tour leader, so was heading up the group and I was with the photographer who kept to the back of the group, making sure everyone was okay. What this meant though, was that we got to each location late. It wasn’t a problem, as the guy I had gave me a running commentary about what is where and where to look and everything. What it did mean though, was that we were at the back every single time so we had to kayak like crazy to catch up to the next check point. We then got to chill out until everyone else was off on their way, and then kayak like crazy again. Tell you what, your abs get a serious workout. I ached for days afterwards! On one of the occasions where we were hanging back and waiting for everyone else to go, we spotted a loggerhead turtle, and before I knew it, he’d jumped out of the kayak to go get some decent pictures. When he got back, effortlessly climbing back into the kayak, he said he’d been trying to get some good shots for ages and when I saw the pictures he managed to get. Man… the quality of a GoPro surprises me every single time.
The rest of our time in Byron was split. We either spent time trying to organise our New Zealand leg of the trip, which is now all booked in terms of transport, but we still need to look at hostels and try to book some stuff in, or we spent time on the beach. Honestly, one afternoon of sleeping on the beach turned my skin a health shade of deep cocoa. I’m not kidding when I say that Helen said I looked black. In the evening, after I came out of the shower, I caught my reflection in the mirror. It’s a new record on the tanning front. I am using factor 50 and I’m truly grateful that my natural skin colour prevents me burning, a luxury not shared by a lot of people that I’ve met along my travels. That doesn’t stop us having a crazy amount of sunscreen bottles! We’re having to make sure we have enough for certain trips, so we have a lot of almost-empty bottles that we’re making our way through. As Baz Luhrman says. Wear sunscreen.