Turn right at the Big Banana. That was the directions to get to our friends’ house. Anyone who has been to Australia will understand, that’s not as ridiculous as it sounds. There are innumerable ‘big’ things that various, usually rural, towns have built in order to attract a bit of interest to their local.
The climate around Coffs happens to be perfect for growing bananas, hence their choice of big thing, around which had grown a variety of activities such as mini golf, laser tag and go-karting. We gave it a miss.
The folks we were visiting have twin boys and a wee girl about Katie’s age. They were neighbours of ours in Sydney, and had reached the stage that almost everybody seems to be getting to these days, they couldn’t afford to live in Sydney anymore, and give their kids the kind of childhood they had.
So they’d moved to Coffs about a year ago, bought a beautiful four (or maybe five) bedroom house with a swimming pool and amazing vistas over the forested mountain backdrop to Coffs, and they hadn’t looked back.
I thought Coffs overall was stunning, and much more tropical than I was expecting. We keep getting these little glimpses into life outside of the big smoke, and what you can get for your money compared to the overpriced circus that Sydney has become.
We met a nice bloke in Bellingen who had done the same. Sold his business in Sydney, bought a house in Bellingen outright, and was running a restaurant although he’d never done anything like that before. About the same age as us. Young kids. Sick of Sydney and the cost of everything.
Anyway, apart from catching up with friends, the one thing we wanted to do in Coffs was visit the Dolphin Magic Aquarium.
It’s basically a very small Sea World, with a few dolphins, seals and penguins. But the main difference being, you can actually go in the water with the Dolphins. I was prepared for it to be outrageously expensive, and was already trying to convince myself it was a once in a lifetime experience for Katie. So when they announced a $50 special on the Dolphin experience, I nearly somersaulted across the aquarium myself.
It was, amazing. I would have cut off my own arm to get in the water with a dolphin when I was that age, and here it was, just like that. Katie absolutely loved it, and we got some amazing photographs to remember the moment with – although none of us will be forgetting that, I suspect, forever.
We got quite drunk with our mates one night too. And the next morning we realised how long it has been since we’d done something like that. Good fun, but best not to make a habit of it.
Once again it was great to see some old friends, but nice to be moving on – to Byron Bay this time. World famous as an alternative lifestyle mecca, where tanned beach bums and hinterland hippies hang amiably, crystal shops and expensive boutiques co-exist comfortably, and where, we were about to find out, young kids were about the only segment of society that didn’t really fit into their ‘eclectic’ mix.