Erin and I went to Byron Bay for our babymoon, a couple of months before Katie arrived and changed our lives forever. I remember it as a lovely place, with lots of nice little cafes, bars, and an unbelievably gorgeous beach with a picturesque lighthouse on Cape Byron at the end, which is also the Eastern most part of this vast country.
As seems to be the case with almost everywhere up the coast, it was given its name by Captain Cook, after Lord Byron’s Uncle, Admiral Byron. The town planners who named the streets later on didn’t know this however, and there are lots of references to the famous poet in the nomenclature of the area. Doh!
It was not, however, as I remembered it. The first thing that struck me when we drove in was the traffic! And next, the crowds of unwashed crusties everywhere. Were they all wandering around last time I was here? Probably. They seemed like peaced out hippies back then. Maybe it’s me who’s changed. Anyway we did get used to the crowds, remarkably quickly I’m surprised to say.
We drove into a caravan park right next to the main drag, and after a quick look around at the backpackers all crammed into their tiny wee camp spaces, realised I just couldn’t do it. We took off a few kilometres out of town, and found a campsite that had a kids water park, crazy golf, lakes, swimming pools, BBQ areas and the obligatory jumpy pillow. It was perfect, although it could have been anywhere really.
We spent a week there altogether, and the highlight of Byron Bay was an old surf dude from Coffs Harbour called Terry, and Katie’s first surf lesson.
On one of the ‘not so rainy’ days we were sitting out the front of our camp, when a weather beaten old fella lumbered up to us.
“Hi there, if you guys are looking to get a surf lesson we’re heading out tomorrow. Weather’s going to be perfect, and I know a spot that’s great for beginners.”
He carried on with his patter. “Guaranteed to get up on the board on your first go. They don’t let anybody into this camp ground to do this, just me as I’m the real deal. If you want to go it’s just a $5 deposit, and I’ll come and pick you up here tomorrow morning.”
He seemed like a nice fella so we said we’d think about it. He wandered off on his rounds and on his return, we gave him $10 for Erin and Katie to go for their first surf lesson.
The rest of this story I’m re-telling, as Erin was there not me. They went down to the gates to be picked up by Terry the next morning, and the most beaten up mini-bus you’ve ever seen turns up, pulling a trailer full of old surf boards. After a few stops the bus is full of half a dozen 20 something backpackers, plus Erin, and Katie who is loving being there with all the older folks – off on their big adventure.
Terry took a bit of a shine to Katie, and really looked after her on the way there – which was lovely. The weather wasn’t looking great, but he kept insisting that the spot he knew about would have perfect waves. It was a secret, out of the way spot and all would be well when they got there.
As they all piled out of the bus however, there was a young guy and his kid surfing in Terry’s spot.
Right in front of Katie, completely oblivious to what he was doing, nice guy Terry blurts out in the most Ozzy fashion possible.
“Fuck! That fucker’s got my waves. Fucker. Jesus Christ that fucking pisses me off. Fuck.”
Katie’s eyes almost pop out of her head. Then he proceeds to talk about his friends who have died from skin cancer, how it’s so important to cover yourself in sun cream, and how he’s forgotten his Zinc but has a blister on his lip.
“Can I borrow your Zinc there darling?”
Katie hands him the stick, which he smears all over his mouth and hands back to her.
“Thanks. Can’t believe that fucker’s got me waves.”
Erin took the Zinc off Katie and dropped it in the bin, then they all went out for a surf.
I arrived in the car with Skye, just as they were heading out to the water – so I saw Katie get up on her first wave, and continuously out surf her fellow students. Terry thought she was amazing, a natural, and all the back packers were cheering and clapping every time she stood up.
I would have loved to have been out there with her, but it was a really nice thing for Erin and her to share. And I was watching from the shore anyway, which was pretty cool.
If you looked up life-long surfer in the dictionary, there would be a picture of Terry there smiling back at you. He was brilliant. Definitely one of the characters of the trip so far, and if Katie ever becomes a pro surfer this was where it started, thanks to him.
Byron on the whole, I thought, wasn’t really set up that well for young families. It seems to be more about the hedonistic, self-awareness lifestyle, than the ‘forgotten who the fuck I am’ lifestyle. The kids were pretty difficult to handle jumping in and out of the shops, and there was only one little park down at the beach front.
Oh and there were beards everywhere! I haven’t shaved since we left Sydney, so I’m sporting a rather bushy beard for the first time in my life. And quite enjoying it actually. Well I was, until we got to Byron Bay and there were hipsters and posers with beards all over the fucking place – I felt like a twat!
Anyhoo the park we were staying at was great for kids, so we spent a lot of time there, and going for little day trips when it wasn’t raining.
Most evenings I would do the dishes next to a communal kitchen where all the backpackers made their dinners. One night I was washing up, listening to a couple of guys chatting up a German backpacker. They weren’t doing a very good job of it but I was enjoying their efforts, so I took my time.
They were playing music from a little speaker, and surprisingly they had been playing some music that I knew, and even liked. Little lion man by Mumford & Sons. Next they played Wonderwall, Oasis – great tunes – and afterwards they asked what kind of music she liked. Abba was the response, and to my surprise they instantly played one of their classic tracks. I was loving it, and was sorely tempted to throw in a few moves at the sink.
I finished the cleaning, turned around and said “What kind of speaker have you got there, we’re thinking about getting one.” They responded with the brand name and I said “OK great, thanks.” And as I wandered off I couldn’t resist throwing in “Thank you for the music.”
They didn’t get it. At all.
Fuck I must be getting old.