Where did the time go?! I can’t believe my ten weeks in Australia are already over and that I’ve already spent almost two weeks on Bali! And that I haven’t written anything since I left Sydney and headed up north towards Newcastle, Byron Bay and Coolangatta!
So before it’s all old news and I forget about my best moments in Australia, I will write it down now. After carrying my new love (my surfboard) from the hostel in Manly to the ferry to the bus to the hostel, I spent one night in Sydney and then carried all my belongings to the Central station to catch a Greyhound bus to Newcastle, my first stop on my way up the coast. I felt like a donkey – my big backpack, my small backpack, my food bag and my board bag… Luckily I got two shoulders and strong ones from all my surf paddling 😉
Newcastle itself is a very average city, and has been neglected for the past years, but it has some nice “old” architecture and a lively art scene, which is supported by the city and one can see the recent efforts to make Newcastle more attractive – it pays off in small details like nice cafes and bars hidden away inbetween the more common shops and houses… Originally I only planned to stay in Newcastle for 2 nights, but the hostel was nice, the beach very close by, a surf competition going on and the cyclone Marcia hitting the northern East Coast, bringing bad weather and massive surf – so in the end I stayed in Newcastle for about a week, wandering around, swimming in the ocean baths, hiking along the coast and trying to surf a few times.
When the bad weather front finally passed, I got back onto the Greyhound bus and took an overnight trip to Byron Bay. Not much had changed since my last visit to THE Australian backpacker-village. It seemed like the same old hippies, hipsters and party people still lived there. So I spent my days in Byron a bit out of town and enjoyed the quiet of the Byron Beach Resort, went surfing, took part in the yoga lessons in the tent in the backyard or got a bike and cycled into town to do some grocery shopping. The surf conditions were pretty bad, but I had just gotten my new bird and was really keen to surf it, so despite knowing better, I went in and paddled around a bit. The side current was really strong and the waves breaking on the shore, but I was kind of over-motivated – or stupid as it turned out. Because in the end I ended up with my new board’s nose broken and me completely devastated! It happened on my last day in Byron and the next morning I had to take off to the Gold Coast, so I decided to take my broken board with me up to the Gold Coast and see there if I could get it fixed. I was really upset about this as I had just gotten the board three weeks before and only really surfed it a couple of times! But it taught me a) to always listen to my gut feeling, b) that boards get broken and c) most of the times you can fix it.
In the end breaking the nose of my board turned out to be for a good reason – while I got it fixed on the Gold Coast I bought a second board which turned out to be a lot better for me. AND I had two boards that I could get signed by my two favorite surfers, Carissa Moore and JohnJohn Florence. So now I can decide if I want to go surfing with Carissa or JohnJohn – recently I’ve been having a lot of fun with JohnJohn though! So even though I didn’t plan to buy two boards and since then had to carry around both, I’m quite happy with how everything turned out!
My time on the Gold Coast started Spanish as there were a lot of Venezuelan, Chilean, Argentinian and Spanish people in the hostel and I got to practice my Spanish again. It was fun to head out with them: we would get up at 4:30 and be in the water at Snapper Rocks by 5:20 with the first light, then surf with a beautiful sunrise, some of the pro surfers warming up for the possible competition day and sometimes dolphins would pass by and say hi as well. Even though we would be really early, we never were the first in the water and it got very very crowded, but I still was able to catch some of the best waves of my life! Snapper Rocks is definitely one of the best waves I have ever surfed and I miss it already!
And even though the waves were not good enough for the competition to run, we and a lot of the pro surfers still enjoyed surfing it. It’s quite cool to be in the same water and paddling for the same waves as Carissa Moore, Julian Wilson, Jordy Smith and Lakey Peterson or Melia Manuel. Most of them were cheerful in the water and didn’t mind mingling with us “regular” folk. Only Kolohe Andino confirmed my impression of being arrogant when after he had sneezed a couple of times sitting right next to me in the line up and me being polite and saying bless you to him, he said “I think allergic to you!” and paddled off. What a charming thing to say to a girl, isn’t it?!
Anyways, he had never been my favorite surfer and when he didn’t make his heat, I just thought it served him well. When JohnJohn and Kelly didn’t progress further in the comp, I was kind of upset, but at the same time not really surprised as I had heard rumors that they wanted to go off to surf Cloudbreak in Fiji anyways and didn’t really care about the bad conditions they had to surf in at the Gold Coast. Kelly was as charming as ever after he had lost his heat and I got to take a picture with him. Not surprisingly he didn’t recognize me, but a couple of days earlier he had talked to me during a free surf session at Duranbah Beach:
While I was sitting under a tree on the beach after my attempt of surfing a pretty messy D’Bah, Kelly walked out of the water and straight towards me. After being hassled by quite some people for pics (one girl with a Brazilian flag around her shoulders!) he said: “Come on guys, I just wanna go surfing again!”, picked up his second board (leaning right next to mine) and on his way back to the water looked at me, pointed to a bleeding cut on his shin and asked me: “What do you think?” My (very sophisticated) reaction: “Oh shit!” And then: “Get better soon!” Guess not charging for pics gets you more attention. And when he came back out of the water a bit later and I was still sitting there, and I commented: “That looks really nasty!” he smiled and said: “Yeah, I’ll live though. Good thing is, there’s not too many nerves on the shin.”, took his board and went off. So much for me having very intelligent talks with 11times World Champ Kelly Slater…
When my most favorite surfer, JohnJohn lost his heat, I was disappointed for him as one could see that he changed his attitude in the last 10 minutes of his heat but had waited too long earlier on to catch a decent wave to make it through to the next round. So when he got back to the beach, he signed a couple of shirts and took some pics, but a couple of people down the line from me, he stopped and just went of – there went my chance of him signing my board. I couldn’t believe my bad luck and decided to wait him out at the exit of the competitors’ tent to ask if he would sign my board. When he finally came out, he was carrying his 3 boards, but as there were a few people asking him for his signature he actually started signing and after all I ended up getting his blessing on my board! I was as happy as I could be and wished him fun in Fiji. Turned out, that after all he didn’t leave the Gold Coast right away but stayed for the big swell that hit the coast a day after finals day and threaded some big barrels and threw some big airs in Greenmount. finals day was really exciting as well, as Julian Wilson made it to the final after a nail-biting semifinal and his tendency to be very selective with his waves and be sitting patiently when the time I s running out mad me go crazy at the beach. In the end, Felipe Toledo was on fire and Julian’s wave selection a bit poor, so it didn’t come as a BIG surprise when Felipe won, but it definitely was very close and a good final! The Brazilians on the beach went crazy again and Felipe was the new Brazilian hero, after Gabriel Medina had not made it very far in the comp.
But enough of the surf competition – after that the Gold Coast quieted down a lot as did the waves. Many of my Spanish speaking friends left and traveled back down to Sydney, but I was able to get a cleaning job in the hostel and stayed there for free. Even though Coolangatta doesn’t have a lot to offer, when the waves are flat, the hostel was a fun place to hang out and I enjoyed being there a lot. I surfed whenever the waves would allow it and in the end am happy I stayed for such a long time there, as I met a very special person in the hostel and wouldn’t want to trade this for anything as it has effected everything I have done since.
After waiting for a good swell to surf Kirra and Snapper Rocks again, we took off to Brisbane together and rented out a Wicked Campervan to travel up the Sunshine Coast for a weekend, before we then left Australia to go to Bali.
I was really happy I didn’t have to drive on the wrong side of the road, and he was doing great after he got used to the big van – probably as he being English is used to driving on the wrong side of the road… The trip up the coast was really great – on our first night we stopped on a quite deserted parking lot right at Shelly Beach, used the public BBQ and then went to sleep in the back of the van with the rain pattering on the roof. When we woke up, we went for a dip in the ocean, made breakfast and then got back on the road to go further up north.
We drove up to Noosa and explored the little village and the beach. As it was too flat to go surfing with our short boards, after a quick lunch we went on a long hike through the Noosa National Park and enjoyed the beautiful coast and shady (but still very hot) forest. When we got back to our van, it started getting dark soon and after dinner we drove around in search for a place to stay overnight. It wasn’t very easy to find a place around Noosa, so in the end we stayed on a street at Sunshine Beach – not the best spot, but at least we were parked legally and nobody came knocking at our window in the middle of the night. The only thing that kept us awake was the continuous rain. In the morning, however, the sun was back out and we enjoyed another beautiful day at the beach in Noosa. In the afternoon we dedicated to head back down the coast to find ourselves a nice spot to stay overnight for our last night in the camper. We got really lucky and found the perfect spot at Kawana Beach – a parking lot right at the beach with a great BBQ and clean toilet facilities. We had another awesome BBQ for dinner and when the sun had set, we fell asleep happily once again. When we woke up the next morning, we were greeted by the most beautiful sunrise I have ever seen! The sky was on fire and the sun reflected in the ocean! Words can’t describe this feeling of complete content.
After he went for a quick surf and I prepared breakfast and tidied up the van, it was time to drive back to Brisbane and return the van. Handing it back was harder than imagined, but we will keep our pink Charles Bukowski van in good memories forever!
We returned to our hostel for our last night in Australia strolling through the southern parts of Brisbane and enjoyed its South Bank by the river. After a nice dinner, we prepared our bags and fell asleep, excited to go to Bali the next morning!
And as I have written a lot by now, I will stop here and report about our time in Bali in my next post. Let me tell you just this much: Bali is hot and humid, but really beautiful!