We have mixed emotions about this part of the trip. The beaches are continuous and beautiful, but so is the traffic. The people are still friendly, but there are way too many of them. Perhaps it is just being on the road for nearly nine months, or perhaps we are really better suited to the challenges of the outback. There are no real challenges here, other than traffic, the most scary challenge; services are every 30 kilometers or so, camping and motels are plentiful, and cheap, food also, water is always available… Too easy I reckon. We’ll just have to get used to it!
We are not-so-rapidly closing the loop to Cairns. We are enjoying the sub-tropic nights (the days are bloody hot, mate) but feeling a bit melancholy at the prospect of ending our exploration of Australia.
Traffic, even on backroads was heavier than we like in New South Wales, but we found a welcome break in Brunswick Heads, a sleepy little town not far from the trendy Byron Bay. We had a campsite right on the river just past the bar breakers.
Anatomy of a perfect day: After brekky we let the tide carry us around the breakwater, floating, watching fish cruise the sandy bottom. For lunch we got a mob of steamed prawns and something cold from the bottle-o, had a nap in the shade, and then went for a swim in the surf: blue sky green water and white breakers; listening to the beige sand squeak when we walk..
Twilight and we have a cold midi on the huge shaded verandah of the Brunswick Hotel. I check the tellie; the Aussie cricket team is making light of the Indians in the first match of the overseas series of tests. Love that game. Very complex. Low 30C and just a bit humid. Quiet evening. A woman walks by with a tame parrot on her shoulder, the trees fill with rosellas having their daily squawk over where to roost, fruit bats fly before a sliver of moon through feathery leaves overhead, and a few sulphur-crested cockies add their loud voices. There is a scent of flowers on the air. A single man reads a book and dines alone; a female couple seems uncomfortable, one has sewing-machine knees, the other looks distant; a new couple arrives, they have a beer and talk, she does not finish hers, holds his elbow formally as they leave; a croup of ockers in stubbies drink midis of light and laugh, pound the tables, mates. We enjoy our cold beer with candlelight, entertaining Aussies, and wander off to our tent to be lulled asleep by surf over the dunes.
We had been fearing the Gold Coast, even looking for ways to bypass it if possible, but the heat is too great inland, so we went. We were pleasantly surprised. There are bike paths almost all the way along the 30 or so kilometers of glitz and high rise that is Australia’s Las Vegas. The surf is big and brutal, and we learn to be very careful; I found myself plowing sand with my nose for a few metres under a surprise breaker, and decided to take it easy. We watched a surfing competition; loud rap music, tiny bikinis and trendy baggies; several body guards escorted former would champion, and former boyfriend of Baywatch bouncing-booby girl I-can’t-remember-her-name, Kelly Slater to the water. Eliminated in the first round. Funny. A couple of days of glitz is good for the soul, particularly when you can pedal away into the Queensland countryside in a short while.