Friday, October 26, 2012

"One for Love, one for Life, and one for Adventure"

I'm starting off here with the last week or so of my time in Belingen, then the week I spent in Byron Bay.

The local fire department for Belingen and the surrounding community is an all volunteer force. My hosts Kevin and Larry are both part of the force. About a week or so before I left, all surrounding areas' fire departments (also all volunteer) held a fundraiser dinner-trivia night, and I was invited to come along. Naturally I accepted. Firemen and women from seven or eight communities, along with friends and family, all packed into the Fernmount fire department. Now I've said this before, but I'll say it again: everyone in Australia is friendly. I still have yet to meet any Australian that I didn't like or appreciate or get along with.

My last few days in Belingen were my most eventful, as far as animal sightings go. I was breaking down some cut bamboo into manageable lengths, when I realized, the hard way, that dry bamboo can give some pretty good splinters. Sitting on the bench by the pond, trying to pull out a hundred microscopic slivers, I heard some rustling in the leaves beyond. I disregarded it, as the sound was most likely Kevin or a bird. I ignored it and focused on my sliver pulling. Moments later I realized the shuffling was still going on, and getting nearer. At this time I also realized three or four Kookaburras were going ape shit in the gum tree above. Never before did I see Kookaburras grouped in a tree making such a ruckus, using a call different than the normal one that they are so easily identified by. I assumed they were aiming these calls at whatever was in the bush, or warning each other of it. This got me curious as to just what exactly was coming at me. All of a sudden I froze up and my jaw dropped involuntarily. Striding towards me from around the thicket of bamboo with swift, confident steps and flicking a four inch forked tongue was a four foot monitor lizard. A Goanna, I believe. It was a dark color, grey-green scales and a pale pink tongue, with black eyes. It walked as close to me as I dared let it, which was within kicking distance. I stood up and it instantly ran off back into the bush.
Less excitingly, I spotted four separate male King Parrots later that day (males are the more colorful ones). Three of them were chirping and playing as they flew right over the pond, hardly twenty feet away from me. Sadly, I didn't have my camera with me for any of that.

Well, all good things must come to an end. Two days later I was on a coach bus to Byron Bay.

I rolled into the familiar Byron Bay after dark on a Friday night. The streets were busy, and EVERY hotel / motel sign read 'NO VACANCY'. This struck me as curious, but I didn't think twice about it, since I assumed getting a room in a hostel would be as easy now as it was for Brian and I last year. Well, I was wrong. From the bus drop off, I made my way to the Nomad's Hostel by memory, surprisingly. The receptionist told me they were booked full all weekend, and directed me towards two other hostels that were likely available. So I walked a short distance to the next hostel, which was also full. And the next one, and the next one. I asked if there was any big event going on in town, and I was told that it was just busy on the  weekends, and it's not even technically summer yet. I was starting to think I would get to sleep on the beach that night. But alas, the next hostel had one bed available for one night, with more opening up the next day. I went to my room to dump my bags and take a quick shower. One of my roommates was there when I got out; a cute Irish girl. We shared a chat and a bottle of wine until her friends from out of town arrived. They invited me to come out to the bar with them but I passed, as it had been a long day and I was tired. I spent the night trying and failing to read Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead. I just couldn't seem to get 'into' that book.

The next morning I woke early and headed back to reception to secure a bed for the next few nights, which required me to move rooms. After dropping my sheets back in the lobby and moving my bags to the new room, I decided to get re-acquainted with the town. I went for a long walk all the way down the beach and back. I grabbed some groceries from the local market -to keep myself fed cheaply on my tight budget- and went back out exploring; up the lighthouse path through the rain forest, and back down to the beach on the other side. I ended up walking this path, or a variation of it, everyday while in Byron.

 It was on the second day, walking the Lighthouse path backwards, that I spotted my second monitor lizard. I heard rustling off the path in the rain forest, but couldn't see anything. I stopped and kept quiet, looking through the palms to see what was out there. It could have very well just been a wild turkey, as there were plenty of them in that area, but I was curious nonetheless. Well, my curiosity paid off. This one was darker than the first, nearly all black, and significantly larger. It was about 10 feet off the path, but I judged it as easily over five feet from the head to the tip of the tail. Beautiful creatures, those lizards.

Here's a couple pictures of the paths up to the lighthouse, and the views from them. 

That blue platform is a hang glider launch point. 

Seen here close up

It's going to take more than a little sign to stop me from checking those views

I somehow managed to spot a dozen or so dolphins from up on the lighthouse path, 150 meters or so from where I stood. Unfortunately I didn't have my camera that day, but I doubt I could have gotten a good picture of anything more than some obscure dorsal fins anyway.

Un-focused pic of one of the wild turkeys roaming Byron Bay

Over the next couple days, I spotted multiple smaller lizards, not sure what species, outside my room on the porch area. Each of these pics is of a different lizard.

That Tuesday night was fairly eventful and not filled with as much sleep as I would have liked. In the middle of the night at who knows what hour, one of my room mates got up, sleepwalking I think, and proceeded to pee all over the floor. Lucky for me it was at the opposite end of the room. The two Norwegians, however, were pretty upset. The guy finally 'woke up', and cleaned up his mess with a towel. Minutes later, before anyone could get back to sleep, a fairly intoxicated American started sawing logs, literally. It was so loud that I'm sure the dorm on the other side of the wall couldn't sleep either. Two different room mates tried waking him with no success. Finally, after about a half our of trying to deal with it, the Norwegians rolled him on to his side, putting a sweet end to the cacophony.
Today I'm taking a day tour of Nimbin, a town known for it's Cannabis culture. Not that I partake in that sort of thing :) Just peek at the pics and you'll get the idea of what the town is like.

After Nimbin, the tour took us to the Whian Whian falls. The water here was pleasantly warm, and we would have gone swimming if it weren't chilly and cloudy that day.

Thats about it for my time in Byron Bay, I think. It was wonderful getting to take a vacation from my vacation and visit the beach for a while, and to see the town again. I'm in Mothar Mountain now, which is in Queensland, about an hour and a half north of Brisbane. I'll have another post up for my current location within a week, hopefully.