We arrived in Byron Bay late on March 8th and Ela and I couldn’t help but smile as we walked down the familiar streets lined with beautiful shops, boutiques, cafes and bars. Byron Bay is a town that nobody dislikes, it would be very difficult to pinpoint what there is to dislike. It’s what I always imagined a beachside town to be like in California, chilled, relaxed, friendly and warm. It is a hugely popular place for backpackers and Australians alike. And each have common values: surfing and relaxing. It was only unfortunate that our time there would be short, we had only a few days left in our trip, a few days left in what had become our home, Australia, and the strangeness of having to depart was definitely starting to creep in.
The beach in Byron Bay is simply beautiful and the first thing we did the next day was wander down. We were staying in a really nice hostel actually, right on the beachfront and Ela and I spent our afternoons there. We had done surfing the previous March when we did our East Coast trip and we told Diarmo it was a must. The nightlife in Byron is brilliant but unfortunately we didn’t get to experience much of it this year, I guess fatigue kicked in but there is a great bar called The Cheeky Monkey where we headed on Friday night.
The Cheeky Monkey is a great place to meet people because it is filled with booths and random people will come up and sit opposite you and have a chat. So 3 english girls sat opposite the 3 of us and we got to talking. I think I was a bit annoyed with Ela and was flirting with the pretty english girl opposite me when all of a sudden I heard Diarmo raise his voice a little and say to the girl opposite him ‘Well I wouldn’t – because you’re fat’. Oh Diarmo. There was an awkward silence of about 10 seconds before the girls left. Diarmo doesn’t need to pick up girls anymore, so he gets a bit too free in his speech.
I really wish we had a week in Byron Bay to end our trip, it had been such a hectic few weeks, doing tour after tour and a week to relax would have been much welcomed because I really believe there is nowhere else in Australia I’d rather relax for a week or month. Byron Bay is an expensive place and there are plenty of multi-million dollar villlas around, there is no doubt that when I can afford a luxury villa it’s going to be in Byron. On Sunday we left Byron and arrived in Brisbane at lunch time at the most ridiculous hostel room in history, the room was twice as tall as it was wide.
Bunk was our last hostel in Australia and 2 weeks in a campervan in New Zealand was starting to seem much more attractive. When Diarmo and I arrived in Australia we had planned on living in 4 different cities; Perth, Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane; for 3 months each. The way it happened, this simply wasn’t feasible because by the time you settle down, find a place to live and of course a job, a month has gone by. Not to mention, saving money isn’t the easiest thing to do in Australia. So it was nice to be able to spend a couple of days wandering Brisbane at least. It definitely had a hint of Perth about it, very relaxed, and like Melbourne, there is a huge Asian population and quite a multi-cultural feel. There were great shopping areas around and Diarmo, Ela and I picked up a few Australian souvenirs like boomerangs and koalas for family at home.
Our friend from Melbourne Romain and his girlfriend Lea had made it to Brisbane and we gave them a call that evening to see them and also in hope that they would know the bar scene in Brisbane, after all it was our final night in Australia. We called a taxi and after hopping in we noticed the meter was at $16 and we said to the driver ‘whoa whoa what’s that about?’. he casually replied ‘that’s the standard pick up charge’. Australia had shown us its ridiculous expensiveness before but this was another level altogether. We fought with him until he agreed to only charge $4 extra for the journey.
So we headed to a really cool rooftop bar and became pretty nostalgic as we drank our last bottles of TEDs and looked out at the Brisbane skyline. Now it wasn’t the classiest bar in Brisbane that was for sure but we still managed to meet a couple of rugby stars, Craig Cooper and James O’Connor. I’ve never known what to say to celebrities and all I could come out with was ‘Next time you guys come to the Aviva, we’re going to destroy you!’. They laughed.
On Monday morning we awoke and packed our bag for the last time in Australia. I said goodbye to Ela as she headed to the airport to fly to Singapore. Diarmo and I lazed around watching Father ted waiting for our time to head to the airport. It was a strange feeling boarding that flight, to say the least. This was it and how a year can fly by, it seemed like just yesterday we were walking out of Perth airport at sunrise a year earlier with so many hopes and dreams ahead of us. There’s no doubt we learned a lot in Australia and maybe, just maybe, grew up a little bit. The Irish flow into Australia in their thousands now, most just looking for a place where work is more readily available.
But for Diarmo, Ela and I, this didn’t have to be the end, we could have stayed on another year but as brilliant as Australia is, each of us have a lot to go home to. One thing is for sure though, it may be on the opposite side of the world, but Australia is like a second home now and we will need to come back soon. If I had magical powers I would move Australia right next to Ireland and life would be simply brilliant. The Australian people are the most friendly I’ve ever met and there’s a reason they are so happy and cheerful; it really is a brilliant and unique place to live.