Sunday, 1 April 2012

Evan's Head to Ocean Shores

The bats were still squeaking in the morning. Like most non-invertebrate wildlife here, I was unable to get close enough to get any decent pictures of them roosting in the trees, but would estimate them to be about eight inches in length with a two-foot wingspan. While Keera was resplendent in her yellow and red outfit, manning a lifeguard station, I winged my way along the ocean - and could actually see chunks of it today. The colour of a 70s avocado bathroom suite, it rolled about against a slate sky (there were showers) and my only regret is that Patricia was not there to share it with me...

Scoffing at diversion signs, and continuing along the coast, I thought surely there won't be a barrier right across the road. There was a barrier right across the road. Luckily I could just about get around scrub at the edge, and then I christened the new surface that lay beyond. Is there anything better than riding on freshly laid, black, shiny tarmac? And so to Byron Bay, which I'd heard so much about - and of course with most hyped things, it was a disappointment. I'm sure it was a groovy place once upon a time, but now it stank of money - which has made it less cool because none of the cool drop-outs can afford to live there - and apparently it garners the highest property prices outside Sydney. There were a few alternative types with dreads, tattoos, piercings, bells and whistles; although mostly it was your usual miserable-looking tourists. I did see a one-legged surfer (not actually surfing at the time unfortunately), a border collie puppy in a bicycle basket and a glut of VW camper vans, but as I say, generally a place of commercial boutiques and no culture, let alone counter-culture. I could be wrong though, I was only there a short while.

No disappointments at my Couchsurfing pit stop up the road in Ocean Shores. I would say that Steve is as close to a professional host as it's possible to be, in that he has so many people come to stay, and really looks after them. Steve is a draughtsman by trade, but I think he is much more interested in human psychology, such as Gary Chapman's Five Love Languages. He shares his house with Cat, who has a dog (a French bulldog wearing a vest emblazoned 'Fart Machine') and Kim (who at first I thought was a sprite because she appeared from the thick, tropical foliage of the garden and wore earth-mother type clothing). Kim is a Kiwi teacher who has taught in remote Aboriginal settlements in the Kimberley Mountains and an island in the Gulf of Carpentaria. I also met a Frenchman, Lucas, from no less. This is another hosting organization which encourages guests to do a little work (agricultural, manual, etc) in return for a longer stay of free accommodation and food. Freeloaders! They were all lovely and it was a lot of fun chewing the fat in the many arrangements of comfy seating all around the huge verandah. It was a bit like the Big Brother House (hopefully without the cameras) but I can't imagine actually living there. The housemates were so nice to each other, had meals together and were constantly smiling and laughing. I asked them what they thought about Australia and Australian identity, yet still something tangible eludes me.

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