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Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Epic Aussi Adventure:Brisbane, Nimbin and Byron Bay

Today's Scenery:
the rolling countryside of NSW 
Today's Travelling Track:
Shaggy- Boombastic (Old Skool!!!)

I know, I know, it’s been weeks since my last blog post. The problem is that this area of Australia seems to sell itself as an area in which it is best to do very little, which I’ve been enjoying immensely.

Our stay in Brisbane was all business, business, business. We took Turk to get his wheels aligned and had booked him in for a service. We were driving down a busy road when The BF went to change gears and the clutch went all the way to the floor and stopped engaging the gearbox. Somehow we crawled over two lanes of traffic with the momentum we still had left and came to a stop on the hard shoulder. We called Traveller’s Autobarn who told us the name of a garage to take it to- coincidentally the same place that was due to carry out our service the next day, and transferred us to the roadside recovery service that we had been given as part of the package when we bought Turk. We discovered we were only covered for 10km of free towing, and we were 12km from the garage, so we did have to pay an excess (only $55) but we were extremely glad at this point that we had bought our van from Traveller’s Autobarn. After a terrifying journey in the tow truck, with an entirely insane driver who almost never looked at the road and instead was constantly fiddling with his phone, radio or GPS, we got to the mechanics to find they had stayed open to receive us but were essentially closed for the day so we wouldn’t know anything until the following morning. It transpired that we needed a new clutch slave and master (this is all like a foreign language to me so I have no idea what it means) and that it was going to cost us about five hundred dollars for the parts, labour and aforementioned service combined. Unfortunately we had just passed the 5000km point on our journey and were therefore not covered by warranty anymore, but we decided to think positively that at least it had happened when we were in a big city, not miles from anywhere where the cost of a tow truck could have amounted to thousands. During the rest of our stay we fitted a new radio and speakers into Turk, and a new headlamp which worked for about 10 minutes, and took the opportunity to do some general organising, the details of which I will not bore you with.

On our final day we spent a lovely afternoon wondering around Brisbane city itself. We parked for free in Fortitude Valley and had a great time poking around the weird little shops and restaurants. We had lunch at an amazing taqueria called Mad Mex and then followed the Brisbane river all the way into the city. Again wondering aimlessly we found ourselves in an amazing little Asian bakery in a mall off of Queen’s street and bought a variety of delicious pastries for breakfast the next day.

On to state number 2!
We headed for Nimbin, a hippy New South Wales town, a couple of hours inland. Just before the state border we stopped at Coolangatta and had some amazing, reasonably priced sushi. I was amazed with how much the scenery changed as we headed deeper into the second state I’ve visited in Australia. It even looked a little like old south Wales; rolling hills, windy country roads and greenery everywhere. We found Nimbin itself a little disappointing. I guess it was a little too authentically hippy for our tastes, what we were expecting was San Francisco style ‘hippy chic’. We stayed at Rainbow Retreat, essentially a field with a few semi-permanent looking shacks, some of which had whole families residing within. The next morning we got slightly lost attempting to find protestor falls- an area which tree huggers had famously saved from logging. We realised we’d inadvertently managed to travel most of the way to Byron Bay along a series of terrifying unsealed roads and decided to give up on hippy culture for the time being and embrace surf culture in the beautiful seaside town. We drove right up to the beach and researched where to stay. We decided upon The Arts Factory just outside town and were very pleased with our decision when we found a bright, fun hostel-cum-campsite situated on the grounds of a Brewery and art house cinema.

Cockatoo Paul making fire!
 We spent our first evening at The Arts Factory making the most of the brewery’s $3 beer happy hour. The beer made onsite was delicious; probably the best I’ve tasted in Australia so far. Afterwards the hostel was holding a trivia night; we were paired with a few other backpackers and miraculously came first, winning over 20 dollars each. We spent an enjoyable and slightly tipsy evening chatting to our teammates, and really felt the community feel of a backpackers for the first time on our trip. The next day we explored Byron’s shops and cafes. The weather was somewhat unpredictable, raining on and off but simultaneously remaining bright and sunny. We enjoyed a precipitation-free hour on the beach before becoming peckish and finding an amazing Portuguese chicken kiosk hidden in some back lanes. Returning to our hostel we went on an interesting and informative bush tucker tour given by a slightly crazy guy known as cockatoo Paul, due to his pet bird, Mr Pickles, who came everywhere on his shoulder. We watched an awesome German film in the cinema and had a pretty relaxed evening and early night.

Next time: Spot X surf camp, Port Macquarie, Newcastle and Hunter Valley

Turk Visits... The Beach (Again...We think he's becoming a beach bum)
Parking right in front of the beach in Byron Bay

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