Tag Archives: Byron Bay New South Wales

Backtracking to Splendour in the Mud 2012

Jack White doing his thing on the main stage

Jack White doing his thing on the main stage

I would never have found myself in amidst soggy Jack White fans at the end of a wet first day at Splendour if it hadn’t been for a surprise reissue ticket tucked inside a couscous box and wrapped elaborately in Happy Birthday wrapping paper.

Have you felt how the town is coming to life?’ asked a woman I was introduced to on the streets of Byron Bay a few days later. ‘You’re not a fan of wintertime Byron then?’ I asked. ‘I don’t like it when it’s dead. I love this because… because I’m not dead!’ she said.

Whilst true locals might bemoan the anonymity of a busy Byron and welcome quieter winter moments where bumping into familiar faces on the streets is much more likely, the fact remains: Splendour in the Grass brings big bucks to the area. And a bit of a buzz.

So, the day arrived, full of sunshine and the promise of a good line-up.

Let's get this festival started

Let’s get this festival started

Buses passed by fast walking ticket holders on the trek out of town, onwards to Belongil fields.  Whilst I waited for a friend, a group of girls sashayed past in a calm confidence of orange hair, high belts and eyeliner. Policemen waited by the entrance, sniffer dogs pulling at their leads.

I’ve been to a fair few festivals back in the UK so had some idea of what to expect. But key differences? Wintertime, for a start (the thought of having a festival in winter in the UK seems… well… wrong). And no grassy verges to crash back on and view the music from afar. And considering Splendour is one of Australia’s biggest festivals? It felt tiny (and I loved it for it).

Similarities? Queues for the bar, twinkly lighting when dusk set in, the somewhat tragic casualty of the curled up person who got too messed up to even make it into the festival.  And artistic décor that reflected time and energy and the eye of the artisan.

Crowds coming and going

Crowds coming and going

Planning the next stage move (and my favourite random festival photo girl)

Planning the next stage move (and my favourite random festival photo girl)

The Tipi Forest stage

The Tipi Forest stage

Night arrives

Night arrives

And the rain. That was similar. Because within ten minutes of getting in amongst it, the dark cloud that had followed us into the grounds enveloped the sky and gave birth, raining and hailing down with such ferocity it drove even the mud dancers into hiding. Momentarily.

A bit of rain and the crowds retreat

A bit of rain and hail and the crowds retreat

$80 wellies/gum boots

$80 wellies/gum boots

The only one in our group to come prepared

The only one in our group to come prepared

Friends helping each other out

Friends helping each other out

Glastonbury, eat your heart out.

Or welly sellers (aka gum boot pimps) eat your heart out (because the crowds flocked to their stalls, parting with silly cash to stylishly protect their tootsies from inevitable sogginess of that wet July day).

2 Comments

Filed under australia, culture, festivals, oceania

Post-Cyclone Oswald

A beautiful start to the day in Byron Bay

A beautiful start to the day in Byron Bay

A dad rips at semi-fallen branches, leaning his body back until great chunks of wood pull away and fall to the ground. He clears up the playground floor, strewn in bushy branches before pushing his young girl on a creaky swing.

A group of lads walk down to where high tide meets a slim stretch of sand and look out at a messy ocean, a stormy sea with waves pushing in from miles out and tumbling clumsily into a heavy expanse of white water.

A middle-aged woman sweeps the outside of hotel rooms whose doorways reveal rolled up towels. Her lips are set stern as she brushes away leaves and grasses so that her four star customers get their tidy experience. She has yet to notice all the spiky, little leaves and streaks of dirt splattered across the door of Room 19.

One of many dead beach birds

One of many dead beach birds

Swimming not advised... but under the watchful eye of the lifeguards, this guy was determined

Swimming not advised… but under the watchful eye of the lifeguards, this guy was determined

A bit of chop compared to usually calm, calm days

A bit of chop compared to usually calm, calm days

Wind fall

Wind fall

It’s 8.30AM on Tuesday 29th January and I’m in the heart of Byron Bay, writing this overlooking the main beach.

Earlier I woke to a stillness that I hadn’t heard in a few days. ‘Don’t get too excited’, said my housemate D, ‘it could just be a lull. We’ve been predicted rain.’

But the sprinkling of sunshine pushing through the early morning haze did excite me. It had been over a week of dampness, the washing was stacking up and inside living was starting to lose its appeal. And it had been three days since Oswald burst into town amidst a flurry of downpours and winds that whipped at Byron Bay life, smashing over glasses left outside from Australia Day parties, reducing traffic on the roads, forcing people to retreat indoors and momentarily live without television and mobile phones and think about what we used to do before electricity became such a necessity.

For those still connected, news stations switched to live feed emergency mode, looping high energy reports of damage and chaos in Queensland, predicting disaster for Brisbane (whose nerves are still raw after the 2011 floods) and urging Northern New South Wales to be on high alert as the beast travelled southwards.

‘The media make me so angry’, said a colleague, ‘it panics the old people so much. If I hear 100 kilometre per hour winds again I will screamWe get these storms every year.’ And although yesterday news stations retracted some of their most somber predictions for New South Wales, there has  still been flooding in some local areas and quite a mess to deal with and clean up. 

Queensland is where it did get really scary: communities have been left isolated, people have lost their homes and most tragically, three people died as a result of the storms. Down here, though, whilst there has undoubtedly been disruption and distress, more than anything Oswald offered a blustery reminder not to take the many, many calm and sunny days for granted.

Cyclone Oswald damage

Cyclone Oswald damage

And now, despite the debris scattered on roads and roofs and the occasional sighting of boarded up windows and dented car bonnets, this beautiful day signifies that we’re safely through the weathering.

Until next year, then. Not before, please. Oswald shook things up enough.

5 Comments

Filed under australia, culture, nature, oceania

One weekend in Byron? Here’s what you could do.

Friday: drinks and dancing

www.travelola.org

Night time buskers in Byron

Arrive into Byron Bay, NSW, Australia late afternoon, get showered and ready for a night out. Start off in The Rails listening to a live band, but don’t make it too late, they’re done by 10:00pm.

If you want some $2 bubbly, head towards LALA LAND and pick up a promotional wristband on the way. If it’s still smelling a bit funky, you may want to move on pretty quickly. Pop into the Hotel Great Northern for a boogie with a mixed crowd or head over to Woody’s Surf Shack, a cool little place in the square next to Woolworths. ‘Woody’s is full of eighteen year olds’ said one older guy in The Northern, ‘this place is a bit of a better mix’.

If you’re still keen to party to some bad music, wander over to Cocomangas or dance on the tables at Cheeky Monkeys with hoards of horny backpackers. Ensure that you get in before 02:00am lockout and last drinks. ‘Cheeky Monkeys’, said Canadian Aaron, ‘is the place to pick up girls’. Thanks Aaron.

By 03:00am everything is pretty much done, so after you’ve joined the queues at Hot Bread Kitchen, enjoy munching your pastry whilst watching some impromptu beat box busking.

Saturday: walks, surfing and crafts

www.travelola.org

The Pass, Byron Bay, NSW

After a breakfast coffee (because everywhere here does coffee), recover from any bad head symptoms by taking a walk around Cape Byron, the most easterly point in Australia, and up to the Lighthouse,. A good place to watch sunrise, apparently.

Get back to Byron and rent yourself a surfboard, run down to the Pass and jump into warm waters. Take a surf lesson if you need, but otherwise just join the crowds as they try to catch waves and wobble up to their feet.

Keep an eye out for sharks. ‘Aren’t you worried about being eaten?’ an old boy asked me one day. ‘Nope’, I said, ‘there are so many people out there, I’d be lucky if they picked me’. Relax post surf in tree shade up in the park that runs above Byron main beach.

After grabbing an early bite in town, head over to the Railway Park between 5:00pm and 9:00pm for the weekly Artisans Market where you can pick up some locally crafted gifts for family and friends.

Finish off the day by hanging out with friends on the grassy areas by the beach. Make some new friends: foreigners, locals, musicians, creative types, crazy types and the odd I’ve-taken-too-many-drugs-in-my-life types.

Sunday: markets and music

www.travelola.org

Beating the crowds to the Byron Bay Market, Byron Bay, NSW

If you’ve timed your trip at the beginning of the month, you could visit the cheery affair of the Byron Markets. Enjoy the bright colours, the pretty outfits of floaty summer dresses, strappy sandals and funky sunglasses and sunhats, the tie-dye and hippy prints scattered about the place.

Brunch on a Mexican breakfast burrito ($10) or a pizza slice ($3.50) or a couple of wholemeal spinach, feta and macadamia rolls ($3). Or, go healthy with raw food options or frozen fruit bars ($3). And organic coffee. Kinda healthy.

If you’re entertaining kids, there’s a bouncy castle slide, balloon shaping stilt walkers and a man with a fiddling, dancing cat puppet. I wondered if the guy ever got bored of holding a puppet all day. He seemed content, a little zoned out.

Otherwise, listen out for musicians, particularly the guitar duo where a guy with great bone structure sings smoothly in Spanish. Choose whether to stand around with others, bop along with the kids, dance freely with the liberated hippy or to simply fall in love with the piercing blueness of the singer’s eyes. Later in the day, join in the drum circle jam session or dance along to the hypnotic rhythms.

www.travelola.org

Sunday reggae and dancing at the Beach (not Fyah Walk!)

Move back into the town and head to the Beach Hotel for the Sunday afternoon live music sessions. Drink a cold schooner of Coopers and, together with a totally diverse crowd (old, young, pregnant, babies, kids, rastas, surfers, skaters, preppy boys and girls and travellers), dance the weekend out of your system to the likes of local reggaemeisters Fyah Walk.

Finish off your stay with a trip down Bay Street to get some food from one of the takeout places, such as Fishmongers where the tender BBQ  baby octopus and the vegetable tempura are both pretty special. Find a spot on or by the beach and enjoy your dinner as the sun sets over a faintly misted ocean.

Leave a comment

Filed under activity & sport, australia, beaches, culture, music, sailing