Around the World 1997 Travel Diaries. Part 11, learning to surf in Byron Bay!


18 November 1997, on the bus from Hervey Bay to Nimbin, Australia:
Currently in Brisbane, glad we’ve decided not to stop here, looks like any other big city – has about 1.5 million inhabitants and is the fastest growing city in Australia at the moment. Was elected the most liveable city in the world last year. But – we haven’t heard that much positive about it, so decided to skip it. Will go to Byron Bay tomorrow and plan to stay there 5-6 days if we like it there – have been recommended to go by many people. We almost decided to stay in Hervey Bay yesterday to go back to Fraser Island on a jeep tour – Pernille, Rikke, Tim, Johanne, Kasper and Tordis got to Hervey Bay on Sunday evening and knocked on our door yesterday asking if we wanted to hang out with them. Very nice seeing them all again – a bit sad to be travelling alone now that we met them again, so we almost decided to go on the tour they had booked for today, but we have already spent AUD 95 on Fraser, so didn’t want to spend another AUD 80 per person, we also don’t have the time to postpone our trip, so we couldn’t go. A bit annoyed with ourselves for not looking around when we got the rooms at Koalas that we weren’t happy with – the others moved to Beaches after a night at Koalas and got a 6-bed room with shower/toilet, fridge and TV for AUD 9 per person. When they said to Koalas they’d move they were however offered better rooms at the same price at Koalas – monkey business… Now we’re entering Surfer’s Paradise on the Gold Coast, but as the driver said – “the surfers don’t like it, and it sure ain’t no paradise…”. Looks like a city of concrete! Has been a tourist hot spot since the 1880ies, booming in the 1960ies. But the skyscrapers actually cast so long shadows on the beach so that the sun doesn’t quite reach it. Lots and lots of tall buildings along the beach – very uncosy and touristy, glad we won’t be stopping here! Now we’re out of Surfers, but haven’t got long, we’re in a queue at the motorway, first time that’s happened to us here in Australia. We’re 1.5 hours away from Nimbin, mostly known to backpackers as a place for hippies with an alternative lifestyle, and for arranging a big annual festival. Yesterday we visited the Danes on Beaches, watched Friends, dined at the hostel and then watched Dumb Dumber. Sad to say goodbye to them, exchanged addresses with Pernille and Rikke, maybe we’ll meet again some time? Might even see them again here before leaving Australia. Not so sad to leave Koalas however, most places are manned by other backpackers, and they seem to have no authority to make any kinds of decisions. We were going to do some white clothes laundry yesterday, paid AUD 2, but were unable to choose the right programme, the receptionist said the programme for coloured clothes would be the same, of course it wasn’t – the white clothes were washed in cold water and were just as dirty as before we washed them. Tried to get our money back, but they said all washing machines in Australia only had cold water programmes, which is bullshit since we’ve washed in warm water in every other place. Got a tip of a laundry from a Dane where it cost AUD 1,60 to wash our clothes in warm water, and another AUD 1 to dry them – so finally some clean and fresh clothes!


The bus trip from Hervey Bay via Nimbin to Byron Bay was WAY better than the last leg we had on OZ Experience. The bus drivers name was Sharkey, and he had a girlfriend with him who we think was called Shelley. We drove to Noosa first and we had a 1 ½ hours stop there, looked like a nice place. We drove via Brisbane and Surfers Paradise “No surfers and not a paradise!” Sharkey declared. On the way into Nimbin we thought the forest was on fire, but it was only the sunset who set the sky on fire, one of the most spectacular sights I have ever seen! Nimbin is a bit of a hippie colony, famed for growing the best weed in Australia. Grannys Farm was our accommodation, surely a nice place to stop for a few days. It was so lush and green in Nimbin, very cool place indeed. We had great pizza and beers at the only pub in town. We had trouble sleeping since our room was adjacent to the TV room, and the TV was on until 02:00. Annoying.


19 November 1997, Byron Bay, Australia:
Just arrived in Byron Bay after just 1.5 hours’ drive. Ørjan is around trying to find us a place to stay. Want to stay until Tuesday, so we hope to find somewhere nice, but not too expensive. We were dropped off at Holiday Village where they wanted AUD 45 for a double room which was connected to another 4-bed room where we had to share shower/toilet, living room and kitchen. Too expensive! Hope Ørjan will find an alternative. A bit cool today, overcast, quite nice, but hope the weather will change so we can go swimming/surfing. Nimbin had a very pretty location, the sky was yellow, orange and red as we drove through green hills wet from the dew and lots of beautiful jacaranda trees with bluish purple flowers – some of the most beautiful scenery I’ve ever seen. A pity we didn’t get to take a photo of it. Stayed at Granny’s farm, got a double room for AUD 26, and were taken by minibus to the town, although it was only a five-minute walk away. Had pizza and garlic bread and some cider at a pub – nice! Talked for a while with the Oz guides Michael and Shelly – nice people, knowledgeable and informative, good natured and smiling. Had a hard time falling asleep last night, people were up talking and laughing right outside our room, probably high from something, heard they started talking about hashish cookies as soon as we entered Nimbin. We saw the people of Nimbin today, I hope their lifestyle is making them happy, but quite a few looked like they’d had a hard life. By the way – yesterday when we stopped at a café, a woman was walking by staring at Ørjan, she came back and told us she was to pick up her nephew from Denmark that she hadn’t seen for 15 years, and since Ørjan looked a bit like his father she’d thought it might be him. But she was confused when she saw me, because no one had told him he was travelling with his girlfriend…


Got up at 09:00 to see some more of Nimbin. Pretty Flower-Power vibe village – only drawback was that the town had some more unsavoury inhabitants who did more than just smoke the hooka pipe occasionally. Bus left at 11:00 and we drove through a landscape that looked like the English countryside, no wonder this is called New England. It took around 1 ½ hours to Byron Bay. We walked to Holiday Village, a place we got recommended and we saw right away that we were in a pricier area than up North. A double room was 45 dollars! Dorm beds were 2-3 dollars more expensive than earlier on our trip. I checked out other options, but they were in the same price range. We ended up at the Aquarius with a nice dorm room with bathroom, kitchenette a balcony. 4 bunk beds and a separate double room per unit. Dorm room cost 16 dollars and we could have gotten a discount if we had a VIP card. We should get one. Byron Bay has lots of cool shops, a great beach, and a cool vibe. The hotel has curtesy bikes and boogie boards! We shopped for food at Woolworths, we need to save some money, and we will cook our own food, there is a nice communal kitchen here at Aquarius. And we found some delish blueberry muffins!

The wannabe surfers!

20 November 1997, Aquarius Resort, Byron Bay, Australia:
We’re staying at Aquarius, a nice resort where we’re in an 8-bed room at AUD 16 per person per night, a bit more expensive than up north, but ok. We have our own shower/toilet, fridge, table and chairs, and a veranda. We’ll try not to spend too much money on food and stuff, have done some shopping at Woolworths, and made spaghetti in the shared kitchen yesterday. Run into a Norwegian from Karmøy yesterday – he was a bit like us – longing to meet some other Norwegians and speak our own language, told us he walked around with a Norwegian cap, looking hopefully around to see if there were any Norwegians around… Had been sailing the Pacific since January – started in Venezuela (if I remember correctly). Talked to mum, Ørjan’s didgeridoo had still not arrived, so Ørjan had to call the shop in Cairns, and said he’d spent probably AUD 3 just to spell mum’s name… We were lucky enough to have the whole 8-bed room to ourselves yesterday – that was nice! A couple of girls have checked into the room tonight though. We’ve been quite sporty today! Borrowed some bicycles, paid AUD 80 as a deposit, but luckily got the money back upon return. We went to the light house at Cape Byron, quite a steep hill, so we both got tired and sweaty, not in great shape at the moment, but it was worth it! Beautiful view over all the beaches, we saw loads of people out surfing, and we might do a surfing class on Saturday – we’ll see how that turns out… Cape Byron is the most easterly point on mainland Australia. Went to a pristine beach later on, with fine white sand, lush green bushes on the side and beautiful blue sea with big waves, but pretty cold water. Had lunch there which we’d brought from the hostel. Delivered some film for developing and sent some emails from an internet café.


After good night’s sleep I walked down to reception and paid in advance to stay until Tuesday. We borrowed a couple of bicycles and headed up to the lighthouse, it was a steep hill but the views over Byron Bay and the beaches was incredible. Byron Bay is probably one of the nicest places we have been to ever, plenty of beach space, surfing, cool shops, cool bars, and people makes it a dream destination. The surf is supposedly great, I must book a lesson soon. I had to call and ask where my didgeridoo was again, still not appeared in Norway or any other place for that matter. I rebooked our stay in Sydney too and it only cost 20 dollars per night!


21 November 1997, Aquarius Resort, Byron Bay, Australia:
Great day! Just got back from the beach – so nice down there. We were swimming in clear water with high waves and chilled out in soft sand dunes. Didn’t go there until around 3.30 p.m., had a single shopping day before that – from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Found a nice Thai-style t-shirt and finally a bikini! Really nice in velour, blue colour, and only about AUD 49. The family who was staying here last night weren’t very considerate, got up early, talked loudly, didn’t close the door to the bathroom while using it, all while we were trying to sleep. Glad they’re not staying for another night. Two Germans or Austrians have moved into the double room connected to our dorm, they don’t say much – probably not very sociable.


We had a little shopping done in the morning and headed for the beach in the afternoon. I bought a cool t shirt and I signed us up for a surfing lesson tomorrow.


22 November 1997, Aquarius Resort, Byron Bay, Australia:
Today we’ve been surfing! Didn’t think we’d get on the tour, cause when we got to the reception at 9.30 a.m. there was no one there, it got to be 10, and still no one. We called them, they said they didn’t have our names on their list but put us up for tour at 11.30 instead. A surfer dude arrived in a van, but as soon as we got in the van stopped, and didn’t start again… The guy got super stressed; he was about to pick up more people for this tour and drive the people from the first tour back. He called a car rescue company, and after about half an hour’s wait, we were on the go. There were two other Norwegians on the tour, Pål and Svein I think their names were. We were taken to the surfer dude’s house, pretty messy place, picked up some surfer suits and drove to the beach. In all we were seven people trying to learn how to surf, and the instructor, Jeremy had been surfing from the age of three, and had been a professional for about 10 years. Got into our wet suits and went down to the beautiful beach in the lagoon. Great conditions for surfing today with lots of high waves. Practiced a bit on the beach at first, then into the sea, and the first thing I did was to cut my hand on the board – quite a lot of bleeding, so not the best of starts… Once in the water it was very difficult to get far enough to get to the actual surfing, felt like I took one step forward before the big waves hit me ten steps back again, quite strenuous! But Jeremy got to the rescue, held my board so that I could get onto it, then pushed me away as a nice wave came along. The first time it went so fast so I didn’t dare do anything but get up onto my knees and ride the wave like that, felt that I could have tried to stand up though, I felt the balance was there, and the next time it worked. Very proud of myself when I was riding a wave standing on the board, had to jump off as I got close to the beach. Managed this a few more times, it was so much fun! Swallowed a lot of water though and got really tired from trying to get far enough out in the sea fighting the big waves with a big board in my hands. Felt a bit dangerous with the big, hard board with a sharp fin underneath, if you’re hit by it you’ll be pretty badly injured. I had the board tied to my ankle, so every time a wave hit the board and made it “fly” away, I went along with it. Had chicken with some bread from Woolworths when we got back, tired and with itchy eyes from all the salt water, so reading was not an option, think I’ll go to bed soon.


We should have been picked up at 09:30 outside Aquarius but by 10:00 no one had turned up to get us and we called the surf place, and they had no record of us coming on that morning’s lesson. We had to wait until 11:30, this was OK for me, Tanja got into a bit of a hissy fit but apologized for this right away, not much we could do. We walked to Woolworths to stock up on food and blueberry muffins. When the man came to pick us up, his van stopped dead and would not start. We had to wait around for a quick fix at the side of the road. The dude who drove us was a typical surfer dude, highly strung but funny as hell. There were also 2 Norwegians on board. When we arrived at the home of our teacher it was a shack filled with surfboards and wet suits, combined with a small kitchen and a bedroom. This was a home and a business. We found fitting wet suits and got our surfboards and headed for the southern end of the beach for our lesson in the art of surfing. The waves were perfect and would suit beginners we were told. Lots of experienced surfers all around, and us! It was incredibly hard to stand up on the board, I am sure my board was too small for me, I had no chance of catching a wave and gain forward momentum. Tanja did great and caught some waves and managed to stand up a ride for a short while, I got more and more frustrated. It was incredibly hard to fight your way out into the waves only to be washed back onto the beach and having to start the whole process again. It was great fun though, and very enjoyable experience but a surfer I will never be! I was thirstier than a camel in the evening after having swallowed litres of salt water while trying to catch that wave.

23 November, entry from Ørjan, no entry from Tanja



24 November 1997, Aquarius Resort, Byron Bay, Australia:
Exchanging addresses now, met up with the Danes again yesterday evening. Tim and Johanne moved in with us after we told them we had the room to ourselves, just a while after three others moved in… Rikke and Pernille checked into Holiday Village. Was with them at the beach today, rented body boards and rode the waves, swallowed some litres of water again, but great fun! But we, or rather I, got sunburnt again – incredibly strong sun! Today we’ve blown our budget again, well not really, but we’ve spent a lot more compared to the other days here. Were just out and had something to eat with the others, we paid AUD 28, and had planned to spend only 10… Much more expensive here than further north, AUD 3.80 to wash clothes in cold water – double the price as we’re used to paying, the same amount for drying the clothes. So, washed my t-shirts by hand yesterday, and we’ve been really good with money earlier this week, bought food from the supermarket, both for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and have saved a lot of money that way. Both our bank accounts and our traveller’s checks are decreasing, so we have to be a bit more careful with money. Have booked a hotel, well hostel, in Sydney for AUD 10 per person per night, which is really cheap. But we’re a bit sceptical about staying in King’s Cross – it being a red-light district and there’s a murderer on the loose there now. We’ll just have to be careful. Went to the beach today with Tim and Johanne, Tim loved the body boards and was in the water the whole time. I had to hide under my towel and keep my hat on in order to avoid getting even more sunburnt.

Johanne, Tim and Ørjan having breakfast

We walked to get Tanja’s developed pictures. Walked to the beach with Tim and Johanne and brought bodyboards with us, had great fun in the waves. Stayed at the beach until 18:30 and we all met Rikke and Pernille for dinner. We ate at Hogs Breath, and it was nachos again! Home to pack our stuff since tomorrow we will be going to Bellingen and on to Sydney. No news about my didgeridoo.

We absolutely loved Byron Bay, it was for sure one of the highlights of our time in Australia. Ørjan has still not managed to get that elusive wave, and Tanja still craves those blueberry muffins.

Ørjan and Tanja 2022

Coming up next: Sydney and the Blue Mountains and farewell Australia!

Categories:Around The World 1997, Travel


  1. 26 Years later and Byron Bay is a celebrity hub. Super expensive and exclusive and one huge traffic jam. Glad that you enjoyed it while you could

    Liked by 1 person

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