ONE YEAR!!! I must be bananas

Happy birthday to me! Exactly a year ago today, I got on the plane from Heathrow and jetted off for Thailand to begin this insane trip. And you know what? My only regret is not doing it earlier in life (like when the Aussie government would let me work legally). Oh, and losing my girlfriend but that could have happened anywhere.

So what did I spend this important anniversary doing? Travelling. For twelve hours. But this is a good thing.

As plotted yesterday, I started off in the layby at the Sydney Harbour Bridge (south side) and within ten minutes had my first ride from a guy called Jason. He’s hitched across Europe so is always happy to pick up backpackers. He got me about 20km outside of the city and near a main artery road. There I was picked up by Roman – a builder/architect – who dropped me off a short distance up the road near Hornsby. Again, a good spot as many trucks go through here.

My one disappointment of the day came here. An Aston Martin DB9 drove past. In fairness, I don’t think it has enough luggage space for my rucksack, but I’d have at least have liked to try! Instead, Alan picked me up in his flatbed on the way to Gosford to drop off some industrial cleaning fluids to a garage there. After his errand, he went out of his way to drop me at a servo on the F3 where I chowed down on a McD’s and then jumped into a 4×4 for a short trip to the Pacific Highway junction (sorry – I forget the guy’s name who got me here).

I walked over the bridge there (safe – it’s a cycle path so walking must be alright) and had barely dropped my bags on the ground when Chris stopped. This was the golden lift – he wasn’t just going as far as Byron Bay, he was heading around 1000km north of Brisbane.

Roughly 8 hours and accompanied by a 1-ton machine part he was emergency-shipping to a mine somewhere, he dropped me at the outskirts of Byron Bay. Su-perb!

Chris was good company. We managed to natter for pretty much all of the journey and he even took my photo at the Big Banana in Coffs Harbour. Thanks, fella!

Oz has a huge collection of “Big” things – the banana, sheep, pineapples and a scary-as-all-hell shrimp on top of a BP garage we drove past. I will have nightmares. There’s also a miniature Uluru built by two guys who used to be on TV in the 60’s as the centrepiece for a themepark. Instead, they fell out and the big fibreglass monstrosity lay there for years until a garage chain bought it and built a shopping mall into the side. Bizarre.

After Chris dropped me off, I walked maybe a kilometre of the six towards the town centre when a minivan pulled up and the driver took me right up to the door of my hostel. Result – and my thanks to the driver who is also the owner of the 24-7 convenience store on Jonson Street!

Coach journey – 14 hours overnight (so no scenery) and $86. My journey time – 12 hours and completely and utterly free. I’d pretty much resigned myself to stopping somewhere 2/3 of the way up and getting to Byron on the 15th, but I made the whole trip in one go. Heck, had I been going to Brisbane, Chris could even have dropped me there – 1000km in one ride!

A couple of thanks, then, as I got two business cards:

  • For sprays that rejuvenate paintwork and are graffiti-proof, go to 2Guard and ask for Jason
  • Need something huge shipped across Oz on short notice? Contact 24/7 Parts Express at

I checked into the Aquarius hostel and dumped my stuff in the room. Nice place, if a little pricey – but all of Byron is expensive during peak season. The dorm’s nice with a sink and a fridge and tons of free space, plus it’s en-suite.

I desparately needed food as it was gone 10pm and I’d not eaten since lunch so I joined a group who were heading out for beer and detoured via a chippy for a chicken schnitzel, chips and gravy which was… erm… passable.

The people I’d headed out with seemed to have left the bar by the time I got there, but my antique Toon top got me chatting to about 12 people (I lost count of how many had recently spent 3 years at Newcastle Uni) and I spent most of the rest of the night with a guy from Nottingham.

We barhopped up to Cheeky Monkey’s which was passable as far as resort clubs go. $5 to get in and moderately expensive beer, but more eye candy than a whole street of sweet shops. I’ve yet to see an ugly woman in Byron – I don’t think they’re allowed in. Having said that, Byron’s female population alone could support any major make-up company for a year and keep them well in profit.

So, after going out for a quick bite and a beer, I collapsed in bed at around 3:30am… and read for 15 minutes before I nodded off.

What a way to spend a “birthday”!

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