Byron Bay

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The morning after Cheekie Monkeys I woke up sick as a dog. Big surprise. It doesn’t take long partying and living in a hostel before you ultimately get a cold. But Byron Bay awaited and I wasn’t about to miss out. So I grabbed a quick bite and set off to the beach.
The long stretch of main beach was full of swimmers and surfers alike. I found a shady spot under a tree and read and people watched until my nose stopped running and I had the energy to explore. Someone along my way down the coast had said the hike to the lighthouse in Byron is an absolutely must see! From the beach, I could see the lighthouse sticking out above the crest of a little hill. Couldn’t be more than 20 minutes or so, I thought to myself, might as well wander over.
Well, 20 minutes was a little bit of an understatement, and “wander” isn’t necessarily the verb I’d use to describe the hike. The lighthouse was significantly further away and much further up than it looked like from the town of Byron. The hike took close to 2 hours to complete, and the elevation change was slightly more than I wanted to endure with a cold… But it didn’t matter. The lighthouse hike was my favourite hike in Australia to date! The beaches and the coastal hikes were stunning! The path to the lighthouse takes you to a lookout point that is considered the easternmost point of mainland Australia! From there you can watch the sunrise before any other person in the country. Although I didn’t see any, the surrounding waters were home to pods of dolphins and whales and all sorts of sea turtles! The following day, Keelie and Laura (two girls from my hostel room) raved about all the sea creatures they had encountered on the trip. But my favourite part about the hike was stumbling across Tallow Beach.
Just after the lighthouse I came across a lookout to a breathtaking stretch of white sand beach. The windswept land stretched way off into the distance and, to my surprise, there was not a human soul on it.
I MUST get to that beach, I thought. Finding a deserted beach on the east coast of Australia is line finding a needle in a hay stack: especially during the summer months. How could this beach, that was so beautiful that people were stopping in their cars to gape at it’s views, be completely void of people?
I had just discovered my newest mission.
So the following morning I google mapped the area of Byron Bay and found a small road through a national park that would take me there. I grabbed a picnic lunch, my bikini, my book and a beach towel and set out. 45 minutes later I came stumbling out of the jungle and onto paradise. Tallow Beach.
I had found it! All on my own, I found it!
I walked along the surf until I found a spot to lie down in the Sunshine. I watched the waves for a few minutes while I tanned, then rolled over to start reading. All alone. On my private beach.
Not a half hour later I felt a drop of water, I turned around to see a massive black cloud that had snuck up somewhere from the South.
Nooooooo, I thought. I was prepared to camp here for the day!
Too late.
It began to rain. Before I had packed up my backpack it was pouring!
I was an hour from shelter and stuck in shorts and a tank top. This would happen to me.
I sprinted back into the shelter of the trees and popped out into the back of a random parking lot. There was a single car parked there and a young couple that I hadn’t seen before packing up some fishing gear.
“Hey, are you guys headed towards Byron Bay?” They looked at me, startled to hear a persons voice I think, and even more startled to see how soaked I was.
“Ya! Jump in! We’ll give you a ride!”
They were life saving. Every kilometer closer to Byron Bay we drove the more I realized how miserable I would have been trudging through the rain. They even went as far as dropping me off right outside my hostel doors, despite my insistence that the edge of town was just fine!
The rains didn’t stop for the rest of the afternoon. My cold had gotten so bad, that I was forced to go to the chemist for some drugs. I took it easy that evening, grabbing dinner around the corner and heading to bed early: envious of my roommates who were headed out on the town once again.
“Have a drink for me!” I said as they wandered into the night. And then I passed out as my head hit the pillow.

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Cheekie Monkeys

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I feel like Byron Bay is the happy medium between crazy Surfer’s Paradise and relaxing Coolangatta. The beaches are perfect and the hiking is great. A person could spend the day relaxing at a cafe, or partying until dawn at the Cheekie Monkey. Something for everyone.
The Nomads hostel I stayed at was loud and party oriented and completely impersonal. But with hundreds of backpackers staying at the hostel, each nightly event was sure to be a big one.
My first evening there I got dragged into VIP night at the Cheekie Monkey pub down the street. $5 dinners and no line. Okay fine. I met an English Girl named Hayley who had also just arrived and the two of us set out towards cheap food and more chaos than we had expected…
Cheekie Monkeys is the be all end all of backpacker bars. They have cheap food, drink specials, thousands of dollars worth of prizes to give away, and some sort of event occurring every 20 minutes: for those with extreme ADD. Raffles. Speed Dating. Bikini Contests. Table Dancing. Any kind of bar game you could imagine. They gave away free skydiving vouchers. $300 worth of hard cash. Trips to the Whit Sundays. People were winning prizes, getting involved, or in Hayley and my case, getting dragged into being involved. We just barely escaped the speed dating round, only to be pulled up on stage with the three other girls we were with for some unknown contest. Oh god.
“This is a very easy game ladies and gentleman!” Said the guy on the mic “you ladies don’t have to worry about a thing!”
Right there I knew he was probably lying.
“All you have to do is find things that I ask for and bring them back to me”
Okay. Seems simple enough. Only rule was, you couldn’t get it from yourself.
And luckily it was that easy. A two dollar coin… Check. An unused condom… Check. A girl’s bra… Check. A sock… Check. A pint of water… Check.
Each one was done one at a time. Each item supposedly slightly harder to get than the last. The last person to bring up the item was disqualified, then the remaining were given another task.
“Okay!” Said the announcer “now that you have everything, I want you to take the bra, and put it on over your clothes. Then take the sock, and put it over the water glass. Then, through the sock, you have to chug ALL the water in the glass! First person to do so, wins a $400 dollar voucher for skydiving. GO!”
It was cruel. The socks were worn by dirty, smelly backpackers that had been sweating and dancing all night. Who knows when the last time those socks were washed! I thanked my lucky stars I had been forced out on the last round. But the four girls I was with were the last survivors. And they did very well…
After only a little hesitation, all four girls started chugging the water back through the socks. The girl who finished first choked back at the end and all the water came spewing out her nose. The crowd’s cheer was deafening. It was going to be one of those nights.
Welcome to Cheekie Monkeys: my first impression of Byron Bay…