After leaving Bellingen, I made my way east to the coast again to Coffs Harbor, but only as a pass through towards Byron Bay. On the way, we kept our eyes peeled for…
THE BIG BANANA!
All of a sudden I was transported to the Monkey Island Games© by Lucas Arts, which have had a profound impact on my psyche (snigger,snorffle,cough). I was hoping to engage my witty repartee to win a sword duel against a monkey or something, but instead I was pacified with a frozen banana on a stick covered in chocolate!
The Big Banana is a Banana plantation. Nothing says, “You’ve now entered a muggy paradise!” like roadside banana plants. Really, the bananas were wonderful. I’d never had ladyfinger bananas before either, and the flavor was 10x that of a banana flown to Washington State. Why lady fingers though? They look nothing like ladyfingers? I mean, I’m a lady (sort of) and I don’t go around calling anything by its “gentleman’s” size. Words are funny things. Above are just a few of the overwhelming amounts of banana products.
Next off was a brief stop in a rest area (Driver Reviver in Aus) called “New Italy.” Apparently this was the former site of an Italian community that had moved to the area together in the 1880’s in response to the discrimination they had received at the hands of the Englishman in larger populated areas like Sydney. Here in New Italy, they could speak their language, practice some of their beliefs and traditions and develop the land. Like any other group of immigrants, life was not easy for them. They had to build communities from scratch in isolation from the rest of the growing colonies with the few material possessions they brought with them. What they did have, was contact with the aboriginal population, and a desire to be helpful to them (as I read in their museum). This produced a very interesting culture of Italian-Australians. This former homesteading area includes a school, church, hospital, and some elements of home like this Italian statue.
I was reminded of my Italian-American family I babysit for back home and how much I love their kid and enjoy reading his Italian books with him. I am also reminded of my Italian-Canadian friend Lucia who just went on her own journey to the old country and is currently re-mounting her play Espresso featuring her heritage right now in Vancouver. (Near BC? tickets here.)
Coming from somewhere else (mentally, geographically, emotionally) is a common theme. Often times, we end up belonging neither where we came from nor where we have come to. I’m interested in how we navigate these transitions, and how things change and stay the same within and without us all the while.
Byron Bay by Night and Day
I got to Byron Bay jut past twilight hours and took some time on the beach at this most easterly point of the Australian continent. It was the most beautiful night on a beach I have every had in my life. I must have been out there for hours. Pure night, with a full moon and stars on a warm beach, with an ocean extending further than perception… is magical. I felt like I was in a movie, which is to say, life felt surreal, hyper-real, dreamlike. There was a breeze on my face, and I felt like I could see behind everything. The moon hung over the ocean like an orb carrying a magical being moving very slowly closer, then further away. The light reflected on the clouds like the rendering of an artist who couldn’t be content with less than 1,000 shades of grey. I couldn’t capture it with a photograph. It was too big, and hit more of my field of vision and more of my senses than a photo would do justice on. Some things are beyond description. Arguably all of them, but I fail here particularly. It was nothing short of a spiritual experience.
Even though Byron Bay has one of the most beautiful beaches, in general I preferred Tallow Beach near Suffolk Park, just south of Byron Bay and the lighthouse. It was less populated and the water as warm. It was so nice to finally take a dip in the Ocean without use of a bath. I jumped the waves like a giddy kid for a good hour and let them toss me this way and that.
I was hoping for a beautiful sunrise over the ocean, but every time I got up for it, it was too foggy that early. This was a sign. For nearly three complete days, it rained. I mean torrential rain. The kind of rain that makes you feel like a light shower might help dry you off. It would have felt like home, but the drops were fat and dense, not a Seattle or Vancouver-like drizzle.
I was very glad to have a car to and to not have set up a tent. The tents were just rained down.
No Shirt, No Shoes, No Problem
Byron Bay is home to a major Blues Festival, and it looks pretty Bluegrass too. It’s a hippie town to be sure. Small and sprawl and this time of year, fairly quiet. There are lots of young folk populating the area and probably the most dread-locks and harem pants I’ve ever seen in any one spot. People often dress very brightly here, when they dress at all. Beach culture = scantily clad. That whole “no shirt, no shoes, no service” thing that exists in the States is not at all a requirement here. (I think of my friend Satyros Phil Brucato, who is a deep proponent of barefoot living.) I have a feeling this is actually somewhat of a national sentiment that shoes are simply not obligatory (and apparently neither are pants, see photo).
On the one day of clear weather I explored town and found lots and lots of cafes, restaurants, and shops, including a Seattle “Mishu” and Toronto “Fairy’s Pajamas” counterpart called “Fairy Floss and Pixie King.” This is my kind of clothes, although I haven’t adapted it to warm weather yet.
Although I dig this town and its young esoteric vibe, I didn’t feel particularly like extending my visit in that spot. Lots of the locals complain that it’s become too commercialized, which usually means that it’s getting more expensive and pretentious. I didn’t stay long enough to know if that’s true. I suppose it is. Most places that do well by being different rarely keep the spirit of their difference once it becomes successful. Like an artist that unconsciously makes work similar to the one style that made money, authentic uniqueness is often fleeting in the commercial market. It’s ephemeral.
Next Up…Viva Bris Vegas!