Yesterday I was feeling a bit sorry for myself, so avoided passing on the blues to my blog-readers. Having had dreams of hitting the surf at Byron, I was disheartened to realise that I was a bit more beat up than I initially thought after my fall in the bath. I have a stiff neck from what is probably mild whiplash, a bump on the back of my head as well as a very tender right upper arm and left elbow-knobble (technical term). I also have a persistent headache, but that may also be because I’ve decided to hold off the coffee for a few days – I’m using the plethora of health-food shops and vegan cafes here to attempt a bit of a detox as I realised that muffins, cakes and coffee were comprising an increasingly alarming proportion of my daily intake.
This photo gives you an idea of the size of my bruise – i.e. most of my upper arm. People keep asking me how it happened – I think I need to construct a more exciting back-story…
I was also very tired due to a predictably disturbed sleep on the previous night. When my fellow dorm-mates arrived back at 3am, in high spirits, I couldn’t get back to sleep. It didn’t help that when I went to the loo, as I was washing my hands I looked at the mirror and saw a massive spider crawling across my cheek – obviously I majorly freaked out. I know it’s not great form for an ecologist to be scared of spiders, and it’s something I’ve been making good progress with, but my calmness towards arachnids does not yet extend to when they’re ON MY FACE!! Anyway, that didn’t help me sleep afterwards – I kept violently thrashing out at all the imagined insects tickling me.
On the plus side, the veranda steps of our dorm villa turned out to be a very relaxing, peaceful place to watch the wildlife in and around the green, swampy lake. Bush turkeys scratched, magpies squabbled, water dragons plopped in and out of the water, drogonflies hovered above the surface, yellow butterflies fluttered past, and a huge, squat lizard watched over me at the base of the steps like a big, burly bouncer. I even had a brief visit from a beautiful heron at one point.
The brilliantly ugly bush turkey.
My reptilian guardian at the bottom of the steps.
I also discovered that Byron Bay is good for blagging free food yesterday – in the afternoon I went out for a wander to the beach to cheer myself up and on the way back the heavens opened and I took shelter under a gazebo in a park area. It turned out to belong to the Byron Bay Environmental Group, who were having a get-together, and who offered me dahl, chai and banana-bread (I like to think this is karma for my own love of the environment). When the rain momentarily stopped I made a dash for it but diverted my course to see what a crowd of people ahead were congregated around. It turned out that a Christian youth-club were putting on a free barbecue. I chatted to a friendly Norwegian bloke whilst munching on a yummy burger, who said it was their way of ‘showing God’s love’. I’m still not a believer, but it gave me a warm feeling on an otherwise blue day.
The day perked up significantly in the evening, due to another spectacular evening of live music at the hostel. Three local musicians shared their talent, and by the end of the evening everyone was up and dancing, swinging their dreadlocks, myself included (apart from the dreadlocks part, don’t worry mum). One band also had a professional hula-hooper perform to some of their songs, which was fantastic to watch. She could writhe and gyrate like a snake, and could do things with the hoop that defied belief.
Today has been a much better day. I still ache, and don’t think I’m wave-ready yet, but the sun shone and I enjoyed pottering round Byron and having a swim in the sea. I treated myself to a massage at the hostel this morning, but a massage with a very Byron twist – it involved some reiki, some fantastic undoing of my knots with a metallic ball, crystals being laid all over my body and, on occasion, ‘sound healing’, where she laid a chime on my back and hit it gently, so the sound resonated through my muscles – actually very effective. I felt incredibly relaxed afterwards, and she assured me that my chakras were in better alignment now, which is always good to know. The masseur was an ex-nurse from Manchester, who’d originally come here for 5 days twelve years ago, and had never left.
I can totally see how Byron could get under the skin. The town is full of a complete range of characters, and there is very much a feel of acceptance, whoever you are and whatever you do and think. The concentration of therapists and healers, and self-conscious choice of a healthy, organic, ethical lifestyle by the majority, not to mention a very strong community feel (today, for example, was ‘Harmony Day’, with dancing and food stalls celebrating the different nationalities within Byron) makes it a welcoming place, where you feel you could slow down the pace of your life, heal your ills and learn to become more accepting of yourself and others. And I haven’t even had a surf yet…
A few photos of various aspects of Byron below:
View across beautiful Byron Bay towards tree-clad Byron Point, Australia’s easternmost point.
The rolling surf.
The advert board for my massage this morning – there are lots of similar signs advertising similarly esoteric services all over the town.
Rain-soaked flower on the beach yesterday – these flowers and leaves formed a mat on the dunes; some kind of bindweed I think.
Tomorrow I’m crossing my fingers that I’ll feel better. If so, I hope to walk to Australia’s eastern-most point, which is spiritually very important for the local aboriginal community, and also is a great place to see whales passing through, as well as dolphins and turtles.