As much as we were sad to leave the boat and Whitsunday Islands, Airlie Beach left no impression. It was a backpacker oriented gateway to the islands but for us it wasn't really a place worth staying for longer. So we gladly boarded a small Virgin Australia plane to get to Brisbane to see Ned & Kat as a stopover to explore the Gold Coast and finally immerse ourselves in surfing and beach life.
Meeting Ned & Kat was awesome - I used to work with this guy back in London for a year and apart from being one of the best designers I've ever met, he was also probably the kindest guy on the planet. I haven't seen him for over three years and it was nice to visit him, his wife Kat and their 4 months old Rhodesian Ridgeback pup - Scout, in their new beautiful house in the suburb of Brisbane.
This stay was short - only a weekend. We spent our time with them walking the dog and exploring their lovely neighbourhood. We had great time and they made us feel very welcome and helped with all the arrangements for the next leg of the trip. On Sunday we visited nearby waterfalls with a swimming hole and attempted to lit up a bbq in a Bear Grylls style - using a wet wood found in the forest around. Well, we did light it up but it was more of a meat smoking spot than a barbecue so we moved to a gas powered one and finally had the meal. Swimming in the waterhole was awesome - cold and refreshing - with an added excitement of meeting a half-a-meter local eel. It was a great weekend!
On Monday morning we boarded a Greyhound bus and headed to Byron Bay - an amazing little seaside town, known for its surfing opportunities and generally laid back lifestyle. It turned out - this kind of beach bum way of life was what we love and we spent almost a week simply lazying around before attempting any water sports.
We checked in into our apartment which was to become our home for the next two weeks and hit the beach - a spectacular many miles long stretch of golden sand with big turquoise waves crashing on the shallows and sending sea spray in the air.
Finally - contrary to Port Douglas - the ocean was cooling! So... we spent most of the first week jumping the waves, lying in the sun or in the sun tent, observing people, observing surfers and bodyboarders braving the waves - and generally relaxing.
We tried morning yoga and afternoon massages that left us bruised and happy. We drank amazing coffee in the morning and ate breakfast at home or in one of the cafes recommended by our apartment's manager (a middle age British lady, clearly enjoying her Byron life and knowing all about everything worth knowing here). We went for long walks on the beach with the famous Byron Bay lighthouse sending long ray of light deep into the evening sky and we sipped amazing margaritas in Miss Margarita bar on the main street. We cooked dinners at home and found probably the best laksa we ever had at Red Hot & Green restaurant.
The joy of nothing at its best!
At the end of the week we booked our surfing class. And I booked my PADI Open Water diving course. The next week was looking really busy in comparison already....