As you can see we are getting good at this jungle hammock thing…
At O’Reilly’s you get to spend time in the cool mountain rainforests surrounded by gorgeous tropical birds, a free treetop walk through the jungle hammock and a fine wine produced by the O’Reilly vineyard. This made me chuckle as the idea of a good Irish wine is a little bit of an oxymoron – well kind of. I drank a little too much and manged to fall out of my hammock and keep the neighbours awake.
One O’Reilly relative was kind enough to save some plane crash survivors as they clung to life on one of the remote mountain slopes nearby, there is a statue to commemorate this with ‘a great Aussie Story’ written on it as well as something about mateship. I like the idea of mateship, I think it’s all about keeping your buddies beer glass full or something like that, saving your fellow bod from a lonely demise on a mountain is also included along with anything in between these two bookends.
The top thing for me at O’reilly’s had to be the treetop walk. Cleverly constructed so that you walk out over a slope so that it seems as if you have hardly gone up into the canopy of anything at all, you soon find yourself up there with the birds. And what birds they are…
Byron Bay is one of those places that has been eaten up by it’s own success, a bit like the Thai islands, or any little idyll that has suffered the spotlight in fact.
Little more than 30 years ago it was just a quiet spot with green rolling hills a stones throw from a gorgeous beach, these days it has that patina of Americana that would scare the purist hippies into the hills.
I don’t have to lament these changes having not visited before so I loved the walk up to the lighthouse to see the views around the vast curving beaches either side. It was also a grand feeling standing on the most easterly point of such a vast continent.
For the night we slung the jongle hammocks up just back from the beach so we heard the rolling surf all night.
The east coast of Oz has so many gorgeous places to see, yet one of the most well know crowd pleasers is The Big Banana that sits glaring over the road just outside Coffs Harbour.
Now the problem with having the moniker ‘Big’ before your name is that you expect it to be nothing less than, well, big. The big banana didn’t really live up to it’s bigness in my books, but let’s not get Freudian about that or we’ll be here all day.
Here is a picture of the big banana, admittedly it would fill up your bowl of muesli should you slice it up for breakfast.
Well that’s about it right now. I have to prise myself away from this idyll to take a look up country or I’ll have to take up residency here in Bellingen. Now that’s no bad thing and we are considering it as an option, along with half of the rest of the world too. It’s a nice dichotomy to be in, but for now we are up for a trip to the gold coast and some of those little waterfalls with idyllic little pools we have heard about up country.
I once read this wonderful book by Ted Simon called Jupiter’s Travels about his tour on a Triumph around the globe. But one thing that puzzled me was a big gap in the middle where it seems he was gobbled up by cosy living in the hippy hills of the US Eastern seaboard. Ted hung up his boots and tucked into hippy chicks and corn bread for a good long while.
Bellingen has snaffled me up in a similar fashion, it being a little laid back haven luxuriating in it’s emerald green valley whilst it cups you and runs it’s fingers through your hair. I also am lucky enough to have three sisters (well did have, young Nelly has gone back to the UK) who assist the aforementioned Bellinger valley with the baking of cakes and home made bread.
I’m not sure if I’ll ever get out of here alive, it’ll turn into a ‘whicker man’ scenario where some vixen like Britt Ekland will try to tempt me away from my monk like life of abstinence with kinky gyrations. I won’t be as foolish as Edward Woodward and will take up the offer for the good of all involved, I’m ready for you Britt though I may lose my virtue in my escape attempt.
Meanwhile back at the ranch I am catching up on some web work after a negligent Christmas of pies and beer. It’s not all sacrifices in 40 ft tall withy geezers around here y’know.
Australia is a bit more smoke and mirrors than I expected it to be. Maybe this is because over in the UK we think we know about Australia, it crops up in conversation and a good deal of it’s population think of London as a second home, so when I arrived I expected it to be familiar. But no, to be honest Hong Kong feels more like home – not only because I lived there for a year, but because more people seem to speak English than they do in Sydney.
Don’t get me wrong here, I know Australia is a melting pot, I just didn’t expect it to be melting quite as much as it is.
On a practical work front it is difficult to get Internet access too. I found it easier in Cambodia than I do here, which I explain to myself as being the result of Australia having a huge infrastructure to support – but this doesn’t compute.
I do love this city though, we went swimming in the Olympic sized harbour side pool today where you can swim lengths while the harbour bridge stretches above you and over the bay. This is such an outdoor place. I am having to adjust my white skin to the outdoors though as it is hot and humid here, in my 6 weeks across S.E.Asia I haven’t come across heat like this yet.
We have walked everywhere – a bicycle would be better and a canoe better than that, but for now we have walked. The markets over at Balmain and Rozelle were a treat – at Rozelle a jazz quartet played whilst I got my aching shoulders massaged, I was enjoying that melting pot right then as well as when we tucked into a Singapore Laksha at the Darling Harbour food circle.
Sydney is going to take a little longer than I imagined to get the hang of and I’m glad for it, it’s those songs you always learn to love the most isn’t it!
I went up to the travellers hostel in the evening to see if any old faces were still around and found ‘George’ still living there. George is a long term tenant of Chung King Mansions who gets very cagey whenever you ask him about his past. He told me that John the Book had died in March of this year.
John the book was one of the characters I most remembered of my time in Hong Kong. He survived by selling old magazines or hiring neat clothes to travellers wanting to look nice for interviews. He was nocturnal.
But it was Alan who I met that evening that had the most strange tale to tell.
Alan is on remand at the moment. He is on remand because he was stopped by the police on a routine check, they found a knife and a knuckle duster in his pocket and decided, on this basis, to search his room at the hostel. What they found amazed them.
The police found a whole armoury including home made smoke bombs and a batman like outfit.
Alan had taken a disliking to the triads after splitting with his Chinese wife, so he decided to become a vigilante, getting rid of the scum off of the streets. He is handy with his martial arts so he would dress up in a mask and cape and then pounce on people that were up to no good. One trick he told me was to chuck ball bearings down an alleyway to confuse his prey.
Not being a witness to this I am not sure how comedic this effort would have been and indeed in the beginning I thought he was telling porkies so I doubted the validity of his story. But Alan showed me photocopies of the police report. He also has a video of them searching his room and pictures that the police took of every itemised weapon.
It might just be all true.
Apparently the police quite like him but they have to do their job and prosecute him.
The youth hostel at Mount Davis is basic but friendly, but it’s the view that you get which is priceless. I sat until late just enjoying the vista then turned in to crinkly myself to sleep on a thin plastic coated sponge mattress.
In the morning I took a bus to central and joined the throngs breakfasting in McDonalds. Afterwards I took the picture above which is why the sun is so low in the sky.
I then went to visit the place I stayed in upon arrival the first time around. I passed a woman in a lift that spouted ‘you loom, you loom’ at me as if I were deaf and in need of something to do with weaving. I kind of knew she meant room but what association she had with the said looms I couldn’t tell, so she looked dismissive and muttered her way into the lift and was off. That was the owner who speaks little to no English. The hostel itself looked deserted missing even basic furniture. At one time there was a bed near the door where a large black man slept and guarded the door at the same time, no mean feat, but now it seemed full of ghosts.
The travellers hostel was a funny old place where quite a few long termers in Hong Kong stayed as it was one of the few affordable bits of real estate to be found. There were a lot of English teachers and girls working as hostesses that entertained old Chinese men for a fee. I became very close to one of these girls, Jackie, who was the light and soul of the place. We would meet after her shifts and zip around the bars of Hong Kong from one happy hour to the next. One of these bars would pay men to dance on the bar top with no t-shirt on Wednesdays as it was ladies night, we would lean down and take another beer whenever we wished. We had no shame.
A few of the other full time resident of the travellers hostel were elderly Europeans that were not going home for love nor money. One of them, John the book, would rent out books, magazines and clothes, the clothes were for your first interviews that you don’t have anything in your rucksack for.The place was always busy, people gathered in the foyer swapping tips for jobs and the times of the happy hours for the bars around town, it was a lot of fun and felt like home. Now it looked devoid of life and a tad spooky as you can see from the picture below.
And another picture, where is everyone?
I was going to stay in the travellers hostel for old times sake but I decided that it felt a little morbid. I therefore headed over to the YMCA.
Now the Y in Hong Kong seems to be very unchristian. They charge 100 HK$ for Internet access alone so I am making sure I get my moneys worth. I was also looking forward to a swim but the swimming pool is closed, I guess I’ll have to wait for my swim in Sydney’s harbour side swimming pool that I have been told so much about.