I started traveling exactly three months ago today. Along the way I have been intrigued, elated, fascinated, amused, delighted, introspective, questioning, grateful, honored, irritated, challenged, scared, and a myriad of other adjectives too numerous to mention. For the past few days, however, I seem to have been paralyzed by apathy.
I am in Byron Bay at the moment. It is a resort town on the mid-East coast of Australia. It is a beautiful place with rugged, rocky coastlines and lovely beaches. In many respects it is a great deal like the Outer Banks of North Carolina, which was my home for 11 years before moving to Sarasota, Florida this past January. The town caters to tourists and prices are high. Surfers flock here to live their dream and soon fall into the destructive cycle of working less and less and partying more and more. Businesses have a difficult time getting enough help and even when they do, there is not enough affordable lodging available to house them.
On the Hawaiian island of Kauai there is a beach that is nicknamed “Barking Sands” because the sand makes a “woof-woof” sound with every step. The effect occurs when the extremely fine sand rolls underfoot and the grains slide by one another, causing friction, which produces the barking sound. The sand of Byron Bay, which is also extremely fine (it feels like baby powder), exhibits a similar phenomenon – with each step I took it yip-yip-yipped like a miniature poodle.
In the daylight, Byron Bay’s main beach is not quite so pink as it is at sunset, but it is a gorgeous crescent of sand nonetheless. I hiked south to where Belongil Creek cuts a swath through the beach on its journey to the ocean. The creek is the color of amber, stained by the falling leaves and bark of the tea trees that line its bank. At its mouth a tireless battle ensued – the brown waters of the creek struggling against ocean waves that relentlessly deposit sand, blocking the creek’s path to the ocean.
Byron Bay, located about 800 kilometers (480 miles) north of Sydney, is the easternmost point in Australia. During its formative years the town was discovered by hippies, who inevitably came for a week and stayed for years, leaving their indelible stamp on Byron Bay’s culture. The laid back, alternative lifestyle that persists to this day has made this small town of 30,000 residents the third most popular holiday spot in the country. Although the hippies have either grown up or moved away, today Byron Bay hosts events such as yoga retreats, pagan gatherings and music festivals that attract an eclectic mix of backpackers, surfers and musicians, as well as the affluent baby-boomer contingent.
I have come here for a number of reasons. First, it has beautiful beaches and anyone who knows me at all knows I am a beach bum at heart. Second, it is warmer because it is about eight hours north of Sydney – and I am definitely over being cold. Third, for the Yoga. Fourth, it is a surfer’s paradise. I chose to fly because it would be quicker (and cheaper) than renting a car, but the weather did not cooperate – rain poured down all morning and the Sydney Airport was closed three times (each time the control tower was hit by lightning), so I did not even arrive in town until after 4 PM. I checked into my hotel, dumped my luggage in my room, and hurried across the street to see the beach before the light failed.
The view from the top of the dune took my breath away. Directly in front of me a deep turquoise ocean lapped gently upon a wide golden-pink expanse of sand. The sun’s descent behind distant mountains diffracted the fading sunlight, throwing rays up into the evening sky like an array of searchlights in a perfect arc. As the sky turned from pink to gold to orange to purple, I walked up and down the beach Continue reading