Wednesday, January 23, 2008

melbourne > byron bay

By Pauly
Byron Bay, Australia

We had a 7am flight out of Melbourne and had to wake up at 5am to finish packing and catch a cab to the airport. Our cabbie was a tall lanky white guy that smelled something fierce. He dropped us off at the wrong Quantas terminal (the domestic terminal was just 100 meters in front of us) but since he smelled so bad, I wanted to get out of the cab and walk the rest of the way.

We had a flight to the Gold Coast with a layover in Sydney. Our Melbourne to Sydney flight was full of business commuters, sort of like the same groups of folks you'd see on the 7:14am train leaving the Oyster Bay LIRR station. Lots of dark suits and laptops. Evryone had a newspaper under their arm and a black laptop back underneath the other. I was one of the non-suiting wearing males on the plane. That gave me a slight rsuh. I was done with my work assignment and completed the terms of my six mont contract with Poker News. I was a free man embarking on my vacation.

Our fligth from Sydney to the Gold Coast was a different mixed bag of elderly people (similar to the migartion of old folks at LaGuardia heading to Flrodia) and young families with lots of small children. I was seated in front of a crying baby and thank god our flight was only an hour.

Coolongota Airport is what services the Gold Coast... the luxurious beachy real estate in Queensland between the airport and Brisbane. Last year, Brandon and Schecky and I headed up to Surfer's Paradise and check out Bug Day Out up on the Gold Coast. For this leg of our trip, Nicky and I were headed south, out of Queensland and back into New South Wales so we can hit up one of my favorite places... Byron Bay. Nicky rented us a car and she got to drive on the other side of the road for our hour trip down the "Pacifc Highway."

I found a decent place on Shirley Street, only a couple of blocks from the main drag in Byron Bay. Our place has beach access and you have to walk through a mini jungle for a few minutes before you crawl up and over a dune... and behold the beach magically appears.

Everyone told us to check out Nimbin, a bucolic enclave about ninety minutes inland from Byron Bay. It used to be a hippie haven, but has become overcomemrcialized in recent years and lurking in all the murky shadows are stone-cold junkies who are selling overpriced weed and t-shirts to tourists to fuel their morbid addictions.

Many moons ago Senor went to Nimbin and told me that an eight-year old kid offered to sell him weed, along with a grandmother. Nicky, being everyone's Hollywerd pothead, wanted to go to Nimbin. We didn't waste anyt ime. We checked into ourt room in Byron Bay, unpacked, changed, and hit the road.

We drove backroads to Nimbin over hills and windy roads. It reminded me a bit of Vermont and reminded Nicky of Northern California. We finally arrived in Nimbin and the first thing that struck me was a sign that said, "Alcohol free zone."

Nimbin was two blocks of old stores and headshops with drug freaks running rampant in front of the bigger stores, trying to sell you various forms of pharmecopia.

We parked the car and I told Nicky to browse in a clothing/head shop while I negotiated a purchase among the local vendors. A sketchy looking black guy in a New York Yankees hat (picture a short Aboriginal who reminded me of The Rooster) asked me if I was looking for buds. I turned him down and talked business with a skinny skater-looking freak with a trucker's hat. He pulled me into the Hemp Museum and I was passed off to another skater-looking freak with dirty fingernails and dark circles under his eyes. He was far gone on some spaced-out trip, living life on a different operating system, most like a dragon-chaser lost in the mist in the land of kangaroos. He showed me the product and boasted, "The best weed in Australia."

I told him that I was from California (a semi-bluff) and the we had the best shit in the world. He wasn't impressed and didn't blink. I felt like uttering the line from Pulp Fiction John Travolta and Eric Stoltz were discussing a smack purchase, "I'll take the Pespi test!"

I negotiated the price down by 20% and put in an order. The vampire-skater-freak disappeared into a back room. That's when the sketchy looking Aborignial Rooster came back over.

"Need trips, mate?"

Um, no. Like I'd be stupid (or courageous) enough to drop acid (most likely paper dipped in rat posion) from a stranger in the middle of nowhere. I'd do that in my twenties, but I'm less apt to gobble up pyschedelics from potential serial killers.

"Need strong stuff?"

He flashed me a small bag of Ice. I smiled and declined. He went on his way when a small barefoot kid, maybe ten years old, wandered up and asked me if I needed to be sorted out. I told him that I was fine. My guy eventually returned with a scale. We completed the transaction and I quickly found Nicky. We walked down the street and an 80-year old woman asked us if we wanted to buy "marijuana, cookies, or cakes." I wondered if that was the same woman who sold Senor weed a decade ago.

There was a public toilet that we used. We were thinking about grabbing a quick drink at the croner cafe, but the place was creeping me out. I got bad vibes, strong ones too. I didn't feel right about the place when a three-legged German sheppard linped past me as I waited for Nicky to finish up her toilet run. I took the three-legged dog as an omen. As soon as Nicky re-appeared I snatched her arm and said, "Let's get the fuck out of here."

On our way to the car, it started to rain. I told her about the three-legged dog and how it freaked me out. She agreed that I was not being paranoid as she sped off back to Byron Bay, out of the demonic wasteland and back to our beachy paradise.

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