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Byron Bay and the Blue Bottle Jellyfish
Sunday 20th February – Byron Bay, Australia
I had only the day left in Byron Bay before setting off again further up the coast. My travel was due to commence at 8pm, so a last day at the beach was all I had in mind today. The weather was glorious, so that was a good sign. Having seemingly been close to a shark the previous day, I wasn’t expecting any more drama today, but I was wrong.
I left my bags at the hostel today whilst enjoying myself at the beach. My coach was coming this evening, and I didn’t much fancy lugging all my things around with me all day. I took only what I needed and made for the beach, stopping at some of the shops along the way for a souvenir or two. A pair of cheap sunglasses was all I came away with in the end.
The sea was fairly rough today with a strong under current. The waves were large and ‘dumpy’, making body surfing extremely hard and unsatisfying. The few waves I did manage to catch left me washed up on the shoreline with a mouth full of seawater and ears full of sand. It is not an attractive look I can tell you, especially when your beach shorts have mostly disappeared up you backside. After emptying the sand from my short pockets and removing my shorts from my rear end, I admitted defeat and refused to try any more. The sea cannot be tamed, especially today.
The weather and the strong current had also brought with it a new problem, and one I had not experienced before. I had heard of the jellyfish in Australia, but didn’t really think I was likely so see any, or that they would almost certainly close the beach in the event of jellyfish sightings. As it happened, they were moving in around the countless tourists in the water, and soon people became aware, many falling victim to a sting or two. I have to admit I was ignorant to the severity of the situation, and opted to stay in the water given that everybody else was doing the same. The beach was still open and the lifeguards were well aware, so I assumed I was in no real danger.
A short, sharp sting on my leg was the first encounter for me, and the pain was little, and faded soon after. This reassured me I could stay in the water. Others were seemingly in real agony as they crowded the first aid tent on the beach. Lots of children screamed, but this is more a reaction to the sting rather than a reaction to the pain. The parents around me administered first aid to their children and spoke in their reassuring voices as I sat on the beach for a while to tan up. It was fun to spot the latest victim walking out the water with a grimace on their face. Later I re-entered the water and received my next sting, this time on my hand. The stinger had wrapped itself around my fingers and needed unravelling. Afterwards a nice long line of red dots appeared where the stinger had made contact, but this faded before too long.
All in all, it wasn’t my most favourite day at the beach, and for all the tourists about, it could be anywhere really. I wasn’t upset about moving on, but instead excited about the prospect of finding a better, less crowded beach somewhere else up the coast. I want to find the perfect beach at some point on this trip. I had come close a couple of times in Newcastle and Yamba, but there is definitely better, I am sure.
Later in the day I set off on a walk along the beach to the north, just to kill some more time. Along the way I met a group of Japanese tourists. They asked if I could take a picture for them, of which I agreed of course. I often get asked this question, and I decided to try something this time. Once I had taken the picture, I said to one of them, “And now one of me?” With this they immediately said, “Yes, yes, of course”. The guy took a picture of me on his camera with two of the pretty Japanese girls, then another with the entire group, after which we said our goodbyes and I was on my way. It had made me smile, and I wanted to try this again, and it didn’t take long for another opportunity. Two very good-looking Spanish girls were playing with their camera, and as I approached I asked if I could take a picture for them, they agreed. I tried again with asking with a picture of me, and they also said yes. I ended up having my picture taken with each girl and a few with both together, including one with the girls wearing my hat. I must admit, I felt like a king at this point, being as I am fairly shy.
Further down the beach I offered to take a picture for another couple, and tried again with a picture of me. This time it was ill received, and the blank look on the faces told me it was time to walk away. It was fun though, and I am sure I will try this again.
I walked for an eternity along the beach before reaching a place where the houses on the hillside looked very expensive, and the beach became private. Given that the tide was turning and the sand was disappearing, I opted to make my way back. It was at this point that I acquired a belly ache, and a nasty one at that. I had the dilemma of being a long way from the nearest toilets, and the pain was getting worse. The walk back turned into a fast paced jog, stopping each time I felt movement to avoid humiliation. I wondered if a dart into the ocean might be my only option, but the big waves and jellyfish dissuaded me. My only option was to get back quickly, and I made it with little time to spare, except this loo was locked, ARGHH! I don’t know how I eventually made it to the next set of toilets, but I had, and I was relieved to say the least. I had no idea what had caused it, but it was bad, very bad.
After an agonising next hour or two, the feeling passed and I was set to make my trip to Brisbane on the coach. The journey was only one hour so I felt confident I could make it.
One hour soon passed, and we were into the second hour. I wondered if I had gotten onto the correct bus, as we were still travelling after about an hour and 20 minutes. Then it dawned on me, and I felt like an idiot. There is a one hour time difference in Brisbane, and so the journey was actually 2 hours, DOH! With this in mind I sat back and enjoyed the last bit of the journey. Night time was upon us and there was little to see out the window, but I like travelling at night, where everything seems somehow quieter and more relaxed. The big transit station loomed large and we had arrived in Brisbane. It was a short walk up a long hill to get to the backpackers, and took over an hour to check in, but once I put my bag down in the room and went out to find food, I came back with one thing in mind, and that was sleep.
Written by Daniel Stevens,
Founder of Roundtheworldtrip.org.
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