Perth to the Gold Coast; a whopping 6,324 kilometres of vast undulating plains and a meandering coastline that is an absolute pleasure to surf and simply soak the soul. I was offered a free flight across to travel with the rest of the fam; and for a student scrimping and scrounging every penny she could muster for her travels ahead, it was pretty much a pot of gold at the end of a hard years work.
However, she gracefully declined. Instead, she decided to make her own way using the most unconventional route possible. Rideshare, bus, train, trust in that stranger who in no time becomes appreciated as a like-minded companion. Whatever worked at the time, whatever her intuition told her. It is so much more enriching travelling the land than flying straight over it. And somehow, pursuing this trip just felt so… right.
It took me a month before I reached Rainbow Bay, where I met up with friends and family. A month of meeting some seriously awesome people, of concerts and festivals, of eye-openings and boundless opportunities, and just being able to explore and understand a bit of our own backyard; this land we call home.
Well, it all started with an email. It was a lift to Adelaide with the guarantee of meandering along the coast, taking it slow and enjoying the stops at small country towns as much as the open road. Welcome to Rideshare. And after meeting Carla in person for a beer at The Norfolk, already a good sign, euphoria was sky high. This ride had come down to first impressions; the vibes felt good, I admired her blue overalls and she was a lover of DOPE LEMON, so instant friendship right there. My stomach became giddy with excitement and the thought of this unkempt wild adventure. I couldn’t help but beam the whole train ride home.
By Feb there were five of us, and hell did we have a good time. Travelling in a tiny yellow Fiat (her name was Delilah) and a giraffe spotted Wicked camper, we were the grooviest cars on the road- and the most likely not to make it across the Nullarbor alive haha. The Nullarbor was something else; tranquil, remote and completely desolate. For some it’s classed as the most monotonous drive of their life with 1500 kilometres of almost straight road, the same low lying shrubs and just this never ending stretch of flat horizon. I loved it.
Its raw, vast beauty has always awed me; once an ancient river system made up of many small, fast-flowing rivers some 80 million years ago, it’s now the world’s largest limestone karst landscape. Nullarbor literally meaning ‘no trees’, it is covered with hardy drought and salt resistant shrubs such as Bluebush and Saltbush, and is home to more mammals and wildlife than you’d think possible- you just need to look out the window at the amount of roadkill to gauge that. Camping on the Nullarbor, in the bush, in the definition of the middle of nowhere, is what I've kinda always daydreamed about. Watching the sun cast a gentle glow over the low lying shrubs, the Fiat perched under a small tree, the girls eating saladas and tuna on our little camping table, soft tunes and outbursts of laughter fill the warm air, oh and Carla’s weed. Ha, a nice time to be alive.
Made it to Adelaide in time for WOMAD; a world music, arts and dance festival that aims to showcase different styles of music and bring people together from around the world. To put it quite simply; a phenomenon. We’d go from learning an African dance routine where 100 plus people are all in sync, feeling the rhythm of the drums and just getting absolutely jiggy with it, to going completely berserk amongst Parov Stelar’s sexy electro swing performance, to just chilling out on the grass and admiring artists like D.D Dumbo and yes, DOPE LEMON. A festival that is not only an absolute joy to the ears, eyes and soul, but one that empowers third world countries by giving them the opportunity to express their culture and contemporary issues of the society they live in.
If you haven’t heard of Couchsurfing, you really should look it up. A platform that enables travellers to connect with everyday people who offer their homes, hearts, or more often than not just a mat on the floor for the needy traveller in search of a roof over their head and a good conversation. For us girls, it turned out to be so much more. Tyran, our host, was a yoga instructor and tradie. We were three of seven staying at his house. Apparently that generosity wasn’t enough (don’t worry he says he’ll be rewarded with good karma); cooking up a massive feed of dhal, rice and curry, we all sat around a Buddhist inspired, low lying table on mats. The conversation ranged from the seriousness of corrupt political power, environmental devastation and our consumeristic society to the history of drugs in Nimbin. Actually one of the most meaningful and awakening conversations I've had in a long time. And that’s what Couchsurfing’s all about, sharing and learning off of other people and becoming immersed in their way of life. A cold beer and a bit of acro yoga doesn’t hurt too. This was just to Adelaide. Yeah I know… get on with it.
Caught a day bus to Melbourne. You’ll find that when you're bored, when you have hours in the plentiful and in a beautifully fixed position, that time is an inlet for freedom of space and creativity.
My time in Melbs was inspirational, yet a stark and harrowing reminder of city life and the contrast between suburbia and sleeping out under the stars. I caught up with other parts of my family and was reunited with a best friend from toddlerhood. We hadn’t seen each other in 16 years yet were basically living parallel lives, quite funny. After exploring the Mornington Peninsula we somehow managed to stumble into a Skeggs concert and got caked by the lead singer during their performance, yeah happy birthday man. The rowdiest, most intense crowds are often those in the local pub. There you’ll have the best fun.
To travel to Sydney, I booked a train ticket a few nights before leaving, but the morning after I received a message from someone on Rideshare offering a lift. Allessandro was his name, a Peruvian surf photographer who just got back from shooting a girls surftrip in the Maldives. My first thought: “Is this for real?” Oh yeah it was. With seven surfboards, three wetties and my little Meikon underwater housing, pit stops and surf checks at bays and beaches along the way were mandatory.
In Ulladulla we camped in the beach carpark, listening to the lapping waves of Mollymook and the pitter patter of rain on the tent canvas. It hadn’t stopped in two days straight. The morning arose with fresh swell, almost clear skies and vans of locals honouring their morning ritual. Hoora, we had hit the jackpot. Five foot left hand peelers and a morning glow so intense that it was almost blinding. Perfect time to get the camera out. We were out there all morning until our fingers started to look like prunes and the magnified light started to overexpose the images. Eventually all good things must come to an end, and unfortunately, after an intriguing few days of travel and good convo, we parted our separate ways.
I caught an arvo train/bus to Byron, where upon arrival at 4.30am in the morning, you could still find people hanging out on the grass down at Main Beach. There’s something about Byron that’s simply magical. Its mesmerizing waters and rugged landscape is not one that you can easily walk away from. The people fortunate enough to make up the community possess a deep respect for the place they call home and emanate values that reflect this. You can see why creatives and nomads alike are so easily drawn to it.
I arrived on the Gold Coast exactly a month after I had left, much to the relief of my parents. That month had entailed more stories than you could imagine, or if you like, the number of crackers and tins of tuna I had consumed (a lot), and was undeniably and irrevocably sweeter than that 5 hour plane flight, hey.
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