I don’t feel like I belong in a place where it can be -17 degrees every day for 2 weeks like it has been this winter. Not yet at least. So I am very happy to take a holiday in Byron Bay. I am visiting some friends and family who moved there, and although I was prepared for the warmth, the beach and the beautiful scenery, I wasn’t quite prepared for the invasion of backpackers and surfers. Or for the strange questions: people here ask me a lot of questions about whale-hunting in Norway and I find myself completely unable to answer. Isn’t Norway famous for other things in this world? Like moose-hunting, salmon-fishing or ski-jumping?
Byron Bay, for those of you who have never been here before, is a small town on the Gold Coast of Australia. Standing next to the light-house that represents the city, all you can see is the immensity of the Pacific Ocean on one side, and as-far-as-you-can-see white sand beaches on the other side. All of it so beautiful that you could look at it every single day without ever getting bored. And some who came here for a holiday decide to stay for much longer; hence the backpackers, living in vans, drying their towels on their roofs and giving up on showers and warm meals for the sake of waking up on the beach every morning.
It is also the city with the highest unemployment rate in the whole of Australia and probably the biggest proportion of surfers, vegans and yoga teachers. I would say 60% of this place is populated by surfers. The other part is divided between backpackers and hippies. Everyone runs around bare-foot (surfers are going to the beach, hippies refuse to wear shoes because it takes you away from the natural feeling of your feet on the sand, and tourists – lots of Swedes- are just enjoying the sun, the girls and the beers). I seem to be the only person in this whole city not to have a tan-line. And in case I wasn’t uncool enough, I am also the only girl who does not wear mini-shorts, and who is stopped by 60 year old hippie women in the street who tell me how FABULOUS my dress looks. An old guy also told me the colors of my dress had just inspired him new essential oil mixes, and that I could come and check it out at his place tonight, down the road turn right when you see the sign “bush-turkeys on sale dead or alive”. I just can’t wait.
At first I thought the whole thing was a bit superficial (tall blond super-fit surfers running around half naked and not many aged more than 35). Not much of a “real-life” city with kids, old people or even just people like you and me going to the office every morning. But I have to admit that when I went running bare-foot on the beach at 7am with the beautiful sun and the waves accompanying me, I thought to myself that it is quite nice to be here after all.
Unfortunately all holidays have an end, mine at least, and I am going back to Oslo hoping that the spring has settled in already (that is an utopia: experience later told me that you can never plan when spring is coming in this country).