In Pauls big Mitsubishi 4WD we drive via Nerang and Beaudesert through hilly farmlands that is hardly occupied for miles and miles. Cattle has vast space to live a happy cattle life, with lots of Eucalyptus and Fig trees providing shadow on the lawns for the hot and sunny days in the hot and dry Australian summer. For today, it's autumn. Heavy clouds from the shore in the East, blue skies in the West. We drive towards Rathdowney, then on a bumpy unpaved 4WD road directly into the Border Ranges National Park. Like Springbrook, it belongs to the Godwana UNESCO World Heritage, a stretch of mountains of volcanic origin that are covered with incredibly thick coastal rain forest, and home to some ancient trees species like the Antarctic Beeches.
We spend some time at picnic areas, seeing incredible giant Antarctic beech communities covered in thick green moss, watching the giant caldera with its fertile bottom and Mount Warning in the middle - impressive. Then we go for a hike out to the Pinnacle Lookout, a rocky needle sticking out of the caldera, allowing a true 360 degree panoramic view. No one out here, except for a bare-feet Aussie Rasta. No one out here at all in the thick rain forest, in this wide National Park. We're off the beaten track. And the weather is with us, blue sky for a splendid view! The trunks of the grass trees and shrubs are black reminders of the last bush fires here, apparently caused by some fools cigarette bud.
A few hours later, we leave the caldera, drive down towards Nimbin, a small town nearby Lismore that became sort of a Hippie Mekka after it hosted the Aquarius Festival back in 1973. Nowadays, it is a backpacker destination with pot museums, a few restaurants and colourful painted old shop buildings along the main road. Backpackers from Byron Bay are carried here for day trips to get their joints on the streets from stoned Aborigines. Paul, little proud of this part of Australia takes of to meet his parents near Byron Bay, and I stay for a bit with my bike and my tent on the camp ground, chatting to a nice Swiss couple with a descent adventure setup – a Toyota Landcruiser with a boat and heaps of equipment on the trailer.
Nights are rather cold for my summer equipment, after two days I cycle out of Nimbin with a severe cold. Hilly road towards Nimbin, after just 25 kilometres I'm exhausted, spend a few hours on the “Channon Arts Market”. The smell of Indian incense, the colours of Southeast-Asian cloth stores, and the sound of a live rock band add perfectly to the scenario. Most guests are dressed as they were on the way to Woodstock, and make me feel a bit funny in my cycling gear. Laying flat on the grass, I come to talk with guys that happen to be musicians of a band called “Holy Cow”. We chatter over topics like the root cause that made Germany start up WWI and WWII for a while, about their music and their next gig tonight in Byron Bay. If I wanted to go with them to Byron Bay by car? Yes, sure – for today I'm not able to ride any more anyway. As we cruise over the small roads, I realize what “mission impossible” this would have been for me – no shops nor guest houses on the road, but hills after hills until Byron Bay. 70 kilometres good work for a fit guy with enough water and food, certainly to much for me today.
Spend a night in a 6 bed dorm in the Arts Factory in Nimbin, with some funny backpacker fools insisting to invite me for drinking games just after I fell asleep. Next day I'm back in my tent, definitely the better air in there, and no fools but me. For the next few days, I enjoy some nice company, live a healthy life and cure my cold with hot Chili con Carne, and heaps of Vitamin tablets and tea and honey. Paul takes me and the bicycle back to his home in Gold Coast.
Generally speaking, the Arts Factory is an interesting spot to stay in Byron Bay, with free daily Yoga classes, plus Didgeredoo and Djembee workshops. In the beautiful jungle like garden a camp ground is provided, as well as kitchen facilities. Some guitar players would play some songs. Byron Bay itself has transformed from a sleepy whaling village to a surfers and backpackers destination in less than 20 years, resulting in the usual side effects – high prices, begging etc. A number of nice back beaches around Byron Bay are little frequented and surrounded by nice Eucaluptus forests for hiking. Beside that the Lighthouse and the most Eastern point of Australian mainland (Cape Byron) are worth a visit. The Hinterland with its rainforests is not far away either.