"Australia 1999" story # 12


Byron Bay, New South Wales
April 1, 1999

Less than a day after I'd returned to Lismore, I was already aching to get out. I decided it would be a good day for my first-ever hitchhiking trip. Byron Bay, thirty miles away, was my destination.
     I wasn't scared, really. Australians, with their bright, unabashedly excited way of talking to you, had struck me as friendly and harmless. Jodie worried and insisted I call her if and when I arrived safely.
     With a backpack and snorkelling gear, I walked the forested hill of a busy Lismore street, thumb exposed. Michael, an Asian-American SCU student, took me out of his way to the road leaving town. I stood near a shady motor-home park. With the sun fighting through the clouds, and relaxing, green hills flowing before me, it was the perfect hitchhiking habitat.
     Ten minutes passed, and a businessman from Dunoon took me to his turn. Ten minutes later, another man, very pleased with his home in Broken Head, drove me to the New South Wales oceanside highway. From a top a grassy coastal crest, I could see the alive waters of Byron, tucked away between bald Mt. Warning in the north and the cone-shaped lighthouse being swarmed by trees on Cape Byron to the south. The black Julian Rocks interrupted the middle of the bay, and I can't think of a more-promising perch around than where I stood this day.
     The final four miles to Byron, I was carried by a young driver and his mom. And that was it to my first day of hitchhiking. They'd told me it was dangerous; I'd heard stories of the Western Australian serial killer who preyed on hitchhikers. But, no one tried to mug me; no one tried to kidnap me. No one I'd ridden with even had the potential to intimidate me if they'd wanted to. I called Jodie to report the nonexcitement.
     I must say, I was addicted to hitchhiking, like a drug - an undangerous one, I mean! I was quickly at ease with all the strangers I rode with. We discussed the most personal things, like our places in life, happiness with loved ones, and childhood troubles, and we gave advice, because 1. We were never gonna see each other again, and 2. There was a sort of inner peace I suppose could be found in almost anyone who hitchhikes or picks up a hitchhiker.
     Byron Bay truly was a magical place. I snorkelled by the wreck, seeing lots of fish, and by Cape Byron's curve, where I chased a turtle until I ran out of breath and energy. I bodysurfed, listened to music, and worked on my tan. The day's kebab and ice cream cone were scrumptious, and I wrote in my journal 'til late. If it was possible to be unhappy here, I couldn't see how.
     I opted for the easy way home, the bus. However, it came an hour late, which caused me to miss dinner with Cath, who'd cooked me my favorite dish.
     This happening so eloquently stated the day's moral, if there was one. If you wanna get your chicken stir-fry while it's still hot, don't trust public transportation - stick out your thumb.

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