Freezing in Australia - backpacker adventures around Byron Bay and Nimbin

Woke up by being patted on the shoulder by Nix Hey Kris you coming along?' he said in a whisper. Yeah sure, what time is it?' I replied in a just woke up kind of way. Ten thirty , we are leaving in about an hour I just got to go and hire the car.' How much do we all have to chip in?' Not sure yet, sort it out later.' Alright let me get myself together.' For a moment I had to recollect exactly where I was as I had woken in a haze somewhere between still drunk and hung over. I was in a hostel in Byron bay New South Wales , and It had been a heavy night

. The previous night began by drinking beer and cheap wine in the hostel yard. It was there while sitting around a table that Roger a big Irish guy, Gustov a thin long blond haired Swedish guy, both whom I had met a week earlier further down the coast in Coffs Harbour and Nix from Yorkshire who we had just met decided that the following morning they would hire a car and drive to a near by hippy town called Nimbin. Roger then suggested that they should also go hiking up a mountain called Mount Warning .

Roger asked if I wanted to go I said yes without really knowing what the full plan was. There was one more space in the car so we asked a Canadian called Devon who Roger and Gustov had met in Melbourne . We continued talking and drinking and I completely forgot about the trip planned for the next day, then at eleven we made our way to a club. Things became somewhat of a disjointed blur after that so I left the club whilst I still had the ability to walk. I went back to the hostel and stumbled into bed. When Nix woke me up the last thing I wanted to do was get up and go with the other lads in the car but I couldn't back out now. I got up and took a shower which helped to clear my hangover, got dressed and met the other four in the kitchen.

By looking at them I don't think any of us felt like going but once we got in the car the mood lifted. Nix drove for an hour then we stopped for lunch at a fast food joint then an hour or so later we got to Nimbin. I had only heard of Nimbin the following day and all I new about the place was that it was some sort of hippy town, a place where they have never got over or refuse to get over the late sixties. First we walked around the market where there wasn't anything I would ever consider buying, it was all tie-die clothes, hand made necklaces, bongs and hash pipes. After that we looked in a few shops that sold the same sort of stuff that was in the market. Then we looked in the Nimbin museum which consisted of a load of old random junk.

We all got a bit bored so we to the pub for a drink. Nix, Devon and Roger talked about getting some magic mushrooms for the hike. It wouldn't be hard as almost every person you walked past asked if you wanted to buy weed or Mushrooms. Gustov said he didn't want any but might try a little. I said that all I needed was a bottle of whiskey. I hadn't had magic mushrooms for years and after to many bad experiences on them I had no intention of ever taking them again. After we left the pub they bought the mushrooms from some skinny hippy then we went to the shop and bought some beers and also got a large bottle of whisky.

We got back in the car and left Nimbin and I think all of us were glad too . We drove for a while and stopped in a small town pub to eat, it was late afternoon and the sun was already lowering. So what's the plan now I asked Roger. Finish up here and hopefully get to the mountain before it gets dark.' he said. So are we staying on the mountain overnight?' Yeah, why else do you think we have a tent and sleeping bags.

' Shit I left mine back at the hostel I didn't think we were gonna' sleep up there!' we're work something out, don't worry your be fine.' I was also concerned about getting back by noon the following day because I had booked the greyhound bus to Brisbane , but I tried as best as I could to put it at the back of my mind. We got back in the car as dusk fell. The more remote we drove the more eerie it felt, we passed many cars at the side of the road that looked like they were abandoned there years ago. One of them was a battered yellow four wheel drive that had vines growing all over it. We proceeded to get half lost and every now and then we would drive past a run down house that seemed to be abandoned with a sigh on the gate saying no trespassing.'

Then just as dusk was about to turn into night we saw hundreds, maybe thousands of bats flying overhead. Nix pulled over near a house and we all got out the car to take a better look. Then a large dog barked and ran up to the gate of the house followed by a man. How can I help ya.' he said in a thick Australian accent. No its alright were just taking a look at the bats. said Nix. The man put both hands up against the fence looked up to the sky and sighed. Yep, your be waiting here a long while before all those bats pass.' Eventually we found the road to Mount Warning it was now about Nine at night and dark.

We were nearly there when all of a sudden Nix swerved the car to the right and then stopped the. What's wrong?' we all seemed to say at the same time. I think I saw a snake.' Nix replied. We got out of the car and sure enough there was a snake over a meter long in the road. All five of us crept up behind It and stared at the snake. None of us had ever seen a snake in the wild before. It slowly made its way to the side of the road, then as its head was in the grass Roger said. I'm gonna touch it.' No don't Roger it's a snake for gods sake.' I said to him. Aw sod it, just a little poke.' And with that he crept closer to the tail bent down and prodded it with he's finger. The snake shooted off into the grass and all of us had the same reflex reaction which was to jump back and get to the safety of the car as fast as we could.

We began laughing as Roger said in a self mocking way. A Snake! A snake! I cant believe I just touched a fuckin' snake! Am I a fuckin' prick or what? If go back to Ireland and tell my Mum that I touched a snake in Australia she would go fuckin' mental at me.' When we got to Mount Warning there was one other car in the small car park, and that was leaving. We got out of the car, gathered our stuff and contemplated what lay ahead. It was pitch black, the only light was of bright blue from the glow-worms in the trees and bushes.

Devon broke the silence by saying. We really should of started here before dark.' At first it seemed easy enough, we followed the path in single file. We had two small torches. [One of the torches ran out of batteries a third of the way up] First Nix shone one torch up front and Devon the same at the back. Then as the forest got thicker the path got more narrow and less flat. We communicate with each other so all of us would avoid potential hazards'. Rock on left.' Big step ahead.' Keep left, fall to the right.' We took our first break at a bench after about twenty minutes, we were all sweating furiously. I took of my t-shirt because it was getting soaking wet with sweat. Roger took out the Magic mushrooms and divided them between Nix, Devon and himself and they ate a few.

Gustov took a taste from Rogers divide and I broke the seal on my whisky bottle and took a large swig. We carried on, there was so much wildlife on the mountain, you could the hear insects and animals moving and every so often the light from the torch would shine on a spider or some others insect and it would make one of us flinch because maybe it was a black widow or funnel web or some other poisonous kind of spider. We got to another bench and took another break I took a few large gulps of whiskey. Nix got out a bottle of water from his bag And Gustov took out a smaller bottle. Is this all the water that we have.' Asked Nix. It was, we had forgotten to get water in Nimbin. We had no food either, we were more concerned about getting mushrooms and booze, and I didn't even have a sleeping bag. We agreed to ration the water, every twenty minutes when we took a break we passed around the bottle taking two sips each. From them sips water had never tasted so good. It had been an hour or so since they ate the mushrooms, Roger was up front with the torch he stopped turned around and said. I cant feel anything from these mushrooms.' The others agreed. On the next break we should take the rest of them.' Said Devon .

The next rest point they took the remainder of the mushrooms and I drank more whisky. An hour or so later we began wondering how far up the mountain we were. We had lost track of how long ago we began but we thought that we must be near the top. Can you feel anything yet.' asked Nix. A little bit but not that much, I think that hippy conned us.' replied Roger. Maybe you have sweated it right out.' I said because by then I had drunk a third of a large bottle of whiskey but didn't feel at all drunk, I came to the conclusion that I must be drinking it and sweating it straight out of my body. The mountain path became steeper and eventually turned into more rock than dirt. That was when we new we were near the top. The last part you had to grip and pull yourself up. We all got to the top, it had taken about three hours, maybe more. We were all knackered and dripping with sweat. The plan at the bottom was to get to the top and drink a few beers, but within minutes of getting to the summit we began to feel the cold. The four others got out their sleeping bags and Devon found a thin white sheet from the bottom of his bag for me to use.

We couldn't be bothered to put up the tent. Half an hour later I was chattering my teeth and shaking, I had never felt so cold in all my life. Then Roger suggested that we put up the tent because it was just to cold to fall asleep, I agreed straight away. The tent got set up without to much difficulty and we all squeezed into it apart from Nix who was already asleep. Unlike the rest of us Nix didn't have a cheep thin sleeping bag or a thin sheet, he had a proper sleeping bag that would be fit for a proper expedition and was wrapped in it cocoon like. The tent was much warmer from the body heat and the last thing I remember hearing before I fell asleep was Roger saying. In the morning we should go back and sort that hippy out.' I woke up at daybreak after about three hours of sleep.

I took at the view, some of the clouds were below me and there were trees for miles. We had hoped for a glorious sunrise but the sun was only just poking through the clouds. We took a few pictures and then put away the tent. The descent took less than half the time of the climb, and the journey back to Byron Bay seemed to take half the time as well but that was because we never got lost. We Got back to the hostel with an hour until my bus departed so I took a shower, packed my bag and then I had to leave. The other guys were all sleeping apart from Roger who was in the kitchen. We shook hands and said goodbye. I might see you further up the coast he said. Yeah maybe but I am in more of a hurry to travel up the coast than you, but you never know.' As I walked to the bus stop I thought how strange it is that the day before I had an experience that I will never forget with people that I will always remember but will properly never see again.

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