Sitting on the dock of the Bay…

A moment lived in Australia by Maire, a traveller from Ireland

The orange and indigo sunset streaked the sky as we made our way home from the beach at Byron Bay. A hippy town at the epicentre of the alternative Australian lifestyle, Byron is a sleepy village dotted at the curve of the crescent inlet which gives the town it’s name. Time is malleable there, as though it gets stuck beneath the thick, hot air and starts shifting side to side instead of propelling you forward. The sun sets for what seems like hours on end, then all of a sudden you’ve stayed in this town 5 days longer than you intended. The sand, like caster sugar, coats your feet. The sea salt in your hair, the air, everywhere.

A mecca for the misfit, everything moves to its own slow steady rhythm. The locals drawl in that distinctive Australian tone “No draaaaamas mate”. Even the birds have an Aussie accent – ka KA kaaa kaaaaaaaa. The glistening back of a dolphin curves up and out of the water, the motion of a soundwave. Up and down. Up and down. A slow and steady pulse, a natural metronome keeping everything in time.

Locky is the counterpoint. That night we meet Locky sitting barefoot and bare chested on the street corner, drumming on a bench with two empty coke bottles. A lion’s mane of sandy dreadlocks, atop a spindly teenage frame, Locky somewhat resembled a kitchen mop. We sat cross legged beside him, as he gave the bench an absolute battering, playing tune after tune as the sun grew tired. Locky was from rural New South Wales, from a farming town in the arse hole of nowhere. He ran away to Byron to become a drummer at 17. “No better place, says you” I said to Locky. Both native English speakers but I still had to provide a translation. We joked that Irish people seem to say very little, but in as many words as humanly possible whereas Australian abbreviate, clipping words in half but drawing them out, slowly. Australians are trying to conserve energy as they bake in the sun. The chat keeps the Irish warm, sure our teeth would only be chattering otherwise.

Musicians seem to grow on trees here and from the homegrown Byron orchard appears Chris, ambling by, a raspy voiced young singer with a penchant for Hip Hop. A battered guitar. A toothbrush as a capo. Dirty nails and sandy feet. Chris plonked himself down amongst us, with a guitar case full of cassette tapes and lungs full of smoke and soul that would give Otis Redding a run for his money. De La Soul, Eminem and Public Enemy were on Chris’s jukebox. $5 went in the guitar case, a brown envelope of sorts, and Otis’s back catalogue got a run through, as we drunkenly attempted to whistle along.

Song after song, stragglers joined the fray, crouched down on the pavement as tins of warm beer were passed around like a sacrament. The guitar exchanged hands. Marvin Gaye draws more passers by. A group of Brazilian surfers hear us through the grapevine. An Irish lad is torn between the craic and going to bed. He was driving 12 hours down to Melbourne in the morning. Should he sacrifice sleep or the story? I wonder did he ever get there in the end? Nowhere to go, nowhere to be. Everyone had a song. Everyone had a story.

The stars began to disappear. How did we get here? Night evaporated into a bright dewy morning. The birds were getting in on the action and started warming up their vocal chords for the day ahead. Rainbow striped lorrakeets flit between the trees, dashing the sky with colour. The world started to wake up slowly and the day began again. A local shopkeeper hooshed the grate of his storefront skyward, paying no heed to the crowd of scruffy eejits huddled outside his shop, looking a bit worse for wear. No draaaaamas.

It’s funny how you look back now, as days, slide into weeks, melt into months and you realise just how different time feels when you travel. Endless, it stretches, the day moves differently. What changes? I think it’s your awareness, like you are documenting your travels in your brain, a future memory is being captured so you zoom in on every minute detail. Now I try to incorporate that into my day to day. Stretch time like the Aussies stretch vowels! Remembering when we sat on the street corner and sang as time moved around us.

Sitting in the morning sun. We’ll be sitting when the evening comes…

credit photo: Maire

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