From Norway to Byron Bay

Merethe and Emma's 'bucket list' proof
I  can't recall the exact year that I first found myself in Byron Bay. From my hazy recollection of the black and white Box Brownie photos that my parents kept jumbled in the large bottom drawer of their bedroom dresser, I would hazard a guess at around 1959.

I'm pretty sure it was before my parents purchased their first car (a 1954 Hillman Minx) in 1960 and that I would have travelled down to the Bay with my Grandparents who lived around half an hour north of there, right where Splendour in the Grass now stakes a claim on the first weekend in August.
Main Beach

But the occasion of the visit will be forever incarcerated into my memory. I can still feel the pain that looked down at me on the weathered boards of the never-ending jetty that harpooned out into the deep shoals of the bay. And the sickening smell of cooking flesh as I watched men with crosscut saw, sized blades slicing the flesh for the crowd of onlookers that spilt out like pilgrims across the surrounding grass-topped dunes.

From information I found in an old Byron Bay newspaper - 1,142 Humpback whales were slaughtered   in these waters - between 1954-1962. After extracting the tallow from the carcass, the majority of the meat fillet from these amazing creatures was frozen and sent to England as pet food. So much for our advanced, white Australian civilisation of fifty years ago.

Thankfully the plea from that Humpback that talked to me that day back in 1959 was eventually heard and this inhumane practice was stopped in this country, at least, in 1962.

The Pass
Now people travel from far flung landscapes throughout the world to watch these mighty creatures steam past the the rocky majesty of Cape Byron as they play their way to the safety of the Fraser Island marine park, some 400 kilometres to the north. Safe again in the warm, protected fertile waters west of the island they will add many calves to the herd before fattening them up and teaching them survival skills for the return trip to an Antarctic winter. At last count more than 1200 hundred whales arrived in Hervey Bay, which is in excess of the number killed during the Bay's whaling days.
Wategos Beach
Byron Bay has always featured somewhere in my timeline. I even worked at Anderson's old meat works in 1971, right opposite where the whaling jetty once stood. In spite of the whale trauma I've always found Byron Bay's natural beauty to be a healing place. A place where I have been able to take stock of what life has put on my shelves and go back home and open a new shop. Jo and I have stayed at Clarkes Beach many times over the last fourteen years, parked the car and walked, talked and surfed a week away.
(Here's a timeless song from Robbie James of GANGgagang fame - Forgotten Beach (Byron Bay) that captures that BB essence)

So when our two international students arrived from Norway a couple of months back and were showing us their 'bucket lists' one night, Byron Bay was an easy one for us to help them cross off.
Check out the Norwegian hairstyles

And Emma and Merethe crossed it off on one of those perfect Bay days. Twenty seven degrees, light southerly kissing the ocean with one metre of continuous green tubular swell on Main Beach and at Wategos. The infrastructure of this town in places resembles that of a developing country. But get your thongs off and bare feet on the sand for that trek up through The Pass and the winding hill climb south of Wategos Beach to the lighthouse and the feeling is always that one that is distinctly Byron Bay.



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