Ballina and Beyond:
Byron Bay is lovely. It is a surf town full of surf shops, surf food places, surf cafes, and more surf-y stuff. Everything is horribly over-priced, but that’s what you get in a touristy town with tons of character.
It was the small towns and people we met outside of Byron Bay that make this area of the coast a place to remember though.
Ballina is a medium-sized town about half an hour south of Byron Bay. It has a modest tourist draw (being on the ocean and all), but pales in comparison to Byron Bay’s size and magnetism. This is a good thing for Ballina, if you want to get away from the surf shops and start to talk to some locals.
Dugald was the first local to make Ballina and the surrounding area very special for us. He runs a fishing charter enterprise called Ballina and Beyond, and lays proud claim to being one of the only fishing charters from north of Byron to south of Grafton – a large stretch of real estate by anybody’s map.
So he’s a busy guy.
But Dugald wasn’t too busy to take us out on his beautiful boat for a morning of deep sea fishing – a first for me.
“I got everything you need; just bring your netski,” said Dugald the day prior.
“My what?” I asked over the crackling cell phone.
“Netski. You know. To take your catch home in.”
After clarifying a few more times and facing increasing frustration on both our parts, I chucked it up to being yet another Australian term I don’t quite understand. A little investigative work over the afternoon would reveal that it wasn’t a “netski” he was asking for; rather an “esky” – or “cooler” for simple people like me. Kelly on the other hand, knew what an “esky” was. A sure sign that he’ll be a better fisher than I for sure.
Waking up in time to be at the boat ramp for 6am was painful. And because the days are so short at this time of year, the sun wasn’t even thinking about getting up for a while yet itself. Nevertheless, it was nice to get up and at ‘em nice and early to make the day a spectacular one. And spectacular it was.
Now I must pause in the story to share some small fears and phobias of mine: those fears being centered around The Ocean. I have documented my attempt to conquer my fear of swimming in the ocean, but something you may not know is that almost every time I get on a boat, my lunch gets off. I am a stout victim of seasickness, even on the calmest of days.
So with white knuckles and a ton of anti-nausea medication in my system, I braced myself for the next six hours on a boat in the middle of the ocean. Going over the break didn’t instill confidence.
“Going over the break” isn’t a euphemism for anything. It entails doing just that – going over the breaking waves as you travel from an ocean inlet past the surf and into the great blue beyond. The waves that faced us did not look friendly in the gray sky either.
I must say that Dugald took them like he was on a Sunday drive, and later he admitted that these waves were nothing. All I saw was a huge wave about twice as tall as the boat was long that was about to break right on top of us. We motored over the top before it broke, then charged down the other side, all of us being picked up off our feet and floating weightless for a second.
Cue in nervous laughter from Nora.
What did we catch? And could I keep my lunch down? Find out by reading the rest of this story about Ballina and Beyond at our World Nomads Journal Here as part of our sponsored trip!