I lived in Byron Bay on two separate occasions in 1997. Firstly, in the winter of that year for around two weeks, and then for another six weeks later in the year. The Byron region would be instrumental for me as I made enormous shifts in conscious awareness and gained a greater understanding of the region as being too potent for me to live there permanently. Leaving an icy Melbourne winter (as I headed for the sunny climes of Cairns, Far North Queensland), I solidified my connection with the guiding force of Sri Sathya Sai Baba when I met devotees who were staying at the hostel with me. After talking with them, they convinced me to write a letter to him. He would not open the letter but would hold it in his hand and know its message (so they said). I did just that before leaving the region and hitch-hiking further north. I can’t remember what I put in that letter, but the most incredible experience of my life unfolded in Port Douglas, Far North Queensland that year. Synchronisity?
I thought that being in Byron when I was, acted like a springboard that gave the affirmation that I had heard, ‘if you have faith, you will always be safe’ while hitch-hiking through northern New South Wales its chance to prove to me that it this was a reality I could create. Winter in Byron was quiet. The backpackers that were there hunkered down. They spent most of their time working in the township, others working at hostels and organic farms. I asked those staying at the Arts Factory Lodge why they hadn’t gone to warmer, more vibrant climes in Queensland. A lot had the Nimbin glazed look in their eyes that came with regular visits to the cannabis capital of the state others loved the community that they had entered and felt like they had found their home away from home. Despite the wintery days and cool nights, the deserted bars and restaurants and beaches devoid of anyone except the occasional surfer, it was their slice of paradise. Whispered tales of Byron bay had caressed my ear canals from travellers I’d met in Aotearoa/ New Zealand for many years. The stories of this mystical location enthralled me. Each depiction offering something different. From how much I would love it, how it would change me, and how it would accelerate my personal growth by shining a light of awareness into the recesses of my shadow.
When Annette, the lover I had left Aotearoa/New Zealand with in May 1997, had left to go to Germany, I had stayed in Australia, looking to make my way. At a party in Elwood in late June, I had met a man named Nick who had travelled around the continent extensively, asking him where he would recommend travelling to on the continent had said, ‘Cairns’ and ‘Margaret River’. I had looked on the map, saw Cairns bathed in what was considered New Zealand summer temperatures. The absence of sun in Melbourne was too much for me, that and the fact that Annette had gone. So I began my odyssey north. Yet, arriving in the magical location of Byron Bay, next to a giant remnant central vent of an ancient volcano with its rugged coastline and engulfing rainforest, I had my first taste of its natural wonder. Walking around the township at nightfall felt otherworldly in the winter of 1997. It was a ghost town to me. Most people spent their time at friends’ houses, pot lucks, and parties, and I only learned this just before leaving to head north. What stayed with me was a feeling of anticipation. Anything was possible. The air felt alive, even if the slumbering community giant that would awake in the spring when the backpackers and travellers returned, for now, rested peacefully. I soaked up the energies there, letting them imbue me as I came to the deeper understanding that Annette was out of my life forever. I missed her immensely. I hadn’t dealt with the grief of my journey with her being over while living in Melbourne, as I had immersed myself in new connections, discoveries, and travel around Victoria state. Arriving in Byron Bay, I stopped the incessant moving that had seen me travel northward searching for a new home.
I paused in Byron Bay, and I grieved. I began to let go and see the adventure of a lifetime manifesting ahead of me. Byron’s energetic vortex took me in and nurtured me, held me, and accepted me as uncertainty that once scared me now felt like A dream for my crafting. Writing the letter to Sai Baba would at a later date prove to show me that I was in the flow of my life, surrendering deeply. Months later, I would have an experience while tripping on LSD near the lighthouse in Byron Bay that would educate me about sexuality in ways I only truly assimilated within years later. Reflecting on my time in Byron, the magic that filled the air is denoted by a first people’s character who I met when I was playing a Yidaki (the wind instrument called Didgeridoo to many Europeans) in a brick public toilet in November 1997. Using the corner of the building interior, I let the vibrations of the instrument wash over me as I played poorly. I heard a voice say, ‘That’s not how you play a Yidaki mate’. Shocked, I turned to see a figure in the dim light standing in the doorway. I got to my feet, introduced myself, and when he asked if he could show me, I naturally said yes. I learned how to circular breathe and made a friend as he and I sat at the Railway Station bar drinking orange juice. He told me that the region was a meeting place, not a place to stay. The energies were too powerful. You come to Byron, he said, meeting with energies in many forms, subtle and dense, and then you move. I feel it to be true. Leaving Byron in July 1997, I knew I would be back. Returning to Byron Bay would change my already adventurous life in ways that defied my capacity for understanding that winter. When I came in back in November, I was ready to dive deeper.