If Nimbin isn’t already on your bucket list, it will be after you read this….
I had spent two glorious months travelling through Australia with my boyfriend Andy. We had visited Sydney, Cairns, Darwin, Alice Springs, the Gold Coast and Brisbane. Next we made our way to Byron Bay. The second we arrived in Byron Bay, I fell in love with the atmosphere. It had a real laidback, Woodstock vibe to it.
As always, over an ice-cold beer, I started chatting with fellow backpackers who shared stories about a town called Nimbin. They said that Nimbin is known as a town full of hippies, a town so laid back it made Byron Bay seem fast paced! I was desperate to find out for myself so I booked bus tickets for us the very next day.
I discovered that, in fact, Nimbin is a Mecca for travellers and free thinkers from around the world. The village had a reputation for self-sufficiency and sustainability. In 1979 the community battled to protect the local rainforest, which resulted in the New South Wales government imposing a no rainforest logging policy covering the entire state. This was the first government legislation of its kind to protect rainforest.
So, on a warm Wednesday morning at 9AM, we waited patiently for our bus. Suddenly, a hippy wagon pulled up – this was the only description I could give it. It was brightly painted with rainbows. The driver disembarked and introduced himself as Ivan. Ivan is a great big South African gentleman who didn’t like wearing shoes. I immediately loved him and wanted to be his friend. He was truly a top bloke.
We set off to Nimbin, entertained by beautiful scenery and a Bob Marley soundtrack. Ivan briefly interrupted the music to inform us of the safety aspects of the bus and most importantly to warn us to steer clear of the specialist street cookie vendors! He proceeded to tell us a story about a six foot two inch Russian tourist who overindulged on a previous journey and experienced a severe attack of paranoia. The poor fella started crying because he thought he had been kidnapped. Yeah, I think I’ll give the cookies a miss. Thanks. I thought to myself.
During our journey we stopped for refreshments at a local pub. My boyfriend Andy started talking to a local. This friendly chap whose name I don’t recall (probably Bruce or Brad) told Andy how his mate had half his leg bitten off in a shark attack. Now, I don’t mean to be rude but judging by the shark attack stories one hears throughout Australian pubs, there must be a lot of onelegged Aussies hopping around everywhere.
We arrived in Nimbin after an entertaining journey. Ivan then warned us that cannabis is illegal in the state of New South Wales. Ivan also pointed out that Nimbin had its own “rules” in this area. The gentle South African giant then warned everybody to be extremely cautious because the local variety is known to be very strong. He then added with a grin, “If anyone attempts to smoke anything of this nature on my bus on the way home, that person will find himself in for a rather long walk back to Byron Bay.”
We had a few hours to look around. It was definitely a quirky place. The buildings
were brightly painted and some of the shops had names like Rainbow Cafe, Hemp Emporium, and Bringabong. They sold jewellery, crystals, specialist books, hemp products and art.
After a few hours browsing around the shops and chatting with some of the friendly locals, I learned from the man running the local shop that there were more to the town than meets the eye. At its heart was an open-minded and close-knit community that cared about the environment they live in. We boarded the bus once more, Ivan cranked the stereo up and we headed to Minyon Falls lookout. Minyon Falls is a waterfall with a 100 meter drops down into a valley. Oh my! The view was amazing! Not only of the waterfall but the rainforest as well. I felt grateful for the opportunity to see such a wonderful sight.
Our picnic spot was nearby so we walked back to the bus with our fellow day-trippers and helped Ivan with the cool boxes full of food for the barbie. He led us to a nice little spot and asked for a few volunteers to help with dinner. Obviously being the kind-hearted soul that I was, I volunteered Andy to help Ivan!
I wisely spent my time taking some photos while Andy helped out. I know he’d appreciate it in years to come when he had wonderful photos to look through to remember this great day.
The boys cooked up a storm; I loved the smell of a barbecue. Well actually, I just love all food and everything about it: the smells, flavors and textures. I get excited just thinking about tasting different things. I have a point scoring system, which I use every time I eat out. I rate each venue for the food, service and ambiance.
Ivan offered us hot dogs, burgers and ribs with a choice of tomato sauce or relish and of course a lovely big bowl of mixed salad and corn on the cobs. I opted for one of each. Not to be greedy but I believe you should always try everything! The food was tasty! The food had that delectable smoky barbecue taste and I washed it down with a bottle of ice-cold Victoria Bitter. It was heaven. Also, the service and ambiance were exceptionally outstanding, so I had to give this rainforest dining experience a 10 out of 10.
We sat around chatting with the rest of the party; there were a few fellow tourists from England, some Aussies and a group of Germans who spoke excellent English. The conversation centered around Nimbin and how different it was to anywhere any of us had ever been. One of my new German friends told me how Nimbin’s counterculture had grown out of a festival in the 70’s. According to his story, hundreds of people had fallen in love with the place after visiting for a festival and had never gone home.
I had already thoroughly enjoyed my day out and this was the cherry on the cake. Sitting around a forest chatting with my fellow travellers, picking away at our barbecued snacks, licking the sauce off of our fingers and picking the charred bits of food from between our teeth. I sat back for a moment and pondered on my day. I reflected upon the people we had met, the incredible scenery we had viewed, and the fun we had experienced, but this moment right then was the most special part of the whole trip. This moment where we sat in a large group effortlessly sharing our views on the day, exchanging our positive vibes with one another. If it weren’t for the inclusive power that food has in bringing people together, the day would have ended very differently. The community spirit that a simple barbecue created for us all was what made this day truly memorable.
It was now late afternoon but the sun was still shining through the trees. To quote Bruno Mars: “It was 24k magic!”.
Throughout my adulthood, I’ve eaten in a wide variety of places. I’ve even dined at the Versace Hotel (Palazzo Versace) alongside Rod Stewart and his wife. I’ve had high tea at the Four Seasons. I’ve dined in quirky cafes and harbor side restaurants. I’ve eaten street food in Cambodia. I’ve experienced a lot of food in many different environments but one of my all time favorite meals will always be a good old Aussie barbecue!
Oh, I almost forgot to mention the huge bird that stole my burger out of my bun as quick as a flash, then poo’d on my arm before it flew away!