Friday, 17 January 2014

New Years Eve - Murwillumbah YHA

In the foothills of Mt Warning lies the sleepy town of Murwillumbah.

What should we do between Xmas and New Year that won't cost an arm and a leg we asked ourselves.
Go camping? Nah - too hot, too crowded.  What about spend five nights in a youth hostel surrounded by strangers half our age? This suggestion came from Andrea! I'd stayed at the Murwillumbah Youth Hostel en route to Ballina a few times and had described it with affection but I wasn't sure it would be Andrea's idea of a holiday destination. I warned her. She hesitated and then took the plunge.I booked a double room. I'd only ever stayed in the men's dorm room. I wasn't sure what the double room might offer. I had a picture of a double bed bumping up against the wall on all four sides with no space for humans to stand and drunken parties outside our window on the deck. As a backup we invited our friend Lynne to join us and she gamely took up the challenge.

We arrived on the Saturday afternoon (Dec28) via a Currumbin Beach swim. Murwillumbah was closed.

The owner/manager had left a key out for us and we settled into a surprisingly nice room, with standing room and storage space, overlooking the broad murky Tweed River. Mt Warning loomed in the distance. It was beautiful.

Murwillumbah/Mt Warning YHA
We were in the company of two young people from Singapore who were about to begin a traineeship at a Yatala (a most unattractive industrial centre halfway between Brisbane and the Gold Coast. Half way to nowhere). Other guests included two young women backpackers from Holland, another two from Germany, a young architect originally from Zimbabwe; Gary was an ex Navy seaman from the English midlands who has  spent extended holidays at the hostel over a ten year period; a bunch of Czech tourists who appeared late at night desperate for a bed, and Stig. Stig, the ultimate contrast to the cliched young blonde Swedish backpacker. Stig was a bit unnerving. He was a significantly older man who floated silently around the building, pausing ominously outside our room and then drifting on. More of him later.

The owner/manager, Tassie (yes! a Tasmanian) had arrived in town 33 years previously (late '70s) as a young backpacker. Fell in love with the place. Bought this crumbling house high on the banks of the river, registered it as a YHA, did some renovations and a paint job befitting the times. Never left. Never changed the paint scheme.

Come New Year's Eve and all the young backpackers had managed to find accommodation at Byron Bay and we were a group of ten, seven of whom were, shall we say, mature aged. A late addition to the group was Jane who had flown in from Canberra specifically for New Year's Eve. She works in the National War Memorial as an archivist. She's the one who receives and assesses all the offers of photos and memorabilia from families whose WWI and WWII parents are gone, or not much longer with us. Sounded like a richly rewarding job. Turns out Jane has been coming here for twenty-eight years.

Toni wearing a red bra on her head.
It was turning into a reunion.  Not the least because Tassie's local lady-friend, Toni, had offered to cook for us if we were happy to fork out $15 a head. She had run a Thai restaurant in Mullumbimby until recently.

What a memorable night. A five course meal cooked in the shared kitchen by Toni  - assisted by the young Singaporean couple who loved the opportunity of finding a role in our wacky Australian evening. We ate till midnight and, surrounded by a deathly silent Murwillumbah, toasted the new year and promptly disappeared to our beds.
Stig and his $2.00 hat

Stig was the surprise of our stay. Not only did he show a great sense of taste in his choice of hat for the evening, but he had a great story to tell. He's 76 years of age and is travelling in Australia for a year. He has seen it all, having spent a previous twelve months here a few years ago. He was an engineer by training and had worked most of his life in third world countries, mostly Africa, for the UN involved in development projects. His memory was razor sharp, his energy unfailing - he had  caught a coastal freighter north from Cairns to Thursday Island and then bumped his way down the Gulf in a 4WD on a group tour. He had then made his way to the Laura Dance Festival by hitch-hiking (when his arranged transport failed to arrive at a remote intersection 50 ks west of Cooktown), and then slept on the ground under a tree. He even agreed to swim with me in the Tweed River despite his misgivings about the bull sharks I had told him lurked there.

When I grow up I aspire to be a Stig. I reckon I could do the drifting ghost bit quite well if I put my mind to it.

Andrea Lynne Steve


Queen of the Tea Cosies said...

TWO ties Steve. Twice as suave.

little hat said...

I was 'in theme'. It was a Thai night.

Anonymous said...

Great start to the year there Steve!

The Art Blogger 54 said...

"ex navy seaman"??? I was in the (Royal) Navy 1972-1977. That was more than 1000 years ago now. You might as well have said I was an ex-schoolboy or an ex-supermarket shelf-stacker. If I'm to be an ex-anything I'd rather be an ex-expatriate Pom as the greater part of the period 1977-2012 was spent working / travelling overseas. Cheers. G.

little hat said...

Sorry Gary. Just shows one needs to be a little bit more thorough in one's research. The person referred to might actually read it. So I wasn't actually wrong just a little off the mark. At least i got your name right. I had to amend Jane's from Anne after advice from Tassie.

The Art Blogger 54 said...

Yes "one" does doesn't "one".

Doesn't the Queen refer to herself as "one" on her Blog?