First Aussie Hitchhiking Trip to Mandie's in Mullumbimby, GLO!

I hopped the Sydney public transit and took it as far north of the city as it would go, then I was on foot to the freeway to start hitchhiking up to Mullumbimby. I got a ride pretty quick from a guy who wanted to tell me about 20 foot crocodiles and the rest of the things in the country that could kill me. Next was a woman with her baby in the car who got me up along the pacific highway.

It was a long walk from there until I got a ride just a few minutes more down the road from a local guy. Next was a woman named Rita who pulled over, "There's two rules", she told me, "No funny business and your bag goes in the boot", I gave her a smile and tossed my bag in the trunk.

We cruised along and she was really friendly, taking me to the McDonalds drive thru for a big burger before dropping me off up the road a little ways. I got a road a little while later from a guy going to a seminar about retirement, he was almost there.

When I was on foot again I was just outside New Castle on a busy road with little room for cars to pull over, I soon found myself walking through residential thinking I'd found a shortcut. I walked for a good while, as night was falling I walked past a gas station and got a shout from someone filling up asking where I was heading. He was a cleaner who ended up giving me a ride around the city a bit towards the north end.

I walked some more in the dark, just streetlights and headlights. A pickup truck spun around and pulled over, I ran up and caught a ride with him to a petrol station finally getting out of the city all together. At the petrol station I wandered up the road, contemplating whether to walk or hang where I was. In this pondering a car coming out asked where I was headed, soon giving me a lift just a ways up the road a bit further.

I stood under a streetlight in this new spot and a phychiatrist evenually picked me up, he was going a good ways, we talked travel and the like finally getting to a small town called Kew where I figured my night would come to an end, time for sleep.

I woke up on an embankment above the motorway where I'd curled into my sleeping bag for the night, a night of thinking about the various types of creep crawlies that may be lurking around, none bothered me, if there were any at all.

I got to walking alongside the motorway, eventually getting picked up by a woman working at a garden shop, then a guy after her heading to Kempsey up the road, I had my bag on my lap for that hour or so ride. A woman picked me up there, a nurse who loved the coast and told me all sorts of great beaches were nearby. She gave me her number saying she knew a lot of truckers and could likely score me a free ride if I came back down the coast.

My next ride was a guy into finance going boating up the road. After him I got picked up by a gambler, a guy in the midst of a divorce and more interested in cruising around the country, gambling and drinking. For whatever reason, some settlement or disability, he had millions and was happy to coast around living off the interest.

He dropped me off in bannana country where I was picked up by a guy with his kid in the car around Coff's Harbour. He told me the area was hurting for jobs and wasn't a great place to live at the moment because of this. He gave me a phone number though, saying he had a friend with work up the road a a few kilometers who could give me work picking garlic if I wanted it. It sounded like an ok thing, but I was keen to get up to Mandie's straight away.

Another short ride a little ways, then I got a ride from a friendly trucker pretty happy with life and all. We had good conversation and cruised up a decent ways. My next ride came from a guy who handed me a beer straight away with one of his own in hand. Another beer after that and we cruised until he dropped me to the turn off to Mullumbimby, he continued on north.

I walked up the ramp towards the road, a woman stopped and I didn't realize she'd stopped for me, she drove by minutes later saying something out the window I couldn't understand, but I got the idea her smile said, "you're a dolt, I would have given you a ride".

I got a ride minutes later anyways, I guy who lived in Mullumbimby coming from the gym in Byron Bay by the coast. He dropped me in town near the road Mandie lived on. I stuck out my thumb there and another guy stopped, clearing off the passenger seat with one hand and passing me a joint with the other. I took a hit off that and told him the address, we passed it, then turned around and got to it and he dropped me by the road.

I started wandering on to the property, but I soon realized that the address Mandie gave me just got me to more of a forest community without much direction as to where her actual house was. I started wandering one direction that seemed to be the right way, soon climbing a hill and becoming engulfed in forest.

A car came from behind me, stopping and I asked if she knew where Mandie lived. She was just going to see a friend elsewhere in the woods, but said she could give me a ride that far to see if things became clearer. Right away we hit a decision where she was going straight and another road turned right and up. I had a feeling Mandie lived up, so I hopped out and was on foot again.

After a bit I came across a driveway up and figured I'd give a shot. Up the hill I went and a beautiful house came into view, I walked towards it and saw movement inside. As I got closer I saw a topless woman walking around inside, I couldn't be sure if it was Mandie or not. As I got closer I was fairly certain it wasn't Mandie and either way I was too close now to walk away. I looked away out towards the valley through a clearing in the trees, "Hello?", I said.

"Oh! Ah, just a minute! Let me put some clothes on!", she said startled. Soon she came out and I apoligized for startling her. "Put your bag down if you'd like", she told me.

"I'm looking for my friend Mandie... I got the address, but it's a bit of a maze back here, I'm not sure where she lives...", I told her. She didn't seem to know Mandie, but knew there was only a few people who lived back in the woods. She let me use the phone to call her, no response, so she called another woman who lived back there and found out where Mandie lived. The woman gave me a ride a down the dirt road through the forest a bit more and dropped me at Mandie's finally.

I found Mandie walking my way all smiles, thanking someone on the phone, the other woman giving her a heads up that "there's a backpacker wandering through the forest coming your way". I ran up and gave her a hug, happy to see my friend and be done with the first hitching trip.

We caught up and took a trip back down to town for bread and the like, she cooked a great big meal and we sat out on her porch looking out over the valley with the ocean in the distance. Her place was magic, tucked so far back in the woods and up high. She ran everything off solar and had a backup generator and used rain water as her supply. A series sounds surrounded us, distant cows and birds of all kinds. A "whip bird" particuarlly caught my attention, which turned out to be two birds as Mandie explained. One cried out a long stressing note and another would accentuate it with a quick burst to end the whip sound.

We headed out to her friend's house next a decent drive away, seeing a big python on the road along the way. Her friends lived in a similarly beautiful house, an interesting couple, Niles and Lacie. Niles had just left his job and was feeling a lot lighter, no longer having to make the long commute to Brisbane every day. We had a couple beers and a toast of champagne to celebrate.

A babysitter arrived to watched there two children, only there little daughter was still up who I met, then the four of us were off to the GLO dance in town.

The dance started off with light music and all of us in a circle in a small hall. The DJ had us move one thing at a time, rolling our necks around, our arms, our feet and so on until we were all dancing and he kicked up the music. I was all jumps and in to it, shaking off my shoulders and a couple days of the road. Soon the DJ left and made room for the band which was simply a drummer and a digirdoo player. The were seamless with eachother and filled the room with energy, everyone was jumping and moving in all kinds of ways.

Niles came over with a cup of GLO juice for me, they had a bowl of punch with all types of herbs in it, including something I'd heard called spice back in the states, a sort of legal marijuana alternative I'd tried once in Vegas. I never could tell if it had much of an effect on me this time around, I was already in as good a mood as one can get moving with every beat of the music, sweating and never stopping for hours until it finally came to an end.

We went back to the house with Niles and Lacie, sitting on their back porch over looking the valley which was filled with clouds that you could mistake for a lake in the darkness. We stayed up for hours talking late into the night, still buzzing from the dance and mostly unable to sleep.

I hung out with Niles and the kids the next day while the girls went to a luncheon. We stopped into town where he picked up some bottles of wine from the post office, we cracked into a couple back at the house looking out into the valley again, it was a perfect sitting spot. Eventually Mandie the girls came back and Mandie and I headed back to her house where we got a little fire going and made it an early night.

The next day Mandie dropped me off on the road when she went to her workshop so I could hitch just up the road to Nimbin until she was done. I caught a ride from a woman and her small kids, "Take me to New York!", one told me when I answered where I was from.

Nimbin was said to be a hippy town, I could see remnants of this, but it seemed like a hard town to me. I took a loop around the small place and settled in the park. Dull and hard faces wandered the streets, tourists too, twice the same scraggly guy passed me on the sidewalk asking if I wanted to by some pot. The place was colorful, but this color seemed to be fading, the on and off rain didn't help brighten things up.

After a couple hours of scribbling notes in the park I headed back to the road. A young local guy gave me a lift back to Mandie's workshop. He told me that the town had changed quite a bit, full of junkies now bringing harder drugs and problems to town. Authorities made frequent visits to town to try and make busts, he mentioned the cameras on the street that I'd seen as well, big brother always watching the goings on in the town.

We stopped at a small market on the way back home, Mandie's friend got me a dragon fruit roll up that I munched on when we checked out a small music venue, then headed back into the forest. We had a relaxing rest of the afternoon and night, plenty of tea, as is custom in the forest, and a nice big dinner.

We'd pulled out a big map of the country and took a look. Our friend Nick was set to be back in the forest himself in 4 weeks time for the next GLO dance, so I promised I'd be back for that. We chose a route that looked best - down to Melbourne, over to Adelaide and up the center of the country through the outback and back to the coast where I could head down. Mandie figured it was pretty ambitious, she didn't seem sure I'd be able to cover that much ground - I'd begin the next morning.

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