AUS/NZ Trip Diary: Day 12

March 17

Day 12: Byron Bay/Bangalow

Morning

As we’ve bought more and more records and comics and books, the size of our backpacks has grown in both dimension and weight. So we’ve become increasingly picky about transportation options to and from airports, when we’ll be lugging around all of our crap. Cabs — specifically Uber cars — are not only more convenient than buses or trains, they’ve proven to be surprisingly cost-effective for a pair of travelers, as we found in Melbourne.

Kit warned us about rush-hour traffic, so we get up at what we feel is a good hour, allocating 30 minutes for what would otherwise be a 17-minute ride. But I wait until we are all ready to go before opening the Uber app, where I find that the closest car available is all the way at the airport. And it will take 20 minutes just to get to where we are. And surge pricing is in effect. Goddammit!

So we sit and wait. And wait. My face is glued to the app screen as I watch the car inch along the map, appearing to go backwards at a few points. The time to arrival inches up in minutes, then stays constant even as the car makes forward progress. I put the phone down, as this is causing me too much anxiety. I apologize to Mike for not calling the car sooner and wonder if we’re going to miss our flight.

When the car finally arrives, we have just over an hour before our flight departs. Bag check closes 30 minutes before the flight, and we definitely need to check bags. At least we already checked in online the night before.

Our driver, hearing that we are running late, pulls a few road moves that wouldn’t be out of place in my native Boston. When we get to the airport with 15 whole minutes to spare before bag check closes, we thank him profusely and scurry inside the terminal.

We rush to the bag drop area only to find… a huge line of at least 40 people for the bag drop, and it’s moving slowly. Argh! We get in line, then I look around for other ideas, because there is no way this line is going to move fast enough for us to make our flight. I tell Mike to stay in line while I try to find a Qantas rep to talk to.

The Service desk is a possibility, but there is a line there, too. Then I notice a Qantas rep helping a couple use a nearby check-in kiosk. I hover off to the side until they are done, then grab her attention, saying we are about to miss the bag drop cutoff for our flight to Byron Bay, and could she help? The rep looks at my boarding pass, then waves me in the direction of a desk I hadn’t previously noticed, marked “Flights Closing.” I get Mike’s attention and we hustle over to that desk, where there is no line at all. Hallelujah!

Our bags are very efficiently whisked away, boarding passes handed to us, and off we go to security. Just as we’ve passed through the scanner and are grabbing our bags, a security offer pulls me aside and says he needs to do an inspection. (Nonononono…) I say to him (very, very politely), “oh really? Okay, well, we are worried about missing our flight just now.” He says it will only take a minute and — whaddya know! — it does. My shoes and bag get swabbed and they run that through a machine, but there’s not pat down or anything like that, thank god.

We are now doing our champion pairs speed-walking team routine down the corridor, weaving around travelers clearly in no particular rush to get to where they are headed. We get to the gate with a few minutes to spare before boarding time, so we chance on stopping to get something to eat for the flight plus coffee for me, as the kiosk is right opposite the gate.

We get our food and find a spot on the floor in the packed gate area to sit down and eat and wait. And wait. So, yeah, our flight is delayed and our plane hasn’t even yet arrived at the gate. I am both relieved (we will make our flight!) and irritated (we had more time after all!) and still so anxious that I wolf down my banana bread as Mike, seeing my distress, gives me a tiny shoulder rub. By the time we actually board the plane, I’ve chilled out enough to start to once more feel excited about the show tonight.

The flight is pretty quick (about an hour), and we step off the plane down a ramp right onto the tarmac. Not only is this a small plane, it’s a small airport.

Our plane, on the tarmac at Byron Bay airport
Our plane, on the tarmac at Byron Bay airport
Walking from the plane to Byron Bay's tiny airport terminal
Walking from the plane to Byron Bay’s tiny airport terminal

Mike mans the baggage carousel while I head over to the Hertz rental desk, where I’m given the keys to a silver Toyota Corolla. Ready to drive I, uh, guess?

Our car is parked right nearby and we load our bags into it and take our seats, me in the driver’s seat on the right-hand side (weird!). That’s when we see the in-dash CD player. Right on! We both immediately hop right back out of the car to open the trunk and rummage through our bags for recent CD purchases. And I also need my sunglasses. It’s sunny and even hotter than Sydney, which makes sense as we’re farther north.

And now I take the wheel for real — eeeeeeeee!

Watch out, Australian drivers!
Watch out, Australian drivers!

I’d joked earlier about how I’d surely be hitting the windshield wipers when I tried to signal, as things will obviously be backwards to me. Little did I imagine how quickly that would happen. Yep, my first signal to exit the lot is a wiper move. I laugh: that was pretty funny. A small giggle the second time. By the third time within maybe a mile I’m rolling my eyes at my own spazziness. Get it together, Jen! The fourth time’s the charm, and we both cheer as I correctly signal a right turn.

Woo, I’m driving in Australia! And other than driving a bit too close to the left initially, I get the hang of it pretty quickly. Even if I do still pull the wiper move occasionally. And we’re listening to the Ancients CD that Mike found in Sydney; its hazy psych vibe is mellow enough not to distract.

Now I’m ever more reliant on Mike’s navigation skills, as I need to put all of my concentration on the road ahead. But — as far as I’m able to register — the scenery here is quite beautiful, very green with rolling hills and cows grazing here and there. It’s the first time we’re spending time outside of a city proper on this trip.

Afternoon

After a short drive we arrive in Bangalow, a sleepy, kind of hippie resort town that rinds me a bit of one of the less-traveled parts of the Florida Keys. It’s not yet time to check in to our Airbnb, so we decide to wander around the tiny downtown and find some food.

Parallel parking maneuver successfully executed (yes!), we exit the car and start our stroll down the main drag. There are little clothing and gift boutiques, a stationery store, a butcher, and many small cafes. After checking out a few cafes that look okay, but nothing special, we walk by a pub with the following sign outside:

St. Patrick's Day specials at the pub in Bangalow
St. Patrick’s Day specials at the pub in Bangalow

In spite of the tropical heat, fish pie and a Guinness sounds just dandy. We place our order and find a spot on the patio. We grab our beers and wait for the fish pies to arrive. When they do, they’re pretty damn good, like a New England-style fish chowder topped with a pastry crust, and lots of large chunks of cod.

Fish pies and Guinness
Fish pies and Guinness

(We never do get the free hat promised by the sign, though.)

Our host messages us to let us know the room is ready, and we’re eager to get our records out of that hot car. But we want to quickly scope out tonight’s venue first, as it’s just a few blocks away.

On the way to the venue, we see a sign for a record store. Well, hello there! We check it out, but it’s entirely new vinyl, mostly mainstream stuff, plus gifts and cards and whatnot. Eh.

So we continue on and up ahead is the Bangalow A&I Hall, a 100+ year-old structure at the end of the street, set next to a park. It looks very quaint — not your typical concert venue.

Curiosity satisfied, we head back towards the car. But first we want to get some postcards for us to send to family, so we get those at the stationery store, then get stamps at he post office. On the way out of the post office, I suddenly freeze, as there is a giant lizard sitting on a table just outside:

Big Lizard in Bangalow Post Office's Backyard
Big Lizard in Bangalow Post Office’s Backyard

Crazy.

After we both creep as close to the lizard as we dare to snap pics, we drive to our Airbnb just a few minutes away. The house is a cute bungalow partially hidden by tall palm trees and other tropical plants, which form a kind of screen around the building’s wrap-around porch.

Our host comes out to greet us, and she shows us around and to our room, in a section of the house that is just for us, with our own bathroom. (After our Sydney housing experience, this is a big relief.) The room is cute and kind of quirky, with vintage furniture, a big feathery pillow on the bed, and shelves of books and knick-knacks. Time for a short rest before heading out again, including some chill-out time on that sweet porch.

Evening

Since the venue did not appear to be the kind of place to have food, we look for something nearby and settle on a burger place nearby for dinner. The place is called Bang Burger Bar and almost all of the burgers have the word “bang” in them (bang… Bangalow… geddit?). So we snigger at a few burger names that are particularly, ah, creative. (Yes, we are twelve.)

We get our burgers — halloumi burger for me, veggie patty for Mike — for takeaway so we can be at the venue at the stated opening time of 6:30pm, even though that’s probably just the door time. And it is, so we sit on the steps and eat our burgers as people slowly begin to arrive and the sun sets.

It’s a warm night and the birds are in full force on the grounds, tweeting up a storm and flying from one huge, ancient tree to another. After finishing our meal, we walk along the path behind the venue, through the grounds. And there’s Courtney Barnett and some of the other Milk! Records artists hanging out on a balcony behind the building. Guess that’s the green room.

The front doors are open, and people are drifting inside, so we give us our names at the door and take a peek at the lineup scrawled on a piece of paper at the ticket table:

Milk! Records show set order
Milk! Records show set order

I’m most excited to see Jen Cloher, as I dig her twangy pop-with-attitude. She’s one of the artists I’d discovered in my most recent Australian indie music deep dive. And of course I, like the rest of the paying-at-least-some-shred-of-attention-to-new-rock-music crowd, am familiar with Courtney Barnett. In fact, we have tickets to her Seattle gig next month, though mainly so we can see openers Alvvays. So while it will be fun to see her now, catching lesser-known artists less likely to make it over to the U.S. anytime soon is the real draw.

We find a spot against the wall of the venue, the inside of which has a catering hall-meets-school gymnasium kind of vibe. There’s only a sparse crowd when the first band, the Finks, quietly take the stage. A very tall fellow plays electric guitar while a petite woman, sitting, recites prose over it. They notch up the energy just a bit for the next song, now singing proper, with the woman playing cello. Then another woman — hey, that’s Jen Cloher! — joins the duo onstage and adds more electric guitar. A charming, low-key set that builds upon itself quite nicely.

The Finks
The Finks

And then the music stops, and the musicians switch up for what looks like a simple scene change. No real break, no house music up. We roll right into the set of the next band, East Brunswick All Girls Choir. I’m not super-into their rock-n-roll thang, but the one song where they first deploy double drummers, that’s a keeper. We’ll find that to be the case for other bands that night: even if their music isn’t necessarily to our taste, there will be at least one song that sparks some head-bopping.

East Brunswick All Girls Choir
East Brunswick All Girls Choir

Ouch My Face are up next, blasting away with spiky, riot grrrl-esque punk-funk that is enhanced by (again) Jen Cloher and the woman from the Finks. In fact, one song features a synchronized dance-move sequence:

Ouch My Face (and friends)
Ouch My Face (and friends)

Super fun, and an energizing end to the first half of tonight’s revue. We head outside to sit on the steps and get some air as it’s announced there will be a 20-25 minute break for intermission.

It’s not long before we hear music drifting out through the open door — intermission over! We head back in for the second half.

Onstage is Jen Cloher and her band, who have just started playing. And guess who she’s got on lead guitar? None other than Courtney Barnett. We move a bit closer to the stage so we can better enjoy this set. Plus, the hall is finally starting to fill up and we want to stake out some good spots.

Dressed in black jeans and t-shirt, her dark hair in a Chrissie Hynde shag, Jen Cloher exudes charisma onstage, punctuating her tales of relationship drama with snarls, evils grins and the occasional fist pump. I first recognize earlier track “Mount Beauty,” then new song “Famously Monogamous,” from the Milk! Records tour comp. She starts to launch in to the latter before pausing for a drink of water, explaining: “this one has a lot of words.” And a fierce pop punch. Highlight of her set, for sure.

Jen Cloher
Jen Cloher

Another quick change of musical players, and Fraser A. Gorman and his band is up. Though the drummer stays onstage. I’ve noticed that there are a lot of familiar faces from band to band, especially the drummers, two of whom have been playing with multiple bands, sometimes at the same time. Courtney Barnett, too, continues in her adjunct guitar role for this next act.

Before the music starts, however, Jen Cloher first initiates a guessing game with the audience: what does the “A” in Fraser A. Gorman stand for? People yell out assorted men’s names beginning with “A” (even Mike, who tosses out “Alistair”).

But the one fellow who yells out “Alexander,” he wins! He is beckoned to the stage as his prize is brought out for all to see: an enormous watermelon. The young man raises the watermelon above his head in victory, then hoists it offstage.

Jen Cloher giving the thumbs-up to the watermelon-laden contest winner
Jen Cloher giving the thumbs-up to the watermelon-laden contest winner

Contest over, the music commences once more. And the music is again not entirely to our taste, a bit Americana-ish (the Flying Burrito Bros. and Austin City Limits t-shirts worn by band members are a tip-off). But again, there is one good song, about — as described in a very long story by means of introduction — a street kid/car window washer.

Then Courtney Barnett is up. She shreds through song after song, and the crowd goes wild, singing along a good part of the time. One clearly-intoxicated dude gets onstage to mug next to Courtney Barnett, but the crowd is clearly not with him, and security hustles him towards the front of the stage, where he performs an unsuccessful stage dive onto the wooden floor.

Courtney Barnett
Courtney Barnett

We’re up front with the teens, who are bopping their little hearts out. There are a lot of kids here, in fact — it’s an all-ages show — and they are all ga-ga for Courtney Barnett. She’s really good, though very rock-n-roll. Of course I most enjoy her most pop song.

Then it’s time for all the bands to come back onstage for a big Bowie singalong (“Suffragette City”), then one more tune before we’re done for the night. Mike and I wander over to the well-stocked merch stand to eye the goods on offer. While we’re tempted by the variety of cool t-shirts, in the end we both decide on just copies of the Milk! Records comp (edition of 3000 on green vinyl, oooh).

The Milk! Records group finale
The Milk! Records group finale

We both agree: fun show, chill vibe, unique venue. And a pretty intimate gig for someone of Courtney Barnett’s stature. We were able to get right by the front of the stage, and there were maybe 200 people there total. Even though we’d got our tickets for this gig when originally planning this as a stopover while driving up the coast from Sydney to Brisbane, it was still a worthwhile detour.

Back to our Airbnb and its wonderfully comfy bed, which we’ll sadly have to leave the next day. Because we need to head further north, to Brisbane. On to another city, another gig, and some beach time along the way. Not bad plans for my birthday, huh?

AUS/NZ Trip Diary: Day 11

March 16

Day 11: Sydney

Morning

I’d set the alarm on my phone to go off at 8am this morning, which is very early for me on vacation. But I did so in order to catch up on writing, since I was a bit behind. I also used it as an opportunity to just hang out at a and cafe and people-watch. Our schedules have been so busy, just sitting and sipping coffee and writing for a couple of hours is kind of luxurious.

So I end up at Cuckoo Callay again. I bring my umbrella since it’s lightly drizzling. And, what do you know, it turns into a downpour not long after I take a seat — outdoors, but under one of those wide Sydney awnings.

Newtown station view from my flat white
Newtown station view from my flat white

I watch commuters scramble into and out of the train station entrance a stone’s throw away, trying to avoid getting wet, as I sip my first flat white. I’ve finally figured out the lingo for getting a double shot of espresso, as I’d unwittingly been getting singles for the entire first week of the trip (the horror!). I need to order it “strong,” that’s all.

I’m also a big hungry, so I get my standard poached eggs on toast, which comes with a side of beetroot spread. This is another thing Kit had told me about, Australians’ love of beets. (“There’s nothing like a nice thick slice of beetroot on a burger!”) I spread some on my toast and it’s actually not bad, kind of like a sweet tomato jam.

The inevitable poached eggs on toast (w/beetroot spread)
The inevitable poached eggs on toast (w/beetroot spread)

I’d let Mike know the night before I might be heading out in the morning, and I texted him my location from the cafe so he knows what’s up when he awakens. But after awhile I’m done with my food and my second coffee and ready to head back to the Airbnb. The rain has all but stopped, thankfully.

I enter our room to find Mike snapping pictures of his comics haul (ha). So I guess we’re ready to head back out soon. Since I’ve already had something to eat, Mike gets to pick the breakfast place this time, and I follow as he leads us up King Street and down a road where… there’s one of the record stores we need to check out! I take a peek in the window and we continue on.

The cafe we arrive at is another indoor/outdoor seating affair. Maybe a bad idea, but I order a third coffee of the day, a long black (tiny Americano) this time. Since I had something to eat earlier, I just get a muffin. It’s a savory muffin, with pumpkin, feta and pesto. Sounds weird, tastes great. In fact, we’d grabbed muffins on the way out of Breakfast Thieves in Melbourne the second time we went, and I’d gotten a savory chorizo and cheese muffin there, too. Non-sugary muffins: I approve!

Pumpkin, feta and pesto muffin
Pumpkin, feta and pesto muffin

Afternoon

We walk back over towards he record store, Egg Records and begin our synchronized routine, flipping through vinyl. There are some good things, but nothing that I didn’t already have. Mike, however, finds a cheaper copy of that Contrast 7″ for himself, plus an early Sloan single. We also peek at the various theme cases of toys, some music-related (The Beatles), some not (The Simpsons). This is not the first record store in Australia where we’ve seen toy cases, but I find it kind of random.

Egg Records
Egg Records

Again we text Kit to check in. He’s coming back from the gym but can meet up with us shortly at the Cat Protection Society. Are we going to protect cats? No (though we totally would if needed, obv)… we are going to pet them! Kit had brought us by the CPS building the previous day, but it was not open to visitors at that time. Because he’d explained to the staff that he was with a couple of Americans experiencing kitty withdrawal, and perhaps we could see some cats?

So we walk over to the CPS, but Kit’s not there yet (we’re a bit early) so we check out the CPS op shop on the same block. We don’t find anything, but I’m surprised by the relatively small amount of cat-themed items (though not by the enormous collection of Barbra Streisand and Sting cassettes).

Walking back to the CPS, there’s Kit, waiting for us. He leads us inside and explains the situation to the woman at the front desk, who is very nice and offers to lead us into the cat holding areas.

After slathering disinfectant on our hands, we’re ready to get cuddly with some kitties. We’re asked if we want to see kittens or adult cats. Both, please! So first on the agenda are some kittens. We are led to a corridor where on both sides there are stacked cages, tiny faces peering at us from each. Which kittens do we want to hold? Uhhh… so much cuteness! We start with this little black and white cutie, each of us taking turns holding him:

Mike the Kitten Whisperer
Mike the Kitten Whisperer

Then I notice a little brown and tan ball of fuzz in a cage on the opposite side. We need to cuddle him, too. And he’s soooo tiny and fluffy and nestles into my chest when I scoop him up. Not wanting to hog this little dude all to myself, I eventually pass him to Mike, though the kitten has latched on to my arm a bit already. Awww!

As great as that was, there are more cats upstairs, so we follow our CPS guide up the staircase to the room with adult cats. The first cat to greet us, in the hallway, is a fluffy black cat with no eyes. Our guide tells us that he checks people out by licking them, and he does do some sniffs and a couple of licks before darting away. He is a bit skittish, but friendly.

Blind kitty, sniffing us out (photo: Mike Baehr)
Blind kitty, sniffing us out (photo: Mike Baehr)

Then we move into the main room, where there are cages with cats that still need to be socialized as well as more relaxed cats just walking around free. Two especially playful dudes, both named Archie, provide entertainment by running around, chasing each other and wrestling.

Archie & Archie, sparring (photo: Mike Baehr)
Archie & Archie, sparring (photo: Mike Baehr)

This charmer is super-shy, refusing to exit her cage, only going so far as to put both paws outside:

Shy cutie, meeting us halfway (photo: Mike Baehr)
Shy cutie, meeting us halfway (photo: Mike Baehr)

We pet some of the cats wandering around, and open a few cages to try and pet those that aren’t too shy, all while our guide gives us a little info about the personality and background of each. Such cuties! Hoping they all find loving homes soon.

Me, getting my kitty fix (photo: Mike Baehr)
Me, getting my kitty fix (photo: Mike Baehr)

Now feeling the feline contentedness, we thank the CPS staff and exit into the sun. Great, no need for umbrellas (for now). Kit has some work to do now but will meet up with us after we check out the one other record store in the neighborhood on our list.

Revolve Records is a 15+ minute walk away, and we follow Google’s directions down behind the Newtown station and through a narrow alley that empties onto a larger road where we find this coffee bar, as earlier mentioned by Kit.

Oh, you silly Australians.

A little further on is Revolve, a dusty old shop with some decent records, almost all older stuff and fairly high-priced. But the stock is just interesting enough to get us to dig through all of the relevant bins, even though the only item of note to me is the Australian cassette edition of the Go-Betweens’ Tallulah album in the checkout counter display case. Oh well.

By this time we are very hungry, and Kit has promised to take us to a place where Lebanese manooshes can be found. They were my $1 street-vendor breakfast almost every day when I visited Beirut in 2007, and they are fucking delicious: a fresh-baked flatbread, brushed with olive oil and rubbed with zaatar spices, rolled up with pickles and tomatoes or other fillings. I text Kit and we arrange to meet at the restaurant at 4pm.

We get there early enough to scope out the menu, where I quickly decide on the “Beirut-style” manoosh with pickles, tomatoes and halloumi cheese. Mike chooses the same, then scopes out the freezer case to try to determine if Australia has any country-specific Ben & Jerry’s flavors. (Kit, later: no.)

Then Kit arrives and we order. And when the sandwiches are brought to our table, they smell and look so good that I am most of the way through mine before I remember to take a picture. Oops.

Not pictured: my delish manoosh
Not pictured: my delish manoosh

Then I think: maybe I can get a picture the next time I’m here. Because… maybe we could come back to Sydney again this trip?

Ever since Mike and I saw that poster at the Union Hotel listing that gig on the 25th with Mines, Hideous Towns and Mope City, we’d had a few conversations about returning for that gig. It may seem crazy, but the major reason for this trip is to see bands. And Auckland, the city we’d planned on being in that weekend, seems to be shutting down for the long Easter weekend. There are no interesting gigs scheduled that we know of, and two of the main rock clubs will be closed multiple days.

Finally, if we change our flight to return from Sydney instead of Auckland, we get to avoid a grueling 33+ hour journey with a 7-hour layover in Beijing, flying direct to LA instead. (We booked the tickets using miles, so we couldn’t be picky.) Having a shorter flight also means being able to stay one more night in Sydney than we would have been able to in Auckland. And we can still visit Auckland, of course. We’ll just spend a little less time there.

We mention our potential plans to Kit and he offers to hold on to some of my records if we know we’re going to be returning. Tempting offer, but it’s far from certain that the airline will let the change request go through. We’ll see if we can book it later that night and let him know how it goes.

But right now I need to walk off some of this food, and Kit leads us on, pointing out various local landmarks on the way to a nearby park, where the trees are filled with scores of wild cockatoos. Mike and I are bowled over by this and immediately start taking pictures as they fly from tree to tree. But Kit is all yeah, whatevs. Apparently this is as normal in Sydney as seeing a bunch of squirrels is back home. (And squirrels do not exist in Australia, so oh, the excitement when Kit sees them in our country!)

Wild cockatoos in the park
Wild cockatoos in the park

The park is on the way to a supermarket in a small, semi-hidden shopping complex. We are on a mission to scope out local foodstuffs, including the selection of the ubiquitous Tim Tams, chocolate-covered Australian cookies that can be had at every convenience store and market. And this supermarket has a lot of Tim Tams:

A small portion of the vast selection of Tim Tams
A small portion of the vast selection of Tim Tams

I am also feel compelled to check out the hot sauce section. While a bottle of Tabasco, at minimum, is de rigeur at the table of every egg-slinging eatery back home, not so in the breakfast places of Australia. Can you even get decent hot sauce here? Well, kind of. There are a couple of shelves’ worth of sauces, including one of my faves, Cholula. But the mayo section far rivals the hot offerings.

Hot sauces at the supermarket
Hot sauces at the supermarket

We don’t buy anything at the store because we are (hopefully!) coming back to Australia before we head home. And it’s time for our next stop: a local brewery, where we are anxious to sample their fine wares.

Evening

On the walk to the brewery, we encounter not one, but two adorable street cats. The first is very friendly, running through the gate in his yard to the sidewalk and our waiting hands. Scritch, scritch, scritch! The second cat, further down the block, just gives us a cool appraisal from his porch, immune to our entreaties. Okay, be like that.

Kit with Sydney street cat
Kit with Sydney street cat

When we arrive at the brewery, we can see there are a number of different options on tap, with some available in bottle or jug size in addition to glasses. We each get a glass of whatever sounds good, and for me that’s another sour.

Beers at brewery in Marrickville
Beers at brewery in Marrickville

While we drink, we check Sydney gig listings in a local freebie paper, but there are virtually none. Kit again laments the state of live music and clubs in general in Sydney, which has taken a rather large hit due to stupid laws that limit operational hours and prevent patrons from re-entering clubs if they leave after a certain hour. We also peruse the program guide for a Melbourne comedy festival that we’ll be missing, just to get a sense of who is performing. Unsurprisingly, I recognize only one or two names; Mike IDs a few more.

There is one more planned stop for the night: a bar where a couple of bands are playing that none of us have heard of, but whom were advertised (according to Kit) as “indie non-yacht rock.” Sure, interesting enough to check out, so we walk in the direction of the bar.

And wouldn’t you know it, right next door is a record store. And it’s open until the decadent hour of 10pm. Heavens! We’re a bit early for the music, so we flip through the bins. We don’t find anything, but it’s fun nonetheless.

The bar itself is very quaint and old-timey, with a stage at the front and a cozy sofa and some chairs at the back where we take a seat. The cocktail list features offerings from a local distillery, so I go for the one with rye and cherry heering. Mike gets a local beer with shot of rye. My cocktail is tasty, but does suffer in comparison to similar one I had expertly prepared for me at the Baxter Inn the previous day.

The band starts to play and it is… banjo music? Kind of folky Americana stuff. Hmm. Not really my (or Mike’s) bag. I think the combination of liquor and nonstop activity over the past few days has gotten to me, as I’m suddenly feeling very tired. So I ask to call it a night, and we depart.

After taking the bus back to Newtown and saying our goodbyes to Kit, we make it the flat and prepare ourselves for the now-familiar ritual of packing for another flight, this time north to Byron Bay. Plus I need to call United and see if we can switch our return flight home. I also need to figure out whether we need a rental car in Byron Bay (probably) and how much that is going to cost (a lot) and whether I can handle driving on the other side of the road (I sure hope so).

This last-minute travel planning is all part of the drill when you don’t find out about gigs sooner than two weeks before they happen, and often with much less notice than that. And it is another task we need to add to our to-do list in the midst of more enjoyable activities. In Melbourne, for example, we spent our Sunday evening booking more Airbnbs and flights and determining the best airport transport options. And how early do we need to get to the airport? Are checked bags included in that price? What is the carry on bag weight limit? Yeah, fun stuff like that.

Anyway, I call United and am connected with a somewhat robotic representative who seems to know less than I do about how this flight change stuff works. (I’d already changed our flights once before, a couple of weeks prior to our trip when we decided we wanted an extra week.) He tries to tell me no seats are available on the main SYD-LAX leg even though I am looking at an online seat map that indicates otherwise, even though the seats aren’t next to each other. I tell him as much and he is all oh, but aren’t you traveling together? YES. Are you both adults? YES. Oh, I guess that’s okay then. (No kidding!)

Robotic United rep finishes the booking and, even though there is a change fee, we are now all set to depart from Sydney on the 28th. Yay! Then I scope out online car rental options for the following day and get angry at the prices and finally just book a damn car while grumbling under my breath the whole while. Since we are dropping the car off in a different city (Brisbane) there is of course an extra fee. A large fee. Of course.

But now we have easy transport from the airport in Byron Bay to our Airbnb in Bangalow, a quaint town not far away where the next night’s show — a Milk! Records showcase with Courtney Barnett and others — is happening. And we can take our time heading up to Brisbane the following day, stopping at Byron Bay on the way to spend a little time at the famed Gold Coast beach.

Travel agent duty over, it’s time for bed. And bedtime is later than planned because the other residents of our Airbnb have been hogging the shared bathrooms. And I will only mention in passing the resident who felt that peeing with the bathroom door was a-ok. Shared bathrooms: never again!

Setting the alarm for way-early, but excited to be off on the next part of our journey, we try to get some shut-eye.