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Janelle Behnke: Byron Bay

This past weekend my study abroad group and I traveled south to Byron Bay, New South Wales, in Australia. We very impulsively booked a skydiving trip and decided to stay the weekend in the town.

Friday morning we arrived at the “airport” —which was really nothing more than a long stretch of grass—signed our lives away, received a 10-minute crash course in how to skydive and jumped in a plane.

We sailed up 14,000 feet above the bay area and were literally pushed out of the plane. We obviously jumped with a tandem, and mine was named Steve. He was the chief instructor for Skydive Byron Bay, which made me feel a lot better. (And he was scared of heights like me!)

However, I wasn’t as scared as I thought I would be. In fact, it was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever done in my life! We were in free fall for 60 seconds, at about 130 miles per hour, then the parachute went up and we coasted to the ground for about five minutes.

I’ve never felt anything quite like that dropping sensation in my life, and it left me with a very refreshed feeling after. We paid to have pictures taken and a DVD made of our jump—and they are both phenomenal. It is something that I will remember forever, and is definitely one of those things that every person must do at least once in life. Words cannot describe how proud I am that I actually did it and how much I appreciate the experience.

After diving, we checked into our hostel and explored Byron Bay. Byron is a small, touristy town, filled with lots of small shops, restaurants and cafes.

After eating, we walked on the beach and took the scenic—aka, the very long—route to the strongest, brightest lighthouse in Australia: the Byron Bay lighthouse that sits on the most easterly part of Australia. The lighthouse itself was turned into a small museum and from the top we had an awesome view of the hills and the ocean. On warmer days you can sometimes see whales and dolphins.

The next day we took a day trip to Nimbin, a very small town located an hour inland from Byron. The Aquarius Festival (very similar to the Woodstock Festival held in the United States) was held there in 1973, and the town is basically still stuck in the ’70s.

Less than 500 people live in the town, and there is only one main street in it. Every building on the street is painted bright colors, and it is constantly crowded with tourists. The town had a very different feel than any other place I’ve been to in Australia, but a neat experience all the same.

Photos courtesy of Janelle Behnke

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