Today, we left our hostel in Byron Bay, bound for Surfer’s Paradise. The process seemed simple enough. We would check out of our hostel, catch the hostel’s shuttle into downtown Byron Bay, where they drop us off at the bus stop, and hop on the express bus to Surfer’s. An hour and a half later, we’d be in Queensland. No worries.
The Greyhound bus left at 10:00 am, so we aimed for the 9:30 shuttle leaving the hostel. Downtown is within walking distance, but since the shuttle is much faster, we figured we’d be there by 9:40 at the latest, and with tickets in hand, that was plenty of time to catch the bus.
The trouble started at about 9:20.
TJ headed down to reception to check out while I made sure we had everything out of the room. He faced a long line of people with the same idea – check out in time for the 9:30 shuttle. Being the patient man he is, he waited his turn in line like everyone else. He knew that if the shuttle filled up, it would make a run to town and then return for the rest of us. One girl was not in the mood to be patient. She marched up to the counter and declared that she must get on the shuttle right now, so she couldn’t be bothered to wait in line. She returned her key, and pushed people aside with her backpack as she rushed out the door to claim a seat on the shuttle.
By the time we were checked out and ready to go, the shuttle bus was full and on its way to town. We waited with the other backpackers who were left behind, thinking it would come back any minute. TJ muttered a joke about the pushy girl at the reception counter that got a few snickers out of the girls next to us, so we struck up a conversation with them. They assured us that they had talked to the driver of the shuttle, and the driver was planning to return right away. They would be back any minute.
By 9:45, I decided to do something about it, so I headed back to the reception desk to check on things. I asked when we could expect the shuttle to be back, and a man chimed in from the back office: “Traffic is bad today! It will be a while.” The receptionist asked which bus we were trying to meet, and when I told her, her eyes widened a little bit. “You need to call a cab. Now.” she said, with more urgency than I had ever heard in an Australian’s voice. She picked up the phone, requested the cab, and sweetly added “Oh, and we need that as soon as possible, please.”
At 9:59, a minibus pulled into the driveway, and we invited the two girls next to us to join in. As the driver was backing out into the road, we had the following conversation:
Driver: Which bus are you catching?
Me: The 10:00 to Surfer’s.
Driver: Dear, it’s 10:00 now.
TJ: Yes, we’re hoping it’s running late.
Driver: I doubt it. Those buses almost always leave exactly on time.
Me: Can you work magic, then?
Driver: I’ll see what I can do.
The entire way to town was peppered with reassurances from our new friends that they were on an 11:15 bus to Surfers, so we might be able to transfer our ticket to that one. Our driver was reporting that our bus would pass us on the way if we missed it, but we hadn’t seen it yet. She was also careening wildly around back roads and driveways, cutting off cars and pushing her way into traffic.
Driver: I am about to do something terribly illegal.
TJ: I won’t tell anyone.
I didn’t say anything.
Our bus stop came into view with two buses waiting. Surely, one of them was ours. The first bus in line, with a destination of Mullumimby flashing across the top, started pulling away from the curb. Our bus was the one right behind it! Without missing a beat, our driver dodged right in front of the moving bus, just out of the way of moving traffic. We shoved a few bills in her hand as one of the girls opened the sliding door. TJ literally leapt from the van, over the backpacks of the other girls, and sprinted down the street.
The bus was ready to pull away, and even as I waddled down the street with the rest of our bags, I wasn’t sure that he would make it. Then I watched the driver put the bus into Park and get out of his seat. He opened the door and stepped down to check our tickets, just as I was catching up. We threw our packs in the compartment underneath, breathlessly ran onto the bus with our daypack, and collapsed on the only empty row of seats we could find. We made it. We giggled as we waved to the girls and driver that we left behind.