This year in April I returned to Australia for a conference called the Down Under Institute, hosted in Lismore New South Wales. I planned to go with three people to support me and to travel with me. Similar to the first Australia trip in 2009 there was a lot of organizing and to-ing and fro-ing as arrangements and bookings were made. As expected this part of the process was both exciting and slightly stressful, but was nothing really compared to the rest of the experience.
We had a good early morning drive up to the airport but when we arrived there one of my travelling companions was told that she didn’t have the right travel papers. As she was not a New Zealand citizen she would need a visitor’s visa to enter Australia. Because of this complication we were late getting to the flight and she was unable to come with us, so our party of four became a party of three. When we arrived in Brisbane airport we collected the hire vehicle, which we accessed through Flash Cabs again. It was a long drive down to Lismore, but it was nice to be able to recognize some of the sights that we had seen on the last trip to the region.
The accommodation that greeted us on arrival in Lismore was another obstacle, as similar to the first trip I had underestimated how much I needed to clarify what was required. Firstly the room had a step, which could be overcome by a simple wedge ramp that they had available. Unfortunately when the ramp was in place there wasn’t enough turning space for my chair to access the door. So again necessity became the mother of invention and we were able, with the assistance of the motel supervisor, to create a makeshift “ramp”. This was not the best introduction to Lismore’s services.
Our few days at the conference were enjoyable for the opportunities they provided to socialize and learn, but were also very tiring. It was a different schedule to what I am used to at home, with the time zone change and eating times etc being different. It was also tiring for my companions. As I need help during the night and the morning starts were early so they weren’t able to get proper sleep either.
After the four days of conference we decided it was too uncomfortable and small where we were so we booked in to a place in Byron Bay called the Byron Bay Rainforest Resort. They specialized in providing wheelchair accessible accommodation. It had really nice Balinese style cottages with enclosed verandas and open bedroom/living space. There was also a central building containing a large common lounge, kitchen and games area next to a pool and spa.
We were able to catch up with my friend who had moved over to Australia from NZ in the previous year. The day in Byron was nice as we were able to visit some familiar sites around the town. One of my favourite places in Byron is the picnic tables overlooking the beach under the monkey-puzzle trees. It is a lively place with kids running around on the play-ground and by the water, and adults chilling out in the sun or paddling about in the waves. A really nice place to have a picnic.
While we were there we heard about some of the accessible services offered, including a beach wheelchair available from the surf club for wheelchair users who want to access the beach and water. There are also relaxation sessions that are offered at various spa and health centres in Byron. All the paths and crossing that I encountered in the town were good, as were many of the shops. But there were a few shops not accessible for me due to at least one step at the door, these I was told they are to keep snakes out of the buildings. Though I think this could possibly be a local story rather then fact, but you never can tell with these Aussie jokers.
Our flight back was pretty good although we were all exceptionally tired. It took a few days for us all to recover our energy. Since this trip I have thought back over the experience and have made a list which I posted as the pre-entry to this.
I hope these experiences of my and the consequent learning’s and insights will be of use to someone.