My parents are suffocating (I was going to say, “all parents are suffocating” but it’s not fair to drag your parents into this).

Their presence can make me feel like a bird who has forgotten how to fly (a bit like a chicken or an ostrich but different). But in Byron Bay a very strange thing occurred.

I was trotting down Jonson street (the main street), arm-in-arm with my mum, when suddenly, quite unexpectedly I felt free.

Instead of feeling self-conscious that I was with my mum (rather than a group of pumped-up revellers) I felt happy and relaxed.

In high spirits, I quickly decided that mum and I should make a bit of
a splash in Byron Bay.

It all sounded a bit too good to be true. The kayak company not only promised the opportunity to splash about in the midst of dolphins, but they spoke of a magical trip that included free Tim Tams on the beach.

There was only one way to find out if they were telling porky pies. Come on mum, let’s go!

“Is that…? It is! It is!” I stuttered.

It was. A wee pod of dolphins were heading our way. Dodging rocks, we ran shrieking all the way back to our kayaks.

After racing into the sea, helmet on back to front, we paddled into their path. And waited. As they got closer we discovered they were actually great white sharks (okay, not strictly true but that would have been funny).

Just a few tense minutes later the dolphins appeared in all their bobbing glory.

I shouted quickly to the mum/photographer: “Take a photo woman,
take a photo!”

But mum was too busy gawking at her bronzed paddling partner to pay much attention to the dolphins.

That evening, after looking at the fifth photo of an empty sea, I bitterly told her how useless she was.

Mum retorted: “Jo, at my age, you have to understand that having a young, attractive man in close proximity is rarer than having a close encounter with some fish!”

Lucky for her – the Cheeky Minx – this was one moment that could be remembered with or without a photo. roll with it

After our dalliance with dolphins it was back to the equally exciting pursuit of finding the biggest waves to surf over.

Our wave dodging went so well that we decided we would attempt to “stack it” (that’s Aussie for “flip this kayak over”).

We timed our demise to perfection. The mother and Steve had already reached the shore and were awaiting our arrival.

Like kamikaze bombers (but minus a cause) we turned our kayak towards the biggest wave we could find, disobeyed all the rules for staying on,
and paddled with fury.

An uncomfortable roll, a klonk and an “ouch” later we emerged victorious to a round of applause.

After a chilled-out evening drinking cocktails at Balcony Bar (sadly I wouldn’t be getting up to any debauchery avec parent!) it was time to hit the waves again. This time I was on my own.

Getting mum on a surfboard would be amusing but frankly not worth the effort. I booked a lesson and the instructor quickly got into my good books when he gave me a wet suit that didn’t have a hole across the butt area.

It has happened before and it definitely didn’t enhance my surfing experience.

Surf’s up

Following a surfing lesson from Marc, who had a beautiful sea creature emblazoned on his chest, we grabbed our boards and headed for the sea.

Although we were all beginners nobody had a problem with standing on a wave.

I had secretly hoped that my past practice would become as clear as crystal that has been shined very well, but sadly this was not the case.

Apparently with a sexy instructor, and the right sized waves, it is possible for most people to ride a wave.

However, Marc did single me out for my flexibility. In reply I told him that he was the first person who had ever called me flexible.

All I could hear as he pushed me onto the wave was a chuckle (damn, note to self: next time tell fit instructor, “thanks, I know I’m flexible, it comes in handy baby,” then follow it with a wink).

When we had finished surfing I Iay on my board in total contentment gazing at the crystal water with the sun on my wet suit. Another tough day at sea was over.

After dragging myself away from the gorgeous scenery and warm waters of Byron Bay it was time to head up the coast to Brisbane.

Please, please (I’m begging you please) if you haven’t already been to Byron get your ass there. And perhaps you could even take your mum.

The damage and the details: Trips with Cape Byron Kayaks
( cost $60 (return trip free if you don’t see any dolphins, whales or turtles); lessons with Black Dog Surfing ( cost $60 (10 per cent off if you mention TNT).

While trying to drive across the Simpson Desert, LIZZIE JOYCE and her partner were forced to hitch a ride with some dodgy truckers.

Early one January morning my boyfriend Dan and I set off on our trip across three states, covering 3,000 miles on what would turn out to be the best trip I have ever done, not to mention the most dangerous. We were attempting to cross the Simpson Desert on our way to Alice Springs from Sydney. We were fully prepared and set off in our 4WD loaded with equipment, including 60 litres of water, a double swag, a laser beam,
and an Epirb signal.

After 10 hours of driving, watching the landscape turn from highways and tall buildings to red earth and eternal horizons we glided past an old mining town called Cobar, stopped for a wee and drove on through, thankful that this ‘Hicksville’ town was not our destination. But while driving at an average speed of 120km per hour, the trusty car (which I was assured had “just had a full service and was made for driving across such terrain”) was disintegrating and the entire wheel was about to fall off.

Ugly mothertruckers

Suddenly, the brakes started to fail and smoke started pouring out the front passenger tyre. We were 120km from the last town and with at least 100km to the next, Dan decided we should drive on (without brakes) and see if we could make it to our destination. Luckily it didn’t last long anyway as the car stopped in defiance and we were forced to pull off the road in the middle of nowhere. Within minutes two semi-trailers driving in convoy by brothers, pulled up to offer us help and I’ve never been so glad to see two spectacularly ugly truckers before in my life. Freaky Brother One then began to undress me, with his eyes, almost frothing at the mouth at coming in such close proximity to someone of the opposite sex, while Freaky Brother Two was pretending to be a mechanic and baffling Dan with his bullshit. It was turning into Wolf Creek.

Nothing could be done with the car, and we had no choice but to accept a lift from Freaky Brother One to the nearest roadhouse 13km up the road. But then he said there wouldn’t be enough room in the cab so Dan should travel with his brother and I should hop into his cab by myself. By this point I was close to hysteria and there was no way I would be getting in that lorry by myself.

So we both hopped in with Brother Number Two. Dan settled in the middle of the very spacious cab which had enough room to house a small Albanian family! Relieved to be on our way to a phone box and in relative safety, (even if we were in being driven by an axe wielding maniac I had enough faith that Dan could knock him out if it came to it) I thought it would be plain sailing from here. After a couple of minutes on the road Brother Number One starts becoming agitated – he thinks he has lost his keys as he can’t use the radio to contact his brother. He pulls into the side of the road and asks me to hop out to see if he had left them in the door lock. This forced me into ungraceful acrobatic maneuvers in order to hang myself out the door and reach round to grab the keys, with freaky brother one more than enjoying the view of my ass in the air. The keys were there, so off we set again in stilted silence.

Roadhouse blues

Finally we caught sight of the roadhouse and saw our escape was only minutes away and we made a sharp exit from the freaky brothers. Good riddance!

The roadhouse turned out to be a petrol pump and a shop that was about to close. They had a phone though and we arranged for a tow truck to pick us up and take us back to the nearest town… Cobar (the Hicksville town we drove through scorning) where we would have to wait for the next three days for the car to be repaired. How ironic that the town we were laughing at turned out to be our refuge.

So we skipped the Simpson Desert and took another route to Alice Springs where we arrived two weeks later with the biggest smiles and the best memories!

Send us a travel tale (preferably about Oz) and if it’s published you’ll win a $300 travel voucher redeemable on Oz Experience Passes and ATA NT camping trips ( Email your tales (700 words max), with a picture of yourself, to