The plan seemed quite simple: catch a train from Newcastle to Byron Bay for a calm relaxing weekend on the beach. At least for me and four girlfriends, that’s what we thought. The night before our scheduled departure, however, we quickly realized that the anticipated “quick train to Byron” was actually an 11 hour trek.

Discouraged by the long ride yet unwilling to give up our weekend plans, we searched for alternative transportation and, at 2am, decided to rent a car. It was a reluctant decision, as all of us were from the United States and had never driven on the left side of the street before.

Still, we figured making it to Byron in seven hours instead of 11 was worth it. I mean, five seemingly intelligent university students with driver’s licence could navigate a few hours north, right?

Well, despite the fact that every time one of us went to switch lanes we’d turn on the windscreen wipers, the drive up to Byron was a breeze. We arrived in plenty of time to resume the typical weekend rituals with a box of goon and night out on the town.

Living in Sydney, it was a nice break from the techno-crazy, boys-with-tighter-jeans-than-mine club scene.

I mean, TANK nightclub may have the lights, DJ’s and dance floors for a night of heavy partying, but nothing quite compares to jumping up and down to “YMCA” on a picnic table at Cheeky Monkey’s in Byron Bay.

Saturday we caught a bus to Nimbin for the Mardi Grass Festival.

Before arrival, I could not understand how a community of only a few hundred people in pretty much the middle of nowhere could in one weekend attract thousands of visitors.

Once I was there, however, I understood. Throughout the bong throwing contests and joint rolling competitions, we were among people of all kinds and ages out to enjoy the festival. You know, a real fun-for-the-whole-family type of atmosphere (ha!). With no specific itinerary for the day, we at one point found ourselves following a crowd of people lining up for the “parade”.

I mean, only in Nimbin will hundreds of people stand in line to see over 20 Volkswagen camper vans drive by, one after another, and be excited about it.

When Sunday came, none of us were ready to go home. We savoured every last second at the beach before packing up. Anticipating the same leisurely drive as on our way up, we drove into the sunset, jamming to our iPod and stopping along the way to take photographs of the scene. I believe it was almost two hours after we left when one of us asked: “Hey, why does that sign say Brisbane 45km on it?”

The car went silent. It couldn’t be. We could not have just driven two hours in the wrong direction.

Unwilling to come to terms with what we saw on the sign, we continued along our path and, as much as I hate to admit, actually rationalised the sign being wrong. It wasn’t until we saw another sign directing us to the Queensland border that we were forced to face our mistakes and turn around.

Now I could put two and two together (weekend in Nimbin plus navigating around on the opposite side of the street in unfamiliar land equals inevitable failures) to see where we went wrong. But I’ll let you make your own assumptions.

To this day we can not figure out exactly how we got turned around. It’s not as if the drive between Byron and Newcastle is a confusing one. There is literally one straight road the entire way, which any idiot who knows his or her north from south should be able to navigate. Unfortunately for us, we were the idiots who evidently did not.

Completely dumbfounded as to how the five of us could have made such a mistake and driven almost four hours out of our way, we swore to never talk about it or repeat it to anyone ever again… Sorry girls.