On our last full day in the area of Byron Bay, we decided to take a road trip from the cape down the coast all the way to Ballina. The coast was full of interesting beaches, some with expansive pure white sand while some were filled with boulders.
There were interesting lookouts and small seaside villages.
Lennox Head is a seaside village on the stretch of coast between Byron Bay and Ballina in Ballina Shire local government area with a population of 7,340 (2011 census) while Skennars Head is closer to Ballina, located at an elevation of approximately 33m above sea level. Skennars Head is one of the easternmost localities in Australia.
Our last stop was East Ballina. We arrived just as the sun was setting and it was the first time for me to see a different sun set. One that was not by the sea, but a parking lot, over trees.
But what really stood out for me was the fact that this town was nearly empty.
I come from the Philippines where the total population is more than a hundred million. In Manila alone, there are 12 million people. One can imagine how much space there is for every person occupying any given area. If you would find yourself in one of the huge shopping malls in Manila, you will find that no matter how huge a shopping mall is, it is always full of people.
When you find yourself walking the streets of any city in Manila, there will always be someone rubbing elbows with you.
The population of the entire Australian continent is estimated at 24 million, and with that much space, you can imagine how entire towns can be empty on some days or time.
We were in Ballina on a Saturday evening and still the streets were completely empty.
We had a hard time looking for a restaurant to eat at because most of them seemed closed. We eventually found ourselves an Indian restaurant, and there were exactly seven people in there, Fabio, me, two staff, and three other customers. We had a very delicious Indian dinner of kangaroo curry and other things I can no longer remember.
After dinner, we walked down the streets on our way to the car, and we could hear some disco music pounding in the distance. Somewhere out there there are actually people drinking and dancing, I thought, but we could not see them.
There was a Woolworths open supermarket, lights all on, doors opening and closing, as a few people go in and out with bags of groceries. But so few that I had to comment that “perhaps the reason why commodities are so expensive in Australia is because they have to keep the shops open, with high overhead costs, and they only get maybe 20 customers per day at most.”
We sat on one of the many benches lining the streets, gazing at empty parking spaces, until one jogger came by.
I was unable to stop myself.
“Shall I ask this man?” I said to Fabio.
“Ask him what?” he answered.
“Excuse me, but may I ask you a question?” I said to the guy who slowed down for a walk.
“Yeah sure,” he said to me. Taking the earphones out of his ears then.
“But where are all the people?” I asked laughing.
“This is it,” he answered me. “People usually come out on Friday evenings and not Saturdays. You missed it.”
Wow, I thought. This is how many people come out of their homes on a Saturday evening? And it was about seven in the evening.
I was so amazed that I kept gleefully saying, “I love this town! I want to live heeeeere!!!” A completely different scene from the Manila that I know.
I just had to tell my friends about this town, sending them photos. One of them said, “Are you sure you did not just walk into an empty movie set? Maybe the shoot is just on break for the weekend.”
Of course Fabio quickly shot down my idea of settling in this town. Nice beaches, a quiet life, and all that.