Van Life || Film photographs and words by Birralee Hassen

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By the time we actually got on the road it was seven pm. The sky was the colour of fairy floss, pinks fading into the night. The air was heavy and sweet after being expelled by the sugar cane.

Arriving at Yamba, we parked the van on the top of a hill overlooking the ocean, closed down the curtains and settled in for the night. Jess played the ukulele, and I coloured in a picture I had drawn in the day’s prior.

The light streaming in the back window awoke us in the morning, far more enjoyable than an alarm clock. Climbing out of the van we watched as the sky turned from pale to vibrant to somewhere in between.

A surf check at Angourie didn’t provide us with waves, but it did provide a highly entertaining scene as we watched a family exit their car. Maroon Five was blaring from the speaker perched upon the shoulder, Aussie flag board shorts were positioned perfectly so that butt crack was on show, and the drone was fired up while a cigarette hung from the lips. “There’s a whale!” we heard them exclaim as we slowly backed away down the path towards the ocean. “Oh no wait, it’s just a little boat”.

Breakfast at the Yamba skate park ensued, and we got sweaty as the sun rose higher in the sky. Back on the road we continued south, stopping at Emerald to surf a back beach. One other person in the water, we took the long boards off the roof and paddled out through the steely water.

It started to rain, droplets causing momentary indents in the surface of the ocean. A pod of dolphins came and surrounded us, everyway we looked sleek fins and bodies elegantly showing their skin to the air.

Arriving at Dad’s farm, we jumped on the tractor and had the grand tour. “This is my magic corner”, said Dad, climbing over a barb wired fence and transporting us into a lush little wonderland of green growing around and over and with the creek. “And this is why I love my tractor”, he laughed, “Hold on, we’re going 4WD” with that shifting gears and heading up an incline that made me momentarily think of what it would be like to tip a tractor before I relaxed into the fun of it.

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The following morning found us once again at the skate park, my brother teaching me how to drop in. I have to admit I felt pretty stoked when the five year old with the Mohawk helmet complimented me on my falling skills. Heading to the beach we paddled out for a surf, where Jess lost her shark tooth necklace pendant and decided not to continue. She chose rather to walk the beach for hours, in vain hopes of finding it washed up on the shore.

The northerly was still blowing strongly as we started our drive back to Byron. “Let’s check the back beach at Angourie” said Jess, and we detoured off the highway and headed east. We ate a picnic that was chewed quickly in response to a couple of guys walking up the track, telling us of fun waves at the other end. Our food inhaled, we unstrapped the boards and headed to the water.

I had never surfed the wave before, and the whole time I was looking around me, every new detail dancing delight in to my eyes. The headland wrapped around the ocean, waves lapping at the edges of rocks. Dunes reminded me of sand castles on a blown up scale, building protective walls around us. The sun shone behind us, obstinately setting itself to rest behind the trees with a light so bright that I couldn’t look at if for long before being forced to turn away.

Surf complete, weekend complete, we headed back on to the highway and drove the remainder of the distance home. Sunned out, sleepy, and surf stoked, we made it back to Byron, unstrapped the boards and collapsed into bed. A weekend well spent, the joys of having a van as a car and an incredible coastline as a backyard. 



Birralee Hassen