The Nimbin and Secret Lakes Tour

Passeio a Nimbin e lagos secretos

Nimbin was one of those places I visited in Australia that were not even part of my places. Some people recommended to visit it, but it is a kind of tourism that didn’t spark any joy in me at all. But plans change, and sometimes we are forced to do things that are not according to the plan. And I ended up having to travel from Byron Bay to Nimbin on a unexpected tour.

A trip becomes immensely more exciting when plans change…, well, I bet not all of you would agree with this though…, and to be honest, when this happens I don’t get that amazed either, but then I always end up loving it. So I guess I am going to Nimbin after all.

The anxiety is absolutely stupid, plans change?? How come??? What about that amazing thing I really do wanted to do? Well… With that in mind, I even wrote an article a while ago with the pros and cons about organizing a trip, and the conclusion I got was that when plans change, there is always something else to do. It is impossible to see and do everything, so, better enjoy as much as we can!

This time the winds were the reason to have my plans changed, a typhoon in that part of the Pacific Ocean that caused a lot of havoc and destruction, but thankfully didn’t reach Australia.

However, the string winds forced several activities to be cancelled. Like my kayak tour to see dolphins and whales that I had booked for Byron Bay. Therefore, I had to look for an alternative plan…

Whirlwind Tour to Nimbin

This trip to Nimbin was a perfect example of that, an unplanned tour. I heard about Nimbin for the first time while I was in Sydney, and to be honest, the idea of a “hippie” town well-known by the light-drugs tourism, isn’t my idea of fun. 

I didn’t get the hype over that, maybe for some, but not for me. Though, I ended up enrolling for that tour…, why? Because the fun on the way to get to Nimbin was exactly what I was looking for!

At the tourism desk they described the tour as a half day waterfalls and secret lakes tour. Since I love to swim, and it was really hot (despite the typhoon that hit the South Pacific), it seemed like a great plan B! At 9:30 I was ready at the meeting point and eager for a day of adventures with the Whirlwind Tours group!

Swimming under a waterfall

The first stop was at a small waterfall, considering that the tour was named as “secret lakes” I ended up not knowing where I was, and the lack of phone coverage also didn’t help, or I would have marked where I was on the map. 

The Nimbin and Secret Lakes Tour
The Nimbin and Secret Lakes Tour

Before going to swim, we went to a view-point to see the lake, where a couple was swimming… actually…, skinny dipping… Well, just by that we could tell that the waterfall was indeed a not so known spot… And to get to the lake, we had to go through a really muddy and slippery trail, but it totally worth it!

As soon as we got down there, we could see that the water was quite turbid, and a lot of rocks…, but really a lot of them, I lost the count of how many times I kicked them… Oddly, the water wasn’t even cold, it felt so good to swim there! And that feeling of waterfall shower? Oh, I did miss it…

I lost count to the amount of photos that were taken, and this confirmed that my decision to buy a GoPro was the right one! Our tour guide also took several photos with his camera, which later he gave us to add to all of those we already had, and of course, with our group photo. And while taking one of those group photos…, I also got stuck under water because I slid between some rocks and I lost the control while everyone was posing for the photo… Oh well, but I survived…

Cliff Diving at the blue lake

From the waterfall, we headed to another stop to get even more wet, an artificial lake with such a gorgeous turquoise water, I’ve never seen anything alike! For what I could understand, that “lake” is what was left from a clay “mine” (?!), but I swear, I’ve never seen a lake with such blue water, what a beautiful color!

The goal with that stop was to cliff dive from half way to the top of the cliff, those that wanted to jump had to climb it through a rope, which wasn’t that hard for the first three or four of us…, but then the wall got a bit more wet, and the clay became very slippery. Being at the top, or half way, there was just one way to go down… Jumping!

Jumping to the Blue Lake
Jumping to the Blue Lake

The girl who was before me hesitated a lot before jumping, in fact, from up there the hight seemed to be quite different… Trying to look tough I told her to jump, without even thinking. And of course she hesitated, she ended up sitting and jumping like that.

Then it was my turn…, I look down and I thought about what I told the poor girl, and of course, I couldn’t look like if I was having second thoughts. I got ready for the photo…, and while holding my camera, I jump! I think I didn’t land well, the right side of my butt was in pain for a while, and my left hand too. How did I manage to do that? I have no idea…

I ended up just jumping once, and after that I stayed in the water swimming and having fun with the other people, but there was another guy who jumped from the highest point, and I have to say that for me that was intimidating… I didn’t even consider to get up there…

After the fun, it was time to go back to the van, and while we were leaving I noticed a notice board with a warning, scratched with graffiti, but it was possible to read the words “danger” and “health”…, thankfully nothing happened, and honestly, I am really glad I visited that place.

Visiting Nimbin

Even before arriving to Nimbin we had to decide what to eat for lunch, so that we could just sit and eat. I like these kind of plans! Sit and eat, the perfect duet! A few minutes after our arrival, our tour guide told us that if we wanted to buy anything less legal, that he would really appreciate if we wouldn’t consume it before nor while on our way back. According to him, he already had a few unpleasant surprises with other groups…, still, I found that request quite odd…

Is Nimbin really like what everyone say? Yep…, it is… As soon as we arrived we had to cross a kind of yard where we were approached by a few guys…, but we kept walking. Our guide told us that everyone is really nice, and that we had nothing to fear. It looked safe indeed, and regarding being welcoming people…, we had a not so nice situation…

Lojas em Nimbin
Lojas em Nimbin

After food, we all went for a stroll to see a bit of that town, in fact, a really cool town with a really nice vibe, and everyone seem to be quite relaxed. As tourists, of course we took several photos, to almost everything… And while I was taking one of the photos, someone just put herself in front of the camera and sat on a bench, since I really wanted a photo from that perspective, I took the photo anyway. As soon as I started to walk away, I heard another person saying that I was extremely rude for taking photos to the other person that was there without me asking first. I got a bit annoyed, and I felt tempted to reply, but again, what was the point?

Nimbin is basically a town in the middle of nowhere, but with a reputation regarding selling and consumption of light drugs, in fact, that’s the main reason why people go there to visit. And they know how to use that reputation, most bars, restaurants, stores and more are decorated with drug related themes, though, most stores have signs informing that they don’t sell drugs. But still, drugs is the reason why tourism there is so popular.

In my opinion, yes, it is a really cosy and cool town, but I don’t think it pays off to travel so many kilometres just to visit it, unless you are planning to visit other places and spots on the way, like I did with the lakes and waterfalls.

Going back to Byron Bay

Time to go back, but not before an unexpected stop, at least for me. Right outside Nimbin there is a candle factory, we went there to see how they craft them, several kinds of different candles and shapes. And of course, most of those candles are for sale, for all tastes, horoscopes signs and smells. In fact, I really did like the factory and I found it really interesting, a mixture of crafting and mass production, but it was basically a family factory.

One of the things I found more odd but interesting at the same time, was the technique they use to straighten the base of the candle – with an iron! An iron of those that we use to iron our clothes! Simple, but it does its work! And according to what they told us, the iron actually lasts for a long time, it doesn’t get damaged with the wax. I really did love that detail, and I guess that’s a pretty obvious sign that it is a craft business.

Candle Factory
Candle Factory

Since it was still day when we arrived in Byron Bay, I went for a walk to the beach, but again, another heavy shower and I was forced to go back to the hostel. On my way there, I stopped to buy something for dinner. While paying, I noticed that the guy at the counter was looking to the security camera…, someone was shoplifting, hiding stuff inside the pockets and bag! Ah, she was caught on camera! I didn’t stay there to see what happened next, I didn’t want to get involved in any way, so I went back to the hostel.

Food, a few beers and then bed, the next day was road-day again! But not before…, fire alarm at 4am… Everyone had to go outside, and while we were waiting for the firemen, it started also a light rain shower… It was false alarm, but the hostel staff told us that right away, though they had to follow the protocol and wait for the firemen. Everyone got a bit over excited, and I took a while to fall asleep again, due the noise in the corridors. After one amazing day, I guess a fire alarm did spoiled it much…

Summary of a not planned day

These (not so) secret lakes are part of an organized tour by a company that simply takes the backpackers to Nimbin with a few stops on the way. Supposedly each trip is different, and the stopping points aren’t always the same, and with the almost certainty to have those sites just for ourselves.

There was a lot of fun, we swam under waterfalls, we kicked a lot of rocks because we couldn’t see the bottom due to the water being so dark. But a bright blue lake like I have never saw before made it up for all the kicking before! We jumped, we swam and we laughed a lot! The video speaks for itself!

Selfie under a waterfall
Selfie under a waterfall

The trip from Byron Bay to Nimbin takes about an hour and a half, which for Australian standards that’s really close… Visiting that town is in fact a different experience, but in my opinion going from Byron Bay to Nimbin just to visit the town does not worth it. It is much more interesting to make a few stops on the way to cool down, like you can see in the video.

It ended being a day completely different from what I had planned, but I had a lot of fun and I made great memories of this place in Australia.

By Gil Sousa

Portuguese expat in Cork, traveler and food enthusiastic.

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