Tuesday 9th January 2018
Today we are travelling to Surf Camp! Yeeewwww! Exciting!
On route, as we stopped off for lunch, Sian, our very lovely tour guide (who now recommends spots for running as part of her introduction to each new place!) treated us to the Aussie delight, Lamington cakes….a cube of sponge dipped in chocolate and rolled in coconut, delicious!) to mark the official date in Australia where same sex marriage has become legal.
Another little stop off at ‘The Big Banana’. Aussie’s seem to have a thing about big novelty landmark items in the middle of nowhere, compulsory photographs obviously required (just running out of memory to upload all of them!).
Not ideal, but the only time I could fit my run in today was after dinner so I made sure to have a bit of a lighter tea. Easy 40 minutes (whilst on joey watch) with strides.
Wednesday 10th January 2018
Rise and shine!….And surf!
By 7am this morning we were on the beach for our surf lesson…living the dream! This was something that was for sure on my list of things I wanted to do in Australia but I was most definitely NOT a natural!
As expected, it was waaaay harder than it looks but it really was the best fun! I probably spent more time getting smashed in the face by waves than on the board, but what a way to start the morning and wake yourself up when the ocean is in the back garden! I would definitely love to try it again…lots of room for improvement and way to go for some cross training!
This morning we are travelling to the incredibly bonnie Byron Bay. Amazing coast, ANOTHER beautiful beach and home to the most Easterly point in mainland Australia, what’s not to love? Visiting the lighthouse on route to the hostel was perfect as it would be the route for this evenings run and a perfect route for the hills I have to do…win, win. Easy 45 mins with 6x hill repeats to finish.
Beautiful…by day and by night.
Thursday 11th January 2018
A veeeerrry early start. 4.45am alarm not to miss out on the sunrise at Australia’s most easterly point. Incredible! And for sure worth it. I walked up the hill to the lighthouse (again!) with the girls then did my session afterwards on the way back down.
6.30am run…6 minutes @ 10km pace, 10 x 1 min hard with 45s recovery followed by another 6 minutes at 10km pace with warm up and cool down to give me just over 5 miles for the morning.
Sunrise, training, shower and breakfast all by 8am…winning! A little active recovery in the form of a wander around the cute streets of Bryon followed by some R ‘n’ R at the beach on what was amother gloriously toasty morning.
In the afternoon, we made the journey to Surfers Paradise, Gold Coast. The further up the coast we go, the more hot and intense that sun seems to get!
Dinner constituted getting fuelled up with a tasty Poke Bowl ahead of the long run tomorrow.
Friday 12th January 2018
Well that was a tough day at the office. Slight understatement!
18 miles planned (10 miles easy, last 8 at goal race pace), Solomon flasks filled and chilled, gels at the ready and alarm set for an early start to try and avoid the hottest part of the day…or so I thought!
Nope, 30C (and rising!) even early doors made for possibly the sweatiest run of all time… it was neither pleasant or enjoyable in the slightest! The sun was relentless and the lovely esplanade along the beach, pretty though it was had next to zero shade. Even with my hat, shades and ice packs to keep me cool it was such a struggle to keep my legs moving… never mind picking up to any kind of goal pace as planned for the second half of the run. You know it’s a hot day when the letters even melt off your hat…just yuck!
I struggled my way through 8 miles before realising this was just stupid so I decided there was only way I’d be able to cover the distance today and that was to split the session and do the other ten at sundown after lots more water and electrolytes. I was so annoyed with myself. I know it’s still covering the distance in one day but it is not what I wanted to get out the long run for that session in terms of endurance.
Still, in the afternoon, we had an amazing visit to the wildlife sanctuary to look forward to, to make friends with some of the locals, what had originally been my reward and motivation for getting through the long run. The koalas were beyond cute and being able to feed the kangaroos was pretty special. I didn’t care so much for the crocs or snakes though!
I was assured taking selfies with kangaroos is standard Aussie behaviour.
In the evening it would have been so easy to skip the second part of the session. But I didn’t. I was determined. I will finish it. I went back out and got those ten miles in my legs…and at race pace…in the dark.
Long run the sequel…job done!
A run of two halves…
Saturday 13th January 2018
This morning we move on to Noosa, known as the relaxation capital of Australia, with a half day stop in Brisbane on route.
Unfortunately I didn’t feel we were able to enjoy the city all that much. The Mercury was close to 40C (though my wee weather app said it felt like 46C).
As someone who loves the heat and all things sunshine, even I thought this was outrageous. We took the free ferry thinking a little time on the water to see the skyline and some of the different areas along the river would cool us down a little…wrong! Nice to see but we were glad to shelter in the comfort of the air con back in the mall for a cold drink until it was time to get on the bus again.
In the evening we visited Noosa’s Sunshine Beach. I will never ever tire of these beautiful beaches. I enjoyed a wee walk round the trails of part of the National Park and a tasty wee ice cream, of course, the second obligatory rule of visiting the beach after sandcastle building.
I could have sat by these rocks forever…
I had planned to run later in the evening, just an easy pace recovery run to flush out the legs, but the heat from Brisbane and the long run from the day before in the heat had wiped me out. Sometimes it is important just to listen to what your body is saying too.
Water galore and bed time for me.
Sunday 14th January 2018
Fraser Island….aka paradise. The largest sand island in the world and the only known place in the world where a rainforest grows on sand. Unlike anywhere I’ve ever visited before. Only being a day trip, understandably we didn’t get to see the half of it but what we did see was just amazing.
Four wheeling on the sand around the island as we made our way along seventy five mile beach (appropriately named) was one thing but then to go slightly more off-piste, down the tiny, single track sandy routes as we approached the rainforest and the stunning white sands of Lake Mackenzie was quite another.
Hands up if you love Australia!
Super cool…even though we did think we were quite high risk of getting stuck in the sand at any moment (which did happen to a couple of other vehicles we passed…relying on some of the boys to get out and push). The driver explained that they let a small amount of air out of the tyres on the 4WD trucks as they come in to the island to try and prevent that from happening. Such a lot of fun though, unfortunately for some it did feel a little bit like travelling by boat from all the bumping around and motion sickness.
We were on dingo alert all day. The dingo is Australia’s legendary wild dog. It usually doesn’t cause too much in the way of risk but they can be vicious and aggressive, and there have been a few incidents in which they have killed humans so we were warned to be cautious. True what they say about everything in Australia being out to get you! On the way back, we managed to spot one on the beach, thankfully from the safe confines of the 4WD.
We took the beach ‘road’ pretty much all the way back to the lodges with a stop off at the coloured sand cliffs for afternoon tea and cookies. Noosa Surf Club was the venue of choice for dinner, a pretty cool spot where many of the locals hang out with the yummiest of fresh seafood on the menu.
Monday 15th January 2018
A very long travel day on the bus today, for what seemed like a never-ending trip to Langmorn Station Farm. Our accommodation on this tour is a variety of hostels, hotels and lodges with this one being our one home stay.
Upon arrival, the others took a guided tour around the grounds of the farm but I thought I’d use that time to go fit in my training session as it was really the only chance I’d have today, needs must. So, so glad I did. I didn’t pass another soul or car the whole time I was out. Just the road and I, with the most gorgeous of sunsets.
It was just bliss and made for a great, albeit tough session. 20 minutes at marathon pace, 5×2 minutes hard (6:35-7:00) followed by another 20 minutes at marathon pace which was tough going when the legs already felt fatigued. Another half mile cool down back to the farm, just short of 7 miles and the tastiest home made roast beef dinner with all the trimmings waiting on me when I got back, polished off with some homemade apple crumble and custard. Mmm mmm mmm!
Shower time before standard farm activities for the rest of the night; whip cracking lessons, line dancing and karaoke at the bar!
Tuesday 16th January 2018
Out again on that beautiful road by 5am…sunrise in the same beautiful spot as sunset. Easy fasted recovery, just shy of 4 miles. I had to squeeze this one in early doors before breakfast seeing as we were heading to Airlie Beach this afternoon for two nights sailing around the Whitsundays for the next two days. The boat is an ex-racing boat, so it’s designed for speed and practicality, not luxury, so there will certainly be no training happening on board there. My coach, Tom knew these dates in advance so I didn’t have to rejig too much in the way of scheduled runs as there were now scheduled as extra rest days. Not to mention the no phone signal/ WiFi connection bliss…lovely!
“We are sailing”……
We arrived late afternoon and boarded our new home for next two nights, ‘Hammer’. A little health and safety induction from our Captain, complete with instructions for fighting sea sickness for those that needed it and we were ready for the off. The crew explained they’d need our help with some of the jobs on board which I was looking forward to. A short sail of around an hour took us out towards Hook Island and to the spot we’d be moored at for the night, just in time for the most incredible ‘pinch yourself’ sunset and steak dinner that the crew BBQ’d for us.
“…because when you stop and look around, this life is pretty amazing.” Dr Seuss.
Wednesday 17th January 2018
A pirate’s life for me!
I know for some it would be their worst nightmare but there was something so special about spending the night on this tiny little boat in the middle of the Whitsundays, where so many of these little islands are uninhabited, so peaceful. The crew made all of our meals and snacks in the tiny galley. It was quite amazing just what they could rustle up in that space, everything homemade and fresh too.
We spent the morning on the stunning Whitehaven Island and beach, after around an hours sail to get there. Whitehaven is the largest of 74 islands that make up the Whitsundays and is named as one of the best beaches in the world. It’s clear to see why. Although our weather didn’t give for the beautiful blue skies that you see in the photographs on Trip Advisor, it most certainly didn’t disappoint. The purest of white silica sand, the swirls from the lookout at Tongue Point and the gorgeous warm waves to paddle in.
Fasten your seatbelts, you’re in for a bumpy ride!
The afternoon sailing trip made for the most exciting (if that’s the right word!) yet. We managed to run in to a bit of a storm, which although made for the odd Hare-um Scare-um moments, it also made for the best possible first sailing experience. We would have been just as dry if we’d jumped in the ocean and swam there, wind and rain battering us from all angles, and with the added bonus of the swelling waves crashing in to us as we moved along at a rate of naughts. Being in the middle of the ocean with no land as far as the eye could see made me realise just how small we were and just what a unpredictable and powerful force the sea must be at times. The boat was practically on its side sending us travelling some (about 25- 30 kts…which is apparently quick) and we realised when the crew were even taking footage of our adventures on their Go-Pros it was making for some pretty good sailing conditions. We were in very safe hands, I had no doubt about that and I actually really, really enjoyed the adventure.
In the afternoon we got to jump in the water for some snorkelling, catching a first glimpse of the outer Great Barrier Reef. It’s a shame how much of the coral is now dead but we did manage to see A LOT of wee fishes… and some not so wee.
Thursday 18th January 2018
Back to Airlie Beach…all too soon. We arrived back on dry land at around 8.30am ready to start what would be our furthest travel day to Cairns. Sian had suggested a pyjama party for the journey to make it as comfortable as possible. Not much else to report from today other than naps and snacks galore and a nice meal to look forward to at the end. I ticked another Aussie tourism item off the checklist with my first taste of kangaroo. It was actually quite nice, quite a strong meat, a bit like venison. Good to try but I won’t feel the need to rush to have it again.
Friday 19th January 2018
The Great Barrier Reef.
The largest living thing on Earth, visible from outer space, larger than the Great Wall of China and one of the seven wonders of the natural world and today I was learning to scuba dive there. As one does!
I feel so lucky to have experienced so many amazing things in Australia these last few days. I am going to need to take a good few days at the end of this part of the trip to process it and take it all in.
We were taking our trip with Ocean Freedom Reef, who’s hospitality was unreal. Breakfast, lunch, tea, coffee, snacks, afternoon tea…first class. And that was before any of the amazing underwater activities.
For those scuba diving, we were given an introductory briefing on the safety dos and don’ts, with a short lesson on how our equipment worked and a rough itinerary for the morning. As it was just the introductory course, we would complete two dives at two different sites on the Reef with as much snorkelling in between as we wanted and the chance to take a trip on the glass bottom boat with one of the Marine Biologists. A full day ahead in the water, excellent!
The staff kitted us out with our diving suits, flippers, masks and tanks and our instructors explained that we would initially practice the skills on the surface of the water whilst holding on to the pole attached to the back of the boat. Then, when we could demonstrate we were comfortable with them, he would deflate our vests a little to go down by another meter meaning we’d be completely submerged and we’d have to demonstrate again that we were comfortable here and could complete all three skills again; breathing using our mask and tank, moving our mask if it filled with water to clear it and being able to reinsert our mouth piece and clear it should it come out underwater, all whilst still breathing, staying calm and remembering the pre-agreed hand signals for communication….easy peasy.
It was a really strange feeling, as it was so choppy at the surface of the water which made it quite hard to keep hold of the pole, but once you are submerged under the water everything is so peaceful and calm. We had to stay with the instructor, in fact they wouldn’t let us go at all on the first dive. So hand by hand, we went exploring our way around the reef. The furthest we were able to go on this dive was 10 meters but at the site we were diving this took us right to the bottom of the ocean which was pretty special.
Channelling my inner puffer fish…
After lunch, we travelled to a different spot and we were excited to find out that this time we didn’t need to hold on to the instructor. We were free to do it on our own provided we stayed close…and didn’t take any cameras to get distracted with. Fair enough, although I was disappointed not to take it with me, I totally understood why and decided to have the freedom of diving on my own would make for better memories than watching it through the screen on my Go Pro.
Sharks (just little white tip ones, but still really cool), stingrays, starfish, giant clams, Nemo found (even Dory!) and some turtles together with every specie of fish and coral imaginable, just magical.
Saturday 20th January 2018
Today we had a free day to explore Carins. I spent the morning with a few of the girls having a nice wee wander around the lagoon and stopping off for coffee. Quite nice to have a quiet day to take in all of the adventures of the week past. We went to Rusty’s Fruit Market for lunch. It was a beauty of a spot. Heaps of fresh fruit and veggies available and free samples galore. I must have eaten around 2 freebie mangos on the walk round alone. In the evening, we had a nice final group meal to say some farewells to those finishing up here as their last spot.
Sunday 21st January 2018
Today, a few of us are continuing North to Cape Tribulation and the Daintree Rainforest. And my goodness, the Rainforest didn’t half live up to its name! It rained and it rained and it rained aaaaallllll day and all night.
On route we stopped off for a tour with of part with a medicine man who was a member of the indigenous community and had lived in the rainforest all of his life. He was super knowledgeable about the properties and qualities of pretty much every plant, flower and tree in the area.
We then made a quick stop off at the Daintree Ice Cream Company, a very small ice cream shop that uses all home grown organic fruit and local produce to make seasonal flavours of ice cream. The four flavour ice cream cup is their speciality and the flavours are dependent on what is available and in season.
Staying in the rainforest was really quite an experience. Take a lot of rain, a lot a lot, a rustic wooden hut complete with creepy crawlies galore and add in the classic ‘sounds of the rainforest’ relaxing music CD and that was pretty much what it was like. The rain was relentless and we started to joke that we now know how the celebs feel in the jungle when moral is low and it’s rained non stop for days! Still, all part of the fun and being just for one night we wanted to make the best of it.
In the afternoon, some of us took a trip to do the zip wire in canopies of the rainforests which was pretty cool. 5 different zip wires through the trees. And though still relentless rain. Even the instructor said he thought it was the wettest day they’d had. Ever! Jeez.
Funnily enough, being in the rainforest there was very little to do…and nowhere really all that safe to run on your own, (given the slight health and safety issues with the neighbours!) So we had another group meal at the little lodge kitchen within the grounds of our accommodation.
Monday 22nd January 2018
Not surprisingly, nothing dried in our damp wee hut room overnight which was now developing a lovely aroma. Clothes still sodden, even after many attempts at ringing out. But it was time to pack up and heard back towards Cairns. It’s been a unique experience to spend the night here but I am quite glad it’s just the one.
First time the rain cover has been used…obviously required a photo!
We got soaked again on the morning walk to the look out, the only place in the world you’ll ever stand in two world heritage sites at the same time…where the Reef meets the Rainforest. Now that is special! Sitting in our soggy clothes, we were hoping the weather would dry up a little as we stopped at Port Douglas for lunch.
A final farewell dinner with Kara and Magdalene tonight at a nice Italian in the town….reef and beef , yum yum. I’m getting a little too good at “treating myself”. Discipline is slipping, reigns to be drawn back in again next week.
Tuesday 23rd January 2018
How on Earth can it be my last day in Australia already?
I am absolutely not ready to leave. Each stop I’ve wanted to spend more time, I’ve only had what feels like a ‘taster’ of each place we’ve visited, but I’ve been lucky enough to pack in so many incredible activities and experiences in such a short time, I’ve loved every second.
Those beaches…gorgeous sands, stunning oceans, sunshine galore, amazing food, beautiful people.
The beach, forever my happy place…Australia, you have my heart.