Thursday, September 8, 2016

Australian Adventure on Fraser Island and Brisbane

Hello everyone! I am back from Australia and so eager to share with you everything that I did there. Most importantly, is the race recap, which I wrote on the plane and is a million pages long. However, I like to do things in chronological order so let me back track a little bit.

I left for Australia on Friday evening, August 26th and after flying from Atlanta to LA to Sydney to Sunshine Coast, I arrived on Sunday morning August 28th in Australia. I actually got a good amount of sleep on the plane and felt pretty good upon arrival! My bags were a bit of a hassle to carry and I can't say I wasn't a bit nervous dropping off my bike at the airport but we all made it in one piece.

There was a little bit of shock when I went to pick up my rental car and totally forgot that in Australia they drive on the opposite side of the road, and cars have their steering wheels on the opposite side of the car. It definitely threw me off a bit but I realized I could handle it if I just concentrated really, really hard while driving. Everything was reversed in the car and although I got much more comfortable with it as time went on, I still was turning on the windshield wipers when I meant to hit a blinker up until the day I left!

My trip started as a solo adventure and day 1 was all about getting some logistics taken care of. I drove from the airport to a local bike shop called CycleZone, dropping off my bike to be put back together. I went for a 3-mile shakeout run along the coast line (that I later learned was the run course) while they put my bike together, then did a short ride before leaving it with them to hold for the week. I picked up some groceries, and then drove the 2.5 hours north to a sleepy little town called Hervey Bay. I had an interesting evening loving the sunset but struggling to find anything decent to eat at both a local casino and the local Irish pub.

In the morning after another short run, I head over to the Kingfisher Bay ferry to jump on a boat to Fraser Island to begin a 2-day/1-night tour (that I later extended to 2-nights) of the island. Fraser Island is the largest sand island in the world. What does that mean? Well, it means that it is just a big pile of sand sitting in the Pacific Ocean. There is no dirt or solid ground or grass or earth. Just sand that has been blown and piled up there over years. Throughout tens of thousands of years, vegetation initially built up and died and things grew from that and died and grew and died, the point that there is now trees and shrubs on the island and parts of it are a bit like a tropical rain forest – but it is all on sand! There are no roads on the island, just sand paths through the vegetation, so we traveled around by a massive 4-wheel drive bus that bumped and tossed us through the sand exploring different portions of the island and learning about its history.

Within the island there are some incredibly beautiful lakes, that were built from some of that dead stuff forming a seal in some of the sand dunes perched up high and then filling with rain and whatnot over the years. It’s a fascinating place and I can’t even tell you how beautiful and cool it was to learn about this incredible island.

There is one major big resort with nicer lodging as well as hostel lodging with bunk rooms, which was where I stayed. All meals were included in the tours and in the evenings, we hung out at the hostel bar.

I made some amazing people from around the world and actually had true and deep conversations with new friends while exploring this place. It was a really fun adventure and totally was beyond my expectation for what the trip (that I had randomly found and booked online) would entail. I was even able to get in a training swim in Lake MacKenzie, the biggest of the perched sand dune lakes!

The trip kept me relaxed and distracted from the race a bit which I think helped to keep my nerves at bay. My motto for this vacation has been to push fear aside and just try things. I flew in a prop plane for the first time ever and got to see whales breeching from up above and get a view of Fraser Island that was unreal. I’ve never been in a plane before and been able to say to the pilot “Hey look at that! Let’s fly over there!” and get a closer look at something below.

On Wednesday I left Fraser Island by ferry and then drove from Hervey Bay down to Brisbane, which was further south than Sunshine Coast, but it is where I met up with my friend Kristin who just flew in and who I was doing the race with! We spent the afternoon exploring a Koala Sanctuary and getting to hold a koala, learn about platypuses and Tasmanian devils and other animals indigenous to Australia.

My favorite part of that had to be playing with the kangaroos. They were cute and I loved them!

Brisbane itself was a very cool city. We explored it by foot on a run before then meeting up with one of the girls I had just spent the two days on Fraser Island with. She goes to “uni” in Brisbane and showed us a cool neighborhood in Brisbane right along the river. It seems like an incredibly live-able city with neat features like a river walk, outdoor community herb gardens and pool, running paths, BBQ areas, and I loved getting to explore even if just for an afternoon and evening.

Thursday morning the two of us drove up to Sunshine Coast to begin the official race weekend! I will share that in another post and sign off for now!

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