Australia was so amazing! I’ve said it about a billion times but it really was.
Now buckle up because you’re in for a long ass blog post starting allll the way from the beginning…
On July 12, I flew Delta from Cincinnati to Salt Lake City to LAX. When I got to LAX, I had an hour layover which seemed like plenty of time considering I was landing in terminal 1 and all I had to do was get to terminal 2. I got off the plane and spent about 15 minutes with my thumb up my ass, wandering around trying to figure out how to get to terminal 2. I finally asked someone and they told me there was a shuttle to terminal 2. Great. I found where the shuttles leave from and asked them if I could hop on the shuttle to terminal 2. This bitch tells me that they are not running the bus to terminal 2 at that time. I’m sorry what???? Why? They were running all the other shuttles? So what the fuck?
At this point I have about 35 minutes until my flight leaves for Sydney. The girl tells me I have to LEAVE THE AIRPORT then go BACK INTO THE AIRPORT at terminal 2 AKA GO THROUGH SECURITY AGAIN. So I started running through the airport frantically with my 70-pound backpack on, trying to find the way out and the way into terminal 2. I got lost like 3 times then finally found where I was supposed to be. The security line was about 2 miles long. It was a Thursday at 10:30pm WHY WAS IT SO LONG!? So naturally I started crying like a little bitch which prompted everyone to let me completely cut the line.
I sent my bags through the scanner and OF COURSE one of my bags gets pulled aside for additional screening. It was like 10th in line to be screened and OF COURSE the stupid TSA chicks were moving slower than shit. So I asked them if they could search mine next and all the people standing around me were also telling the TSA ladies to search mine next because they knew I was going to miss my flight. The TSA lady was a real bitch and was just like “sorry I have to take the bags as they come.” Seriously???? Because taking ONE single bag out of the order it came in is going to cause another 9/11?? I’m going to need some more explanation on this because I truly still do not understand why it mattered.
FINALLY, my bag got searched and the reason it got pulled aside was because my water bottle was still full. Yeah because I was sprinting through the airport so emptying my water bottle wasn’t exactly my top priority. The TSA agent told me that if I want to keep my water bottle, it would have to go through security again after they empty it. At this point, I have about 5 minutes until my flight LEAVES (they boarded 40 minutes ago at this point) so I said fuck it, throw my water bottle away. It was just a Nalgene bottle, they’re like $10. I was more annoyed at the fact that I almost missed my flight because of it.
Well anyway, I started to run to my gate and BARELY made it. I was limping because I had ran 10 miles that morning so I was already sore, then had to run through the airport with my giant ass backpack. So just picture me all flustered, tears and sweat streaming down my face, hobbling to my gate.
After this whole clusterfuck though, the flight was quite nice! We got good food and there were some great movie options. Plus, despite being flustered as hell, I was still able to sleep for a good portion of it.
So anyway, now that my emotionally scarring flight story is over, here is what Australia was like:
The course took place in a city called Townsville in Queensland. Townsville is a smaller town about 4 hours south of Cairns and it’s right on the Great Barrier Reef. The city is between a mountain range and the ocean and it falls in a rain shadow so basically every single day was perfect and sunny. The people of Townsville are all extremely active and fit. I went for a run a few of the mornings on the sidewalk along the beach and I saw about 10 people a day in Ironman gear! Plus, I always saw people out in the ocean open water swimming. Additionally, there is a beautiful mountain right next to the town with hiking trails and apparently tons of people hike up to the top every single day! My kind of people.
Basically Townsville kind of reminded me of San Diego. If you had dropped me there blindfolded and told me I was in California, I would have believed you (minus the accents and people driving on the left side of the road).
The first couple of days before the course started were spent relaxing on the beach, exploring the city and eating. The course started on Monday and was held at the Reef HQ aquarium. This also where we slept almost every night and ate a lot of our meals. I slept on a blow up mattress next to the touch tanks. The first couple days of the course were spent in class learning about the Great Barrier Reef, the aquarium, fish, and so on.
On the fourth day, we finally got to go to the reef! I was lit the hell up! We took a boat out for about two hours to Lodestone Reef, which hasn’t seen the effects of coral bleaching as bad as most of the reefs. Once we got there, I was so excited that I was literally shaking. I thought my heart was going to explode, which probably isn’t great considering I was about to be breathing from a tank. We jumped in and started our dive. I had absolutely no problems during my dives, including ear problems which I was super worried about because I have a history of ear issues.
The first day of diving we didn’t see any super crazy sea creatures. Just tons of coral and millions of beautiful fish. It was so nice being able to get a close up view of the corals without the inconvenience of having to come up and breathe! On my very first dive, I did use up my air quicker than everyone else because I was breathing heavily from excitement. This sucked because everyone got to dive for another 15 minutes! The second day that we dove, we saw a Whitetip reef shark and a nudibranch.
Another one of the days we traveled about 3 miles across the ocean via ferry to Magnetic Island where we hiked up to the top of mountain and got incredible views of the ocean and mainland. During the hike, we saw THREE wild koalas! Two were asleep up in the trees but one was awake and was crawling up the tree. Let me tell you, I was hype as fuck. While at Magnetic Island, we stayed in a hostile called Bungalow Bay. It was really clean and the little cabin things we stayed in were really nice. It also felt nice to finally sleep on a real bed after sleeping on an air mattress for a week. If you ever go to Townsville, I HIGHLY recommend taking the trip over to Magnetic Island.
The next day, we had a class with people from Reef Ecologic where we talked about their reef restoration projects. Then, our class got to go out to the reef and pull up algae that was overgrowing and smothering the corals. I can basically say that I single handedly saved the Great Barrier Reef . After that, we had another class session and then it was almost time to head back to the mainland. HOWEVER, there are hella lorikeets that live on this island and at 2:30 every day the people at the hostile give people food to hand feed them. Lemme tell you what. These birds knew EXACTLY what time they were going to be fed. They started gathering in the trees around us by the hundreds. Then, as soon as the guy gave everyone food, the birds literally swarmed us. I had 3 birds eating out of my hand at once. Other people had birds on their heads or shoulders. Honestly it was terrifying but ya know….had to do it for the Insta. Afterwards, while we were back near the ferry station waiting for our ferry to arrive to head back, we decided to go for a walk and we found about 15 rock wallabies on some rocks in the bay! At this point I hadn’t really seen a wallaby in real life and there were just tons of them within feet of me! I’m sure wallabies are just as exciting to Australians as squirrels are to people in the US. But whatever, it was amazing.
During the last two days of the trip, we drove out to these cabins where we spent our second to last night. To get there, we drove through Paluma Range Mountains which was wild as hell. The landscape would go from dry, scrubby brush then would instantly change to rainforest, then change back again within minutes. When we finally reached the cabins where we were staying, the landscape was definitely dry and I think we were right on the edge of being in the Outback.
Once we got to the cabins, we immediately dropped our bags and went off for a platypus hike. Basically, the guy drove us to a creek a few miles away, then we sat on the edge of the creek completely silent for an hour. First of all, on our way to the creek we saw wild kangaroos!!!! They were super far off in the distance but there were about 6 of them. Thank god we saw them because it wouldn’t be a trip to Australia without kangaroos. ANYWAY, during our little platypus “hike” the guy told us that there was a good chance we may not see any. He said even 80% of Australians haven’t even seen a platypus in the wild. WELP, you bet your sweet ass we saw one. Well, not just one, we saw A BUNCH. It is hard to tell how many we saw because it could have been the same one over and over again. But the guy thinks we saw at least 5 different platypus (platypi? platypussies?).
To see a platypus, you sit very quietly and wait for them to surface. Once they surface, they usually eat their prey then dive back down under the water for a while to find more food. So basically we would only see each platypus for about 10 seconds at a time, but I was still LIT THE HELL UP every single time we saw one. We had to stay quiet though, which was nearly impossible when you’re that hype.
The next day, we drove to Mungalla Station which is home to Nywaigi Aboriginal People. While we were here, we learned about their story and Aboriginal culture. At one point, the guy leading our tour whipped out a didgeridoo and started to play it. This was very exciting for me because all I ever wanted to do in my life is play a didgeridoo in Australia. WELL, the guy asked if anyone wanted to try it BUT THEN said that in their culture, women aren’t allowed to touch the didgeridoo. Someone asked why, and he told us that in the past, women who have touched it have either had a terrible experience with childbirth or gotten pregnant when they weren’t supposed to. Y’all know I ain’t fucking around with that. So no didgeridoo for me.
At the end of our day here, we got to throw a boomerang! The person who throws it stands in front of a tall chain-link fence, while everyone watching stands behind it. This is because a boomerang is supposed to come back around when you throw it, so the fence protects you from getting hit. The boomerang is supposed to hit the fence for it to be a successful throw. Out of everyone who threw it, only me and one other person’s throw actually came back and hit the fence. So basically going to quit my job and join a professional boomerang league.
After Mugalla, we drove back to the aquarium and we had one final dinner with everyone from the course and the aquarium. T’was a lovely evening indeed. Everyone involved with this course was amazing and I hope to go back to Townsville someday!
The next morning, the course was considered over so me and few other people went to this place called Billabong Sanctuary. It was kind of like a zoo but you learn more about the animals and can also interact with some of them. I got to hand-feed a kangaroo and hold a wombat so I can die happy now.
Later that day, a few of us flew off to Sydney where I spent 3 days being a complete tourist. However, this blog post is already super long so my Sydney adventure will have to be saved for another day. I know you’re upset but we’ll get through this together.
Anyway, I have a half Ironman next Sunday (LOL because I barely trained while I was Australia) so I will have a race report coming up. STAY TUNED.