Flying North for the Winter

We just got back from an amazing trip to Tropical North Queensland.  The Cairns half Ironman triathlon was a great excuse to get away from the cold Melbourne winter and also celebrate Phil's long-awaited 35th birthday.  I say long-awaited because his 35th was actually a year ago, but in all of the chaos that moving across the world involved I managed to forget that he turned a year older.  He was rather confused when earlier this year I asked him where he wanted to go for his 35th.  But he certainly wasn't going to turn down the opportunity to see the Great Barrier Reef.
As soon as our journey to the airport started we knew this was going to be an interesting trip.  We piled onto the shuttle bus to the airport and ended up talking to another passenger who was also heading to Cairns for the race.  By the time we arrived at the terminal we had a new friend and plans to hang out during the race.  As we boarded the plane, it became clear that most of the people on that flight were also heading up for the race.  They had that "look" (you know, the one that says yeah, I can rock spandex in public and paid more for my bike than you paid for your car).  The Cairns airport was bursting with bikes - Phil's eyes were huge with excitement taking in the scene.

After picking up our campervan we headed North to Port Douglas.  From there we spent a couple days exploring the Daintree Rain Forrest - the oldest existing rain forest in the world.  Croc-spotting along the Daintree River was very enjoyable, and we found the town of Port Douglas to be just our speed - quiet and relaxing.  We enjoyed some excellent reef fish for dinner and the random Carnival parade was quite the sight.

Saturday morning we drove back down to Cairns to check in for the race.  The pouring rain made this task interesting, especially when we found ourselves in the campervan sinking into the mud.  Luckily some Queenslanders sprung to action and pulled us out. 

Fortunately the weather cleared just in time for the race on Sunday.  It was a gorgeous day, and I had a lot of fun watching the race with my new-found friends.  Phil's training really paid off; he cut an hour off of his previous half ironman time.  We ended the day cheering on some of the competitors as they finished the full Ironman.  It is always inspiring watching triathletes finish a race, but with the Melbourne Ironman in recent memory it meant a lot more.  Everyone trained so hard for that day, and it took such strength and will power to finish.  We could tell some of the people were in severe pain but were going to keep going because they had come too far to quit.

After doing so well on Sunday, I decided to let the birthday boy relax on Monday.  By relax, I mean spend all day on a whirlwind tour of Cairns.  First we took a two-hour ride on the Kuranda scenic railway through the rain forest and then we took the Sky Rail back over the forest towards town.

 We stopped at the Barron Gorge along the way to take in the scenery. 

From there we took a helicopter to a pontoon on the Great Barrier Reef.  We enjoyed some snorkeling in the reef, and then soaked in some sun on the long boat ride back to shore. 
A delicious dinner and hanging out with a bunch of crazy triathletes made for a great ending to one of Phil's favorite birthdays yet.


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