It's been exactly one month now since Barbara and I, seven students, and three other teachers boarded a plane for Australia. I didn't expect it would take this long to recap the adventure here but I didn't account for busy weekends and an unexpected computer meltdown.
As the time events in Australia have already begun to fade into the warm, golden, luster of memory. One of the best of those memories is that of running in Australia. For four out of the seven days we were in Australia, Mai and I got up a little earlier than everyone else and went running. We ususally run in Saipan about three days a week, with Jessica and/or Judith joining us. We tend to think that going on vacation means taking a brake from the usual routine. You don't watch what you eat, you stay up late, you spend more than you normally would, and you certainly don't exercise. But I discovered that adapting a discipline like running to your vacation can add a rewarding and memorable element to a trip. You may recall that one of the things I like about traveling to other countries are exploring the ordinary byways to get a sense of "other people's normal." Well, that was just one of the rewards of our morning runs. Each run was an adventure into the unknown, with magical discoveries waiting around every corner.
The offical schedule for the students usually began with wake-up around 7:30 A.M. so we'd usually start our run at 6:30. It was a great time to be alive, awake and running. The sun was just coming up, the temperature was still cool, the mist was rising off the mountains in the distance, the streets were quiet. I know it's cliche, but I added a dozen of Midnight Oil's (an Australian band) best songs to my ipod and that was the playlist I listend to everyday when we ran. Those songs will now always remind me of those early mornings with the sun flashing gold through the trees and the verdure of tropical North Queensland all about. We'd run for half an hour and then return to our lodging and cool off in the pool for another 30 minutes.
The runs themselves were truly an adventure. We'd basically just choose a direction and run and see where the road took us. Each of the four days we found something special. Our first run, on Sunday was probably the most scenic, as our hotel was located further from the city center. We pounded through quiet suburban neighborhoods, leafy with tropical foliage with the mountains, a constant gorgeous backdrop. We even saw a rainbow! On Monday, we had moved to the Bohemia Resort which was closer to the city. We ran right on that day and ran until we reached Target, one of the stores we were eagerly anticipating shopping at. It was closed of course, but at least we knew where it was. On Tuesday, we ran left and found a beautiful little botanical park. We took the shortest route through that day but resolved to take a little extra time to explore the park on our Thursday run. We did exactly that, and this time I brought my camera to capture the pictures you see below.
The run begins!
You can see the hills in the distance
Approaching the botanical park
I caught this tranquil image from a small wooden bridge in the park
Here I am at the beginning of the boardwalk part of the botanical park. There was a sign that instructed "no running on the boardwalk" and we meekly complied. Besides, if we'd run we'd have missed a lot of the cool stuff we saw along the way!
Some cool-looking flora:
Not sure what's going on with this plant but it sure looks cool! (Perhaps The Beachcomber with his wide knowledge of lore will be able to tell us in a comment ;)
A giant tree covered in vines.
These plants are all tied up in knots!
Check out the size of this tree we encountered on the boardwalk. Not only was it wide, but incredibly tall! (See below)
Having leff the botanical garden, we head back towards our hostel where we'll refresh ourselves with a dip in the pool!
One final benefit of running in Australia, was that it restored the joy of running for me. I'd lost that for awhile. Back in Saipan, we'd gone back to running in the early morning--around 5:15 A.M. and I was finding running in pre-dawn darkness to be a bit disheartening. Furthermore I'd let the sin of pride and competitiveness creep into my runs. I started wanting to "keep up" and worse, "be first." I was running harder than I really wanted to, ending the runs in agony. I know that for some this is what running is all about, and that's fine, but I realized during those joyous runs in Australia that that's not what it's about for me. Most of my life is about pushing myself, gritting my teeth, doing what I don't feel like doing--getting it done. I don't need my running to be that way too. A comfortable steady pace that ends with me feeling good is what I need. I rediscovered that in Australia and have brought that emotional souvenir home with me and put it into practice. Running is fun again.
Australia was a fantastic experience, and part of what made it fantastic was starting the day right--with a good run with a good friend. I think I'll run on vacation more often! (Mai and I are already planning to run at least once in Palau during our REAL drama tour which is coming up in about two and half weeks!).