Hi All,   

I’ve just returned from a month-long trip to Australia – my first real holiday in many years. I spent good quality time with  both my daughters and young granddaughters in Brisbane and Sydney. I also used the opportunity to have catch-up  coffees with quite a few ex-Zimbos living “Down Under” – most have a good life but all said they miss their Zim Mates  – it is seemingly not that easy to make new friends in big cities like Sydney.     

The main objective for the travel was, however, to compete in the Cairns Half Ironman which I duly did finishing 3rd out of 6  in my age group. Cairns (pop 150k) is in the northeast corner of Australia alongside the Great Barrier Reef and this event  was voted the best of its kind in the world last year. The 1.9km swim was in the sea 40km north of Cairns with wet suits  being allowed so my swimming time against 1400 others was really good. The 90km cycle was mostly done along wide  single tar through forests with the road traversing right next to the most beautiful beaches giving stunning views of the sun  rising over the sparkling seas for most of the way. A tough ride with the wind on my back for the first 30 km – the return 60km  into Cairns required a whole lot more effort cycling into strong headwinds. The 21km run was a double loop around the  waterfront running just in front of many lunch time diners in their fancy restaurants. Definitely a must-do event for serious  athletes looking for a colourful holiday destination.     

On the Wednesday after the event, I took a trip on a large ocean-going ship out to the Great Barrier Reef visiting 2 islands  – Green Island and Moore Reef where they have a permanent docking station. I went the extra mile hiring a “Scoobie Doo” underwater scooter that can go down to 4 metres with an air bubble around your head – for physics boffins it is the same  effect that one experiences when you put an empty bottle upside down in water. There is also a “submarine” with glass  windows placed at 45 degrees that can take the not-so-daring amidst the colourful coral and marine life.    

There are, of course, many top-drawer restaurants along or near the waterfront so I savoured several good meals of  Seafood and (my favourite) Italian (esp Gnocchi).     

A holiday for me does, of course, involve immersing myself into hand held literature- I probably read about a dozen good  books – highly recommended from these were “Long Shadows” (David Baldacci); “Killing Moon” (Jo Nesbo); “Murder in  Paradise (Ann Cleeves); and “Murder on the Lusitania” (Edward Marston). If anyone has other “Once Read” books by  either of the latter 2 authors please give me a shout. Now it’s back to reality in our landlocked haven. Mike G.    
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