A lot comes to mind when people think of Australia. I think of Steve Irwin, Kangaroos, etc. But I also think of huge eucalyptus trees, stunning beaches, and awesome people. When I saw the opportunity to venture down from Asia, I jumped on the chance. While on a tourist visa in Thailand, I had to leave the country every 30 days, and I would never have had the chance for a cheaper flight than I found while there. So I pulled the trigger and packed up. I checked my baggage fees online when I purchased my ticket (so I thought) but was astonished to find my bags were so heavy, it would set me back $1300.00 to bring my bike and gear down. Lesson learned. Also, my flight down from Singapore would prove to be the worst flight I’ve ever taken. Double lesson learned. Regardless, I was just amped to go.
I messaged a mountain bike follower of mine on Instagram who has a huge following in Australia. (I’ve never messaged a stranger on social media) He informed me there was a local Enduro race not far from where I would be staying on the weekend of my arrival. It was a huge stretch to make it happen, and I was already starting to run ragged from travel, and the race I had the weekend prior. But, I wasn’t going to let the opportunity pass to race in Australia, however hard it was going to be.
So I decided to just charge and try to make it happen. Sometimes things happen when you travel, and you just have to laugh at the randomness. While in Thailand, I left some of my riding gear out to dry outside my villa. Well, a wild dog that was cruising around decided to help himself to one of my kneepads, leaving me without a set to wear. Epic. I was really attached to those particular pads, but I had to laugh at my misfortune. Given my race schedule, I wouldn’t be able to practice either. Meaning it was show up on race day and give it hell never having ridden the trails. A huge first for me, and a pretty massive risk as well.
Race day also coincided with the Mayweather Mcgregor fight, so I wasn’t quite sure what I would expect as far as a turnout goes from the local crowd. I woke up early sunday morning. Had some coffee, and booked my Uber. My driver showed up and we were off with time to cruise. I knew it was a local track, and the top guys probably wouldn’t be touchable given my circumstances.
After driving to an area we thought was the area, we realized we were no where near the event. Of course I didn’t have any cell service, or wifi, or event information saved on my phone since I was already flying by the seat of my pants. We continued to drive around, ask anyone nearby, flag people down, and get zero answers or directions. Things were looking very bleak and I told the driver if we don’t find it to just drop me off at a bar and I’ll watch the fight and pound beers instead. When a small redirect down a neighborhood side street poured onto the corner of the Nerang forest where the event was. We literally found the event by pure accident and I threw my wheels on and bolted to registration.
The heat of the day was already creeping up, and the course had a mandatory full face helmet rule. The turn out was decent, and I wasn’t surprised to notice some expected fast local talent. I talked to a few guys to get the lowdown on the trail system. I was pleasantly surprised to find the conditions dry and similar to what I was accustomed to riding back home. My confidence grew as we started the first climb to the first stage. The format let the riders pick any segment they wanted to ride in any order. I chose to ride the segments which had the least amount of climbing in between.
A crash I had in Thailand actually broke the bladder on my camelback, meaning I would go without water, knee pads, or practice for this race. But it was a once in a life time chance, so I did what I knew how to do, race it hard. Checkers or wreckers. I cranked hard out of each start, pumped out of every turn and hit every jump blind. I filmed my race runs on my go pro, but since I can’t find a wifi connection strong enough to upload them, it will have to wait until my next post. Nevertheless, I snapped every turn and charged my way to a ninth place finish in elite. My goal was a top ten finish, so I was happy. Obviously not where I wanted to be, and some timing issues would have guaranteed me a better result, but that’s racing. I would have came in second place in expert, but I don’t want to step down in competition.
The riders with missing times were given averages based on the runs they completed and results were placed accordingly. Small races usually have some sort of hiccup and it’s to be expected. But I was happy with my riding. Smooth, calculated, and fast with no crashes. The trails in the Nerang forest were really fun too. Like giant pump tracks with big flowy, man made berms in between massive eucalyptus trees. I came around a turn in my race run to see a five foot monitor lizard who took off up a tree, leaving me laughing hysterically. Yelling in my mind “CRIKEY!!!! SHE’S A BEAUT!!!!!” in my best Steve Irwin voice. I rode home to surfers paradise after the race through some amazing neighborhoods in Australia. I couldn’t help but appreciate the birds. The most exotic parrots, cockatoos, hookbills, and love birds I’ve ever seen. It was like a pet store exhibit in people’s front lawns.
I traveled to the gold coast because I was living at a resort in Thailand built and owned by Dan Hartmann, who was born and raised on the gold coast. Many hours were spent talking about life in Oz, and I messaged his family down there and told them I’d be coming down. They promised to show me a good time away from the pressures of racing I put on myself, and they definitely did. Aussies are a fun, rowdy, and amazing people. And a few nights out with the Hartmann’s proved to deliver the fun.
Oz is expensive though, and wifi isn’t nearly as strong as other places I’ve been to, so you constantly either have to buy it as you go, or post up at a starbucks, which there aren’t many of. So I decided to bounce out after a few weeks of fun and head up to the Philippines to visit a friend I met while racing in Chiang Mai.
Overall, Australia delivered. There is so much to do there, and on a tourist visa, you get 90 days on entry to go wild. It’s such a fun place. And literally, the absolute best looking girls I’ve ever seen were on the Gold Coast. Should be called the Blonde Coast for obvious reasons. And the American accent goes a long way with the locals. Cheers.