Daily Archives: November 1, 2008

Holidays! Off to Cairns

My imminent promotion at work was drawing nearer, and I decided that with a couple of months to go until my butt hit the ‘hot seat’ it was time for a bit of a break.  But what to do? 

The answer came when my parents announced that they would be driving to Cairns to visit my younger sister and her partner in order to help them move house from Cairns to the Sunshine Coast.  Their only problem was how to get their car home as they would be driving my sisters car, while her partner drove his van.  Ta Da!  Me to the rescue.  I volunteered for the job.   

I had a stack of leave up up my sleeve (now there’s a title for a country song) so I booked off for 6 weeks, and in early April we set off.  Farewelling my wife and children we set out at 4.30 am.  The rough plan was to drive with my parents to Cairns, mooch about at my sisters for a few days then chug back alone down the coast on my way home visiting all those areas I’d never seen before, and checking out all the old stamping grounds.  To say I was excited by the prospect would be an understatement.  I hadn’t been North for years, and was keen to see what had changed.

Cairns from above

Cairns from above

After 15 hours of driving we pulled into Cairns, visited a bottle shop, then made our way to my sisters’ place.  We were greeted with hugs, hot food, and plenty of drinks.  My little niece was terrified by this strange man in her house.  I helped her anxieties by whispering to her, “When you go to bed tonight, I’ll be walking round the house in the dark, and in my hand I’ll be holding a card with your name on it.”  Her little two year old eyes widened and her bottom lip starting quivering.  Good stuff.   

The next morning I cheerfully greeted my sister and her partner at breakfast, they weren’t really up to my bright mood as they’d had a shocking night with the little one screaming most of the night.  Apparently some ‘monster’ had frightened her before bed and she was too scared to go to sleep.  Go figure?   

Anyway, my sisters partner had recently started a personal training business, and he quizzed me about my fitness programme.  I sat on his back deck gazing over range and told him about my training regime. 

He didn’t say too much, but handed me a book by Bill Phillips to read.  Well, there are times when your life changes, you can hear an audible ‘click’ in your head and suddenly ‘thing’s’ start to happen.  Bill’s book is probably a good read, I don’t know, because I never got past the front and back pages.  The Before and After photos levelled me.  They really did.  I couldn’t believe the changes in some of these folk.

But I was naturally cynical.  Sure, this is fine for them, but what about me?  So I asked him, “Sure, this is fine for them, but what about me?” 

He grinned, “Ok,” he said, “I won’t lie to you, it’s hard work, and the Yanks have access to a better, and illegal in Oz, batches of supplements, but if you commit to his programme for the full 3 months you WILL change.” 

I nodded and returned to gazing at those photos.  “Why not?” I thought.

Then he added the kicker, “Of course you’ll have to give up all forms of alcohol.”

BOOM!  Another dream disappeared in a puff of smoke.  Not going to happen.  Give up the booze for 3 months?!  Are you mad Sir?!

Still, I couldn’t put the book down.  He also had the book by Bills’ brother, which was full of photos of the body beautiful.  It was also a very good read.  I longed to look like these people, but not enough to pay the entrance fee.  

We spent the day in Cairns city, before taking my little niece to the lagoon on the waterfront, which made her like me a little bit, then I bought her an ice cream and later walked her down to the park and pushed her around on a variety of surprisingly dangerous swings and implements.  Suddenly I was “Unkle Grick” the wonderful.  I know how little girls tick folks…   

That night as I lay in another beer fuelled fog on my bed flicking through the photo’s in Bills’ book (again) and re-reading the testimonials (again), I longed to change.  But how?  Could I give up the booze?  Geez, big ask.  My life revolved around the damned stuff. 

On my final day in Cairns we went for a couple of walks.  I still walked, morning and afternoons, and strolling through the leafy burbs of Cairns was very pleasant.  I borrowed a push bike and got as far as 5 klms away from the house before a lone nail on the road tore the rear tyre tube to shreds. An hour later I staggered into the yard and fell over. 

Dodgy fence, long drop

Dodgy fence, long drop... good mix

Later, we visited the Crystal Cascades, a series of waterfalls that used to be a fair drive out of town.  Now they are located on the rim of the outer-most suburbs of this ever expanding city.  Still a beatiful spot though.  Later in the day we hiked the Nature Trail walk near the Cairns Botanical Gardens.  What amazed me most was that here on a Sunday afternoon the trail was packed with young and old folk, running, strolling and walking along the narrow, steep sided paths.  The rainforest surrounds and the view of town were amazing.  No wonder this place was so popular. 

My sisters partner hit the toe in a big way.  We even passed joggers on one long stretch of stairs, which always makes me feel good.  We stopped at the top of the hill, while waiting for my father and my sister to catch up, and we chatted a little more about fitness and weight loss, then he asked me another killer question, “So Greg, exactly what type of body are you training for?” 

I looked at him in amazement.  He might as well have asked me “What does the colour purple smell like?”  I didn’t have a bloody clue.  He laughed, “So you’ve rocked up to the airport with the $, asked for a ticket and you don’t have a clue where you’re going!  How do you pack for a mystery flight when you could end up anywhere?”

I laughed with him, but my mind was spinning, what was I training for?  Weight loss, body building?  What sort of physique did I want?  I didn’t have a clue.  I’d have to give this some more thought.  We returned home, where we barbecued, played in the pool with the little niece, drank and talked some more. 

The next morning I loaded my gear into Dads’ car and waved everyone goodbye.  I had all the time in the world to get home, and didn’t have a clue where I was staying each night.  The open road beckoned, and I was keen to get going.  I needed to think.  Really think.  This was going to be ‘The Year’, a promotion beckoned, the house needed more work, and my life needed changing.  I wasn’t unhappy, but I wasn’t ‘happy’ happy either.  So far I’d got to where I was by fits and starts.  Economic factors drove many of my life’s choices and decisions, but this year, this bloody year, I had the opportunity to choose my life’s destiny.  But where to start?  What did I want?  As I hit the outskirts of Cairns and slid onto the highway I determined to really put some thought into my life, and what would actually make me happy. 

And right now I’m sorry to say that my first thought was, “I wish I’d stolen that Bill Phillips’ book…”

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