GUYS … I know you’re wondering what the hell happened to me because I haven’t posted for months but honestly, the whole China trip was so full on that by the time I got home and moved interstate I completely forgot to update you all! But I’m going to take some time and do it now, so get a cup of tea or a glass of wine because this will be a super long post. Also, apologies for any typos. I’m doing this update from my phone and we all know how iPhones love a good autocorrect ….
So, let’s cast our minds back to October last year … almost a year ago to the day! Wow, where did the time go right? I flew out of Melbourne with quite a number of fellow Auroras and after a quick stop over in Thailand (and a cheeky airport massage) we arrived in China. I honestly have no idea what I was expecting but my first thoughts when I arrived were that it was super smoggy, super busy and the traffic was 100% insane! But I was so excited to be in China and on our way to Kunming!
After a bus ride from the airport we arrived at our little hotel and let me tell you this – Kunming is gorgeous. It’s this quaint little city with gorgeous and traditional shop fronts, little stalls that sell bao and dumplings, botanical gardens and is filled with people on bicycles and local legends. It was so picturesque! Our hotel was so sweet too – not super flash by any means but it was delightfully traditional. It had this cute little zig zag bridge across a pond that we had to trek across every morning for breakfast which also had traditional Chinese music playing from speakers, making it a super tranquil environment. Just what an athlete needs!
Isn’t Kunming beautiful? That photo was taken on our walk from the hotel to the cute little shops as we trekked to get food before we visited the race course on the first day. And look! No smog!
The race course looked amazing, and by the time we all got to China they had figured out the problem with the water quality. Well, mostly. Our coach still insisted that we paddle with clear glasses on to protect our eyes which we did but overall it looked much better than the neon green patch of water we saw photos of 10 weeks before we left!
We had so much fun at the opening ceremony too – there were traditional dancers, performers, musicians, a parade and … TV cameras everywhere! Yep, you read that right – the entire thing was broadcast on national Chinese television so you can imagine that we had to get used to having tv cameras around us pretty quick smart!
I don’t really remember too much of the racing, because it was all a blur of competition. I was on the Opens and the Mixed B crew. Unfortunately we didn’t win any medals but our women’s crew absolutely smashed it and came home with 2 bronze. Our opens crew came between 4th and 6th which was an absolutely stellar result considering we were up against teams like China, Thailand, USA and Canada. The racing was truly intense. The whole atmosphere was intense!
I have two truly vivid memories from China. The first was sitting out on the start line with the opens 10s crew in the pouring rain for 10 minutes. I was wet, I was freezing and the boys were trying hard to stay warm before the race. I remember water literally streaming down my face and seeing a collection on ponchos and umbrellas amongst all the locals who came out to watch the races.
My second vivid memory was after racing wrapped up and my coach pulled me aside and presented me with a spare medal to recognise all the hard work that I had put into the campaign. Although o didn’t win the medal racing I won it by applying myself to the campaign and I was absolutely honoured to receive it. It’s a beautiful memory and a wonderful addition to my collection of medals that adorn my living room!
The closing ceremony was all broadcast too and it was extremely different to the closing ceremony and after party in Canada. Again it was all televised so they spared no expense with the performers and musicians to close off competition. I also tried my first Chinese beer at the after party which was surprisingly sweet. I’m not a beer drinker but I’m partial to local alcohol. Except rice wine. Haha!
I wished I had more to tell you about racing but since I’m posting this a year after the event, I confess I barely remember anything. I remember spending a lot of time in marshalling and I remember the drums on the boats being really small and quiet. I remember the cameras zooming around the athlete tents and spending my time on the sidelines singing “how far I’ll go” from Moana which seemed to always be playing on the speakers in the morning. I remember sitting opposite the Japanese team in the village and spending all my money on Merch. I remember wearing palmy’s massive rain jacket and sweating up a storm. I remember silly little things that probably don’t mean anything to anyone other than my team mates. Perhaps that is the beauty of it though … it was literally like being in a different world for 10 or so days and once racing wrapped up it all seemed very surreal.
You might be wondering what we did after racing wrapped up. About 8 of us from Melbourne flew across to Beijing and went and saw the Great Wall of China and the terracotta warriors. We crammed a lot into 5 days and it was absolutely amazing. Climbing the Great Wall was a massive challenge. I’ve never experienced anything like it. We started off in the unrestored section before making our way to part of the restored section. Silly me, I forgot to pack my sneakers so I was attempting to climb the Great Wall in bloody paddling shoes which was one of the first of many mistakes climbing that wall! My second mistake was not wearing proper attire and my third mistake was how much bloody water I was carrying around. Still. I did it! I can tick that off my bucket list now. After we finished we went and had the most amazing food I have ever eaten at a banquet of traditional Chinese dishes with jasmine tea. We sat around with our tour guide swapping stories and I got him to also translate the ring I’ve had on my finger since about year 10. It means Fu which translates to blessings. Very cool right! It was a such a hard day physically and mentally but it all worked out.
After that we boarded a plane and went to see the terracotta warriors which was a massive highlight for me! I’ve waited my whole life to go and see them and honestly they were nothing short of amazing. It was fascinating to see the pieces of the warriors in various states and how each warrior was completely unique – same with the horses too. I learned that every hairstyle had a certain meaning and you could tell the rank of a warrior based off what they were wearing and how their hair was styled. I was a little bit unwell that day but I’m grateful I was well enough to still go on the trip and see the amazing wonder of the world.
So there you have it! That was China! Pretty amazing adventure right?
Now I’m back home and I’ve moved from Melbourne to Canberra. I’ve left my beautiful melbourne Flames family behind and I’ve joined the Komodo paddle club here in the ACT. You can expect more updates on this blog because Komodo are letting me paddle which I’ve not really done much of in the 7 years of doing this sport! So expect plenty more updates and new stories as I prepare myself for nationals which are being held in April 2019 in Canberra.
Let’s do this!