City2Surf Sydney – the world’s largest fun run

Runners might have it on the bucket list, Sydney siders love it and all participants are aware that City 2 surf is the world’s largest fun run and Sydney’s favorite sporting event. My long distance running experience started not too long ago with 4 k, at the second event I did a 5 k and this time I didn’t want to miss the opportunity of being part of what’s considered a blast and a challenge that everybody around me talks about. Therefore with all possible excitement I registered a week ago and with again a very minimal training but a much bigger determination I put my runners on and lined up at St Mary’s in the CBD to start the hardcore challenge.

The atmosphere from the very beginning has been very welcoming and entertaining, just as I expected it to be. Music, good vibe and many many keen runners of all ages started the countdown on this sunny Sunday morning.

City 2 surf attracts annually thousands of participants, last year reaching a fabulous number of 80,700 registrations. It’s impressive taking into consideration that it’s been only the 48th edition back then and the very first one in 1971 started off with only around 2000 runners.

This year didn’t disappoint either, the massive crowd giving the extra push and motivation along the way.

The race started on College Street in the CBD and following the route along the eastern suburbs, with beautiful Rose Bay and Vaucluse views, where many participants stopped for a quick foto shoot. So did I because I actually had no photo of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge from that angle. Yeah, a side of me is still a tourist here and yes, I do love those two gorgeous icons. So there you go, I skipped one water stop and replaced it with a few seconds break of posing with the beautiful background.

Making our way towards the world famous and spectacular Bondi Beach, where the finish line is set, meant another few km-ers to go, but mainly downhill from this point on, which made things slightly easier.

Over all, as any similar event, it’s been challenging and at times really hard to push through, but also a very rewarding experience that I’m so glad that I signed up for. No wonder that in the runners world it’s often a bucket list race to do, also named by notorious publications as one of the world’s most scenic runs. I reckon most of those runners will stop for a selfie on the top of the hill to catch the great background.

I couldn’t disagree and actually if my runner version had a must do list, City 2 Surf would certainly be on it, now ticked off with a result of 1h 45 min result. Must admit I surprised myself with this. More runs to come!

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Iconic Bondi – Sydney

Sydney’s most famous and certainly the busiest as well beach, Bondi for sure rings a bell even for those that didn’t get the chance yet to visit it. The iconic beach attracts many people surprisingly even in winter. Winter at this part of the world is mild though, today in a pleasant 18 degrees sunny day I was lying on the beach, reading a book, while a few brave ones were taking a dip in the ocean.

Just recently Bondi hosted a typical winter activity location, an ice rink, where both young and older could enjoy some fun on the ice with ocean views. That’s probably the closest you can get to winter here.

Nothing to complain about, especially when you’ve got the amazing coast line to explore.

On a day like today, when it’s warm and sunny, but not too hot, coastal walks are the ideal weekend activities that keep you in shape.

The stretch from Bondi to Coogee is easy and starts right from the beach, passing Bondi Icebergs and going all the way along the coast.

Very relaxing, on one side with the waves hitting the rocks and above us the beautiful blue sky, amazing combination of what in my terms means perfection.

Along the way you’ll see plenty of interesting and picturesque stone formations that look great in photos.

Also, a few small beaches, such as Tamarama or Bronte, where there are barbecue opportunities and always good vibe.

Lots of people take their dogs on this walk as it’s a very pet friendly environment and I’m sure the dogs enjoy the walk as much as their owners.

As Australia seems to be encouraging a lot sport and fitness in general, this part of the city is in particular a great example of that. Everywhere around Bondi and the sea in general, there are always many super fit people doing their work out, run, stretch or yoga. While on our coastal walk we’ve been taken over so many times by runners that just casually jog from one beach to the other on a regular Sunday afternoon.

The walk goes through a cemetery as well and between the graves you still have the magnificent view of the ocean. One way takes usually just over an hour in a normal rhytm with occasional stops for drinking water or taking pictures. Whether you opt for one way or return, in either cases there’s public transport available.

It does worth it sticking to the area until sunset for having the chance of looking at the ocean on a different light, that is quite pretty and relaxing.

The atmosphere becomes quiet and romantic as the night falls and the waves sound much louder but in the same time more calming. In the distance the city’s light start turning on and the darkness begins to take over slowly. It’s handy to have a light jacket because it gets windy and chilly very quickly, as soon as the sun sets.

The return walk took almost 3 hours and at return  the night lights welcomed us back to reality: busy, noisy and always fun Bondi.

Wesak Day 2018 Kuala Lumpur

I must admit the term Vesakha or Wesak didn’t mean anything to me until a few days ago, when I heard about a parade that was going to be happening near my accommodation in Kuala Lumpur.

I started researching online about it to see if it may represent me any interest to participate at all.

I found out that it’s also called Buddha’s birthday, which started to shed light on the topic. It’s a holiday celebrated by Buddhists and some Hindus and it commemorates the birth, enlightenment and death of Buddha.

Wesak Day is on May’s full moon day and it’s public holiday in Malaysia.

The service started at the Buddhist temple Maha Vihara in Brickfields at 6 pm with meditation.

The streets were decorated as for celebration and lots of people gathered, unfortunately many beggars too.

The first float was carrying a big Buddha statue decorated all around with lots of flowers and in front a little Buddha that was being washed carefully by every single person that lined up for the ritual that represents the purification.

Several other floats followed, each of them carrying a different Buddha in a shiny and flowery set up and most of them having in front the tiny Buddha for the washing procedure .

In the honor of Buddha’s teachings, according to which we shall manifest generosity, volunteers were offering free soup, water and a little package that included a candle, a few flowers and some candies.

Ready to join the parade, we lit up our candles and started walking the streets of KL with a feeling of happiness in hearts and smiles on our faces .

The full moon was shining bright from between the skyscrapers during the whole route that ran approximately 12 km and lasted more or less 4 hours, ending at the same place where it started.

For Buddhists a celebration, for locals a day off, for tourists something new , for me another unique Kuala Lumpur memory.

Happy Wesaka!

Kuala Lumpur in a nutshell

Getting around Transportation in KL is fairly organized and easy to figure out, but also ridiculously cheap. For instance a one way  ticket from KL Sentral – main station , that’s where you arrive from the airport whether you take the train or the bus – to KLCC – Kuala Lumpur City Center aka Petronas Twin Towers – will cost you 2,40 MYR, which is aprox 0,80 AUD or 0,50 Euros. When it comes to public transport the offer is wide: from a free tourist bus that runs to the main attractions, to the train, bus, monorail and bikes. However, is also not a bad idea to take long walks around the city, as most places are easy to reach by foot if you can cope with the humidity. Eating & drinking out One thing is sure: nobody will starve in this city. From street food to fine dining, everything is available at any time of the day and night. With such a diverse cultural and ethnic mix, food from pretty much all over the world can be easily found. Head to Chinatown to eat together with the locals at simple food courts and try the typical Malaysian claypot squid rice or claypot shrimps noodle.Make your way to Brickfields neighborhood , or Little India, as locals call it, where you can eat at one of the many restaurants or street vendors that are all around the neighborhood.Check out Jalan Alor at Bukit Bintang and you’ll find yourself on a street full of restaurants, this is the food street of the city where locals and visitors get together to enjoy not only the fresh meals but the live music, friendly faces and good vibe as well. Just a few steps away is another famous street, but this time with heaps of bars ‘cause after a good dinner one must get a drink or two, no? Changkat Bukit Bintang or “the bar street” , is a heaven for party goer locals, tourists and expats. To satisfy  everyone’s pleasure there’s a bar for all tastes, being that Irish bar, whiskey bar, night club, karaoke bar or Cuban lounge.I’ve heard from some sure sources that most places have ladies night on Wednesday’s when ladies get free drinks, but no problem gents, you can order your discounted alcoholic beverage any day of the week at late afternoon happy hour. In Kuala Lumpur, with so many skyscrapers, the rooftop bars are in trend as well, where for the price of the cocktail you get also a magnificent view over the city. The dress code is smart casual at such places usually, but the people just as friendly as everywhere else around KL. You might start your night alone, but most probably you’ll end it with a few new friends from different corners of this world.Things to see1. Petronas Twin Towers There’s no complete visit to KL without a stroll around the iconic Petronas Towers. Both at daytime and night they offer a magnificent view and the perfect background for your souvenir photo. Every evening there’s a light show going on when the water from the fountain dances to the rhythm of the music at 8, 9 and 10 pm.2. Perdana Botanical GardensApart from being a great spot for jogging or picnic, it’s picturesque art pieces will inspire you to start a photoshoting session.3. National Mosque of MalaysiaImportant building for the nation, impressive from outside and possible to visit inside as well at certain times of the day. It can hold up to 15,000 people and it’s main dome is star shaped with 18 point out of which 13 represent the 13 states of Malaysia and the remaining 5 represent the 5 pillars of Islam. 4. Islamic Arts MuseumSoutheast Asia’s largest museum of Islamic art, it’s located only 5 min walk from the mosque. 5. KL TowerAnother tall building, at its 421 m hight, it’s currently the world fifth tallest structure. It’s one of Kuala Lumpur’s iconic landmarks and offers spectacular views of the city.6. Kuala Lumpur City GalleryNot sure how popular is the gallery itself but the I love KL sign, which is just outside of the building is certainly a famous photo location. 7. Sultan Abdul Samad BuildingJust opposite the road from the Art Gallery, the impressive building is impossible to miss. It’s architecture is eye catching and it just makes the city simply beautiful. 8. Central MarketPerfect place to go for souvenir shopping or just for a casual day out. It’s a relaxed atmosphere, the venders are not pushy at all and the quality of the products seems to be good. It’s also great for a spontaneous fishspa session.9. Chinatown As a typical Chinatown: food, vendors, lots of people, bargain, cheap bags, sunnies, selfie sticks, fake D&G’s and much more.10. KL Forest Eco ParkA real treasure in the heart of the city. It’s the oldest forest reserves in the country and it’s a perfect spot for ecotourism. With its several nature trails and a forest canopy walkway, it’s an outstanding attraction which will help you get a small doze of adrenaline and a great view of the city from above the trees.Street art, temples, colorsThanks to the strong ethnic mix in the city and in the country in general, during a stroll around KL you’ll bump into many temples , either Chinese, Hindu or Buddhist.I found Kuala Lumpur very artistic in many ways. The contrast of the old and new architecture, the fancy tall buildings and the simple, small structures , the old fashioned and the trendy, they all create a diverse vibe. In some areas of the city street art is in particular impressive, making a casual walk a fun experience.With bright colors and some creative ideas, these streets near Bukit Bintang have been transformed from the ordinary into an attractive , happy environment that makes you laugh your head off even on a rainy day.To be continued…A trip that I initially booked just because of convenience – an affordable dental treatment in KL instead of a ridiculously expensive one in my current home city of Sydney – turned into another amazing travel experience that I will not forget.Although I’ve considered spending a few days out of the city, sometimes going with the flow means sticking to one place if that feels great.A week ago I landed without knowing anyone , in a few days I’m departing not only with amazing memories but also great new friends from different parts of the planet.A big shout out to the people that helped me patiently ( or not so patiently ) in taking the photos I wanted and for sharing big laughters:- Ilien and Alvin – KL- Nick and Nicki – UK- Akie – Japan- Tracy – Vietnam

Mother’s Day Classic Sydney 2018

With the occasion of the Mother’s Day Classic Sydney a few of  Fernwood Fitness Broadway members, including myself,  put our strength and excitement together and formed groups of 4-5 to participate in the annual run/walk supporting breast cancer research.

We had participants for both the 4 km and 8 km walk or run sections and for some of us it’s been the first time ever running such distances.

Despite the cold and rainy weather and the early start of the event, we all showed up with big smiles on our faces and a lot of energy at the start line at Martin Place.

Between other hundreds, both adults and kids,  we started our run as a team, supporting each other along the way and keeping our smiles on the whole time.

Laurice – personal trainer at Fernwood Broadway – besides being a great inspiration in general at the gym, she’s been a useful support of our team and payed attention to us, asking from time to time whether we needed to stop to get water or so.

Although, the last section of the run felt rather difficult, we all finished the 4 km in aprox 30 min and collected proudly our medals.

As soon as we’ve taken our “champions” photo, the rain started again, so basically we managed to squeeze in our run between two rain showers.

Although 4 km may not be much for many people, for some of us that never ran this long, it meant a real accomplishment and the first of many runs that will follow. This might be the first step towards a marathon?

Anzac Day in Canberra

When Australians couldn’t decide which big city to put as capital, Sydney or Melbourne, they came up with a solution: let’s create a new one and build it up between the two above mentioned ones.

The compromise seems to be working well and Canberra is proudly hosting now not just one, but two parliament houses, an old and a new. Besides all the government institutions, Canberra has a strong art and history presence as well.

The Australian War Memorial reaches its highest number of visitors every year on April 25 with the occasion of Anzac Day. The acronym ANZAC stands for

Australian and New Zealander Army Corps, whose soldiers were knows as Anzacs.

The powerful dawn service that takes place in the nations capital and every major city around the continent brings together thousands of people who pay their respect for the soldiers that lost their lives in the war.

The rather poor weather conditions did not stop this year approximately 38.000 people from making their way to the Australian War Memorial, even though for many of them that meant kilometers of walking. Powerful messages has been delivered by veterans in a solemn mood.

Thousands of hearts were beating in the same rhythm and tears shedding while singing proudly the lyrics of the national anthem with litten candles in hands.

Australians by nature or choice, we all placed our poppies to a name on the Roll of Honour and with a high respect for those that fought to make the world a better place : lest we forget …

Where to go on a daytrip from Sydney?

A perfect daytrip option from Sydney is the beautiful Royal National Park, well known for its outstanding Figure 8 pools.

How to get there?

Take the car. Although public transport can be an alternative, it’s rather complicated and time consuming. By car it’s just over an hour drive until you reach the National Park and you start the bush walk.

Explore

A pleasant aprox 15 min bush walk, most of the path is very easy, proper hiking shoes still convenient to wear.

The views are beautiful as you get a glimpse of the ocean.

It’s a bit of a challenge to reach the pool itself, as you must climb over some massive rocks for maybe around another 15 min. The proper hiking shoes come very handy at this stage.

When to go?

Definitely make sure you go when it’s low tide if you actually want to approach the pools.

As they are located at the age of the rocks, even if it’s low tide it can be a bit tricky to be around there.

The wind and waves can become your worst enemies and sadly I learnt that on the spot. Weather conditions and nature in Australia can be tough and unexpectedly dangerous.

Walking to the pools is already a slippery path, however the mood of the ocean must be your number one reason to be cautious.

As we were standing next to the Figure 8 pool a sudden wave that came out of nowhere and in a second washed us all off the rocks, smashing us to the ground and water splashing above my head. My water slide like experience lasted a few seconds, carried me aprox 4 meters and left me with a bleeding left foot, lost sunglassies and a damaged camera. Others ended up having way worse injuries but we all agreed that despite the event, Figure 8 pools is a cool place.

Just over an hour drive from Sydney, it’s a great place to escape the city and connect with the nature. Hiking, bush walks and several other outdoors activities are all available in the Royal National Park and Figure 8 pools is just a part of the beauty of this place.