GOLD COAST, Australia — UTSA Assistant Athletics Director and men's basketball SID Kyle Stephens will be writing a journal during the Roadrunners' nine-day trip to Australia. Check back with goUTSA.com throughout the trip for updates to his chronicles, photo galleries and videos (provided technology cooperates).
Just a reminder that UTSA will play five games against the Gold Coast Blaze (Saturday. Aug. 13), Brisbane Spartans (Sunday, Aug. 14), Cairns Taipans (Wednesday, Aug. 17), Maitland Mustangs (Friday, Aug. 19) and New South Wales Institute of Sport (Saturday, Aug. 20) during the exhibition tour of the Land Down Under.
Friday, Aug. 12 — "G'Day, mate!"
That's the famous greeting Australians use and it's appropriate for the first entry in the journal from the UTSA men's basketball team's trip to the Land Down Under.
The journey began what seemed like days ago when the group boarded a bus in front of the Convocation Center at 3 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 10, for a short bus ride to San Antonio International Airport. We took a one-hour flight from SAT to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, where a three-hour layover awaited.
Our plane was a Boeing 747, one of the most recognizable aircrafts in the world. We boarded around 9:30 p.m. and quickly discovered most of the group was going to have a severe lack of legroom. The two lucky ones? Australia's own Jeromie Hill and Iggy Nujic, who apparently pulled some strings or had collected enough points with their native country's airline for business class seats on the bulkhead.
The traveling party of 22 arrived via Qantas Flight 8 at Brisbane International Airport 10 minutes before 5 a.m. Eastern Australian Time on Friday, Aug. 12. After a rather short wait to clear customs and grab our bags, we met up with our tour guide, Stephen Blackley, and boarded a bus. It was not long after the motor coach began rolling that most of the group noticed the first major difference between Australia and home.
Australians drive on the left side of the road, or the "right" side of the road according to Hill, who is a Cairns native. We'll avoid that argument for the time being, but it takes a while to get used to the driver being on the right side of the vehicle, seeing cars driving the other direction off to your right and cars navigating a roundabout in a clockwise fashion.
Our driver took us through the heart of Brisbane, which with a population of approximately 1.5 million, is Australia's third-largest city. We then went up to the top of Mount Coot-Tha for a fabulous view of the Greater Brisbane area under a bright morning sun. Even though the calendar shows August, it's winter in the Southern Hemisphere — the second biggest difference between here and the United States. While Texas has been baking in triple-digit heat for the better part of the summer, the group had to retrieve jackets from bags to help fend off 50-degree temperatures on Friday morning.
We were dropped off in downtown Brisbane to find breakfast on our own. Most fast-food staples that Americans have on every street corner — McDonald's, Subway, 7-11, Krispy Kreme — also can be found in Australia, however, the prices are little different. Even though the exchange rate to the Australian Dollar is just about a wash, the popular McDonald's value meal of a sausage and egg biscuit, hash browns and a drink set most of the group back $6.50 apiece. Our per diem may be gone before we hit Sydney.
It was not yet 8:30 a.m. when we began our jaunt down the Pacific Coast toward Gold Coast, which will be our headquarters for the first three nights of the trip. Gold Coast is a coastal city in Queensland and is a major tourist destination with surfing beaches, waterway systems and a high-rise dominated skyline. It's everything you imagined and more; probably Australia's version of South Beach (without LeBron's talents).
We arrived at Jupiters Hotel & Casino in Broadbeach at 9:45 a.m., well before our scheduled check-in time of 1 p.m., so the group unloaded bags and split into groups for a short two-block walk to the beach. It is fabulous and weather is perfect, about 70 degrees and clear blue skies.
It was around this point where the length of the journey to get here and the time difference began to show in everyone. After all, it was a nearly 16-hour flight over the Pacific Ocean in the dead of night (we followed the darkness around the globe) and we had been going strong since deplaning eight hours ago. Once everyone checked in to their rooms, we met in the lobby and walked back to the beach where the team and athletic trainer Rhodie Moss went for a three-mile run in the sand to keep the juices flowing and to help with the adjustment to 15 hours ahead of United States Central Time. After all, the team is "here to play basketball, not be tourists," as junior guard Melvin Johnson III proclaimed while being point in the direction of a breaching whale off in the distant waters.
The rest of our first day here in Australia will be on our own. I'm sure most will catch a nap and then struggle to fall asleep later tonight, while others will catch up on work or returning emails or calling family and friends. It was a wonderful first day that feels like two long days, so now is time for rest before the Roadrunners hit the court at 5 p.m. local time (2 a.m. CT/please note the time change) on Saturday to face the Gold Coast Blaze.
So, be sure to check back with goUTSA.com for daily updates, photo galleries and videos (if technology will cooperate) in the coming days.
For now, "G'day, mates!"