Heading for the hills 

Blog update Vietnam 10 January Day 3
The builders of the rapidly growing hotels in the region worked late into the night. Welding went on past 11pm. Fortunately the jack hammer stopped soon after 10pm. Though after the afternoon cycle down into and then straight up out of the valley, sleep came easily. 


The planned early start was unsuccessful.  Even with daylight streaming in the windows and a myriad of building noises, we both almost slept past the breakfast cutoff of 08:30.  


Route for the day was to climb up Fansipan (3140m) from Sapa (1500m) and stop off at the two waterfalls along the way. 


Cherry blossoms being transported. 


Shortly after the second waterfall, the clouds moved in bring with them a heavy drizzle and mist. 

The trip back down to Sapa was slower than planned due to the wet / slippery roads and having to get off the path / road every time a big truck passed. 


Arriving back at the hotel – wet and muddy smiles with the manager bringing us hot ginger tea to help counteract the cold blue lips and numbed fingers. That along with a hot shower and dry clothes was a good way to finish off cycling for the day. Now to find the advertised Hot Wine… Which will be an appropriate afternoon drink to have in this thick mist. 

The long ride tomorrow might have to be abandoned due to the heavy rain. Will negotiate with the taxis tomorrow to see 

Cycling in Sapa

Blog Update Vietnam 9 January Day 2 

Ha Noi to Sapa
The early bus to Sapa – luxury bus meant that shoes were not allowed on the bus. I didn’t think this would be much of a problem. However it took about five minutes into the six hour journey for the local resident to complain to an Ozzie tourist about her smelly feet. Fortunately for me the smell did not permeate to my side of the bus. 
Another guy on the bus developed a serious case of bike envy when he saw our two Santa Cruz bikes being carefully loaded into the bus. 


Pics: Bus stop en route to Sapa and restaurant artwork. 

The scenery is starting to improve. Less old propaganda posters and more open spaces. Smoked / steamed mielies are available on the side of the highways. The manner in which one consumes them is slightly different here: each piece is carefully picked off the cob and eaten individually. Suppose it is a good way to pass the time on a bus trip. The inflight TV entertainment is the local version of 7de Laan with a prominent picture of George W Bush in the background. Go figure. At least I could convince my neighbour to turn the sound off. 
The major roads and highways are all elevated above the surrounding land. Makes sense when driving though the endless rice paddies, but not so much in town. The smog or mist seems to be pervasive. If it is smog then it probably comes from mainland China as there does not seem to be enough industry here to drive that much pollution into the air. Something else to research at some stage. But first we need to do some physical work. Legs are string to object to the extended periods of inactivity. The terrain is starting to morph into hills. The trees are taller. Mountain side agriculture. 


Pics: the white fungus drink is nutritional- not only because it says so, but because it tastes like a healthy drink. 

The last two hours of the bus trip entailed continuous climbing at about 40km/h through endless switchbacks and bends. It is an interesting feeling being on a bus overtaking a petrol tanker on an uphill blind switchback. (And we stalled on more than one occasion while overtaking – that caused much wailing and gnashing of teeth). This will make for good cycling later. 

Currently reading a book by a former Blackbird (SR-71) pilot and he is recounting the days when he flew F-4’s over northern Vietnam, dropping Snakeye bombs and Napalm. Definitely going to find some images from that era. 
After arriving in Sapa, surviving the onslaught of locals trying to sell local scarves and homestay accommodation, we cycled to a three star star hotel with a great view. 

Afternoon meant cycling down into the valley, strong coffee and heading back up the mountain. Fortunately the legs performed well considering the lack of training. 
Discussion topics included how insignificant and replaceable one becomes the more specialized one is and how it is virtually impossible to acquire the skills in a lifetime to harvest and create a pencil from scratch. 
Enough of the ramblings. Here are some pictures.  


Hard at work. Minimal protective gear. 


How to pimp the local church. 

Mist moving in and nighttime monuments. 

Tomorrow: we go up. 

Vietnam – Hanoi and airports 

Blog Vietnam trip day 1. 

Background to the latest cycling destination: the rooster seems to inhabit an elevated position in Vietnamese history. From in flight magazines to paintings and festivals. Combined with the fact that 2017 is the year of the Rooster, I will limit the number of photos of roosters. 


Monument in the Lake

Vietnam has a population of 90million people. We are heading to the mountainous north western region which is home to the country’s five million ethnic minorities. I may have to change the dialect of the few words I learnt to get around here. 


A quiet side alley. 

Some brief observations for the day:

1. Short urinals. This will take a little getting used to. I feel like a seven foot giant here. 
2. Navigating intersections and traffic circles. Two step approach. Maneuver into the said intersection. Once in the middle of the capacious intersection guess where there will be a gap in about three seconds time. Shut your eyes and go for it. 
3. Scooters appear to be swarms of bees on the road. With an innate group memory that enables them to squeeze into any space. Cross reference to point 2 above. 
Tomorrow is a relatively early start. Taking the assembled bikes on the bus to Sapa and spending the afternoon testing our fitness levels in the hills. 


One room. Two bike boxes. Two single beds. Two bikes. Not much space to move. 

Back in the Saddle

Technically, the title is not that accurate. 

After six months of being back on the highveld, having an incredible amount of fun at work, it is once again time to find a new limit and push over it. 

After finishing off my registrar training time in Pietermaritzburg (June 2016) I was accepted to do a fellowship in Complex Trauma and Limb reconstruction based in two busy practices in Pretoria. After eight years of being out Gauteng, it time to come home. It has been great. Now for my next adventure. 

At times I seemed to be a transient sojourner in my old home town. 

Now back to the title of this post. The inaccuracy of it is due to me being close, but not on, my saddle. See the image below:


That is my Tallboy firmly secured in a bike box. Destination: 

Northern Vietnam. 

The Johann and Peter show (originally fro the Race Across South Africa / Freedom Challenge fame) is once again on the road. Having been shelved since TransAfrika, we are now going international and heading for the hills in Sapa, Vietnam. 

Updates and pictures will follow- depending on connectivity. Which will hopefully be scarce. 

Defrag Part 1 – Blast from the past

Years ago, before my quarter life crisis (it is like a mid life crisis, but earlier and more severe), I used to photograph planes at air shows. This was initially with my Canon AE-1 and later with my Sony V1 (my first forray into digital – the closest at the time one could get to slide quality on digital).

Last week, I spent meandering up the West Coast (Paternoster, Western Cape). While attempting to be creative with some pictures of beaches, sunsets and seagulls, I realised that my 32gig memory card was essentially full.

It was filled with images that signified the beginning of my life away from state employment and away from having to spend every free minute studying. There were pictures of planes doing what they are designed to do: Fly and push the envelope. (Waterkloof Air Show, September 2016) (http://www.aadexpo.co.za/exhibitions/aad-2016/airshow/about-the-show-33)

During the aerobatics display – the names of the pilots were mentioned over the public address system. These were the same skilled pilots that I used to watch all those years back. There was only one missing.

From fixed wings hovering, flying on a knife edge to gyrocopters performing a tactical take down of poachers in a combined K9 antipoaching unit display. Needless to say, watching the dogs have so much fun both in the air and on the land was fantastic.

The purpose of this post was to write about my trip to Cape Town, this time not on a bicycle and in an unsupported race, but that is going to require some more introspection first. In six years I have cycled to Cape Town twice. First on the Race Across South Africa (Freedom Challenge) and then TransAfrika. Driving through the terrain that I recognise so well stirs up many memories and emotions.

Until that is fully processed, I am going to order another Gin and Tonic while I wait for my flight to Verona. Yes. Verona said with a proper Italian accent. And yes – it is work. This is one of the many reasons why I enjoy the work I do. Tomorrow I will be eating pizza in Verona…

Phoenix time

August is the first month in what will be a year long project: writing finals. This time next year I will be in the throes of exams to obtain that little piece of paper that allows me entry to the Ortho Club.

This past week I achieved a personal goal of doing a knee replacement. A simple yet biomechanically challenging operation.

I also started the final stage in my training for my next cycling challenge: TransAfrica Bike Race – an unsupported bike trek from Beit Bridge to Cape Town. That will take place in October.

Last but not least, this was the month I upgraded my trusty old iMac for a new version. There is now an understated black tower under my desk. This Mac Pro is expected to handle my large volume of digital photo files fast and efficiently, but will also handle the assault of the time lapse photography that I am planning to immerse myself in.

Here are some of the mandatory photos:

20140817-232804-84484156.jpgthe autographed book by Jeff Schultz, “Chasing Dogs”. An epic pictorial book of Jeff’s time being the official photographer on the Iditarod. Combines two of my passions: Sled Dogs and Photography. And it is autographed.

20140817-233157-84717344.jpgDistrict road 494. One of my training routes for the TransAfrika bike race. It entails over 1000m of ascent.

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20140817-233453-84893973.jpgThe Lake District. An ideal place for a Batchelors Weekend. Mountain biking. Coasteering (kloofing…) and Fire Jenga. There was the mandatory consumption of alcohol of course!

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Next update will be the trialing out of the GoPro. In order to become acquainted with the device (for TransAfrika) I took it with me this last weekend on a motor biking / adventure riding trip. Pictures (and potentially some edited videos) will follow.