Back to the smog

Blog Update Vietnam 14 January Day 7

Halong Bay and back to the smog

The cabins had an expansive view of the ocean and islands. Did seem slightly surreal waking up and showering with tall islands slipping past. 

Cave exploration – main activity for the day. While slightly smaller than the caves in the south of the bay, only 80 tourist ships operated in the northern part of the bay compared to 400+ in the south. It was worth missing breakfast to get to the caves (2.5 million years old apparently) before the morning tourist rush. 

One definitely appreciated the clear air and space of Halong when heading back to the city. 

Discussion topics for the day: how wheat is the most advanced plant from an evolutionary perspective. Is Agriculture a step back from hunter gatherers. 

How many chickens there are in the world (25 billion, fortunately humans are in the same league as cattle and sheep). 

A bay that could be a paradise?

Blog Update Vietnam 13 January Day 6

Halong Bay
An early but rushed start. We seem to be settling into these late Vietnam starts in the morning. Johann contemplated doing a trip to Halong Bay without any luggage. His resolution lasted until we got to the bus.

Stopped off at a tourist shop. Production workshop – manned by disabled people, predominantly due to Agent Orange. (Unverified)
1945 – 95% population unable to read. 
Homeless people not visible 
70% live in rural areas and subsistence farmers. Low taxes. Low unemployment. 

The New Economic Foundation “Happy planet index” on Sustainable living ranked Vietnam as number two in the world in 2012. 
Tour guide assured us that the Vietnamese no longer harbour any hatred to the French, Americans or Chinese (admitted that there is always conflict with the Chinese, but not hatred!). 1000 years of North domination (by the Chinese)

One party state. No weapons allowed. Expenditure issues of the central party – sounds like normal discontent that most of us have towards our respective governments. No gambling allowed for locals. Only tourists. 
The sun appeared briefly when we arrived at the coast
Even with the high traffic density (90million people in 300 000sqkm) Road rage does not seem to exist here. There is constant hooting but no one seems to become irritated while driving / riding. 
Kien- the talkative tour guide for the four hour trip from Swan cruises enlightened us further on the history of the area. 

We crossed over the Red river delta, which flows from China. High in Aluvia which enriches the soil and accounts for the higher than average coffee and rice production which makes them the most exported products in the region. 
Afternoon activities (between eating) was kayaking and trying to avoid the coral. Due to low tide the coral was visible just below the surface. 

On returning to the boat for a quick swim – tourists are no longer allowed to jump of the third deck. I’m guessing some tourists managed to injure themselves doing this st dome stage. 
Supper. History lesson. 

Squid fishing. Beginners luck played a big role here and I managed not to get any of the ink from the squid on the deck. 
Discussion topics for the day: medical treatments that have been turned on their heads due to evidence. 

Discussion over dinner. Palentologist who specialises in reptiles 120 million years old. Diesel mechanic from Switzerland who had his license taken away for three months for going 34km/h over the speed limit

Defrag continued – Verona  

Sitting on a high speed train from Verona to Venezia. Vineyards squeezed into every last available space. For the first time in a week I get to sit down and relax without driving or juggling Amarone and grappa. 
Cape West Coast for a week, then Italy for a week. A necessary break from my usual work routine to distill thoughts and strategise which projects get to be approved, which are culled and which go back into the nursery. Change is inevitable, it generally works against the laws of entropy – but is always rewarding in the long run. While I am not considering a career change (yet) from next year I will once again be changing jobs while traveling. 
Verona. Built on Persian marble. It was the scenes of Gladiator spectacles  during Roman times and progressed to games and tournaments in Medieval times. It is the same marble that lines the streets an supports some of the bridges. 

Then there was the wine:

Amarone. Ripassa. Masi. Which  leads  on to Grappa. Both when following the trail of the grapes from the  vineyards and in The evening when drinking.  

Verona is also the home of OrthoFix and Truelok / TL-Hex

Casa di Guilietta- Juliet’s house from the Shakespearean tragedy.

Marco Polo Airport – view from the air

Arena di Verona – at night from the Piazza Brà

Bridge into the city – morning walkabout

Grappa – ‘persona non grappa’

Clown Skull – Castelvecchio

Arena di Verona – acoustically exquisite

Arena di Verona – remnants of the external wing

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) (

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…

A Mental Defrag


View from the Modern Tate


St Paul’s in the sun


The Fourth Plinth: Gift Horse




South West country with the tribe

During the last stretch of night calls as a registrar I started to formulate ideas of what I would like to photograph for my next blog post. It is always interesting delving into ones thoughts when on the cusp of a major change. I first moved down to Pietermaritzburg nine years ago. As the capital city of the province, it encompasses the good and the bad of most of its aliases. The City of Choice. Sleepy Hollow. There are other less complimentary ones but those are beyond the scope of todays musings.

At work, the new guys, (youngsters?) alway seem to be rushing but inefficiently so. Patients are moved around, with all the hype and drama and yet they still have so much to learn about working within the system that I am preparing to leave. And for the foreseeable future, not to return.
On the surface it appears to be a waste – taking my experience and leaving without passing on the some of the small pearls that make life in public hospitals so much easier and enjoyable. On a few occasions I did test the water to see how receptive colleagues would be for the short cuts, the cheats similar to the ones we used while playing computer games at school in order to save time and fast-track through to the fun sections. The responses were in fitting with our electronic and technological age: email me a copy.

I will miss my work in the state sector. Rewarding and frustrating to beyond breaking point and back again. The sleep deprivation and the rewards. One hand giveth, the other taketh away.

I could go into endless details about my last year in state sector healthcare and studying while working. Studying for a small piece of paper.
Instead, the first movie I watched in my exam free life was Bridge of Spies. The one phrase that Colonel Abel used it to describe the quality he observed in his lawyer James Donovan was Stoikiy Muzhik. He said the words after watching how resilient Donovan was in defending him. Stoikiy Muzhik, or standing man, the man who keeps standing back up even though everyone tries to put him down.

Find your line. Go beyond it.

My camera is a barometer for my mental state. When it is out and pitting its sensitive optics against the elements – then I am in that creative zone. When it is collecting dust, then the darkness becomes all encompassing. This weekend it was dusted off. Power sources were re-energised and old pictures from the memory cards were erased in order to make space for new adventures, fresh images to be created and captured.

Enjoy the photos.

Back to reality

Sunrise Garlington

Puppy at sunrise

Sunset WV

Good end to the day

It has been twenty years ago since I wrote my first university exam at Rhodes in Grahamstown. Back then blogging wasn’t a thing. Emails were taking off amongst the “early uptakers” or early embracers. As students we could email each other and anyone else who had access to email. This meant usually someone in an IT department and journalists.
The highlight of my week then would behaving part of an email published in “Stoep Talk” – the venerable column by James Clarke in the The Star Newspaper.

It took 15 years for me to return to writing, now in the form of a blog. This was not meant to be a regular portal to expound on my thoughts but an avenue to share my photographs with those interested. I was heading to Alaska for the first time to work on the trail of the Iditarod sled Dog Race as a volunteer vet.

Well, the blog is still going – inversely proportional to the work load. Hence there has almost been strict radio silence for the last year. The results to determine if all the hard work and sacrifices were worth it will be known in about six weeks.
Hopefully today was the last exam. Not that I intend to stop learning – but rather aim for less didactic learning and more experience / research / travel experience.

My MMed was published in March. Reading it now makes the amount of time i spent preparing it seem ridiculous. Chalk that up to being slow and inexperienced.

Within a few years I aim to be able to use my time spent studying and working to morph into working and traveling. Watch this space. The options are endless, some old plans (Himalayas, The Americas – all off them, sailing, cycling, back to Alaska – maybe one day on a fat wheel) and some new plans (not all involve cycling!)

My camera has been neglected. That needs to be rectified. I have started with a new camera bag, battery charger and reactivating my Instagram account.

Simplifying my life: After finding a great place to live in 2015 (Picture above) that is within walking distance from a small coffee shop (same owner as the one that kept me sane when I first visited Pietermaritzburg for my internship: Hong Kong / United Kingdom / Canada within four months and then the stark reality of the Sleepy Hollow). From here I can ride out of the gate and into endless single track and mountain bike trails. Waking up to watch the sun rise reminds me of the early starts while riding on the Freedom Challenge. Gives you perspective before the chaos of the day unfolds. How this relates to simplifying my life? Once again I have surreptitiously accumulated dust collectors in all forms. Which need to go.

The latest trend that I have been following are the travel blogs giving advice on travel and minimalistic living. So now that I have become settled again living well within my comfort zone, it may be time to pack everything up, rent out my apartment and push some boundaries.

Or as one of my mantras states:

Find your line. Go beyond it.

From tomorrow the photos will be back…

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.



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!


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.