Slow down and enjoy the view

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 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) (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…

A Mental Defrag

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View from the Modern Tate

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St Paul’s in the sun

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The Fourth Plinth: Gift Horse

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Bubbles

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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.

The studying is finally over

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Exams, Masters & Orthopaedics Speciality training has finally been completed.

Once again I can look at the map on my wall at home (appropriately named a Peters Projection Map https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gall–Peters_projection ) and start planning my future. Places to travel and explore. Friends to visit. Work to be found. To be a student of the Peripatetic School.

This will entail walking away from the view that has kept me focused for the last year:

Watching the sun gradually creep over the distant hill, either from bed of more frequently while out cycling in the forest with Hlosi, my eighteen month old Mallinois will soon be distant memory.

The Freedom Challenge is starting again (http://www.freedomchallenge.org.za). Gladiators heading out of Pietermaritzburg and down a trail of 2300km that will test them to their core. Strip away the veneer of the their personality until what is left is the resolve to overcome the multitude of challenges that is the Freedom Trail. In the words of the ever humble and inspiring Mike Woolnough (http://mikewoolnough.blogspot.co.za/2016/05/is-freedom-challenge-similar-to-fight.html) “They say that home is where your heart is. My adventure heart is home here on the trail we call Freedom.”

Mike Horn wrote an article on being free and the privilege that is intertwined with being free (http://www.mikehorn.com/mike-horn-privilege-free/) as he embarks on his Pole to Pole expedition.

I am, for the first time in years, free to chose what I do with my time. It is a good place to be. It is time to find the next line, and go beyond it.

Part of that new found freedom will be spent honing my skills in the Limb Reconstruction field. Applying technical constructs such as the Illizarov fine wire fixator pictured below:

My photography is a barometer of my psyche – when I make time to take my camera out, it usually means I am in a good space. The following two photos sum that all up. The first is a lion in Pilansberg and the second is Mitch from the Bristol Limb Reconstruction Unit.

To end off here is a quote from Diana Nyad’s TEDx talk:
“…it’s not what you have achieved but who you have become…”

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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…

Heading off the trail – #Iditarod 2015

As always, flying along the Mighty Yukon (even when frozen) serves as a reality check as to how big the river is and how harsh it is out there.

Monty, one of the IFA pilots, took us for a scenic trip down the Yukon en route to Galena. We flew over Ruby and about six teams. The day before they had seen three wolves on the river.

Flying into Galena, an ex-USAF Jet Fighter base during the Cold War.

The Saab that took us back to Anchorage.

The transition from a snow covered landscape to the dryer ice covered land in the south. This was the major reason why the restart or the race was moved from Willow to Fairbanks.

The view from The Millenium Hotel, Anchorage. The lake (also functions as PAMR) is all iced up with no snow to be seen anywhere.


-p

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Special Moments – #Iditarod 2015

There are always special moments on this race.

When Martin Buser’s team all started howling while he was blotting them up prior to leaving.

Listening to Jason Mackey saying quite logically why taking his 24hr so early in the race. (His team were all young and they didn’t want to wake up and go for the eight hour stop. This combined with his brother (Lance) needing some support as his Reynard’s was playing up.

In the early hours of the morning the Northern Lights display was spectacular.
The pictures are on my big camera so those will be posted once I am back home with my desktop.

Transport in “the Sex Machine”. Names due to the T-shirt that has been duct taped to the rear, stating: “it’s not a beer belly, it’s a fuel tank for the sex machine”.

Today I head up the trail to Unalokleet on an IFA flight. Looking forward to the scenery.

-p
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Find your line. Go beyond it.

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