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December 2014

24. December 2014

Greetings all

Many have been asking for an update. Time seems to have slipped by again as the last posting was mid 2013 after the Afghanistan trip, so here we go.

October 2013 saw a long overdue visit to some parts of Asia I had not yet seen. Thailand was first up and a few days diving around the Similan Islands. Nice warm water, great visibility coral reef diving. No big animals but the usual plentiful and colourful coral fish make nice diving.

A couple of days in Bangkok taking in the hustle and bustle of that city and then a train and bus journey to the northern city of Chiang Mai, and a few days of exploring that area.

Next was Vietnam for my buddy Val’s big birthday ride down the Ho Chi Minh trail. The team met in HaNoi, some bringing in their own bikes and some renting. A day sorting gear out and off we went south bound. 12 days of cycling with the first 6 down the Ho Chi Minh trail before heading out to the coast.  HaNoi→Cuc Phong→Yen Cat→Pho Chau→Huong Khe→Phong Nha→Dong Hoi→(through the DMZ demilitarized zone around the 17th parallel which during the war separated the North from the South) → Hue-Hoi An. Fantastic roads for cycling and the friendliness of the Vietnamese was ever- present.

The 2nd part of the journey was more coastal and a bit more traffic to contend with though what seems chaotic at times just works if one keeps the pedals turning. Hoi An→Cho Gom→Quinhon→Na Trang→Da Lat→Mui Ne. 1100kms of great cycling ending in the beach town of Mui Ne.

Final day was transfer into Ho Chi Minh city or Saigon as some still refer to it, and a visit to the Vietnam war museum. Very sobering indeed.

A great tour, thanks team and thanks to Global Adventures of Christchurch NZ and their excellent Vietnamese team on the ground. Cheers to all.

The friendly and pleasant behavior of the Vietnamese was certainly a prominent feature and for a culture that was embroiled in war by western forces for years we did not detect one single display of animosity which is an indication of the makeup of these folk.

Some of the team headed home and a few of us continued on to Cambodia for a few days. We traveled by bus to Phnom Penh and spent a few days in that city. A visit to the Killing Fields and Tol Seung was very sobering but we lightened things up with some local kick boxing.

A great boat trip up the Sap river and huge Tonle Sap lake had us in Siem Reap with its temples and floating villages.

Great country and great people though it is clear Cammbodia has not fully recovered from the Pol Pot atrocities.

A couple of days in Kuala Lumpur and a great catch up with an old friend from my shipping days and a check out of the KL Tower…that will make more sense later.

Next was a week in Jordan. Rented a car and did a very quick tour of this great country. Northern town of Jerash, Madaba for Christmas,  a swim in the dead sea, the Petra sights , Aqaba and Wadi Rum for a night in a Bedouin families tent in the desert. Of course the mandatory camel ride and visions of ole Lawrence of Arabia riding in.

A great country and very friendly folk.

Back to Amman and a flight into Beirut. Had planned on driving around Lebanon as well but a bit more restrictive with some small internal issues being exacerbated by the Syrian conflict.

Using Beirut with its friendly folk, great food and atmosphere as a base, I visited the Baalbek region with its Bacchus and Jupiter temples 30 kms from the Syrian border, the Phoenician city of Byblos, the Jeita grottos, Sidon and the Necropolis of Tyre.

A couple of car bombings while there but the Lebanese are resilient folk and just get on with life. Nice approach and everyone simply got on with partying in the streets on New Year’s eve.

Great place to see the New Year in.

2014

Early part of the year was back to a bit of fitness with some training and triathlon racing in NZ, Spain and the USA. Had a crack at a couple of xterra events in the US which is the mountain off-road version of triathlon. Lake swim at altitude, mountain bike and trail run. A bit tougher than road triathlon and racing at altitude with the Colorado swim at 10,000 feet and the bike going up from there put the lungs to test.

It was also time to indulge in a sport from my past and make a few skydives at one of the Californian dropzones I did some jumping at back in the early 80s. Also had my first experience of indoor skydiving in a wind tunnel which was pretty cool.

Some mountain biking in the Californian Mammoth Lake Mountains and then down to Baton Rouge to catch up with my southern friends and some motorcycling. Cheers to all the team.

Next was a BASE jumping course in Twin Falls Idaho. Bit of a historical event as Eric who I had done my 1st parachute jump course and jump with way back in June 1981 in NZ fronted up to Twin Falls as well.

Great course with a great bunch of guys and 13 jumps over 4 days including a night jump all off the Perrine Bridge which is 485 feet above the Snake River.

For those that are not familiar BASE stands for Bridge, Antennae, Span and Earth. It is fixed object jumping and therefore typically from low heights.

Along with the jumps I did from Kjerag mountain (Earth) in Norway a few years ago and the recent bridge jumps that leaves the two slightly more testing objects of buildings and antennae. Maybe??

A quick trip to South America was next with two weeks in each of Ecuador and Peru.

A couple of days diving out at the Galapagos Islands was first up. Visibility was not great but did have one good sized hammerhead shark slide by. Turtles, sea lions, smaller white tipped sharks and some large dense schools of smaller fish provided the sights.

Hired a car and covered a fair chunk of Ecuador over the next week taking in Coca, Puyo, Misahaulli, Cuenca, Chordeleg gold town and a couple of days in the adventure activity town of Banos before heading back to the capital Quito.

Flight down to Lima to start the Peru leg. Headed straight to Cusco as the gateway to Sacred Valley and then Machu Picchu, one of the world’s 7 wonders.

Next was a flight into Puerto Maldonado and a few days in the Amazon jungle. A tad touristy so need to find something a bit more adventurous next visit.

Then onto the floating villages on Lake Titicaca at Puno, a flight over the Nasca Lines (another world wonder) and then some great fun hooting around the enormous sand dunes of Huacachina in buggies and some sand boarding.

Back to Lima to wrap up this brief visit to South America.

The Ecuadorian and Peruvian folk were fantastic and it was easy to move around both countries.

Some spectacular scenery which needs to be taken in from on a motorcycle next trip.

Will be putting a few pics in the gallery in the next couple of days for viewing.

Well folks, another year has flashed by and Xmas is looming. I wish everyone a Merry Christmas and all the very best for 2015.

Cheers

Ross


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date Posted on: Wednesday, December 24, 2014 at 5:28 pm







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