Update April 2020

8. April 2020

Greetings All

Some time has passed since last posting (December 2016) and many have requested an update so here goes;

2017 captured a few little adventures. Early in the year a Russian visa was obtained and I travelled to Moscow and then a train journey to Nizhniy Novgorod where the MiG jet fighters are made.

After a tour of the museum, a medical by the aviation doctor, an intro and discussions with Yuri the pilot it was time to be fitted with a pressure suit. Next was an intro to the MiG 27 and pre-flight checks before being strapped into this great flying machine and final briefings from Yuri. The canopy was closed, the MIGs powerful engines started and we were taxiing out to the runway. At 55,000 feet the visuals of seeing the earth’s curvature with the blackness of space behind was quite something and certainly whets one’s appetite for the visuals that will be experienced with Virgin Galactic’s space flight to 300,000 feet above terra firma. The highlight for me as a pilot was taking the controls and doing some steep turns and rolls. I was surprised at how docile the MiG felt. A low altitude high speed pass down the runway pulled up into an inverted roll capped off a fantastic 40 minutes in what was the leading Russian jet fighter in its day.

Next was some time at a Spanish Skydiving Centre near Seville, preparing for jumping from some nice Italian mountains in June. In Italy I was to join a group of clients from Snake River BASE, Twin Falls, Idaho. The aim was to make “tracking” jumps from Monte Brento (approx. 3000 feet high) in the Trentino region. To do this one wears a tracking suit which is basic and pre-wingsuit. The wingsuit which most will have seen some footage of on You-Tube is much more advanced and powerful. Still, the tracking suit is very effective at moving one away from the mountain just launched from ..if you fly it right.

The safest way to practise with this equipment is from an aeroplane and 40 jumps later I headed to Italy. For BASE jumping, Brento is a very forgiving object and we all made around 10 successful jumps. For some weird reason I always feel more relaxed exiting from lower BASE objects and find these higher ones very intense. Thanks to Eric & Tom of Snake River BASE for organising and leading a great event and cheers to the other jumpers of the group, some of which I had been on courses in Idaho with, for making it a great trip.

Next it was time to get the feet back on the ground so spent some time exploring some parts of the USA I had not been to. Wyoming and Montana had some fantastic scenery and great motorcycling up around the Glacier National Park area, Chief Joseph Highway, Bear Tooth Pass and Yellow Stone National Park.

On the approach to clocking up 60 years I was long overdue for some triathlon racing so decided to get enough fitness to enter a couple of low key races in Montana and Utah. The competition might not have been the strongest but I will take the two podiums!!

Nepal was the next target. A country that is rather special for New Zealanders with Ed Hillary being the 1st man to climb Everest and then devoting much of his life to building schools for young Nepalese and other projects in Nepal. Making it to 60, I decided to celebrate by skydiving next to Everest. One of the organising group was Wendy Smith whom I have known for years and she asked if I was up for some trekking and a small climb prior the Everest jumps. Do bears poop in the woods?? So a flight into Kathmandu, some gear organisation and then a flight into Lukla which has one of the world’s more interesting aircraft landing approaches. A week later we had trekked into Everest Base Camp and from there trekked around to Island Peak base camp. A short rest then a very early set off and 10 hours later we stood on top of Island Peak mountain at 20,000 feet on a clear day and an absolutely superb view of all the surrounding mountains covered in snow.

15 minutes of taking in this fantastic sight then a long trek back to base camp. I was suffering a bit from altitude sickness so our Sherpa guide elected to head back down to a lower altitude. Last thing I felt like doing but necessary. After a night’s rest down in Chukhung we trekked back down to Syngbouche to meet up with the skydiving squad. The scenery was quite spectacular along the way. Cheers to Wendy and our Sherpa guide & porter.

Before jumping, a ceremony is conducted by one of the local Buddhist Monks who blesses the jumpers, parachutes and equipment. Some safety briefings and then the first loads were made for all jumpers to familiarise with equipment and the area. With the dropzone being at 12000 feet AGL, temperatures at exit well below zero and the thin air requiring oxygen equipment these are not standard skydives. With the familiarising jumps complete, the next two days were for two more jumps each. Jumps were from a Squirrel AS350 B3 helicopter and from 23,000 feet AGL.

I had teed up with Wendy for something a bit special as my 2nd jump was my 2,000th skydive. I am grateful to Wendy (20,000 + jumps) Omar (25,000+ jumps) and PH (6,000 + jumps) for making a nice 4 way with Everest in the background. Cheers to you legends ..and PH for the great photos. Also thanks to the late Ted Atkins for the oxygen equipment and supervision that was essential for the jumps.

If anyone is trying to figure out what to do for a special birthday I can recommend a skydive over Everest or a MIG flight in Russia.

2018 found Russia ending up on the list again. From the days of competition skydiving back in the 80s & 90s jumping had taken a back seat for many years. The recent jumps had rekindled the interest so I took the plunge and ordered some new equipment. The sport had changed dramatically over the last two decades and I knew absolutely nothing about the types of jumps common at most dropzones these days. All my jumping had been face to earth or “belly flying” so I decided to invest in some indoor skydiving (wind tunnel) time to try and learn something about “sit flying” and “head down”. So it was off to Artfly, a state of the art wind tunnel in Moscow. I had simply had no idea if these new skills would be difficult to learn but I soon found out. There is truth in the saying “hard to teach an old dog new tricks” and my coach Alexandr now understands this!! Cheers Alex. Anyway it was a great time at the Artfly facility and taking in some more of Moscow.

On the way back to NZ I visited a couple of countries that I had not been to for years (Romania, Norway) and a few that I had never been to (Estonia, Latvia, Iceland, Philippines). Other than Norway where I have spent a reasonable amount of time over the years, the others were brief snapshots to get a feel for if I may want to return and spend more time. Yes to all.

2019 starts a new phase of my life having exited my businesses at the end of 2018 which means figuring out what this next phase might look like. After 30 years of being in business it is a huge change so to get this new phase moving I attended a rather special skydiving event in Egypt for some jumps over the Giza pyramids. No idea how the organisers obtained approval for a bunch of skydivers to jump over one of the world’s 7 wonders including airlifts by an Egyptian Air Forces C130 cargo plane, but they did and approx. 150 of us obliged. Rather special exiting off the stern ramp of a C130 and being in freefall looking down over the pyramids and then flying around them under canopy before landing alongside.

While in Egypt I decided to also rekindle interest in another long lost hobby so joined a one week live-a-board dive boat out of Hurghada for some diving in the Red Sea. Some great diving on mostly old ship wrecks including the famous THISTLEGORM wreck.

A bunch of Spanish punk rockers on the boat didn’t seem to fit the typical diver profile but they were all very accomplished divers and also provided entertainment. A small video of the dives produced by two of their group is in the photo gallery.

Hurghada is also a popular kite surfing region. I had tried rather unsuccessfully to learn this a few years back so decided to give it another go. Managed to get up on the board a few times but it would be a gross exaggeration to say I can kite surf. Teaching old dogs new tricks comes to mind again.

Dog sledding in Siberia was the next target but obtaining a Russian visa in a foreign country proved a challenge so settled for a Swedish dog sledding experience in Lapland, northern Sweden. Petter Karlsson, a very successful Swedish dog sled racer runs a very large kennel with 120 dogs and provides trips into the Lapland wilderness. I was fortunate to have Petter guide myself and one other client for 6 days through some fantastic scenery crossing the Norwegian border and back to the kennels. A great experience learning about dog sledding and taking care of your team with each client driving a team of 5-6 dogs.

Back to the good ole US of A and some skydiving at Perris Valley in California where I had done quite a few jumps back in the 80s so a bit of a nostalgia trip. This was a gathering of SOS or Skydivers Over Sixty for some record attempts. Lots of old dogs!! We were targeting an 80 way to conquer the standing record of 75 but we could only manage around 70, so the record stands.

While in California a very timely Virgin Galactic event in Mojave desert provided for a tour of Virgin’s spaceship & rocket building facilities, their rocket motor test pad, mission control station and flight simulator. Seeing first-hand the manufacture of spaceships & rockets that will actually propel us into space and discussions with the team making it all happen was very cool indeed. As with all Virgin events it was top notch and following in the Virgin family way we had a lunch meeting with the staff where we explained why we had signed up with VG and then answered their questions. The cross section of Virgin clients and their backgrounds at these events is always an eye opener. One of the clients at this event I had the pleasure of chatting quite a lot with was ex chief engineer of Aerodyne who provided all the NASA shuttle engines. A highlight that evening was dinner with Dave MacKay, Virgin Galactic’s Chief Pilot, and Beth Moses, Virgin’s Chief Astronaut Instructor, who was a “client” on the recent test flight, which reached apogee. Beth under took tests during the flight to provide knowledge of what we as clients will experience.

Next day we visited the sister company, Virgin Orbit, in Long Beach and a guided tour of their rocket manufacturing facility. Virgin Orbit is in the final stages of testing of “Launcher One” rockets that will deliver space components for customers into low earth orbit. The “Launcher One” program follows the launch from air concept used by Virgin Galactic with rockets transported to approx. 40,000 feet under the wing of a modified Boeing 747-400. A very impressive facility.

Another catch up with Virgin Galactic folks was just around the corner with a VG event at Kennedy Space Centre Florida to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first Lunar Landing on 20th July 1969. Another top notch VG the event. A very special tour of the rocket assembly building where the Apollo and Shuttle rockets were assembled. This building is being refurbished for assembling rockets in the new Artemis programme which is scheduled to revisit moon by 2024. A tour of history and the future. We were also treated to a ride out onto the runway where the shuttles landed and a photo opportunity at the position of where the last shuttle Atlantis STS135’s nose wheel came to a stop on the runway concluding the shuttle programme on21st July 2011. Dinner that evening was under a version of the Saturn V rockets that powered the Apollo missions into space. One of NASA’s astronauts who worked on the Hubble Space Telescope gave a very entertaining talk during the evening.

Time for some more skydiving and a revisit to the type of jumps I did back in the 1980s. USA champion skydiving team Rhythm run 4 way & 8 way skills camps at Skydive Chicago so I headed for Illinois. The techniques and resulting speed of formation construction is very different to when Nemesis, the 4 way team I was in, won the 4 way event at the NZ Nationals in 1989. It was nice to be doing 4 way again. Thanks to Rhythm and congratulations to them for winning the 2019 USA Nationals.

Next call was Twin Falls, Idaho to regain some currency with BASE jumping by joining one of Snake River BASES’s courses. Always nice to jump the Perrine bridge and spend time at the school. Cheers Tom. Also what better way to celebrate turning 62 than to do an early morning sunrise jump off the bridge!! From Twin Falls it’s only a couple of days on a motorcycle up to Canada and with a week of excellent weather on the radar that was that was needed. Some great motorcycling up through Idaho, Montana and across into Canada before heading back down a different route to Twin Falls.

With Idaho not being a huge distance from northern California, Andy who had been my flight instructor a few years earlier suggested I shoot across and fly his latest acquisition. For the aviators, Andy’s machine is a Maule, a lovely little 4 place tail dragger with short take-off and landing capabilities. Perfect for the numerous off the beaten track short landing strips around the US. A plan was hatching!!

With my allowable time in the US coming to an end it was time to think about returning to NZ though via Africa with some skydiving in Namibia. Jorg who was the organiser of the jumps over the pyramids had organised a boogie in the coastal town of Swakopmund. Cheers Jorg.

With heading to Africa, climbing Kilimanjaro and a safari seemed like reasonable things to do so flew to Tanzania from the US. Climbed Kilimanjaro Lemosho route and summited around 0440 hrs on 29th October just as light was starting to glow on the horizon. Stunning views. Had suffered from altitude sickness as in Nepal but it was certainly worth pushing on to the summit.

Few days’ recovery then met up with friends from the US and went on a 10 day safari starting in Arusha and traveling in a 4 wheel drive. We certainly covered some ground from Arusha to Tarangerie National Park to Ngorogoro crater and then several days in central Serengeti. What fantastic scenery and just hard to describe the animal encounters. Seeing the big five of lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant and buffalo were great but they were only part of the experience. Cheetah, giraffe, zebra, wildebeast, hippopotamus, jackal, baboon, many of the gazelle family, hyena, ostrich, numerous birds, and of course the Maasai people, were all part of this fantastic experience with Africa and its nature. We stayed in tents during the safari but to say it was “roughing it” would be a gross exaggeration. Hard to pinpoint a visual / animal encounter that stood out as the whole safari stood out. Cheers to Sandy & Shirley.

2020: From the cancelled Siberian dog sledding expedition a new adventure popped up. Viktor, the Russian bloke who operated the dog sledding happened to be the leader of the group I skied with to the geographic North Pole in 2009. In the email communications I spotted that Viktor was planning an expedition which involved skiing across the Bering Sea from east Russian to Alaska. Had to be done. I met the others of the group (4 Russians & 3 Slovaks) in Moscow on 24th February. We then flew to Anadyr in the Chukotka Region, far east of Russia. From there we travelled 800km by these 6 wheel drive behemoths over frozen isolation including over frozen parts of the Chukchi Sea to the tiny village of Enurmino where we packed our sleds (pulks) and were joined by Barsek, a village dog. Barsek’s role was to alert us if polar bears should venture near, particularly during the night when we were sleeping. On 1st April we started off, each hauling an 80kg pulk. It was only a couple of km to the Bering Sea and there we were immediately dealing with very broken ice rubble. The area had been subject to high winds a few days earlier which resulted in the sea ice becoming very broken and forming mounds of twisted ice shapes that are very difficult to pass through even on foot without the 80kg pulk. We spent the next 10 days hauling the pulks across the frozen sea and through what seemed endless ice rubble, zig zagging to avoid water. We also had some interesting water encounters. After 10 days we had hauled for almost 100km but were only 25 km closer to our destination of Point Hope, Alaska, 280km away. We had expected the journey would take approx. 15 days and had food & fuel for 20 days so by this stage it was very obvious we were not going to make Alaska. Still being just inside Russian territory made evacuation much more straight forward by being a commercial operation rather than a military one which would have been the case had we been in international territory outside the Russian border line.

With a storm heading our way the decision was made to evacuate and a Mil Mi8 helicopter picked us up off the ice on the afternoon of 10th April and ferried us to the village of Lavrentiya. Very disappointing to have not made it across to Alaska though very few have achieved this. The going was tough but that is the Arctic. Conditions are always weather dependant and this is very unpredictable. The physical work, sleeping in tents on the ice, freezing temperatures were all very familiar to me from South & North Pole expeditions and it was good to be on the ice again. It would have been great to complete the mission but that’s life!! One highlight was something that had eluded me in previous Arctic adventures, the sighting of a polar bear. Early one morning Barsek was barking so I shot out of the tent to see Barsek definitely interested in something out amongst the ice rubble. Sure enough there was a large adult bear about 100m away just wandering around the rubble. Viktor who had joined me fired several flare rounds which the bear paid no interest but he must have then caught our scent and looked directly towards us. He turned and headed in the opposite direction.

Lavrentiya (population 1500) is an interesting place in the Chukotka region. There are no roads in or out, as with almost all of Chukotka, aircraft being pretty much the only mode of transportation, particularly in the winter months. The vast Chukotka Region, an area bigger than Texas (literally) and total population of 50,000 is apparently utilised by the Russian military though we never saw any anything that confirmed this. There was a hotel there though this was apparently reserved for military personnel so we ended up in a small flat of one of the village fire chaps. A basic grocery store, a school and a library were the main buildings of Lavrentiya. With weather often limiting being outdoors it was an interesting 10 days until a flight back to Anadyr was available.

A few days in some very interesting accommodation in Anadayr and then a flight back to Moscow. With covid19 causing the closure of countries borders it was time to return to NZ and I managed to get on one of the last flights out of Moscow and then back into Auckland before flights shutdown.

We are all now in this very unusual period with a world-wide pandemic. As of today, 7th April, it appears some countries are starting to get control of the virus spread so hopefully COVID-19 will soon be contained.

Other than the resulting health issues, the biggest factor will be the effect on populations from ailing economies.

Everyone stay healthy and stay motivated.

A few pics relating to the above adventures can be accessed by the following four dropbox links;





Best to all


Christmas 2016

24. December 2016

Greetings All

Not much in the way of adventures for 2016 to share though I did work on improving my BASE knowledge and skills with two courses in Idaho USA followed by some jumps at Bridge Day in West Virginia. The good ole folks of Fayetteville close off the main highway over their New River Gorge bridge for the day so we can jump off it. Couple of pics in Gallery.

A very Merry Christmas to all and all the very best for 2017.

Best Regards


December 2015

25. December 2015

Greetings All

A very Merry Christmas to you. I hope 2015 has been a good year for all and I wish you all the very best for 2016


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.


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.




Afghanistan 2013

13. July 2013

Greetings all

Where has the first half of 2013 gone??

Early this year my Slovene friend Dusko Duswami emailed to advise he was planning a trip into Afghanistan and was I interested. That question did not need any pondering.

Dusko’s plan was to travel through Iran, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan so I flew into the beautiful Iranian city of Esfahan on 24th April to join Dusko, his son Inan and Tina.

Some great sightseeing over the next couple of days from Esfahan to Qom and then onto Tehran to drop off Inan and Tina and meet the new team that were arriving from Slovenia.

We then headed south in the trusty Landcruiser and a 2nd vehicle driven by that well known Yazdi, Majhid.

Yazd, Kerman, Mahan, Minab, Bizharb, Bam, Shafiabad, Birjand, Nashtifan and Karat provided some fantastic sights steeped in history. Silk Road citadels, caravansaries and minarets over 1000 years old and Arg-e-Bam or citadel of Bam dating back to 550BC.

Bam had the huge earthquake on 26th December 2003 leaving 30,000 dead. There was massive damage to the mud/brick structures of the citadel but it was still easy to see what an impressive and magnificent structure it had been. Thankfully it is being restored.

A great trip down through Iran and as usual with Dusko we were always well off the beaten track. Fantastic sights, no tourists and best of all the Iranian people; they just do not come any friendlier than these folk.

The trusty cruiser was left at the Afghan border and we piled into a local van for the 100km to Herat. All our troops were relaxed but our Afghan driver was somewhat nervous and constantly looking in his mirrors. The first 30 km from the border supposedly has a Taliban presence.

The city of Herat was thriving and although there was a heavy police presence driving around in pickups mounted with machine guns and international forces 30kms away the city felt very safe.

The Afghan jewel of The Blue Mosque, The Musallah Minarets and the Citadel constructed in the 3rd century and used by Alexander The Great and other invaders were all great sights. But once again the main attraction was the friendly people.

A visit to the Gazor-Gah Shrine of Sufi poet Answari and sitting in a chanting room full of Afghan men paying their respects to Answari was a unique experience as was just walking around the streets of Herat amongst the friendly Afghans and their thriving little businesses.

I left Afghanistan thinking that if what is happening in Herat is replicated around the country then there is great hope for this nation that has been so embroiled in war.

Back into Iran and the city of Mashad before the border into Turkmenistan, a rather strange country built on gas wealth and under successive dictatorships since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Not far from the border is the country’s main city and capital Ashkhabad which is immediately striking with its superb looking buildings, huge and glamorous opera houses and multiple academies along with the cities manicured gardens. The city icon though is the gigantic Presidential Palace of the current dictator Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow who must have an ego the size of Texas with all the gold statues of himself around the city, portraits in buildings and a portrait in all the cities taxis.

30km outside Ashkhabad was a very different picture. The roads deteriorated rapidly with extreme potholes being prevalent making travel rather slow and bumpy in rural Turkmenistan. Apparently the good dictator closed all library and medical facilities in the rural areas and certainly everything we saw suggested the rural sector was severely neglected.

After a few hours of these fine Turkmen roads we arrived at the Dervasa gas crater that was formed by the Russians looking for gas in the 1960’s. Sufficient volume for commercial viability was not found so a match was struck and the crater has been burning ever since.

A good nights sleep under the stars then another long drive to Konye Urgnch, another important point on the silk road where Genghis Kahn arrived in 1220. Genghis couldn’t defeat the villagers so he diverted the Amu Darya River (one of the largest rivers in central Asia) and flooded Konye Urgnch to drown the villagers.

Across the border into Uzbekistan and the town of Nukus. Next morning it was onto Muynak and a walk down to the now stranded ships of the Aral Sea (lake)

In the 1960s the Soviets decided to increase cotton production in the area and diverted the Amu Darya which fed the Aral Sea to provide irrigation. These diversions have resulted in the Aral Sea receding 135km in the last 30 years and it is predicted to be dry by 2025.  The stranded vessels were a sad sight.

Another long drive to Khiva and Ichon Kala (The Old City) constructed in the mid 1800s by the local Khan’s which ruled until the October Revolution in 1917, the end of the Tsarist autocracy and the birth of communism.

The back roads of Uzbekistan had us at the Uzbek/Turkmen border and then the long haul back to Ashkhabad.

Many thanks to Dusko, Jasminka, Ales, Meta, Marko and Neza for a great trip.

There are a few pics of the trip posted in the gallery. Thanks to Dusko for the team pics

Anyone interested in travel to such places should take a look at Dusko’s webpage http://www.overlanddreaming.com




23. December 2012

Greetings and Merry Christmas to All

A quick recount after yet another year passes us all by. First up for me was the Coast to Coast multisport race from the west coast of New Zealand’s South Island across the country and finishing on the east coast. The traditional ‘touch-the- Tasman Sea’ prior to start then 3k run, 55k bike, 33k mountain run, 15k bike, 67k kayak and a 70k bike,  finishing with ‘touch- the- Pacific Ocean’. A great event over 2 days and a superb effort by my support crew Phil and Val.

The next 6 months were in the USA, initially based in Southern California for some triathlon training and a very satisfying race in the ITU round in San Diego. Cheers John for the cycling coaching.

Relocated to Northern California and geared up for a beginners mountaineering course in Alaska. Met up with the group in Talkeetna and flew onto a glacier for 8 days of training. Great experience, great instructors and great group. Cheers guys and cheers to Bad Cook Ray and Mrs Bad Cook for your help. Following the urge to get back into flying aeroplanes created the next task. Bit rusty after not flying for 9 years so set to working through a US pilot’s licence. Many thanks to Yayoi for making her aeroplane available to me for flight training and cheers to Andy for the top instruction.

Also slipped across to Breckenridge, Colorado for the 3 day Brek Epic mountain bike event. The race webpage advised due to difficulty  “not suitable for weekend warriors”  but no mention about beginners, so with new mountain bike, we went forth. A steep learning curve but did finish with bike and body still intact. Fantastic trails at 12000 feet altitude and some stunning scenery. Great event.

Cheers for the help John.

Finished the North Californian tour with an Alcatraz swim. Great swim from the famous prison across the bay to the main land with the Golden Gate bridge in view when turning to breath.  Team USAKIWIS were 4th when the times were tallied. Cheers Simon & Val.

Then it was across to Europe for a cycle race in Norway, cheers Geir, and then down to Berlin for a cold wet Berlin Tri.

Spain was next to catch up with the Spanish Gang from last years Tuk Tuk race. Cheers team.

From the south of Spain it was easy to zoom across to Tangier, Morocco for a quick visit. This country needs further exploring.

Back up to Hamburg for a Christening and the honour of becoming Godfather to two very lovely young ladies, Mary & Lucy.  Thanks Svea and Ian for the honour though I did question their sanity in having a travelling gypsy adventurer as their children’s Godparent.

Next stop was New York for the marathon which unfortunately but quite correctly was cancelled due to the effects of storm Sandy. Nevertheless the Spanish Team organised by Nadia fronted to Central Park on the Sunday morning and joined several thousand others in doing their “marathon” around the park. Great atmosphere. Cheers Nadia.

That’s about it for 2012 folks. Currently back in NZ and working on cunning plans for 2013.

Hopefully everyone has had a successful year and all the very best to you all for 2013.


PS a few 2012 photos in the gallery

VG Spaceport Opening

23. October 2011

Greetings All

Small update on the Virgin Galactic adventure

I attended the opening of the Spaceport America  near Las Cruces, New Mexico, USA on Monday 17th October.

A fantastic well organised event as one would expect from Virgin.

An early start with transportation to the spaceport and a superb breakfast served on the hangar apron as the morning warmed.

While a commentary of the aircraft and programs development was broadcast WhiteKnight Two with Spaceship Two attached taxied out and the pilots then treated us to some flybys.

Fantastic visuals of these futuristic commercial space flying machines against a clear deep blue sky.

We were all hoping for a demonstration of Spaceship Two being released and gliding back to earth but unfortunately this was not part of the days programme.

For some background on the  VG Space programme click on the link on the right of my home page or google Virgin Galactic.

After speeches and lunch it was champagne all round as we were treated to the Bandaloop dancers who had abseiled down the glass front of the new Spaceport hangar.

The man himself, Sir Richard Branson, and his two children abseiled down to join the party and then Richard popped the cork from a champagne bottle and officially declared the Spaceport open, naming it The Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space.

Back to the hotels, time to scrub up and conclude a great day with a party courtesy of Aston Marton; and no, Bond didn’t make a dramatic entry. In fact he didn’t make an entry at all.

Met some great people which for me was one of the  highlights of the event. From VG pilots who will fly us, other VG staff making the event happen, agents who book customers and of course other “future astronauts” as VG call us.

Some great life stories and very noticeable just how friendly and well grounded folk were.

Qualities that seem to personify Richard Branson himself.

So the question everyone asks; WHEN??

Latest hot goss is that testing will hopefully be completed end of 2012 and flights starting 2013. I’m still No. 279



Tukking In India

20. August 2011

Greetings All

What a great way to see some of India.

2000 kilometres from Mumbai to Chennai in auto rickshaws also affectionately known as Tuk Tuks.

Teams of 2 or 3 competitors in 14 Tuk Tuks competing over the distance with points for completing the days distance prior to flag drop, photographic challenges and best costumes for the day.

A great mix of competitors with teams from Spain, Ireland,  England, Wales, Australia, Canada and the Kiwi team of Nick and myself. Great to meet up again with my team mate from the Polar Challenge, Paul Craig and his wife Jill.

Besides our fellow competitors the event was always going to be about meeting and mixing with the Indian people as the journey unfolded. A nation of friendly folk and the Indian hospitality commenced on arrival with 3 hours of smiling and politeness by the hopelessly inefficient immigration chaps.

The flag went up the morning of Monday 1st August in Mumbai and off we charged. No maps just town names and a final destination hotel for the day but with the incredibly friendly locals willing to give directions navigation was not going to be an issue though getting out of the Mumbai jungle was not exactly straight forward.

Competitors were soon to discover that the machinery supplied was not of a very high standard and that is being generous in description.

Teams were having wheels fall off and all sorts of components failing and we were still in the Mumbai city limits. It was going to be an interesting journey.

Event spirit was great though with teams stopping to help those whose Tuk tuks had come to a grinding halt.

Once clear of Mumbai the journey continued down the Arabian Sea coast. Mumbai, Alibag, Pune, Panchgani, Ratnagiri and into Panaji the 3rd largest city of the state of Goa.

Panaji was approximately the race half way point and included a lay day which was much needed for repairs.

Some teams were having serious mechanical issues and were not arriving at the days hotel until well into the night. Travelling at night on Indian roads with the ever present potholes, lights not functioning on the machines and Indian bus drivers  did present  some challenges for those unfortunate to be still on the road after dark.

The Welsh hit a nice pothole at night and that resulted in a very broken front end of their Tuk Tuk.

The Irish lads didn’t need darkness for excitement as they tipped their machine on its side coming down a hill and ended up over a bank and lodged in a tree. A few scratches to the lads, a few repairs and they were ready to go again. The Aussies managed to break the chassis of their machine!!!

Sorry to report that the Kiwi team did not feature in such excitement and with some preventative maintenance our machine only suffered minor failures.

Still repairs were effected each night and in the mornings teams sped off again for another day of tukking down the testing Indian roads.

The 2nd part of the journey was an eastward path. Penaji, Murudeshwar, Mangalore, Mysore, Bangalore, Vellore, Chennai.

Many teams were sourcing local repair shops to fix the breakages so generally a greater reliability was experienced in the eastward run to Chennai.

We all arrived into Chennai on Friday 12th and after 1200 kms the Spanish lads were deserved winners. Cristian and Gilberto had put a lot of effort into daily costumes and combined with completing each leg within the allocated time they had accumulated the most points.

Those Tukking Kiwis finished 8th.

Fantastic fun charging across India in a rickshaw with other teams and the stand out was the local people. The Indian folk are super friendly, super helpful and very colourful. Even with communications barriers they never became flustered in trying to convey directions. Just that ever present Indian head wobble and huge smiles.

Also very noticeable was how happy the general population was even though most are extremely poor with a very low standard of living compared to the west.  Some of the western worlds folk with low motivation and expectations of handouts could learn from these people.

Another part of the event was visiting schools that had been constructed and were being operated by Indian Round Table divisions. These schools were for children from poor families who could not afford the Government schools and to put that into perspective it cost approx USD 10 per year to send a child to a Government school.

The Round Table groups are doing a fantastic job and the race organisers are doing a great job in raising the profile of these projects by having the event visit the schools.

Teams also made donations to these projects.

Of course another highlight was the great Indian food. When in the land of curries…

Check out some trip photos in the gallery.

So in summary;

Great people – both locals and fellow competitors

Great food

Terrible roads

Different  driving habits

A blast!!

Some Virgin Galactic space developments are looming so stay tuned.



Middle East & Caucasus 2011

15. July 2011

Greetings All

Finally the fingers are tapping. It only seems like yesterday that I was travelling through parts of the Middle East and the Caucasus but it was the end of April that this episode began!!

Flew into Istanbul 29th April and had a few days checking this great city out. The muezzins wailing the calls to prayer over the loud speakers ensured an early start to each day.

A boat trip up the Bosphorus brought back memories of my merchant navy days as I had glided through these waters on bulk carriers 30 years ago.

Also managed to squeeze in a day trip down to Gallipoli. Being only a week after ANZAC day there was still evidence of the commemorations and walking along ANZAC Cove with the steep hills above brought home the difficulty those New Zealand and Australian soldiers faced in 1915.

We will remember them.

Evening of 3rd May I met Du and Tanja after they had arrived down from Ljubljana in Du’s trusty Toyota Landcruiser.  Du who runs overland trips to some very cool locations was to be our guide/commander in chief for the next 3 weeks. You may wish to take a look at his website http://www.overlanddreaming.com

Next morning we headed south east out of Istanbul down into the Cappadocia region. A great couple of days in the Ihlara valley trekking around the canyon where the early Christians in the Byzantine period dug cave dwellings and churches into the hills to escape from the Romans.

Moving further south east we stopped in Sanliurfa for two great sights. The Golbashi – the sacred carp pond and two mosques where Prophet Abraham was born and the one of the great Caravanserai’s where the Silk Road travellers in the 10-15th Centuries stopped and rested on their way from China to Europe.

Further south to Nusaybin just north of the Syrian border and then along the border for 50kms with Syria just across the dividing river.

Onto the border crossing town of Habur and the cross over into Iraq or Iraqi Kurdistan as the area is known.

Iraqi Kurdistan is an autonomous region of Iraq and not recognised as a country by United Nations but many Kurds would like to have their own state.

A couple of days in the city of Duhok and some exploring of the region.  Great taking in the local culture with a trip up to the plateau village of Amedi and the Yazidi centre in LaLish. At this point we were 60km from Mosul but were advised by locals not to venture there.

Back on the road to the Iraqi Kurdistan capital of Erbil where it was obvious from the refurbishment of the Ottoman fort and the very swish city centre that there was significant investment in the area.

Over the years Erbil has been a major trading route between Baghdad and Mosul.

Moving east it was across the border into Iran and a couple of days in the Orumiyeh region taking in the Iranian culture and then onto the fourth largest Iranian city of Trabiz where one of Du’s many contacts gave us a personal tour of the huge Trabiz Bazaar and a local mosque.

Then to the border town of Jolfa and an excursion up the Aras river valley. Across the river was the  Azeri  enclave of Nakchivan (little Azarbaijan) which is separated from main Azarbaijan by Armenia.  Back down the valley past the Iran/Armenia border crossing at Norduz and up to the mountain village of Oshtabin for a view of rural life in Iran.

Jolfa was the main link for merchandise between Iran and the USSR, Eastern Europe and Scandinavia prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Moving further east and across the border into Armenia and the city of Goris for some trekking around the hills and the old city caves. After travelling through the alcohol free countries it was time to toast the journey with a shot of good Soviet era vodka.

Next was Zorats Karer, also referred to as the Armenian Stonehenge,  where there is a collection of vertical standing rocks which some believe is the site of an ancient observatory.

Onto Lake Sevan past Mount Ararat though they must have removed Noahs ark.

Lake Sevan was a beautiful lake and the presidential palace where Soviet leaders used to holiday graced the shores along with the sorry remnants of the Soviet holiday homes.  Diesel tanks converted into lake side holiday homes must have been the hot ticket back in the 80’s.

Next stop the city of Yeravan and a Lada taxi up to the Memorial of the 1915 Armenian massacre by the Ottoman Turks.  Back to the Yeravan and the impressive Cascading monument celebrating 50 years in the Soviet Union.

Moving north into Dilijan with its well preserved “old town” and then across the border into another ex Soviet state, Georgia and the very picturesque capital city of Tbilisi.

It was only 30 years ago that the ex Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze became the first president of Georgia as the USSR collapsed.

Further north up the Georgian Military Highway and a section of that road named the Shevardnadze Highway after, or maybe by, the countries first president. Up into the mountains past another very nice monument to a region being under Soviet rule for 50 years. Here Du managed to get the landcruiser stuck in the snow and luckily an old Soviet Kamaz, a 6 wheeled beast, was travelling the highway and was able to provide a tow so we could continue onto Arsha.

This highway is the main link between Georgia and Russia though there is very little traffic crossing the border due to the current relations between those two countries.

Back down the Georgian Military Highway  to Gori and the birth place of Joseph Stalin.

It offered a great museum which incorporated the original house, or Dom, where Stalin grew up and also his well preserved personal train carriage.

The journey was now heading west and across the border and into north eastern Turkey.

Up into the mountains past Yusufeli and to the fantastic mountain village of Barhal for a couple of days of hiking and taking in the Turkish culture in this region.

The journey was coming to an end with a drive over the mountain pass to Trabzon on the Black Sea coast. A night in Trabzon and then a short flight back to Istanbul.

The common highlight of the 3 weeks was the friendliness of the people. They are very different cultures between the Muslim countries and the Caucasus but we met extremely friendly folk where ever we travelled. Just fantastic.

A great trip and to my Slovenian companions, Thanks Du, Thanks Tanja.

A few photos posted in the gallery. Just click on gallery then Middle East & Caucasus 2011.

After a couple more days in Istanbul it was then time to head to the USA. The Harley came out of storage in Milwaukee and a great ride down the country to Baton Rouge, Louisiana where I am currently based.

Next episode will be the looming 2000 km Tuk Tuk race in India so watch this space.



Christmas 2010

22. December 2010

Greetings All

I hope the year treated everyone well. They do seem to be whizzing by!!

Merry Christmas and all the very best for 2011.

Some little projects are looming for me for next year so watch this space

Best Regards


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