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…

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…

When lectures take a back seat…

When lectures take a back seat…

On my recent attendance of a conference in the Mother City I opted to be antisocial, skip a day of lectures and head out to the sewerage works near Strandfontein.

With borrowed photographic equipment and not shooting in my usual RAW format, below are some of the better unedited images.

The primary wing feathers are almost correct.

Hundreds of flamingoes.

Waling on water

Sharply focused Grey Heron

Pelican launching forth.

Who needs the Namaqualand.

Next time this little diptera will be fives times bigger than life. Thanks to a newly acquired 65mm Canon Macro lens.

Robin Williams agonistes: The crisis of the genius genome

An eloquent piece by David Crippen on genius, comedy and the risks of retirement.

Gonzo66's Blog

Robin_Williams“Better to burn out than fade away”

Neil Young

The true mastery of making someone laugh is as much an art form as Chopin, Van Gogh or Segovia. It’s a skill that cannot be learned and by & large cannot be imitated. It’s innate and those randomly chosen need no training, only discovery.

Some of the chosen are not so much inherently funny as they can deliver jokes written by someone else smoothly and they have an innate ability to work audiences. Johnny Carson, Jay Leno and Jimmy Fallon. David Letterman had the gift for a while but burned out with time. All of them get rich and enjoy their lives. None have the frenetic “real” gift of Richard Pryor, Rodney Dangerfield, George Carlin, Craig Ferguson and Robin Williams.

Traditionally, the popular media describes genius in association with “divine madness”, wondering which comes first, the divinity or the madness. I…

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22000km as the crow flies.

That is approximately the distance for me to get home.
As with many things in life it is best not to know the details. With time zone changes I am choosing to stay blissfully unaware of the number of hours spent traveling on commercial airlines since leaving Anchorage in the witching hours of Saturday morning. A delayed flight in Seattle (technical problem) ensured I missed my direct connecting flight out of Washington, D.C. to jo’burg and ended up being re-routed through Frankfurt.

Once I get back I will be flying below the radar until exams are over. To tide things over, follow the race on or Facebook. There are four contenders for first place steaming along and ripping up the ice en route to Nome. It will be a tight finish.

20140309-194109.jpg It is easier to sleep while sitting.

20140309-194217.jpgNewton Marshall, the Moshin’ Man from Jamaica preparing to head out after his 24hr stop in McGrath.

20140309-194356.jpgDropped dogs waiting for a flight home.

20140309-194445.jpgthe Navaho – flight home with 20 dogs.

20140309-194548.jpgThe twenty dogs.

That sums it up.

Iditarod 2014 – one of the toughest

With all except one musher through McGrath, a picture has started to form of what the trail was like in the first third of the race. Right up until two weeks before the race, the fate of the final route was up in the air. Due to the lack of snow and warmer temperatures in Alaska this fall / winter some of the earlier sections were sparsely covered in snow. The alternative route was to start in Fairbanks and add in a loop in the middle of the race around Greyling and Anvik (the latter being on the southern route which is only run on odd numbered years).
The decision was finally made to allow the race to follow its original course.
Most of the mushers described going through Dalzell Gorge and ‘The Burn’, which lies between Rainy Pass and Rohn, as going through hell. The little snow that was there last week had all but melted in the 40degree (Fahrenheit, or 5degC) weekend temperatures. What was supposed to be a snow trail ended up being a rocky trip through a logging dustbowl.

To put this in perspective: no team has scratched or withdrawn due to the dogs,all have been due to musher injuries. Below is the link for one of the articles ( including pictures) that demonstrates the hardship.

Google: “Jeff King GoPro mushers perspective” or follow this link for a video (GoPro) of Jeff King through the Farewell Burn.

20140306-195143.jpgTeam entering McGrath.

20140306-195417.jpgDanny Seavy’s dog Dick. He put him in the sled to keep him company.

Update from McGrath

Half the pack have passed through the first hub of the Iditarod, McGrath. This years race has been tough on the mushers. With minimal snow in some places the dogs have had all the traction and the mushers none. This is a suboptimal situation as it means that the mushers are essentially riding without any brakes. This has taken its toll on the mushers with many of them arriving in Nikolai with an assortment of injuries ranging frome mere flesh wounds to more serious injuries resulting in teams scratching or being withdrawn.

Here is Sebastian ‘s insight on the race thus far:

No northern lights yet (well, that we have seen below the snow clouds). I managed some long exposure of the constellation Orion earlier in the week while at Yetna Station (first checkpoint) but that will have to be converted from the current RAW format into something smaller and upload-able once I get home. In the mean time here is some iPhone-ography.

20140305-093242.jpgMcGrath, my current home.

20140305-093337.jpgThe first checkpoint of the race.

20140305-093427.jpgTeam ready to leave Yetna.

20140305-093520.jpgHow to rest a dog on the race.

20140305-093651.jpgTeam ready to blast through a checkpoint.

20140305-093754.jpgFlying between McGrath and Nikolai to look at the walking wounded.

20140305-093928.jpgNikolai from the the air.

20140305-094216.jpgPower nap.

20140305-094306.jpgSeavy father and son racing to leave Nikolai.

The Waiting Game

After waking up at 4am this morning – uncertain if I can claim that as jet lag or if it merely a result of long term conditioning of trying to study while working and doing all night calls. I suspect the latter.

20140302-123013.jpg This is the quality of the snow in Anchorage.

Weather in Anchorage was warm and clear skies until 10:00 this morning, which is about the time all the light aircraft were preparing to pick up passengers and fly out to the restart in Willow or further down the trail. The mist that moved in has put paid to flights for now.

The first check point that I am due to work at is Yetna:

20140302-111017.jpg (picture compliments of

Most of the teams should have passed through the checkpoint with a few hours so it will be a fast and busy checkpoint.

In the interim, while we hurry up and wait in an all to familiar routine of not becoming inpatient while at the mercy of the weather, some reading time and bonding with my books is indicated.

Sebastian is in Willow for the restart:

20140302-123218.jpgThe morning sun trying desperately to burn off the mist.

Iditarod time again

Tonight is the fourth time that I head over to what is geographically and seasonally the opposite side of the world. Even when I departed Pietermaritzburg at 4am (after squeezing in a sneaky ward round) it was warm in my jeans and t-shirt. Driving required the air con to be cranked up to start the process of becoming acclimatised (or ‘acclimmated’ in my attempt at American accent).

After a few years of neglecting the airport Slow Lounges, I am now back inside and enjoying the luxuries. It is reminiscent of the days when I was working in Hong Kong and qualified for the upgrade based of the air-miles accumulated from frequent trips to the East.

For the first time while traveling across countless time zones I will not be watching back-to-back movies and TV series. Much as in 1996 while traveling through sub-Saharan Africa as a vet student and study canine anatomy and pharmacology, this trip is going to be a studying one too. No supplementary exams but Orthopaedic Intermediate exams soon after my return.

Enough ramblings, the next update will be from somewhere significantly closer to the Arctic Circle near the Bering Sea.


The Herald of a New Year

New Years resolutions have never been high on the priority list. This is partly due to the fact that since finishing Vet School in 2001 I have worked over the festive season. This does not create a conducive environment to reflect and ponder achievements nor plan ahead.

20140111-153626.jpgLightning from the patio in Mtunzini (northern KZN – the humble abode for the first year of my Orthopaedic Training post)


Mozambique for the weekend

Nguni cow

This last December was no different. If anything it was less sociable but more productive compared to the festive seasons I have spent on other continents and other major South African cities. This was partly due to my on call rota being relatively impressive as I was finishing my three month rotation in the regional Surgical / Trauma ICU /ITU. Let me sum it up by saying that once again, Christmas is a time of giving and receiving much trauma for everyone.

Knowing that I have two big sets of exams scheduled for 2014 (two out of three) was the precursor tome resigning myself to the sobering fact that after traveling to Alaska, San Francisco and Syria in 2013 and completing the Spring Ride2Rhodes and The Swazi Frontier, this year was going to be less adventurous.

Lehana’s Pass, Eastern Cape, SA.

Ottoman Empire ruins in Syria

20140111-154726.jpgDarkoush, Syria.


The Iditarod has become an event that I could realistically participate in every second or third year. Unfortunately 2015 is out as I plan to write finals in that year.

Never being a person to make the most obvious decision, 2014 looks as if it will be a year of exams, Alaskan Huskies and cycling ( )