Rajasthan: Coasting above the Chaos

Howdy,

In this post, I am going to describe my travels through Rajasthan which included stops in Jaipur, Pushkar, Udaipur, Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, and Bikaner.

I was feeling rejuvenated from my visit to the Taj Mahal as I embarked on Rajasthan. I was like “Okay, the Taj was pretty damn impressive. Let’s smash the reset button here and give India another shot.” But a couple days into my time in Rajasthan, I had to admit to myself that India and I were just not going to work out. So here’s what happened. I sent India a text saying “We need to talk.” Makes you cringe right? It’s a cliche way to end things but cliches become cliches for a reason. So we meet up next to a giant pile of garbage (next to the other pile of garbage) and I say “Look. You are a great country…..for another type of traveller”. At this point, I can see India starting to get upset. She already knew what was coming but to hear my first words were just a bit too much so she turned to walk away but was blocked by a cow just standing around with nothing better to do. I grabbed her by the arm and I said “It’s okay. You are your own boss. There is nothing you have to change. Continue to do your thing. But you and I…..it’s just not happening.”

Yeah. It was a tough conversation but I definitely felt relieved after it was over. I felt free just to do whatever I wanted. If a city offered something I really wanted to do, I could do it. If not, I could just find a quiet place (even if the only such place was my room) and chill. No expectations. No disappointments.

Okay, I’m going to actually talk about what I’ve been up to now!

Jaipur

Jaipur is the capital of Rajasthan and as such is pretty chaotic though not near Delhi levels. I spent my first day here doing a tour via tuk-tuk. Definitely ended up getting ripped off but it did allow me to get around and see quite a bit so I’ll just let it slide!

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The “Pink City”. It’s definitely Orange!

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Water Temple. Grab your Iron Boots! Fucking hell that’s a nerdy reference.

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Lots of monkeys at the Monkey Temple.

The highlight of Jaipur was my trip out to Elefantastic; an elephant sanctuary for abused elephants. They have a couple hundred of the giant greys and the majority were either working in the circus or used for elephant rides for less than stellar outfits. I got to work with one young lady who was blind from abuse. She had a surgery lined up in about a months time to hopefully restore vision in one eye. Despite everything she had been through she was super friendly!

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Such a cutie. Should have nabbed her number!

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I was a perfect gentleman.

Pushkar

Next, I jetted (or trained) off to Pushkar which is best known for its camel fair. It happens once a year but it was actually on while I was there. Not really something I found overly compelling so it actually ended up being a bit of a nuisance as the crowds were heavier than they would have been otherwise. My search for a bit quiet continues!

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The Watering Hole.

Udaipur

At last, I found myself in a quiet little spot in Udaipur. There was also tonnes of good coffee to be found (a rarity in India). I did a significant amount of chilling here. Nothing really significant to report on my activities here. I took a couple of naps but that’s probably not the exciting stuff you want to hear about in a travel blog.

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Passable lunch view.

Jodhpur

Continuing on the theme from Udaipur, Jodhpur served a decent dose of peace and quiet. It is known as the “Blue City” but I didn’t see an abundance of blue! Again, nothing major to report from my time here.

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Blue City?

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These two were pretty adorable.

Jaisalmer

The thing to do in Jaisalmer is an overnight camel safari in the Thar Desert. It was pretty damn cool. You ride out into the desert on camelback and sleep under the stars. There were even proper beds! Pretty swank accommodations in the middle of nowhere.

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Looking super cool.

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Photo Credit to Iarlaith (or Ear-Ya as I prefer).

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BFFs. Actually, the beast probably hated me but is forced to constantly smile.

Bikaner

Fuck. I went here? I was just about to finalize the blog post when I remembered that I went here. It was two days ago! My assessment? It’s a shithole.

Till next time!

Matt

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India: Down but not Out

Howdy Folks,

I think this blog post is the one in which I burst any potential bubbles about the glory of travelling the World. There have been a number of times that India has gotten under my skin. In researching India I read a lot of posts about the “Love / Hate” relationship travellers develop with India. Well, let’s say I understand the hate part!  Before I go on and rant about the things in India that drive me mental, I want to draw your attention to the Title of this entry: Down but NOT OUT. I may have one knee on the mat but there is still a lot more of India for me to see. It’s a hard place to travel for sure but I am still excited about the rest of my itinerary. I am about to go embark on a journey through Rajasthan which involves visiting a lot of really cool cities. They are also closer together so there will be less long-haul journeying. Plus, I’ve booked myself a tour of an elephant sanctuary for Monday so that’s sure to put a smile on my face.

Okay, so I’m going to yell about some shit now.

Taxi Drivers: They all seem to be Fuckers. They are always trying to rip you off. There is this concept of a pre-paid taxi which is supposed to remove the hassle associated with haggling with the driver about the fare. The problem is that the quoted fare is often ridiculous! When I first landed in Mumbai I had to get to my hotel (about an hour away or so). My research indicated that the fare should be about (500Rs). For reference (86Rs/1£ and 50RS / $1CAD). So I go up to one of these booths and they say it’s 1500Rs! I told the guy to eat it! I eventually ended up getting an Uber for 600Rs. Sometimes you really don’t have a choice but to take a taxi and it’s frustrating to know they are ripping you off by so much.

Constant Hassle: I usually prefer to walk when I can (for the exercise and to see random things along the way). Problem is that people are always coming up to you trying to sell you shit, offering you rides, etc. Usually a simple “no thanks” sends them away but sometimes they just keep following you. When I was in Hampi I wanted to go to this waterfall. I didn’t really know how to get there but I had a rough idea. I was dressed for running so I was happy to take my time getting there and just see what happens. Anyway, this Fuck materializes at some point and says he is going to show me where the waterfall is. I tell him “no thanks” but he just keeps walking behind me. I asked him “why are you following me?” And he said: “I’ll show you the waterfall”. I say: “I don’t want that.” Anyway, he keeps following me so I just run away (getting pretty lost in the process). I ended up bumping into him 10 minutes later as I was backtracking and he kept wanting to show me the waterfall. This type of thing really pisses me off. What is it that makes this asshole think he is entitled to harass me? Do I not have a choice in what I do when I am outside in India? Is he fucking demented? Obviously this really pisses me off! Now I just keep my headphones in and pretend people don’t exist. It’s sad. The complete opposite of my experience in Africa where I loved the people and got to know some of them pretty well. In India, I just hate everyone and want nothing to do with them! I should point out here (for my Mothers sake as she’ll get a secondhand account of this from my Aunt Julie who actually participates in the 21st Century with internet connectivity) that at no point does any of this make me feel unsafe. I don’t feel like I’m going to get mugged or killed or anything fancy like that. It’s just really annoying!

Shit Everywhere: There has been a couple of times that I’ve walked around for 20 minutes with a piece of garbage in my hand looking for a bin all the while passing endless piles of garbage. And when I say “shit everywhere” I mean literal shit. I can’t count the number of times I’ve stepped in it. Along with the billion of people that live here, the streets are filled with cows, horses, stray dogs, pigs, goats, and tigers. Well, I made the last one up but you get the point.

I’m not including this in the category of things I am complaining about but another thing that makes India a hard place to travel is the level of poverty. It hits you like a punch in the gut. So many people just live in the street. When I was in Mumbai, I saw so many houses that were made out of tarps. Now, they were pretty nicely made considering they were made of tarps but no one should have to live like that. There is also a fair amount of begging you see on the streets. I had this one woman send her 3-year-old daughter out to me to beg and the little girl was literally in the street. The only way I can think to handle it is to just ignore it but that seems like an awful way to deal with it. I’m just not sure what else I can do about it.

Okay, that’s it for the complaining. So what have I actually been up to? I flew into Mumbai and spent a couple of nights there. Definitely, a huge shock being in that city but I did learn the art of crossing streets. The basic premise is to get to the other side of the street without being hit with a mechanized transportation device. Given I am yet to be hit by such things, I’ll call myself an expert.

Next, I went down to Goa and spent a couple of days on the beach. I am not a huge beach person but the beach here was pretty damn nice. Had a good solid couple of days down here chilling. I also had my first overnight train experience and it was pretty positive.

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Shaking the dust in Goa. Note that the human depicted is not me.

Next, I went to Hampi for a couple of days. Hampi has been by far my best experience in India. So many old ruins strewn about to explore. It’s also a good place for bouldering. I had myself a good adventure down here.

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Next, I made the journey up to the capital of New Delhi. I spent a couple of days here. I wasn’t a big fan of Delhi so I spent most of the time chilling and planning out what I might do during my weeks in Rajasthan. I did see a lot of weird shit here though. To pick a random one, I was walking down the sidewalk and I came across this 100m stretch of folks sitting at desks with typewriters. My best guess is that they were transcribing something (legal documents or something). The type of thing you’d never see in Canada or the UK.

I am currently in Agra about to depart for Jaipur. The only reason to come to Agra is to see the most famous thing in India:

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Me with Indian Structure.

I think that’s a wrap on the first India entry. I’ll fill you in on what comes next!

Take care.

Matt

Astounding Africa

Howdy,

The Africa Chapter of my travels has come to a close. I’ve been in India for a week now (slowly settling in but more on that another time). I am finding it hard ard to believe that Tanzania was only a week ago. One week can take you pretty far down the road it seems. There is a fair amount left to say about Africa so I’m going to try to sum it all up in one more blog post.

My 4 weeks in Africa easily falls into the category of being unforgettable. The continent is pretty amazing by my measure: the unending Sun, some of the Planet’s most extraordinary animals, the enduring spirit of the people. The list goes on. I was surprised by how “at home” I felt my entire time there. At ease. This was due in large measure (likely entirely) to the people. The African Impact staff, my fellow volunteers, and mostly the Tanzanians themselves. The people were without a doubt the stand out feature of the entire experience. And it wasn’t just the people themselves (though they were (mostly) of the finest calibre), it was the interactions with them. They had something that what I’ll call “Normal Life” fails to have far too often: authenticity. Getting a returned “Hello” on the streets of Canada or the UK can be a task in and of itself, sometimes an impossible one. Now my point here isn’t to trash talk Normal Life; I actually really like Normal Life. I enjoy going out for a long run on a Sunday, binge-watching something on Netflix, a nice proper cup of coffee, having access to a hot shower with something that resembles pressure. Fuck, I even enjoy my job most of the time. So yeah, I am not sticking my nose up at Normal Life! But it does have a way of wearing you down. Getting you off your centre. And it’s probably because you spend so much of your time and energy focusing and working towards shit that just isn’t that important to you. Paying mortgages (for people that actually have a residence), meeting client schedules. Feeling obligated to do something. Constantly chasing down something.

Sorry. I started to ramble a bit there. So back to my point on interactions. First, my fellow volunteers. In addition to just being fucking wonderful people (mostly in any case), everyone is there for a similar reason. They have that spark that makes someone spend their holiday volunteering. You get a lot of likeminded folks together in a camp-like atmosphere and it leads to something pretty extraordinary.

The African Impact staff were also spot on. They do a good job at creating a chilled out atmosphere and were keen to take on feedback. That goes a long way to creating a respectful environment.

And finally, the African folks themselves. They showed me so much appreciation for being there. And they were extremely welcoming. Everyone treats you like family; like you have an entire country full of kakas and dadas. It is really something special and I am super keen to go back. Maybe do some more volunteering. I certainly need to go back and climb Kilimanjaro someday. Also, there are so many elephants I didn’t have the opportunity to meet. I heard some of them were very disappointed that they didn’t run into me (perhaps over me).

Not sure how to conclude all of this. Perhaps I’ll go with: there is a part of my heart that has been permanently reserved for Africa.

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Mega Handsome African Impact Crew

Now that all of that is over with, there was one more notable thing I’ve done since my first post that I’ll share. The other weekend I headed out to the Maasai village of Kitenden. I spent 4 days a week working with these guys so it was nice to see where some of them were from. Probably best to let the pictures do the talking.

 

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Road to the Hill

 

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Future employment considerations. Photo Cred to Rich.

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Team Huddle.

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Reflective morning gazing into the distance.

 

That’s all for now. Stay tuned for more.

Matt

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Africa One

Howdy,

After almost a year of planning and gabbing about my trip, I am finally on the road. It feels like there is quite a bit to share and I’m not quite sure of the proper format to get it all out. Maybe I am best to stick to my time-tested method of incoherently rambling. Though to toss something that resembles a framework on this, I am going to stick to describing my first impressions of Africa and a description of what I am actually doing here with African Impact for the first entry. Note that I will likely deviate from the aforementioned format.

First impressions? Africa is quite dusty. There are main roads which are proper pavement but all the side roads are dirt roads. Dusty. Bumpy. Motorbikes are a common means of transport. And not just for human beings but for anything that needs to get moved from A to B: bunches of bananas, lawn mowers, oil drums, etc. A fun way to get around is by Dala Dala which is a sort of minibus taxi (that’s actually precisely what it is). It costs 400 shillings (about 15p) to get to town and I’m not sure if there is a maximum number of people that can in one at the same time. I think the highest I’ve seen is 15 but I am confident that they would stuff another 15 in there if necessary. While I’m talking about roads/transports, there doesn’t appear to be many rules of the road. At least not official ones that the police would fine you for. Bikes pass you on the left and the right, from behind and from the front. On what look to be divided highways, traffic goes in both directions on both sides. Despite all I have said, there is a vague order to it all so it isn’t the complete chaos that I may have described.

All in all, the people are significantly friendlier than any other country I’ve been to. Everyone says hello to you as you pass. Some eager to practice English, others eager to sell you shit. A trip into town usually picks up a healthy entourage before too long. My morning runs occasionally involve being chased by school-aged kids. They function as damn good pacers because they usually swap out for a fresh set of legs every minute. And I was worried about losing fitness on this trip!

The weather is also quite stellar. A steady 30 degrees every day. Sometimes a bit much but not unbearable.

Yeah, I think that covers my first impressions so now I want to talk about the work I am doing with African Impact. They have a number of projects that they are running out of Moshi. I’ve been primarily involved in two: literacy for members of the Maasai tribe and working at an old folks home (the Wazee).

With the Maasai Tribe, I’ve been teaching them basic English conversation and how to read and write in Swahili. The Maasai have their own language (Maa). Most of them can speak Swahili but aren’t so sharp when it comes to reading and writing. This project has been a bit of a challenge as I don’t speak Swahili (or Maa) and their English isn’t the greatest. On my first day, it was just me and one Maasai and communication was a definite issue. Since then, I’ve always had a translator around to help out so things are now going much smoother. Every day we play games to kick things off. Pretty simple games but they get super into them and are very competitive. It’s always a good laugh! I’ve been working with two other volunteers on this project (Lee and George) and we always get a very warm welcome when we show up in the morning and a fond farewell when we depart. Every Thursday we have a discussion about a specific issue important to the Maasai. This is always very interesting from the volunteer’s perspective because we get to hear about what their lives are like. The first discussion was about agriculture and there was a lot of talk about how cattle are moved to greener pastures. It was interesting to hear about the rituals around the killing of a lion. Whoever gets the first strike cuts off the lions tail and carries it back to the tribe for a celebration. This celebration, however, is cancelled if anyone is injured during the fight. Not the type of thing in my realm of experience.

The other main project I work on is with the Wazee (an old folks home). There are about 15 residents and seeing where they live is a bit of a shock at first. Not close to the conditions you would expect in the UK or Canada. The inside of the rooms are being painted at the moment so a lot of their belongings are outside in plastic bags (in some cases just laying on the ground). It rained the other day so a lot of their things got soaked. Everything was filthy and full of bugs. Difficult conditions to see but African Impact has been putting in a lot of work to make improvements. We’ve been doing a lot of yard work the past two weeks: cleaning up piles of garbage, fixing up the gardens, killing scorpions. Despite the conditions, the Wazee are always in fine spirits. Our trips out to see them always involve going around and greeting each resident. In recent days I’ve been getting compliments on my improving Swahili. God bless them, they have such low standards for me! We always do some sort of activity with them as well. On my first Friday, we played Bingo. We gave out some prizes for each Bingo. Nothing too extravagant: hand sanitizer, shampoo, a deck of cards and a small zipper bag that George was given on the flight to Tanzania. Grace-Anne (who is my personal favourite) won the zipper bag and when she realized what it was she got so excited. She hollered with joy and thanked God! Something so small and simple goes a long way with some people. African Impact is currently fundraising to continue with the reservations they’ve been doing. If you’d like to make a contribution, you can at the link below.

Donate

I think that covers everything I’ve set out to acheive with my first blog entry. I think to finish things off, I am going to give a quick recap (with pictures) of what I’ve been doing with my weekends.

On the first Saturday, we all went out and did a day hike on Kilimanjaro up to the first base camp (Mandara Hut) which is at 2730m (about a 16km trek there and back). Not really much in the way of views as we didn’t get very high up so I’ll just showcase the fine crew that accomponied me.

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Hiking Crew. Sorry Kirstie but you couldn’t be bothered to open your eyes in any of the pictures I had of all of us.

The next day we went out to the Mambori Waterfalls. A much simpler walk than the day before and a bit more in the way of views.

The next weekend was the big safari weekend. I’ve already chucked an album up on Facebook so I’ll just include a couple of my favourites below.

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Till next time.

Matt

Heading East

Happy Sunday Everyone,

Just under 2 years ago, I boarded a plane from Halifax to Edinburgh to set out into the unknown. No job in hand, no final destination determined, no real fucking idea what I was doing. Looking back on my two years here, there is so much to reflect on: the friends I’ve made, the adventures I’ve had, and all the good things British like proper coffee, ales, jacket potatoes, and mince pies to name a few.

But life isn’t as romantic as the written word can make it seem. While the experience of living in a new country has been incredible, there is an itch that it hasn’t scratched. One that I’ve been trying to reach for a long time now. After 10 years in university followed immediately by full-time work and actuarial exams, I have found myself tired. Mentally and spiritually (whatever that means). I need a break and I’ve decided that now is the time to take it.

A week from today I will be boarding a plane again, embarking on a 3-month journey that will bring a new set of experiences and challenges. Most of you are probably already aware of this as I’ve been talking about it and planning it all year, but for those of you not in the know, let me provide a rough itinerary to my travel.

Stop 1: Tanzania (10 September – 9 October)

I am starting off my travels by spending 4 weeks working in the town of Moshi on the Education & Community Support project through African Impact. When I first decided to take this trip, I quickly decided that Africa would be on the itinerary. When researching what I could do in Africa, I came across African Impact. They are a charity that runs a large number of projects in Africa focusing on Education, Conservation, Gender Equality, Building & Development, Medical, Sports & Coaching to name a few (or to name a lot). Researching their projects got me excited about being a part of one of them. I chose the Education project because I wanted the opportunity to work with members of the community; to understand what their lives are like and gain perspective of what Africa is really like. I chose Tanzania because I liked the idea of staring at Kilimanjaro all day. I figured I would climb it as part of my adventure (I mean, it is right there). I, however, opted to save my climbing for later in the trip. Might still do some morning hill sprints up and down it though. Depends. If the coffee isn’t good, I’ll need something to wake me up.

If you would like to learn more about the project I’ll be working on, more below!

http://www.africanimpact.com/volunteer-projects/tanzania/education-community-support-kilimanjaro-tanzania/overview/

Stop 2: India (9 October – 22 November)

What the fuck have I gotten myself into here? Throughout October and November, I will be traveling solo in India. I’ll be one in a billion. Well, I wish anyway. I’m sure I’ll stand out like a sore thumb everywhere I go. Sore thumbs. Do they stick out? I mean, have you ever seen a thumb and gone “wow, that baby is sore”. That’s a Willow quote by the way. Lie to Me. Yeah? Just me? Moving on…

India is a massive country so there is only so much I can see in 6 weeks. I did an extensive amount of research and opted to mostly go with the typical tourist spots this time around. In India, some of the “tourist” spots aren’t overly touristy so hopefully, there are plenty of authentic experiences on offer.

My itinerary includes Mumbai, Goa, Hampi, New Delhi, Agra (Taj Mahal), Jaipur, Pushkar, Udaipur, Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, Bikaner, and Rishikesh. The best way to get around in India is far and away the train as the roads aren’t always in the best condition. Unfortunately, this means that the trains tend to fill up quickly so I’ve had to book most of my travel ahead of time which limits my flexibility. Things are cheap enough that if I did decide to adjust course, I wouldn’t have to swallow a massive loss.

A few things I am planning on doing in India include a camel safari, a week in an Ashram, yoga, meditation, cooking classes, overnight train journeys, laying on a beach, zipping around on a moped, exploring ruins, and befriending elephants.

I am equally excited and terrified about India. One way or the other, I’m sure it will be a memorable if not exhausting experience.

Stop 3: Nepal (22 November – 8 December)

To close out my travels, I am spending a couple of days in Kathmandu before joining up with Gadventures to trek to Everest Base Camp.

It’s worth clarifying that Everest Base Camp is NOT the summit of Everest. My Mother was confused about this and thought I was concluding the trip with my death. Everest Base Camp is a commonly trodden path and isn’t an overly difficult walk. I reckon it will be like Times Square up there. At 5,364m, the only potential difficulty is dealing with the lack of oxygen. Here’s hoping my trip doesn’t end with a helicopter trip off Everest. Actually, that be kind of neat. Kidding Mother, I’ll be fine.

You can check out the itinerary of the track below.

Everest Base Camp Trek Itinerary

On 9 December, I’ll be boarding a plane back to Halifax to spend the holidays back home and get what I imagine will be much-needed rest.

I plan on keeping the Blog going during my travels so stay tuned!

Take care.

Matt

Trip Map

Out of Sync, Out in Wales

Hello Everyone,

I’ve been sitting on this adventure for far too long! My apologies for the poor turnover.

The story for today is my recent trip to Wales (it happened in May and I’m not sure if it was 2016 or 2017 at this stage) with one of my favourite people in the entire Universe: fellow boy band member, guitar strummer, softball teammate, High School lifeline, Beaver Banker, Late Night Film star, Mayer enthusiast, Lifestream rider Mr. Barry Allen Seymour!

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Reunions and Ales

I’ve spent a lot of time looking to Europe for my adventures since I’ve moved here but I’ve always had my eye on Wales as a place that looked like it would provide a proper romp. Barry has spent a lot of time looking into his genealogy and has some roots in Wales so it seemed like an appropriate place for us to explore together. This wasn’t my first time in Wales but felt like the first time I really stretched my legs there.

Our first stop in Wales was the Breacon Beacons which is a mountain range located in South Wales and fairly well known in the UK as a scenic wonderland. Check out the exhibits below:

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Totally random thing here, but the Welsh and the British in general take safety very seriously:

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No fucking swimming!

 

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The Timber Stacks are Off Limits!

 

The other factor outside of its stunning beauty that pulled us towards the Brecons was to visit the town of Defynnog. Never heard of it? Me either. Hell knows if anyone else in Wales really knows much about the place. It’s one of the many small little towns that are scattered across the country, each with its own charm and distinct story. One of those storylines has stretched through time and space to deliver to the World Barry Seymour.

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You see that sign? The little white one. I spent about a decade in front of it taking 94 billion pictures of Barry with the sign (all the exact fucking same) in search of the “perfect shot”. Bloody artists!

Our next stop took us up to Snowdonia National Park to tackle Snowdon, the largest peak in Wales (1085m). This was something I’ve been excited to do for awhile. Despite not being a fan of hill climbing, Barry was a good lad and joined me for the ascent. We were rewarded for our efforts with an endless supply of wonderful views.

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Barry photographing photographs well.

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Barry loved his Lucozade.

 

After our Welsh travels, we stopped back into Cheltenham for a couple of days before concluding our time together in London to see our dear Mr. Mayer. John was actually the inspiration for the trip as neither Barry or I had seen him play for 10 years! To make up for it, we saw him twice!

 

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Our Boy

 

After the second Mayer show, I sent Barry down the Picadilly towards Heathrow to concluded our trip. I watched him go with the knowledge that I won’t be seeing him until December when I am back in Canada for Christmas. This means I will be missing his Annual Baseball Classic Derby Experience Festival Game for the first time throughout its epic 13 year run this year. What could possibly keep me away from such an incredible event? Lead me to break such a streak? To muddy a perfect record?

Next time.

Matt

Race Report – Edinburgh 70.3

Howdy,

I’ve just made it back to Cheltenham following my triathlon weekend up in Edinburgh. I am still buzzing from the experience so I wanted to share my story. My apologies for not putting out more updates. I have a couple of other blog posts ready to fire. I promise to get those out soon.

I am sure most of you are familiar with how triathlons work: swim, bike, run. Pretty simple. Most triathletes find their way into the sport through one of those three sports. Obviously, for myself, I started as a runner. After injuring my knee during my ultra marathon last year I decided that it was time to make the switch to something that would have less impact on the knees. So I bought myself a bike and some goggles and decided to take the plunge into the triathlon Wolrd. Give it a spin if you will.

Triathlons come in all sorts of distances: Sprint (0.75km, 20km, 5km), Olympic (1.5km, 40km, 10km), Middle (2.5km, 80km, 20km), Long (4km, 120km, 30km), and Ironman (3.8km, 180km, 42km). Something for the casual and the crazy.

The race I did was a Half Ironman (so half the distance of the Ironman above). I originally intended to do the full Ironman but eventually realized that’s fucking crazy! It’s an unimaginable distance! Training for it is a full-time job and I don’t see how people find the time! A Half IM fitted in pretty well with what I do anyway so that was the more sensible route. I have done one sprint (last year) so this wasn’t my first crack at it.

I chose to do my Half IM up in Edinburgh because well, it’s my favourite UK city. And the event is new as of this year so I assumed it was destiny that I go up there. In retrospect, it would have been significantly less faff to do a more local race but I have no regrets.

I think that’s enough prelude so let’s get to the race report. My day started at an ungodly 3 am which is apparently around the time the sun rises in Scotland this time of year I drove my way over to the final transition and got a shuttle bus over to the swim start. I had about 2 hours to kill so I went to check on my bike, gave the tires a pump, gave it a good tap on the seat, had a disappointing cup of instant coffee and walked down to look at the water. We had gotten an email earlier that the swim may be shortened (from 1.8km to 0.95km) due to the choppy conditions of the water. I wasn’t happy with this because I had come up here with the intent of doing the distance. After looking at the water I thought “the water looks fine! What are they on about?”. Well, let’s just jump to the start of the swim then (and yes they did shorten the swim). I make the quick run across the beach, hurdle a couple of waves and plunge into the surf. After two strokes I am hit in the face with a wave and take in a gallon of sea water. I am thinking to myself “I’m going to die. There is no way I can survive this. What are they thinking letting us out into this!????” Somehow I managed to make forward progress and looked up to see a rescue kayak. There was an athlete hooked onto the side of it and I thought to myself “Fuck. I should join him. Fuck. Fuck. FUCK!!!!” The kayak made its way into my path and instead of grabbing hold I swam past it and out into the sea. Stroke, wave, gulp, stroke, wave, gulp. It wasn’t convinced I was making any forward progress but I eventually made it to the first turn. Swimming along the waves was a bit more sensible than swimming into them but only a bit. I looked around to see different coloured swim caps being thrown around in the water. It’s hyperbolic to say but it looked like a war zone! Things improved significantly after the next turn as I was riding the waves back towards shore. There were two more turns in the loop before I finally looked up to see the shore. It felt pretty damn good to have my feet back on solid ground!

UPDATE: The swim was actually my strongest event relative to the field! What!?

After making it through transition I found myself feeling happy to be one the bike. This evaporated quickly as I couldn’t get my bike into the hardest gear. A rookie mistake not to have the bike already in the gear I want! Anyway, I had to get off and do it manually which didn’t make for a good start! The bike is my weakest link as most triathletes are cyclists turned triathletes. Zoom! There goes a 60 years old man. Zoom. There goes someone with 50 pounds on me. Man, woman, and child zipping past me like I was a spectator! Not the most motivating! I struggled for the first 20k as I was still feeling shell shocked from the swim. I eventually got into a bit of a groove as we got into the hilly part of the course which is the type of cycling I am used to. I was out of the saddle attacking the climbs and driving hard down the hills finally feeling a bit of momentum. This lasted until the final 20km which turned into a bit of a slog. I got a bit of encouragement with 10km to go from a fellow Canadian as she passed me on the bike. She’s been living in the UK for 8 years and is married to a Scot. Maybe that will be my story in 6 years time! The last bit of the bike was complete BS! A climb around Holyrood Park!??? If I had actually prepared and studied the course I would have realized this but I was blissfully unaware that this was how it ended! After a lot of swearing, I finally made it to transition and out of the saddle.

Once I got the running shoes on I felt very comfortable. I wasn’t too worse for wear (given the conditions) and had 4 hours to complete the run before being timed out (there is an 8 hour 30 minute time limit) so I knew I was sitting pretty. The run is a 3 loop course which is not good psychologically. Running that first loop knowing you have 2 more to go is not good for the brain! But I was feeling good and it felt good to be cruising past everyone who had passed me on the bike. I got a glimpse at some of the athletes who were a loop (or two) ahead of me and they were all monsters. Ripped as shit and running faster than I could completely fresh (I’ve got a lot of work to do!). I usually get emotional during races but that didn’t really happen during this race. I found my mind was lazer focused on what I was doing and just turning over the legs that there wasn’t much room to get sentimental about anything. It wasn’t until the final lap that my body started to show some signs of wear. The left knee was barking a bit! Thankfully, the last 2km or so is mostly downhill so it was an easy finish. It was a good feeling to make that turn and see that finish line!

I ended up coming in at 6:37:50 which is a fair bit slower than I wanted (under 6 hours was my goal) but there is lots of room for improvement. Probably 10 minutes to scrub out in transition by getting myself a tri-suit (kit you can bike and run in versus making a complete change of clothes for each event) and lots of time to scrub off the bike!

Will I do another one? Absolutely! Will I ever do a full Ironman? We shall see!

I’ll try to stay in better touch in the future. I’ve got lots to share!

Take care.

Matt

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