Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

DIET – Low Carb Life
March 3, 2013

Whats your deal, with diet?  do you get confused with all the info out there? 

I think ive tried them all.. I rate the whole concept of ‘www.bulletproofexec.com’ but at that time in my life, when i did it (3 months ago, I did it for around 2 months) i blew up, in my skin.  Like a puffer fish, no loose skin anywhere, solid, blocky. so now Im scared of that diet.  😦  But, aside from the butter coffee, its still essentially a paleo diet – and I have no problem with paleo, or even with starting the day fuelling yourself with fat, i rate that, but I didnt respond (of course it feels like every dam person who does the BPE diet loses mega amounts by the day ,except me!). 

So, after that, I decided to go more ‘paleo’ instead.  For breakfast I was having a smoothie with apple, almonds, sunflower / pumpkin seeds, protein powder and MCT oil, lunch was meat and veges, (of some sort) same for dinner.. and I also cut out the raw milk I was having – hmm still not much change in weight, and I really noticed being a lot more hungrier, which I hadn’t been, with paleo, in so long.. 

Then, last week, I decided on Atkins induction – again, but now is the first time Iv been somewhere where i can go organic, fresh, etc.. so why not.  I didn’t even make the first week and then life got the best of me – which equates to having coffee, better still, mochas!! oh how divine, but this is not on atkins, especially not the induction.  That was about 5 days off the wagon, which im back on to now.  🙂 day one!  And that was just as, I think, (?) I could see some changes to 😦  and hey, im not kidding, starting the day with bacon and eggs sits so well in me, OMG, its amazing.  And Iv gone from being disgusted by bacon, to eating it regularly!  

The weight loss is a funny thing (peculiar, not haha – no one laughs when they struggle to lose weight!) Iv also had tests done – same as what Iv experienced before, hormones up the hoop and stressed adrenals :-/  i know, I woulda been best off coffee with stressed adrenals anyway, but you know, work gets in the way (and i do get up between 3-4am to go to work!, ugh) and life, and socialising.. who wouldnt want to sit with friends over a coffee?! but, its really time to flick it, again.  Rebuild the adrenals (taking adrenal extract for that), get the sex hormones balanced, keep blood sugar at a constant and.. hopefully itll be a ‘Hey Presto!’ result.  

I have experienced that before, when i first met my awesome doctor, who put me onto a paleo diet, and tested my adrenals / sex hormones.. i was pretty much the same mess that I am now, and when I look back, I can see where I should have been more vigilant with rebuilding my gland health.  I had no change for about 3 months, and then it was like a switch got flicked and i was dropping kgs like nobody’s business!  (as well as cruising along on a paleo diet) 

which makes me realise, the low-carbers are right, if you dont lose weight going low carb / paleo, then theres DEFINITELY an underlying cause, and (lesson for me) for God’s sake, stick at it, resist coffeeinated urges more, and get that health back and some results!  

 

MG

Know me, know thyself
November 14, 2012

Ok, so, I know myself, I know how im eating, and i know the state of my hormones /glands, pretty well, though im getting more testing soon – time for an update, so some things may have changed (Im certain they have) but Im still to grips with ‘me’.

so, i had put on twitter – does anyone else have any ideas on low thryoid? any issues? lets talk’ kinda thing. and wasnt expecting what i got – which ended up being a know-all telling me i had low thyroid because I eat a paleo diet… umm excuse me? (Iv since found out, this is more common than I realised, its a new breed of paleo haters Id say). 

Here’s some of the big blatant pink elephants in the room – a) paleo is NOT necessarily low carb (do you have NO understanding about food?!) b) I, know very well my macro’s, dont ‘assume’ that because I eat a paleo diet (and lets be honest, the issue with real food is….? #JERF, there is no issue)  c) the problem with using fat for fuel is..???  d) know thy foodstuff (and read the paleo guidelines, Ive yet to see ONE paleo / low carb author say to never eat carbs. yes, even Dr Robert Atkins didnt say that, he said around what.. 15-20gms per day for INDUCTION, erm… thats like a few weeks, not months on end.   And if you’re going to come at me and bandy about some ridiculous claim like ‘paleo causes low adrenal function and low thyroid’ then for Gods sake back it up? Well, this person backed it up by sending me a link, (the first link, on the  first tweet) was to the 180 degree diet book, and then, apparently to a 690 page ‘be all and end all study’ to prove it, unfailingly (which I didnt read, for obvious reasons?!?!), and which also happened to be on the ‘180 Degree’ website, ha… funny that.  If you’re going to claim that something damaged you beyond belief, then, back it up and tell me YOUR situation.  I think this twit on twitter had a vested interest in that book for starters, and personally, if you get ill from paleo then you’re messing up somewhere, who the hell gets sick from eating real food?!?!  I mean, I assumed this person must be eating grains, if paleos ‘so bad’, but from the reply, i think not? ok, what the hell do you eat then, and HOW THE HELL, do you end up with ‘not enough carbs’ on a paleo diet? jesus, thats like SO ridiculously crazy to be too low carbed. oh hang on.. are you one of the ones that takes it to extremes? You start low carb, see results, so go even lower carb and stay on it, and on it, and on it.. were you still scared of fat when you shifted to Paleo?  Did you make adaptations to your lifestyle? Did you have too much or too little protein?

Then, apparently, I was abusive and aggressive – yeah, that was the next tactic, to throw it back on me (again) and blame me.. umm all im asking for is YOUR story, and back up to YOUR claims.. oh! hang on, theyre not YOUR claims and its not YOUR study! Because I didnt read it, I dont know about citations, peer reviews etc, but what I saw on the website was pretty dismal.. normal, boring, nothing ground breaking.  and as for the ‘twitacker’ (someone who attacks you on twitter), it turns out this person has a website, and I was aghast at how ‘poor’ it is!  Ummm, anyone can read thyroid books and do a book review on them?! and then there’s other gems like ‘to lose weight, drink water’ erm… ok, yeah, thats brilliant.  This, with the .. how do I put it, well, a few letters after the name, and some titles that, quite frankly, should mean you would know better than to say what you say, claim what you claim and not have any answers to any questions except ‘ive sent you a study, read it’?!

Really?

Ba hahahaaha

The “Bulletproofexec Guide To Shopping’
November 4, 2012

Im up late, browsing on Dave’s site (bulletproofexec) and keep finding cool shit on there!

Heres his shopping list guide, which, if youre already familiar with paleo (yes) you will see its, essentially, the same thing, however, I love how Dave takes into account molds and toxins, taking things that extra step..

The Bulletproof Diet has been a phenomenal success. Entrepreneurs, students, athletes, medical professionals, stay-at-home moms and virtually everyone who implements it correctly can reap the benefits. They’re more focused, healthier, more resilient to infection and disease, and have boundless energy. They re- cover faster and sleep better. They feel Bulletproof.

The Bulletproof Diet infographic simplifies a huge amount of information on nutri- tion and toxins into a short set of recommendations, but I keep hearing this ques- tion:

“I get it, but how does that translate into what to buy at the store?”

This guide is a shopping list of the foods on the Bulletproof Diet. This is more in depth and provides you with lots of options to choose from. This guide also provides you with basic buying instructions for different foods like meat, veget- ables, and fats. Most of the foods in this guide come from the green side of the Bulletproof Diet, with a few in the yellow zone. In general, the best foods are placed first on the list.

There are also a few links at the end for products that I know and trust.

You can take this list to the store and know exactly what to buy. No more guess- ing about which foods you should get.

 
 
 
 

The Bulletproof Diet Shopping Guide by Dave Asprey

 

Table of Contents

The Bulletproof Diet Shopping Guide…………………………………………………………… 3 Table of Contents (Clickable)…………………………………………………………………………………….5 Shopping Tips & Key Points…………………………………………………………………………………….. 5 The Bulletproof Diet Shopping List…………………………………………………………………………… 9

Protein ……………………………………………………………………………………………………. 10 Oils & Fats………………………………………………………………………………………………..11 Leafy / Staple Vegetables…………………………………………………………………………… 12 Roots, Tubers & Safe Carbs……………………………………………………………………….. 12 Fruits ……………………………………………………………………………………………………….13 Nuts & Seeds…………………………………………………………………………………………….13 Dairy……………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 14 Spices & Flavorings………………………………………………………………………………….. 14 Sweeteners (optional)………………………………………………………………………………… 15

Recommended Products…………………………………………………………………………………………. 16 Closing Words………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 18

 

Shopping Tips & Key Points

This is a list of best practice tips for grocery shopping. It also provides a list of criteria you can follow when selecting certain foods.

Shopping Best Practices

1.Shop around the perimeter of the store. This is where most of the Bulletproof foods will be. This also eliminates impulsive buying of low quality foods from the center isles.

2.Buying grass-fed & wild caught meat is your main goal.

3.Don’t shop when you’re hungry. You’re more likely to buy junk food.

4.Shop with a friend if you often make poor decisions. This helps keep you ac- countable.

5.When in doubt – go without. If you see a food that you’re not sure about, it’s better to avoid it.

6.Do as much of your shopping through farmers markets and farms as possible. Nothing beats knowing your farmer.

The Bulletproof Diet Shopping Guide by Dave Asprey

 
 

7.Buying food online is often much cheaper and easier to research.

8.Don’t buy supplements or protein powders from the regular grocery store. They’re generally low quality and will do more harm than good.

9.If it comes in a box, bag, or can, be cautious – it’s probably toxic.

Buying Meat Products

Animal Product Buying Hierarchy

1.100% grass-fed and grass-finished is optimal.

2.Grass-fed (grain- finished before slaughter) is a huge step down, but may be better than conventional meat.

3.Pastured doesn’t mean anything unless it’s also grass-fed. 4.Organic meat is better than conventional. .

5.Extremely lean conventional meats (factory raised) are better than no meat at all.

6.Aim for organic and pasture raised eggs. In a pinch, eggs can be factory raised because hens filter out many of the toxins that would damage their offspring. Never, ever eat “omega 3” eggs.

The Bulletproof Diet Shopping Guide by Dave Asprey

 
 

The Bulletproof Diet Shopping Guide by Dave Asprey

 

7.Farmed salmon/fish = bad. You’re better off eating fat-free factory meat and supplementing with krill oil.

8.Bacon and sausage may be just fine, but skip these until you know how you feel on a really clean Bulletproof Diet. Properly cured and prepared bacon is a joy to behold and healthy, but most commercial bacon doesn’t make the cut. Sausage usually has spices added that are either laden with mycotoxins, hid- den MSG, or both. Avoid jerky and other processed meats. It’s best to buy ar – tisan-cured bacon or sausage from your farmer or the person who made it. These tasty foods are awesome and healthy only if they’re carefully prepared. Most aren’t.

•Organic does not mean grass-fed. In fact, “grass-fed” does not always mean grass-fed. Unless you verify the animal was only fed grass it’s entire life -it was probably fed grains at some point. This is why it’s best to buy from a farmer.

Buying Vegetables & Fruit

•Organic vegetables are a best, but go with regular vegetables if you’re trying to save money. Either way, do not buy vegetables with even small amounts of brown spots or wilting – these will contain more toxins than you think.

 

The Bulletproof Diet Shopping Guide by Dave Asprey

 

•Organic is more important with fruit, but not essential. If you wash your food carefully it’s generally not important to buy organic. And you shouldn’t be buying much fruit anyway!

•Frozen veggies are often fresher than “fresh” vegetables because they’re frozen before they have time spoil on a shelf.

•Don’t buy canned, dried, candied, or preserved stuff.

Buying Fats & Oils

•Avoid all vegetable oils including corn, cottonseed, canola, soy, sunflower, saf- flower (including cooking spray). Cook only with butter, ghee, or coconut oil.

•Rendered animal fat from some grass-finished animals has a significant risk of mycotoxins and contains oils that are damaged from heating. It is better than vegetable oil but not as good as butter. (For flavor, I add bacon grease at the end of cooking something.)

•Coconut oil that is “naturally” processed (fermented) is often moldy. Make sure you buy extra virgin or expeller pressed coconut oil from a reputable vendor. My favorite is Wilderness Family Naturals.

•Most nut oils have mycotoxins or damaged oils or both. (This includes macad- amia unfortunately.)

 

•Avoid anything that says “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated.” Avoid “spreads” or “butter replacements” or “low fat butter” frankenfoods.

•Olive oil is healthy only when you do not heat or cook it. Use in moderation to avoid excess omega-6.

Buying Herbs & Spices

•It’s not a good idea to keep a wide variety of herbs and spices unless you use them up frequently. Old spices sitting in cabinets are a *major* source of toxins in kitchens today.

•Choose leaf-based herbs like oregano, thyme, sage, and parsley because these have a lower mycotoxin content.

•The powdered spices like nutmeg and cloves are often contaminated with mold. Go for whole herbs when you can. Quality and freshness really matter here.

•Black pepper is almost always moldy. Soy sauce is too.
•Garlic and onion powders are often moldy and negatively effect cognitive per-

formance. Better to use these as medicinal herbs or sparingly.

•Never buy a spice mix or anything with spice extractives, flavors, etc.

•Buy cayenne pepper in the vitamin aisle and break open a capsule to use in cooking. It’s perfectly fresh every time.

The Bulletproof Diet Shopping Guide by Dave Asprey

 
 

Buying Dairy

With the exception of grass-fed butter and ghee, it’s best to avoid dairy. There is nothing in dairy products that you can’t get from the other foods on the Bullet- proof Diet. Many people have a reaction to the proteins in dairy, which is why grass-fed butter or ghee is tolerated by many (but not all). If you do decide to consume dairy, here is what it should be:

•Raw, unpasteurized, and untreated. •Grass-fed/grass-finished.
•Full fat.

If it doesn’t fit those criteria, it’s not Bulletproof. All dairy can be inflammatory ex- cept ghee. Make sure you tolerate it by removing it from the diet for at least 14 days and then reintroducing it. Some people tolerate goat dairy better than cow dairy.

The Bulletproof Diet Shopping Guide by Dave Asprey

 
 

The Bulletproof Diet Shopping Guide by Dave Asprey

 

The Bulletproof Diet Shopping List

You don’t have to buy everything on the list. This is meant to provide you with options so you can choose from the choices in your area.

The following foods are all on either the green zone or the yellow zone of the Bul- letproof Diet. They are ordered from best to least preferable.

Protein

Muscle Meats

1.Beef.
2.Lamb.
3.Bison.
4.Goat.
5.Eggs (not omega-3 enriched). 6.Pork.

7.Goose. 8.Duck. 9.Turkey.

 

Seafood

1.Salmon.
2.Anchovies.
3.Haddock.
4.Cod.
5.Crab. (real, fresh, not fake) 6.Lobster.

7.Mussels 8.Oysters. 9.Flounder. 10.Tilapia. 11.Trout.

Organ Meats (from grass fed animals only)

1.Liver (beef, lamb, goat, fish). 2.Kidneys.
3.Heart.
4.Tongue.

5.Bone marrow. 6.Joints (soup bones).

Oils & Fats

1.Grass-fed butter. 2.Clarified butter (ghee). 3.Coconut oil.

The Bulletproof Diet Shopping Guide by Dave Asprey

 
 

4.Coconut milk (preferably without guar gum and in a BPA free can). 5.MCT oil.
6.Extra virgin olive oil.
7.Lard & animal fat (only from grass-finished animals, hard to find) 8.Avocado oil.

9.Cocoa butter. (90% cocoa chocolate also works. Lindt is our favorite.) 10.Coconut flesh.

Leafy / Staple Vegetables

1.Spinach.
2.Parsley.
3.Bok Choy.
4.Brussels Sprouts. 5.Collards.
6.Cilantro.
7.Celery.
8.Cucumber.
9.Fennel.
10.Artichokes.
11.Carrots (limited amount)

The Bulletproof Diet Shopping Guide by Dave Asprey

 
 

Roots, Tubers & Safe Carbs

If you’re an athlete, this is where you get your carbs. 1.Carrots.
2.Winter Squash.
3.Sweet potatoes.

4.Yams.
5.Rutabaga.
6.Cassava.
7.White rice*
*It’s better to avoid all grains, but most people can tolerate white rice a few times a week.

Fruits

If you don’t like fruit or are trying to lose fat, skip them, or only buy berries and other low sugar fruits.

1.Lemons, limes.
2.Tomatoes (it has seeds, so it’s a fruit).
3.Berries. (strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, cranberries, blueberries.) 4.Melons. (cantaloupe, honeydew.)
5.Citrus. (grapefruit, oranges)
6.Peach, nectarine, etc.

The Bulletproof Diet Shopping Guide by Dave Asprey

 
 

The Bulletproof Diet Shopping Guide by Dave Asprey

 

Nuts & Seeds

Nuts are not a low toxin food because they spoil very quickly once shelled, and mold contamination is a *major* issue with nuts. Choose raw nuts and keep them frozen or at least refrigerated. Soaking nuts for at least 18 hours before eating will reduce some toxins, but not mold toxins. Your safest bet is to buy nuts in the shell. I don’t eat many nuts because I find that 2/3 of the ones I buy have enough toxins to affect how I feel, and they’re not convenient to soak or crack.

1.Coconut (fresh young is best, followed by dried) 2.Almonds.
3.Cashews
4.Brazil Nuts.

5.Hazelnuts. 6.Macadamia Nuts. 7.Pecans. 8.Pistachios. 9.Pine Nuts. 10.Chia seeds.

Dairy

Dairy is really easy. Don’t deviate from this list!

1.Grass-fed butter. (Kerry Gold, Anchor, or another brand that is 100% grass fed)

 

2.Raw/ grass-fed/ full-fat cream (if you’ve verified that you tolerate it)

Spices & Flavorings

Powdered spices are often contaminated with mold. Buy leaf/herb based spices and high quality powdered spices.

1.Apple cider vinegar.
2.Himalayan “pink” salt.
3.Unmodified, unadulterated, pure sea salt. 4.Ginger.
5.Cilantro.
6.Parsley.
7.Oregano.
8.Turmeric.
9.Rosemary.
10.Lavender.
11.Thyme.
12.Sage.
13.Cinnamon.
14.Allspice.
15.Cloves.

The Bulletproof Diet Shopping Guide by Dave Asprey

 
 

The Bulletproof Diet Shopping Guide by Dave Asprey

 

Coffee

The right coffee can be good for you. The wrong coffee makes you weak. To get all the benefits of coffee without the drawbacks, I spent over ten years searching for the highest performance coffee on earth. Because of this attention to detail, the only coffee I 100% recommend is Bulletproof Upgraded Coffee. You can learn more about it by clicking here.

But you’re at the grocery store, and they don’t carry it. DO NOT buy any coffee at the grocery story, even a trendy one. Instead, follow the extensive instructions on the site that tell you how to identify the safest coffee in your city.

I can’t stress this enough. 91.7% of coffee has mold in it. Don’t mess around with bad coffee. Life is too short, and you are too important to drink bad coffee.

Sweeteners (optional)

These three sweeteners are fine, but they are usually cheaper online.

1.Stevia.
2.Erythritol.
3.Xylitol – NOT corn sourced. Needs to come from hardwood.

There is no benefit to using the following chemicals, and there is substantial risk: Aspartame, Sucralose, Acelsulfame potassium (Ace-K), Cweet, and Neotame.

 
 
 
 
 
 

The Bulletproof Diet Shopping Guide by Dave Asprey

 

Recommended Products

When it comes to selecting food, it’s best to buy it from the person who made it. Barring that, some manufacturers have higher quality and standards than others. These are some of the companies and products I have found to make the grade.

I carry a few of these products on UpgradedSelf.com as a way to support the cost of running the blog that serves about 50,000 people per month for free. I totally appreciate your patronage.

I only stock (or create) things that meet my obsessive standards for high perform- ance and health, which is why I had to create my own shop in the first place. I’ve spent years selecting, formulating, and testing these products. You can find a full list of these things at UpgradedSelf.com.

Coffee

Bulletproof Upgraded Coffee Beans

(sorry for the shameless plug, but these are literally the highest performing coffee beans on the face of the planet)

Chocolate

Lindt 99% Dark Chocolate Lindt 90% Dark Chocolate Lindt 85% Dark Chocolate

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Coconut Milk & Coconut Cream

Wilderness Family Naturals

NOT their coconut milk powder, which as denatured cow milk protein. Bleah.

Coconut Oil

Extra Virgin Coconut Oil

Organic Erythritol

(Non Corn Based Form)

Grass-Fed Butter

Kerrygold Irish Butter Anchor Butter

Grass-Finished Meat (and wild caught seafood)

U.S. Wellness Meats

Salt

Himalayan Pink Sea Salt

Stevia

SweetLeaf Stevia

The Bulletproof Diet Shopping Guide by Dave Asprey

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

The Bulletproof Diet Shopping Guide by Dave Asprey

 

A Final Note

Hopefully this list has been helpful. We are constantly trying to make these ideas more accessible and simpler so as many people can benefit as possible.

Thank you so much for taking the time to pursue your own Bulletproof perform- ance and support The Bulletproof Executive Blog. I appreciate each and every one of you who took the time to read this, and if you have an extra second, I’d love to hear what you think.

Please leave a comment or question at BulletproofExec.com or on any of the other articles and podcasts. You can also reach me on Twitter @bulletproofexec, or on The Bulletproof Executive Facebook Page.

If you know someone else who can benefit from this kind of content, please direct them to the blog where they can sign up and get access to free resources like this eBook.

Thanks,

Dave Asprey & The Bulletproof Exec Team

http://bulletproofexec.com

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

An Amazing Chinese Buddha (in China!)
October 2, 2012

Again, I found myself in China this year.  Another bike race, another team I am working for (massage) and another great way to see more of this amazing country.  The race was the Tour of Qinghai Lake, which takes part in Qinghai region, in the north west (between Mongolia and Tibet regions, with visible influences from both). 

We had two nights in a town called Zhangye, in the Gansu province.  And I noticed some spectacular scenery from my hotel window, one ancient looking sect of buildings in particular.  I was stoked to get the time to go and investigate.  What was it? The ‘Giant Buddha Temple’, an ancient temple housing an enormous reclining Buddha.  I was told it is the largest of its kind (wooden) in all of Asia, true or false, I don’t know, I think it depends who you talk to (Bangkok’s Reclining Budda seems to win that one, but having seen both.. I’d go with the Chinese one, thought the Thai one seems a longer version)  But what I do know is it is the largest reclining Buddha in all of China and it is tryly amazing – especially as it was constructed in 1098 (during the Western Xia period of 1038-1227)!! (Coming from New Zealand, say what?!?! 1098?)

The entrance is off a side street and the fee to go inside is minimal, like the number of other tourists the day I went as well, sweet!  What’s inside is the Giant Buddha Hall, the Buddhist Classics Hall and a Clay Pagoda.

The Giant Buddha is housed in the Giant Buddha Hall, and is 34.5m long, 7.5m wide (between the shoulders) with huge feet of 4m and big 2m ears! It is gold plated and painted, but it’s also so old, that it doesn’t quite have a ‘gleaming with gold’ lookThe Buddhist Classics Hall holds over 6000 tomes of lectures, with some even written in gold and silver – making them both very rare and very precious.  (I did go pretty quickly through that hall, not realising the importance of what I was looking at at the time! – but that’s me and museums)

It is said, that this Great Buddha Temple was the birth place of Kublai Khan, and that his mother – a Beiji Queen of the Yuan Dynasty, once lived inside.  Wow!  What a setting!

It’s cheap to enter at 41CNY, and though they say to allow an hour to enjoy it, I went through quicker than that, but the Great Buddha did slow me down!  No photos allowed inside, but anyway I’m not sure how much justice you could do via a camera – the colours are faded, the lighting dull.. but its still majestic and magnificent. 

The temple is housed in a reasonably sized ‘square’, and the outside walls need to be seen as well, a true Chinese delight, the sort of images I’d associate with China from what I’ve seen in books and movies – small shop fronts, with double doors, both open, old push bikes, leaning up against the support posts, little dogs, relaxed locals, calligraphy, ceramics, koi fish (alive! And for sale) …

This was truly one of those ‘highlight finds’ that come out of the blue and unexpected in your travels and make an unforgettable memory!

Enjoy

ImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

 

Asia – fitting in, finding out, forging in, freaking out!
July 19, 2012

Well, I think there comes a time when you start to feel ‘Asian-i-fied’ in Asia, without a doubt! Its called blending in, being part of where you are, accepting whats around you.. and because Im in Asia.. Im going to comment on that – though some parts of it, I can’t get used to / struggle to accept.

Asia in general:

Starbucks – though you’d never drink it at home, it becomes a haven when traveling in Asia.  Air conditioned, ‘normal’ tasting coffee, not made with condensed milk or instant nescafe.. And free wifi (but not in Thailand)

You notice you start doing the ‘peace’ sign in photos, just like the locals do. (whats with that?)

Gym memberships are so cheap, its awesome!

People ‘assume’ you speak English – why? I could be european and not speak English you know!

Flying: yep, thats right folks, ignore the messages – keep your phone on, your ipod going, your ipad powered up, oh, and dont wait for the plane to come to a stop, why?!?! Just get up and start unloading over-head lockers.  I mean, hurry up!!! HURRY!! or you wont get to….. stand in a queue..

Being stared at: HATE it! Worst places – Iran and Indonesia…

Cigarettes / smoking: Its still cool in Asia, to smoke. Well done to Thai government – a recent ban on smoking outside establishments (well, in Chiang Mai that is, not sure about if its country wide or not.. so, outside seating is safe from smokers! yay!)

Plastic: whats not wrapped in plastic? Where don’t they automatically put stuff in a plastic bag, or include plastic straws with your drink (straws that come wrapped in plastic).  The amount of plastic in Asia gives me the droop.  Is it any wonder our planets screwed?

Copies of real brands: the best stuff is not ‘made in China’. The best knock-offs come from Korea or Taiwan.  Yes, really, there is a huge difference!

Air Asia- whats not to love? Great low cost airline, though, as I found out when I went to Indonesia, not necessarily the cheapest!

THAILAND:

You get really used to (too used to?) mega cheap taxis – and honest drivers, who use a meter and that’s that!

Accommodation: cheap, great, nice and all the rest of it. Here is a country where you wont be guaranteed cheaper or better from choosing a hostel over a hotel

Street food: hmm Im not as big a fan of this as others. Yes, its cheap, but have you seen the ingredients?  Big deal, there’s some raw cabbage in your soup – look at the ‘imitation’ this and that (like vinegar), the msg, the SOY oil – UGH… of course its cheap, but it doesnt mean its good for you.

Dentistry: yep, go there!! Mega amazing! I cant complain and il never get treatment at home again (unless it was some uber emergency)

Buddhism: though religion is not for me, Buddhism is the most pleasant, for me, to be surrounded by

The people: Love them! And they don’t care about some tourist, they wont stare, they wont bother you… you can just be!

Ladyboys: real girls do NOT have legs like that!

CHINA

Spitting: cant get used to it. Cant try it. Cant partake. Cant tolerate it.

Volume: if you’re going to use your phone, do you have to talk so SO loudly? I mean, though I cant understand the conversation, Id like to get away from you (whoever you are) with my hearing 100% still intact!

Soup: Chinese DO soup. Unbelievably well. Amazing, outstanding, mind-blowing.  Mmmmmm

Slurping soup: Chinese do this incredibly well to. For masters of medicine, you’d reckon they’d be more aware of the pitfalls of gulping in air when eating.. in saying that though, they dont exactly get around with distended air-filled bellies.

Beijing airport: the biggest airport in Asia? No free wifi? And not one tampon for sale… yep, believe me!

Ruthless salespeople: I will NEVER go back to the silk markets in Beijing again. And as for any stalls in China, forget it. Its only in China Iv had sales people grab my arm, try to force a sale. And if you don’t buy? Don’t be alarmed at the string of abuse that will follow. Piss off….

IRAN

The men are hot, YES thats right. Not all, but many (and the women are stunning!)

Food: to DIE for!! No wonder theyre not all fatties over in Iran, the live the paleo / low carb life!! Apparently NZers and Aussies can do lamb, were famous for it! Huh, whoever decided that obviously didn’t go to Iran and eat lamb!

Good bike racing

Amazing people. SO friendly, open and warm.. Did i say amazing as well?

Ali As’habi

Nose jobs: Yep, they’re big business here, apparently.  And the amount of people I’ve seen in Iran with ‘tell-tale nose plasters’ would attest that this is, infact, true.

INDONESIA:

God awful food: how do they survive on such processed shit? I know, I havent been everywhere in Indonesia, but for the love of Christ, what Ive seen scarred me. What I ate, in desperate times, scarred me more. I think Indonesia is a solid representation of processed food. Yes, that is only my experience, and I have only been to Sumatra, but, it was pretty hideous.

Get OGLED at! Look! A white person!! Come on, we’re not that rare or strange! Gimme a break!

Smoke : NO where is safe. No one is safe. Even children smoke (unless theyre tiny, young looking adults Ive seen)

FRIENDLY people: the land of smiles

MALAYSIA:

DONT rate it! Had such bad luck here.. More expensive than Thailand. I got warned, by Chinese, that the Indians will try to rob me.  The Indians tell a different story, the Malays have their own story… The taxi drivers… is anyone an honest driver in Malsysia? Some of the stories I got spun, to make an extra…. $3??!! just ask me for it!

FOOD: dont rate it. Rice, carbs, ick ick ick…

Something nice about Malaysia:… the Burmese I met. 🙂

Airports MILES from KL, and its a pretty beige airport.. Considering its so busy……

Palms – I know Palm oils hot right now, but, palmsssssss everywhere, as far as the eye can see. I dont mind them, Im just saying..

Tune Hotel: at KLCC airport. What a great spot! Rock on!

🙂

Tour of Borneo, Sabah, Borneo 27 April – 1 May 2012-06-14
June 20, 2012

ImageFirst tour of the Asian circuit for me and I was only out of Antarctica for about a week before heading off to this race with, again, Plan B (Perth, Australia).

Tawau was the starting point, with the race being basically 5 days from Tawau to the capital, Kota Kinabalu. 

Id never been to Borneo, so I was stoked to go (I got corrected by Malaysians, apparently if you call it Borneo, they don’t know where you mean, you need to say ‘Sabah’ which is the northern state of Malaysia’s claim of Borneo, Sarawak is to the south). 

Heres the race details:

Stage 1: Semporna – Tawau 102.8km

Stage 2: Tawau – Lahad Datu 146.6km

Stage 3: Lahad Datu – Sandakan 181.8km

Stage 4: Sepilok – Kundasang 214.8km

Stage 5: Kota Kinabalu

For the first stage, I went in the team van –which would be normal for any soigneur – to get a head to the next hotel etc.. but as we left AFTER the race started, I doubted our chances.. and true to form, no, we could not beat the peloton, so nothing was achieved.   It really seems to be the way, first stage is always a bit of a ‘fest’ at all the races I go to.  (unless its 2.HC).  And when you have a driver who insists he speaks English, but infact, is only ever saying ‘yes’ to anything you say (question or not) your realise that its going to be a long race.  This is how our team van, ended up behind the peloton, ready to pass the commissaries car – my driver had, very kindly, asked a police escort if we could go ahead to the hotel.  Obviously, I didn’t understand that question or answer and it took a lot for me to persuade my driver – James Bon, NOT to go past the commissaries car and to get back into the convoy, with the vans. 

That was the stage where Pure Black went 1, 2 and 3 in the sprint – not a good day, for me, to be working with an Australian team!! Yes, I wanted to jump sides!!

It didn’t take long for me to start feeling ill on this tour, and sure enough – day 4 and 4 I was bedridden (as much as I could be) with a chest infection, fever, head cold.. the whole shebang.  Now, now I know the importance of taking it easy when I leave Antarctica after a sheltered 4 months (without much interaction from the outside world).  Boy, I crash landed with that illness – thanks race doctor for giving me some antibiotics and the likes! 

So that’s where my race ended!! Sick in bed, doing not much at all!! L  I still saw the countryside, sitting in the van going to the next hotels and the two stages I was in the team car, (2 and 3) were great viewing.  Actually, there were quite a few riders suffering, im sure it was the brutal heat.  At some points, there were heavy showers that let loose, that was probably a god send if you’re on the bike.  Grim while its happening, but a relief to be cooled down.

This was another race where no food was given to us in the vehicles, for the stage.  Big deal? Well, not if you can buy food, that you eat, at the start of the stages, but … hmm we were living on peanuts and that soon got really unexciting! 

The hotels were nice.  The countryside was .. green.  I think it was a little different to the mainland, maybe not so predictably palm trees. 

Kota Kinabalu was a lot bigger than I expected it would be!! But, the airports literally in town, so it was only five minutes to get there from our swanky hotel. 

This race was in April, I’ve done a lot since then, so I cant recall every little detail!! But, the important ones – would I go back? Yes.  Food at the hotels? Good!  And a good turn out for the racing.  Well done Tour of Borneo, see you next year!!

 

MG

 

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Tour de Singkarak 2012, West Sumatra, Indonesia
June 15, 2012

Yes, the Tour of Singkarak, 2012.  I guess I may have known it was cursed from the start – I went to Padang, Sumatra, two weeks before the race to relax, chill and investigate – but I barely did any of the three.  Had some of my worst sleeps ever, getting to sleep late, so waking up late, so not seeing much, and when I did, I lost interest pretty quickly.  Except for the gym, that wasn’t a bad experience at all.  Local, packed (in the evenings) and cheap.  You know you’re adapting to the heat of south east asia when you can workout with no air conditioning, but it’s a bit gross having everyone sweating bullets on the equipment.  And the music, Ive never heard as loud, or louder, in any gym, even in a class!  But I don’t mind that either.

My digs were fine – local owned and operated, it was a guest house x homestay.  For the first few nights, I went ‘cheapest option’, which was a single room up on the top floor, with only the big balcony as company.  Not bad, but with only a ceiling fan, it proved too hot and I cracked and went down a floor to a big, double room with air con, fan and an ensuite. 

I had two meals in a big, local restaurant. It was seafood, not my usual choice but I wasn’t going to be fussy (I hate the smell or possibility of a smell, of non-fresh seafood), and the restaurants situated across the road from the sea itself.  First feed, with a couple from Singapore who were at the same lodgings, was good – prawns cooked in coconut oil with garlic (though I couldn’t taste the oil, I think it was palm oil), and an iced coffee, which they got right on the 3rd go.  Were in the land of ‘added sugar’, and when you don’t eat a lot of sugar, you get plenty of sickly-sweet and nasty surprises!! Second time I went back to eat at this place, I was alone.  I decided to get the prawns again, and the crab.  One young waiter had a hold of the crab at my table, to tempt me. It was an easy sale! Why not.. and yes, id go for ‘randang’ style (not too spicy).  Prawns came out first, they were ok.  Crab came out second, and what came to mind was that saying of someone having a face like a ‘smashed crab’ – that’s nasty!! This poor crab had been destroyed!! Its top shell was still intact and used as a garnish, but that was a guise for the fact that what little meat was originally in this innocent crab, was now obliterated throughout the hideous sauce, and the underside of its body, quartered, so that I had the miserable task of trying to get tiny scraps of meat out of cavities. $15 AUD to top off the scene of this ‘food crime’.  What a waste of a crab!!

A better discovery was being taken out, by the owner of my homestay, for ‘Kopi Luwak’ – a local delicacy – coffee yes, but the beans have been through the digestive system of the ‘luwak’ (civet in English) cat, collected from the dung, and then processed as per usual.  It’s expensive, but not so in Padang – a third, apparently, of what you pay in the likes of Jakarta.  It was tasty, earthy, ‘dirty’, coffee like… I rated it!! (pity I waited so so long for the warm milk. First small jug contained sweetened condensed milk, no good!  Second go was cold milk, no good! The third go they managed, warm milk.. albeit UHT, but that’s about the extent of milk in Indo) 

So aside from some city wanderings and the likes, I didn’t do too much in spending my time, and before I knew it, it was time to move to the race hotel.  Another bike race loomed…. So lets start the Tour of Singkarak…

My second time at this event. This year was a different Padang hotel – it was so new there was still traces of ‘builders’ throughout – dust, filings, shavings.. brand spanking new.  And why so new?  It’s a rebuild after the big earthquake in 09 – when the old hotel was shaken to the ground, on top of the wedding of 300-400 that was taking place in one of the conference rooms.  No one survived.   It didn’t feel eerie but its massive, ginormous, and the rooms were nice.  The next two nights, we were in Sawalhunto – and that accommodation was very basic, but, I didn’t mind it.  Its kinda unique having the whole team under one roof.  What made it seem worse though, was the fact that half our team couldn’t start the race.  Yep… An Indonesian team including 2 Australians and a kiwi, and that was the problem right there.  You cant have a ‘mixed’ team in an Asian 2.2 event – but the even bigger problem, we weren’t a mixed team, we were a club team! With the support of the Indonesian federation… late to bed that night and a crap sleep, and trying to sort out that big old mess the next day, before the race started at 2pm, but, it wasn’t to be.  We got our three Indonesian riders started, thanks to being able to take the Indonesian rider who wasn’t allowed to start with the team that he was with – an Australian team..

Yeah, the accommodation.. I remembered one of the hotels from last year, but the rest – well, that’s the thing with tours, sometimes I can’t always recall details like where I stayed, days can blur into one!  And I had one shocker on this tour – I cant sleep in a mouldy room, or one that so filled with air fresheners that im sneezing and scrathing within 30 mins.  So that day, I booked in over the road, where the race police were staying, and they paid for me! (I wasn’t there when they did but.. my room was covered).  The balcony was insane! I could have executed and annexation from up there!  

The racing… well I saw very little of it!  Pretty standard for any soigneur, but I wasn’t even going to the starts. My team were incredibly low maintenance, and I just went where I was directed.  We had a rider do really well in Indonesian class, and some healthy stage finishes.  What more can I say, they raced, there were crashes, some rain, mist and yes, the famous ‘Kelok 44’.  Here’s what the race looked like on paper:

Stage 1 – Sawalhunto 78km

Stage 2 – Muara Sijunjung to Harau 124.5km

Stage 3 – Payakumbah to Istano Basa Pagaruyung 102km

Stage 4 – Anai Resort to Bukitinggi 157.7km

Stage 5 – Padang Panjang to Singkarak 149km

Stage 6 – Pariaman to Painan 143.9km

Stage 7 – Padang Circuit 99.3km

 

The food.  Hmm Lots of rice, noodles and processed ‘goods’.  Before you judge me for sounding like I’m judging the food, I remind you, I can only go by the experience that I had.  And although some of the hotel food was ok, yes, I struggled to find plain things (that I like) like, chicken!! (sounded good on the menu, but came out smothered in some sweet, sickly sauce).  Plenty of ‘food in a box’ which can be normal for lunches at a race, but we were getting it for breakfast and, one night, for dinner also.  And in Sawalhunto, where ‘dinner in a box’ was the offering, I went out to the ‘flashest hotel in town’ with the two Aussies.  We waited around 2 hours for our meals.  I got a whiff of seafood as he put my prawns on the table – NOT doin it! And my ‘New Zealand T-bone’ was a New Zealand disaster! Couldn’t eat it.  It tasted old, it had been cooked on a very low heat… but yes, I remember, theres probably not a huge amount of people coming through this town, to eat steak and prawns… well, maybe you adapt the menu..

Which doesn’t detract from the people.  Indonesians are very warm, friendly and open – and they (apparently) don’t see a lot of white people in Sumatra, hence, they almost fall off their bikes / drive into gutters etc when they see you, a foreigner, wandering.  If you don’t like being ogled (I don’t) then being here can be hard work! 

 

Would I go back? Hmm im not keen to go back to that race, no.  For various reasons. I had had a feeling not to go, ha!  Could have been hanging in Thailand instead! Anyway, another bout of character building, done and dusted!Image

 

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IRAN, Tour of Azarbaijan
June 10, 2012

Iran, for my third time!  How lucky do I feel!  No, no unsafe, or scared but LUCKY!  Irans a trip, for sure, but I always get so excited about heading over again.  This year, we ran out of luck in that the Tour of Tehran was canned, so, we only went for one race, the Tour of Azarbaijan.  Lesson learnt – for less than two weeks (I was there ten days) you can get a visa on arrival for half of what we paid at the embassy, and the guys that did that breezed through.  So, although we got interrogated at KL airport (and that was strange to, 6 of us checking in, and 2 of us had to wait to speak to some official dude who was representing Iran.  What did he want to know? How much money we had.. and ‘Oh!! You already have visas? No problem’… um yeah, that’s what weve been saying all along for the past 10 minutes?)  anyway, apparently because of nuclear tension (do they make weapons or don’t they) then Iran has been cracking down on visitors.  ‘Especially’ Australians – well! I said as I flashed my passport in this dudes face, that’s ok then, cos Im a kiwi! Hehe So,2  of us had to run to passport control, through security and then down to the gate, with minutes to spare!  Don’t like that sort of pre-travel stress!

We were flying with Air Asia again, have to admit, theres nothing wrong with the airbuses they use for long haul, seats aren’t too crammed, the meal was ok.. however, within seconds of getting on the plane there was ‘Iranian confusion’ – and older guy infront of me was annoyed that there were bags in the overhead locker above him and what about if his wife wanted to put her bag up there and then use it during the flight – the result, about 5 guys all in on this problem.. the result? Old guy sat down again, hed let it slide.  I moved from behind him to an empty seat opposite him – I got a lot of smiles from him and his wife, during the flight.

Arrived in Iran, head scarves on and time to disembark.  Flew through customs, got our bags ok and thought id had two of my besties come to the airport to meet me – and I managed to quickly get a sim card, we were hurried on to our next stop, the bus station. No surprises there, we were going to be put on an overnight bus bound for Tabriz.  One surprise – we got to the bus, got onboard and then were ‘told’ we had bought one too many people from what we booked, what?!?! Problem solved, the jump seat next to the driver!

I have to admit, I don’t like that drive, cos its so long, but a herbal sleeper helped and I saw the sunrise through the window, which was a nice touch of scene setting for arrival into Tabriz.

We had to change from our big bus, at the bus depot on the outskirts of Tabriz, to a smaller, local bus – complete with dirty interior, ripped seats and a driver that smoked in the bus… but it wasn’t for long.  The hotel was another big race hotel, with the standard huge, gilded lobby.  Actually the rooms were pretty good to, and bed was welcomed, until I got the phone call telling me I was needed for the technical meeting.. WHAT?! Im not the manager this year!!! So, I was woken up so got up.  Met our French manager Yves, and his trusty side-kick, our French mechanic Angels.  Off to the meeting we went.  I flagged the mangers meeting later in the day, I was so ready for sleep it was beyond belief – after the opening ceremony, which is never a quick affair.

We met our team interpreter at lunch time, Golamreza, whose English was amazing and he proved to be such a great guy to have on the team.

And the rest of the week was a blur of stages!! I was in the van, not the managers car, so I didn’t see much of the action – except for day one, when the vans ended up stuck behind the race, and then cat and moused their way along the roads, behind the convoy, but at one point we WERE the convoy – time to listen, slow down and get back behind the race!! That stage they had a rescue helo following the race, its by far the biggest, most impressive looking rescue helicopter Ive ever seen! Amazing!

Mid way through the tour was National Womens day – a day to celebrate monthers , women, girls, sisters etc.  There was 3 of us ladies on the tour this year – myself, the manager of the team from Paraguay and a lady from Taiwan who owns the helmet company that was a sponsor of the event.  We were all presented, in a small, private ceremony, with a box of local chocolates and a handmade bag.  Wicked! Thanks! J

Azarbaijan is windy, and this tour there was little resplite. Some days it was amzing what the winds got up to.  Wowsers!  Makes the notorious Tour of Southland look like a sea breeze.

The Laleh Hotel in Sarein, I remember from the year before (and maybe in 08 as well?) and I received the warmest welcome ever! They definitely remember me from last year.

Stage 5 finished at ‘Sahand’ which was basically a 3000m summit finish, at a ski field! And we us soigeurs arrived, it was snowing!  No ones prepared for that in a summer race – we were huddled inside the ski lodge drinking tea and chatting.  A wait of about 3 hours till the riders started trickling in.  Trickle in they did, some collapsed at the finish line (the climb was around 30km), but for others, they made it look easy, however, those of us at the finish line stepped in and helped each rider after they crossed the line by pushing them up the road to their cars.  Its where I ‘did a calf’, I still don’t even know what I did, exactly, but I had gone up to the line for my rider, and as I went to walk him up the road, something ‘pinged’ in my leg and I couldn’t walk on it!! It was also my introduction to kinesiotape (thanks race doc!) which blew me away!!  Big  fan now!

So, for the last stage, I was at the hotel.  Along with OCBC from Singapore, they were all out of the race, so, we set off to explore the Tabriz bazaar – the biggest, and oldest from the Silk Route, apparently.  I have been before, but its still amazing to see!  And it was a nice way to spend a morning.

So the racing.. yeah, well, like I say, I didn’t see a lot of it! Dukhla Praha were mega strong, of course Azad and TPT from Iran were strong, my guys rode well… some good racing!! One stage, they were sitting on 26km an hour, because of the wind!  I told you it was windy!

This year, much to my astonishment, we were not put on a bus the night the race finished, for that arduous drive to Tehran! Yes, we got to sleep in the hotel!! We were leaving at 8am the next day, but that was more like 9.30 am local time.. J and it took 12 hours to get to Tehran.  Apparently the driver wasn’t even sure where he was taking us?  But, it was to the airport, to deliver our Frenchies and the OCBC team.  And it was as we dropped them off, that I got a phone call from a friend in Iran saying that we did NOT have a booking at Azadi Sports Complex, for accommodation… L  anyway, thanks to some quick thinking and a few phone calls, we got beds at a hotel not far from Azadi, that was the race hotel for Tour of Tehran the year before, SCORE! (thanks Alireza and Ali).  And so began my two nights in Tehran.  Welcome nights sleep that first night, and then a day with Alireza the next day, choice! Actually, we didn’t do a hell of a lot! Coffee, money exchange and then lunch! That evening, I was picked up by another friend, Zara, and we drove back to her house.. yay! A was finally going to get a night in an Iranian house!  The drive back was interesting, never, ever, EVER underestimate the traffic you may encounter in Tehran.  The place is massive, its beyond belief!  Part of the trip took us down a ‘strip’ of road that is renown for being a ‘pick up’ spot!! Seriously! And it was so entertaining, we did two laps!! You drive with your windows down and the offers come a-flying.  Especially with me, the foreigner, in the car, who doesn’t wear a regular hijab (I have my own system of head-scarfing).  I haven’t laughed so much in so long!

It was a late late night.  What a beautiful family – mother and three 20 something daughters.  We had an Iranian feast for dinner, at around midnight, and it was nearer 2am when we all went to bed.

The next day was a late start, but we did go out for lunch, which was beautiful – and in a restaurant that I went to last year with a different friend! Talk about feeling like a local!

Which brings me to a couple of things about Iran.  Yes, I have to cover up.  For me, I make my own system though, which means a scarf tied over my head, as opposed to under the chin and t shirt with thai fisherman pants, but I drape a pashmina over my shoulders.  Works so well for me!  But yes, causes a bit of a stir – especially this year, apparently a pair of my pants was too short and I was disrespecting security.. umm ok.

And he food, WOW is all I can say about Iranian food. They really have it good! And it shows, in the distinct LACK of obesity, which I really noticed.  They have their complex carbs, but theyre not staples in the diet, and theres plenty of meat (lamb and chicken) and good fats – butter, cream (the cream is just divine), oils.. im sure they even have less processed foods available than some other places Ive been to. And Iran is all about home cooking, mother cooks (generally).  Iv always found some of their cuisine a bit ‘samey’ before, but not this time. This time I was almost counting down the times to eat LAMB!! J

And that took me close to the time I needed to get a taxi to the airport.  I went back to the hotel to meet the other guys from the team who were leaving with me.  That was an uneventful trip to the airport, followed by an uneventful check-in and an uneventful departure!!

Rock on Iran, see you next year – in’shallah!!

IRAN, Tour of Azarbiajan
June 10, 2012

Iran, for my third time!  How lucky do I feel!  No, no unsafe, or scared but LUCKY!  Irans a trip, for sure, but I always get so excited about heading over again.  This year, we ran out of luck in that the Tour of Tehran was canned, so, we only went for one race, the Tour of Azarbaijan.  Lesson learnt – for less than two weeks (I was there ten days) you can get a visa on arrival for half of what we paid at the embassy, and the guys that did that breezed through.  So, although we got interrogated at KL airport (and that was strange to, 6 of us checking in, and 2 of us had to wait to speak to some official dude who was representing Iran.  What did he want to know? How much money we had.. and ‘Oh!! You already have visas? No problem’… um yeah, that’s what weve been saying all along for the past 10 minutes?)  anyway, apparently because of nuclear tension (do they make weapons or don’t they) then Iran has been cracking down on visitors.  ‘Especially’ Australians – well! I said as I flashed my passport in this dudes face, that’s ok then, cos Im a kiwi! Hehe So,2  of us had to run to passport control, through security and then down to the gate, with minutes to spare!  Don’t like that sort of pre-travel stress!

We were flying with Air Asia again, have to admit, theres nothing wrong with the airbuses they use for long haul, seats aren’t too crammed, the meal was ok.. however, within seconds of getting on the plane there was ‘Iranian confusion’ – and older guy infront of me was annoyed that there were bags in the overhead locker above him and what about if his wife wanted to put her bag up there and then use it during the flight – the result, about 5 guys all in on this problem.. the result? Old guy sat down again, hed let it slide.  I moved from behind him to an empty seat opposite him – I got a lot of smiles from him and his wife, during the flight.

 

Arrived in Iran, head scarves on and time to disembark.  Flew through customs, got our bags ok and thought id had two of my besties come to the airport to meet me – and I managed to quickly get a sim card, we were hurried on to our next stop, the bus station. No surprises there, we were going to be put on an overnight bus bound for Tabriz.  One surprise – we got to the bus, got onboard and then were ‘told’ we had bought one too many people from what we booked, what?!?! Problem solved, the jump seat next to the driver!

I have to admit, I don’t like that drive, cos its so long, but a herbal sleeper helped and I saw the sunrise through the window, which was a nice touch of scene setting for arrival into Tabriz.

We had to change from our big bus, at the bus depot on the outskirts of Tabriz, to a smaller, local bus – complete with dirty interior, ripped seats and a driver that smoked in the bus… but it wasn’t for long.  The hotel was another big race hotel, with the standard huge, gilded lobby.  Actually the rooms were pretty good to, and bed was welcomed, until I got the phone call telling me I was needed for the technical meeting.. WHAT?! Im not the manager this year!!! So, I was woken up so got up.  Met our French manager Yves, and his trusty side-kick, our French mechanic Angels.  Off to the meeting we went.  I flagged the mangers meeting later in the day, I was so ready for sleep it was beyond belief – after the opening ceremony, which is never a quick affair.

We met our team interpreter at lunch time, Golamreza, whose English was amazing and he proved to be such a great guy to have on the team. 

 

And the rest of the week was a blur of stages!! I was in the van, not the managers car, so I didn’t see much of the action – except for day one, when the vans ended up stuck behind the race, and then cat and moused their way along the roads, behind the convoy, but at one point we WERE the convoy – time to listen, slow down and get back behind the race!! That stage they had a rescue helo following the race, its by far the biggest, most impressive looking rescue helicopter Ive ever seen! Amazing!

 

Mid way through the tour was National Womens day – a day to celebrate monthers , women, girls, sisters etc.  There was 3 of us ladies on the tour this year – myself, the manager of the team from Paraguay and a lady from Taiwan who owns the helmet company that was a sponsor of the event.  We were all presented, in a small, private ceremony, with a box of local chocolates and a handmade bag.  Wicked! Thanks! J

 

Azarbaijan is windy, and this tour there was little resplite. Some days it was amzing what the winds got up to.  Wowsers!  Makes the notorious Tour of Southland look like a sea breeze. 

The Laleh Hotel in Sarein, I remember from the year before (and maybe in 08 as well?) and I received the warmest welcome ever! They definitely remember me from last year. 

 

Stage 5 finished at ‘Sahand’ which was basically a 3000m summit finish, at a ski field! And we us soigeurs arrived, it was snowing!  No ones prepared for that in a summer race – we were huddled inside the ski lodge drinking tea and chatting.  A wait of about 3 hours till the riders started trickling in.  Trickle in they did, some collapsed at the finish line (the climb was around 30km), but for others, they made it look easy, however, those of us at the finish line stepped in and helped each rider after they crossed the line by pushing them up the road to their cars.  Its where I ‘did a calf’, I still don’t even know what I did, exactly, but I had gone up to the line for my rider, and as I went to walk him up the road, something ‘pinged’ in my leg and I couldn’t walk on it!! It was also my introduction to kinesiotape (thanks race doc!) which blew me away!!  Big  fan now!

 

So, for the last stage, I was at the hotel.  Along with OCBC from Singapore, they were all out of the race, so, we set off to explore the Tabriz bazaar – the biggest, and oldest from the Silk Route, apparently.  I have been before, but its still amazing to see!  And it was a nice way to spend a morning.

 

So the racing.. yeah, well, like I say, I didn’t see a lot of it! Dukhla Praha were mega strong, of course Azad and TPT from Iran were strong, my guys rode well… some good racing!! One stage, they were sitting on 26km an hour, because of the wind!  I told you it was windy!

 

This year, much to my astonishment, we were not put on a bus the night the race finished, for that arduous drive to Tehran! Yes, we got to sleep in the hotel!! We were leaving at 8am the next day, but that was more like 9.30 am local time.. J and it took 12 hours to get to Tehran.  Apparently the driver wasn’t even sure where he was taking us?  But, it was to the airport, to deliver our Frenchies and the OCBC team.  And it was as we dropped them off, that I got a phone call from a friend in Iran saying that we did NOT have a booking at Azadi Sports Complex, for accommodation… L  anyway, thanks to some quick thinking and a few phone calls, we got beds at a hotel not far from Azadi, that was the race hotel for Tour of Tehran the year before, SCORE! (thanks Alireza and Ali).  And so began my two nights in Tehran.  Welcome nights sleep that first night, and then a day with Alireza the next day, choice! Actually, we didn’t do a hell of a lot! Coffee, money exchange and then lunch! That evening, I was picked up by another friend, Zara, and we drove back to her house.. yay! A was finally going to get a night in an Iranian house!  The drive back was interesting, never, ever, EVER underestimate the traffic you may encounter in Tehran.  The place is massive, its beyond belief!  Part of the trip took us down a ‘strip’ of road that is renown for being a ‘pick up’ spot!! Seriously! And it was so entertaining, we did two laps!! You drive with your windows down and the offers come a-flying.  Especially with me, the foreigner, in the car, who doesn’t wear a regular hijab (I have my own system of head-scarfing).  I haven’t laughed so much in so long! 

 

It was a late late night.  What a beautiful family – mother and three 20 something daughters.  We had an Iranian feast for dinner, at around midnight, and it was nearer 2am when we all went to bed. 

The next day was a late start, but we did go out for lunch, which was beautiful – and in a restaurant that I went to last year with a different friend! Talk about feeling like a local!

 

Which brings me to a couple of things about Iran.  Yes, I have to cover up.  For me, I make my own system though, which means a scarf tied over my head, as opposed to under the chin and t shirt with thai fisherman pants, but I drape a pashmina over my shoulders.  Works so well for me!  But yes, causes a bit of a stir – especially this year, apparently a pair of my pants was too short and I was disrespecting security.. umm ok. 

And he food, WOW is all I can say about Iranian food. They really have it good! And it shows, in the distinct LACK of obesity, which I really noticed.  They have their complex carbs, but theyre not staples in the diet, and theres plenty of meat (lamb and chicken) and good fats – butter, cream (the cream is just divine), oils.. im sure they even have less processed foods available than some other places Ive been to. And Iran is all about home cooking, mother cooks (generally).  Iv always found some of their cuisine a bit ‘samey’ before, but not this time. This time I was almost counting down the times to eat LAMB!! J 

 

And that took me close to the time I needed to get a taxi to the airport.  I went back to the hotel to meet the other guys from the team who were leaving with me.  That was an uneventful trip to the airport, followed by an uneventful check-in and an uneventful departure!!

 

Rock on Iran, see you next year – in’shallah!!

Antarctica – Guide to Living and Working There.
June 9, 2012

Hello again, and not from Antarctica – iv been back out for a month now, but, considering the questions I get asked, I wanted to do an updated story on the ice, and in particular, how to get there if you want to work down there, as opposed the $20k AUD, and up, tourist options! (ok, that’s a rough estimate, but all the tourist trips to Antarctica Ive looked at are not cheap! Considering most of them go from south America to, you would have to get there first as well, so factor in the cost of flights!)

So, to work there, how to get a job? Come on people, we don’t ask this in 2012 – it’s such an easy answer, THE INTERNET! That’s right, most, if not all countries stations in Antarctica have websites, and particularly Australia, New Zealand, USA and England, have job links within those sites. 

I have been once with New Zealand and 3 times with Australia, for both, selection included psyche and medical testing.  Australians take it a step further – they flew me to Sydney (from NZ) for a ‘Selection Centre’, where they will have around 30 hopefuls together for two days, in a room doing all sorts of ‘tasks’ – which identify who gets on with who, beliefs, adaptability, reasoning, honesty etc, and all the while that this is going on there are employees from the Antarctic Division head office making and taking notes, on each of us there.  Quite scary! That weekend culminates in a dinner, with free alcohol, and that right there can stop a dream in its tracks! 

 

What’s involved in the medical test?  Medicals have certain things they include, regardless of the vocation, and for Antarctic summer staff, it will include eye sight, hearing, heart rhythm, breast check for women, smear tests (depending on when your last one was) BMI testing or ‘Body Max Index’ (that score has to be under 35), blood tests, (including HIV as were all ‘walking blood banks’ while we’re down south.  So newly done tattoos will mean you cannot give blood for transfusion if there was a need).  This year, my medical included fasting blood test – also, theres about a 6 page questionnaire to fill in.

 For winterers, the testings a bit more detailed.  Prostate, MRIs and some other tests – I’m not sure of all of them, I’ve never done a winter, but its imperative folk are in good health as problems down south are the worst nightmare, potentially.  Why? There’s no way to get someone back out to Australia again.  Well not easily anyway.   I wouldn’t say it was impossible (and would more than likely involve a US army plane, if it was available) and that would take work – preparation of a runway etc, and that takes time.. All the Australian stations have doctor’s and clinics with gear for dental work, a surgery, a recovery room – and they take some amazing doctors down south! 

 

So, why do we go? No, it’s not to work in a hotel, or for tourists.  ‘Stations’ in Antarctica are all there for scientific research purposes; we’re there because scientists go there.  These stations range in size from a dozen over summer to up to 1100 (McMurdo Station, American, just near New Zealand’s Scott Base).  The two big Australian stations (Casey and Davis) house around 100 people each for summer, down to the low 20s or so for winter. 

 

What people are needed to run a station? Tradespeople! They’ll send chefs (me), plant operators, diesel mechanics, plumbers, electricians, AGSO’s (air ground support who work at the Wilkins runway and the station ski ways), crane operators, stores person, station leader, carpenters, boiler makers, general trades, doctor, meteorological staff, IT guys, radio operators, operations manager.. yes, trades folk!! All these jobs are listed on the Australian Antarctic Division website – the length of stint, the pay, whats requried etc. 

 

So, I cook there – and I get asked so many questions about the food in Antarctica. So I’ll answer those and dispel the myths now!

Do we eat penguin? No

Do we see polar bears? No, they’re only in the north pole

Do we eat fresh fish? No, you cant just go fishing for dinner!!

How often do we get food? Resupply is done once a year, by ice breaker, for each station (Australian stations are Mawson, Davis, Casey and Macquarie Island – Wilkins Aerodrome is a temporary ‘camp’ only set up for summer months when the airbus is flying).  Some fresh fruit and vegetables come ashore – cucumbers, lettuce, tomatoes, pears, sweet potatoe, lemons, limes, cabbage, carrot.. those need to be eaten though as they don’t last long.  Potatoes, onions, apples and fresh eggs come by the pallet load as they last a lot longer.  Sometimes, bad luck will strike for a winter chef and they will have to destroy eggs or apples, for some reason they go off / rot / don’t last.. the eggs are double oiled to help prevent spoiling, this coating prevents air getting into the eggs.

There’s massive freezers full of vegetables, ice cream, egg pulp and meats, seafood and poultry – crayfish, scallops, mussels, squid, fish fillets, salmon (whole and fillets), prawns etc fillet steak, sirloin, ribs, back straps.. all the cuts of meat from lamb, pigs and beef – even some whole pigs and lamb for the spit roaster.  Turkeys, quails, chicken – whole, breasts, legs.. Bacon, sausages, cured meats / salami, hash browns, and more flours, seeds, dried fruits, herbs, condiments, sauces, pastas, rice etc than you could shake a stick at! Really, we eat well down there, all things considered!

Huge array of amazing cheeses, coffee beans for the big ass coffee machine – with powdered milk L actually, its not too bad!  I can still make a mean latte with that milk!  And we make our own yogurt, which is easy and fast.

 

What do you do as soon as you arrive?

Health and safety laws are alive and well in Antarctica also, so, we do a tour of station and its surrounds, and before anyone can go into the ‘field’ they have to do survival training, which is compass work, map reading, and sleeping in a bivvy bag – getting familiar with the things that are in our assigned survival packs.  Those packs are to be carried every time you go off station.  And then there’s the travel training – hagglunds and quad bike.  Not everyone gets trained in driving a hagglund (tracked vehicle) but will get the quad training, unless you don’t want to – like me! I don’t trust myself on a motorbike!  But I do agree, it looks fun! 

 

What do we do in our spare time? 

Well, we all work 5.5 days a week (chefs work 5 days a week) – for tradies they do an 8-5pm day, chefs is anywhere from 9-12 hours (hence chefs have  2 days off). There’s ‘Saturday duties’ for tradies to do on a Saturday.  1-2 hours of doing whatever you’ve been rostered on for – setting up the mess for Saturday night dinner, cleaning cold porches, vacuuming, rubbish sorting..  and on a daily basis, there will be two people rostered on to help the chefs in the kitchen, and two to clean the bar / pool table / lounge area. 

 There’s a bar, a pool table, library, cinema.. with the Australians, they don’t sell liquor, so you need to buy your own before departure and have it packaged up for passage on the ship.  Its administered, once on the ice, according to the same drinking recommendations in Australia (x amount of spirits or wines per week).  So all the personal alcohol is kept locked in a room, known as ‘Fort Knox’, and its open once a week!  There’s also the hugely popular home brewing happening on station, they’ll even go as far as designing beer labels, hoodies, stubbie holders etc! 

There’s a fully equipped music room, gyms, skis, walking loops, ‘huts’ dotted at various locations if you want a weekend away, quad bikes to take out.. or, someone to natter with on station, always!  Its like being in a big back packers hostel!

 

How long does it take to get there?

That depends on which station you’re going to.  Mawson and Davis, travel there is on the ice breaker, and it’s around 3 weeks to Mawson and 2 weeks to Davis.  Casey has two arrivals – flights (Australian airbus to McMurdo, then US Hercules over to Casey), or the icebreaker, which takes a week.  I’ve done a mix of both.  The flights are always great, an aerial view of the ice!, but the last two times I’ve come home on the ship, and actually this last time, I went down by ship also.  We were so lucky, it was very smooth sailing on the way down.  Can’t say the same for the way home, although this year wasn’t as brutal as last year.  Its hard work in the rough weather!  If you’re lying down, you’re concertinaing up and down your bunk, if you shower you need to hang on to the bars bolted onto the walls, walking up and down the corridors is like being really drunk and things like the chair your sitting in will slide up and down the floor with the movement of the ship as well.  But, I got to experience my life long dream of being on the southern ocean!! (and its better with seasickness pills inside the body!)

 

What’s the coldest I’ve felt? -47 C, which includes wind chill.  Out of the wind, it was -35 C, when I was doing my survival training at Scott Base.  As soon as the sun went behind Mt Erebus, that was it, it was killer cold! But in summer, yes, you can go outside in a t shirt and shorts.  Plus the station is warm, its never freezing inside – and we all get issued with Antarctic clothing before we head south. 

 

All summerers who go south with the Australians will get presented with a certificate when they get back to Australia – a thank you and recognition of your contribution and effort, to their efforts. Nice touch! I’ve now got 3 and they’re going STRAIGHT to the pool room.. haha   J