Rodel, Sled or Tobogan?

I thought sledding was for kids, little kids, at Christmas, down a small hill maybe 50 meters or so, in soft snow so that when they inevitably fell they didn’t get hurt. Not so. Sledding, otherwise know in Germany as Rodeling or in some places as Toboganing can be adrenaling inducing stuff, especially at Wallberg, where rather than a small hill you head down 6km of snow-covered, hairpins included, access road.

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Pinacle of Wallberg looking North-North-West to Tegernsee

Wallberg bahn Web-cam

To be clear, I’m not talking about ‘Cool Runnings’ style bob-sledding, luge or skeleton, where you travel down a semi-enclosed and embanked track. I’m talking about a basic wooden sled with two runners approximately 1m in length, maybe with some kind of woven seating or a cushion if you are lucky, and some rope between the two runners at the front to hold onto. Your feet serve as both brakes and steering assistance. Theoretically you should steer by transitioning the weight in your bum. Good luck with that.

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Pinacle of Wallberg looking South-South-East into the Austrian Alps

The end result is a hell of a lot of fun, a trip or two over the mountain side, a sore backside, a few near misses, some harmless bumps and quite a bit of fun. So much fun, we went back for more a few days later! Check out the 1 min clip below for some of the thrills and spills!

Munich Street Art Tour

Munich has some pretty impressive art galleries, I have visited them, and found them, well, lacking a little spice. The galleries themselves did not feel like they were making a social commentary, just providing a home. I think it is the anti-authoritarian Australian in me that finds something far too institutional in art galleries. Although they are not expensive to get into, it seems that the art in in those galleries have lost their message a little. We uphold the Arts as a precious free source of expression, and yet within a gallery it seems to lose its place in society. As if it is no longer living.

In juxtaposition to those galleries, qhilst visiting Munich these past few times, and wandering among its streets, I started to notice these little, cute, expressions of freedom. Animals, flowers and lovers in the concrete jungle.

 

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These pictures were spotted just wandering around the North East of Munich, except the bottom right picture which is hanging on Julia’s wall! I had to include it as an example all artists can aspire to. However, if you want a more thorough exploration of Munich street art there are some route maps available on the web.  You may want to check out:

– Art and Culture trails

– Legal walls

It strikes me that GeoCaching and graffiti artists should get together some-time.

Catch me if you can!

In the past, I have been lucky with an upgrade or two. This week has been a long one of flights, stop-overs, furry teeth, dry eyes, long nights, and odd sleeping patterns. Thankfully, trans-Atlantic flights are not so common for me. Needless to say, going into a 2 day weekend workshop on the back of 50 hrs flying and annual donor reporting, I have been hoping and asking for an upgrade all week.

I got lucky on the second leg of the return trip, with a seat move to premium plus economy from Washington to Zurich.The truth is though, that you make your own luck. So when we boarded late in Zurich and started to pass through a mostly empty business class, I thought a self appointed upgrade was a good idea.

I really thought I would get kicked out, so didn’t get too comfortable. Still, I figured the 30 min until after take off would secure me some precious laptop battery charge time and then they would probably discover me when taking meal orders. Not so, and the champaign, prawns, cheese platter, gnocchi and gelato came and went and I reclined my Swiss sky bed out flat for a much needed nap.

Fortune truly does favour the brave.

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Qulalane* Falls, Makhaleng River, Lesotho

At the end of February I was lucky enough to shown one of my colleagues favorite places in Lesotho, Qulalane Falls. The only condition was that I take her on the back of the bike over the two mountain passes that had to be crossed to get to the hike starting point . We set out early from Maseru on a sunny Saturday, with two other friends joining in a car to make a convoy of it.

The pictures below show the hike in, and the falls. What they do not show is the thunderstorm that rolled in while we hiked back after lunch. They don’t show the hail, flash flooded roads, lightning and thunder. Most spectacular and scary of all was the fountains created as rain water poured down the gutters and hit piles of rocks in its path, spraying water 2 meters in the air and all over the road.

The bad weather created an interesting moral dilemma. It placed me in a position where I felt that it was an unnecessarily high risk for my colleague to ride on the back of the bike. Especially given there was room in the dry, warm, comparatively safer car, and my colleague did not have a proper jacket. My colleague disagreed, passionately, so I drove off without her, removing her freedom of choice. Was this right or wrong?

Thanks also to Max for the group shot and a few of these photos

* Not sure about spelling. Suggestions welcome!

Drakensburgs

The Drakensburg mountain range is known as the wall of spears that peacefully separated the Basotho (People of Lesotho) from the Zulu (Of North East RSA). Here are some clips from a sneaky long weekend I managed for a friends birthday thanks to a public holiday in RSA way back in the start of spring.

We stayed at the beautiful Inkosana  Lodge, which is on the road to the Monks Cowl National Park, with a great view of Cathkin peak at sunset over the pool. After doing one of the day hikes to the waterfall under Monks Cowl, we headed further South West to the Amphitheatre Park, and hiked into the base of the Amphitheatre. Topped the long week of driving around a small game park which is situated at the site where the British armed forced incurred a significant loss to the Zulu.

A very action packed and worthwhile long weekend.

Nozawa Onsen snowboarding

It is a year since I first went snowboarding with Arnault at Nozawa Onsen. During January and February 2013 we made numerous trips into the deep fluffy snow on the north west slopes of the Torogi pass in Nagano Prefecture. Arnault, a university friend of Nicks’ from Singapore has been a regular at Nozawa onsen for the past 7 years and returns year on year for the ease of access from Tokyo, deep powder, often unused off-piste trails, and local, non-touristy feel that the place has. He stays at the same family Ryonkan each year, and they view him as a favoured son. Ina ddition, the town is historic, with 17 public onsens scattered throughout the tiny town, it is one of few places  where these public onsens are still maintained, free of charge.

We had blue skies for 2 of the three visits, which is apparently pretty rare, and good snow. On one occasion, we had almost too much snow! Check out the gallery and two video clips I have put together below. Unfortunately, both times I went off-piste with Arnault and Delphine, I crashed too many times to make sure the camera was operating appropriately! One of those occasions I managed to get a little air just prior to hitting a tree at pretty decent speed, so a good thing it is not on camera!

Click to see the pictures in large format.

Cape Town Open Street festival and neighborhood markets

Cape Town is a beautiful, vibrant city with a large and growing activist community. There is always a buzz about people and places that are trying to make themselves better. I was lucky enough to pop into the Open Street festival in Cape Town at the end of May when all my gear arrived. I was doubly lucky to have the energetic Cecile to show me around and introduce me to many of the exciting and interesting people that are improving the social equality in and around Cape Town.

For more information on the open streets project you should visit: http://openstreets.co.za/

For more information on the Old Mill Neighborhood markets you should visit: http://www.neighbourgoodsmarket.co.za/

Enjoy the pics.

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