Well my last round for a few weeks has come and gone, and for whatever reason, this was a surprisingly tolerable round. I was still miserable, but if you were to grade miserableness, which I have increasingly got better at, it was at the lighter end of the scale. However, the tradeoff was a slightly slower recovery that I might normally have had. Also, to add insult to injury, I have had a really hard time sleeping over the past few nights, even with pharmaceutical supplements.
Following round 35 came my last two days of work in the cardiothoracic unit, and a talk that I did at the medschool. This talk was on wednesday evening, and about 120 people showed up for it which was pretty surprising!! I was expecting maybe 60-70. The room was packed, and I followed a seminar type format with some Q and A at the end. It seemed to be received well, but then it’s always hard to know. No one wants to be the one to tell a dying man he sucks. 🙂
From here, comes a sabbatical of sorts. Four weeks, slow paced, adventure filled, exploring Peru. We depart on Saturday afternoon, and won’t be back till the beginning of September, where I start in Older Peoples Health.
… So, this basically means that this blog will quieten down for a bit. It may be that whilst I’m sunning myself in the shadow of the Andes I get all reflective and decide to write something as llamas stroll past and guinea pigs are being roasted… But to be honest, I doubt it.
So for a little while, see you soon…
Here is a quick video of the South Island. iPhone 4’s video capacity is a very handy thing for things such as this. It is virtually recorded all on the iPhone, except where I forgot to bring it, and the DSLR had to stand in for me.
The second phase of our trip involved spending a night in Te Anau in a lake front backpackers, and from there heading out to Milford sound. The drive out to Milford has to be one of the most spectacular drives I have ever made, with new vista’s opening up after every bend. Hannah and I had decided on doing an overnight cruise out on Milford sound, so we opted for the cheaper option of the two available to us. We arrived ready to check in on our boat to find out that we had been upgraded to the more expensive option. Usually it costs 490 dollars per person per night!… we did not pay anywhere near that much, so it was a pretty sweet upgrade. The package included a buffet dinner and breakfast. The weather was also remarkably clear, with the guides constantly reminding us how this never happens in the Milford Sound.
Enjoy the photos, which to be honest, do not do justice to the spectacular scenery.
After med is all done, and before getting a job, Hannah and I are hitting the South Island for a tour-delux of what it has to offer in two weeks. There will be a slight hiatus on day 9 when we hit Christchurch cos of the small inconvenience of a qualifying ceremony back in Auckland, so we will fly back for an evening to officialise me becoming a Doctor. Aparently it’s important. 🙂
Anywhoo.. Here is our planned route, we shall try to catch up with the locals possible, but we already know where most of you are :-). We start in Dunedin (which is ‘A’ and ‘O’) and work our way clockwise from there.
Finally, the last leg of our trip was in the Philippines. This part of the trip was 7 days spend in Panabo, about 1hr north of Davao, the biggest city on the Island Mindinao, which is the biggest island in the Philippines (did you catch all that?). This was not a travel and be a tourist trip as the rest of our travelling had been. I have visited this area a number of times over the past 10 years, including a 3 month visit back in the summer of 05/06. The original intent was for Hannah and I to only spend a few nights there as a visit and to say hi to old friends. However, this changed as we found out that some other friends where planning on doing a short term trip there. We decided to extend our stay for a week (they were there for 2 weeks) and join in on the activities!
Largely, our time involved working with kids, putting on feedings, and preaching/sharing. The feedings were in areas of very high poverty, where the children were not always guaranteed a good meal each day. I also had good opportunities to share with everyone how my health has been doing, as they had heard about it, but not in detail. They have been keeping Hannah and I in their prayers over the last year, which is always encouraging.
The 7 nights here were the longest we had stayed in a single bed for our entire trip, so it was nice to settle down somewhere for a bit, but I definitely had the travel bug again by the time we had to leave. We then hit Bangkok with a ridiculously short changeover of flights (we cut it real close) in Singapore, and 2 nights later began the 13th flight home to NZ.
We spent 5 nights total in Laos. The original plan as per the itinerary was to hit southern Laos via Cambodia, but as time unfolded, it became clear that we had taken on a fairly ambitious timetable that was rapidly running out of time. So, in the end, we decided to take a plane from Siem Reap to Vientiane flying Laos Airlines. Laos Airlines incidentally are one of the few airlines in the world that keep their safety record out of the public eye….. hmmm….
We were told by an australian and british couple that we met in Hoi An, Vietnam, that Vientiane was not too much to get excited about, so with that in mind, we arrived at 8pm at night, and departed at about 7.30am the next morning for a 12 hr bus ride up to Luang Prabang.
The bus ride was officially the worst bus ride ever!! Two hours into the trip, we came upon a bridge that had dropped away at one side, which meant no buses or heavy trucks could get past. So… wait…. wait… and more waiting, for the bus doing the reverse journey occupied the next 8 hours of our day. at 5.30pm, we finally got on the bus heading north, about 30 min before dark. We were starting to make contingency plans just in case we had been left in the middle of the laotion jungle overnight! We made it into Luang Prabang at a bright 3.30am.
The next 4 nights were in Luang Prabang, which is a really nice little French colonial town in the middle of northern Laos. It was relaxed and scenic, one of the location highlights of all our travels. We went elephant riding with a company that rescues them out of forestry work and rehabilitates them, the first company we felt treats them properly. We ate, we slept, we wined, and we dined….. all chilled out and ready for northern Thailand, the next leg.
Cambodia was a country that was really split into two parts. There was the Phnom Penh part, which involved the killing fields and the Teul Sleng museum (also known as S21), and the Siem Reap part, which was all about the old cites of Angkor.
We spent 2 nights in Phnom Penh, at a guest house we found out was patronised by Elton John 1 year earlier, and visited the killing fields and S 21 on the same day. It was kinda surreal to see the site of such a huge atrocity, that has been made infamous on a global scale. 2 million Cambodians died during Pol Pots regime, which is 1 in 5. The population dropped from 10 million to 8 million in 3 years. At the killing fields, they have exhumed a large number of the graves, but have left the rest to lie in peace. There is a giant monument there that is filled with the bones of the exhumed bodies that is meant to be a reminder to the world of the atrocities that happened, and to serve as a warning to not let it happen again.
The S21 museum/former prison is where the regime used to take prisoners and ‘interogate’ them in order to get confessions of subversion. The neighbours at the time report hearing blood curdling screams through the night as the prisoners were tortured, and then taken to the killing fields for their execution. The prison used to be an elementary school that was converted. Pol Pot’s regime did not believe in education and shut down all the schools during his time.
After the history of Phnom Penh, we moved on up to Siem Reap, where its all about Angkor, and the temples there. The most famous one being Angkor Wat. We got a 3 day pass and a driver and hit them hard, so much so that we skipped the 3rd day. It is a SERIOUSLY big place, with SO many temples and ruins. We figured that by the end of the 2nd day, when everything started to blur, and I had taken something like 400 photos, that the 3rd day really wasnt going to add anything to the trip. So, we spent the final day relaxing in Siem reap, and getting our feet pedicured by fish.
Photos of Cambodia can be found here: Photos of Cambodia