My traveling saga finally continues with photos and comments from Thailand.  This will be another multi-part installment.  Spoiler alert: Thailand is amazing!  Anyone who loves to eat, shop, see gorgeous temples, or lounge on beautiful beaches should put Thailand on their must-see list.

Day 1: Bangkok

So the flight from Paro, Bhutan to Bangkok was probably one of the weirder flights that I have been on.  It was so loud!  And not the plane engines – the people.  It was an evening flight, and I kept nodding off and then jerking myself awake when my head would fall and then snap back up.  I’m sure everyone has either done this or seen their plane seat mate doing this at some point.  But every time that I would wake up, it was like the whole plane was shouting at each other.  And they never turned the lights off in the cabin.  Weird.

We finally touched down in Thailand just before midnight.  I’m pretty sure that taxiing in the airplane and then taking the bus to the terminal might have taken longer than our actual flight.  The airport is a big place with a big name, Suvarnabhumi Airport.  

After waiting interminably long for our baggage, Jenn and I were in the back of a taxi headed to the hotel.  Jenn is amazing at bartering with locals, and got our taxi ride down to half  of the asking price.  Our hotel was ridiculously nice:

We were almost giddy about how nice it was. After the poor door man brought up our 200 lbs of baggage, we pretty much collapsed into bed.

Day 2: The Market

In the morning, we were treated with a sweeping view of the city.  I’ll be honest, it wasn’t quite what I was expecting.  It looks like a very cosmopolitan metropolis with lots of skyscrapers, etc.  

Jenn and I hit the town with the mission of finding food and a massage.  Done and done!  We found a really fancy spa right around the corner.  And while we were killing an hour before our treatment time, we found … Thai food!  It was our first authentic Thai meal including Thai iced tea, food that was way too spicy for us Westerners, and a requisite selfie.

Walking back to the massage place, we were surprised to see triple digit countdowns on the walk signs to cross some of the busy city streets.  Most American cities will have a countdown of maybe 30 seconds, not hundred of seconds.  My massage was amazing!  For a mere $35 US, I had a two hour massage.  Jenn got a traditional Thai massage and paid about $15 for 2 hours.  This is by far the most we would pay for massages the entire trip.  I got a scalp massage as part of my treatment.  I should have known it was going to be a little different since the masseuse asked me like four times if I was sure I wanted one.  It was basically a combo of getting the shit beaten out of my head, someone playing the bongos on my head, and someone karate chopping my head.  It ruined my zen a little bit but I somehow persevered.  

Jenn had read about a weekend market in her travel guide so that was our next stop.  It was awesome!  Seriously, if you find yourself in Bangkok, you MUST check it out.  Tents and vendor carts stretched out as far as you could see.  There were overwhelming scents and crushing crowds.  You could buy home furnishings, paintings, eclectic art and knick knacks, underwear, and soap.  There were whole aisles dedicated to just used Levi’s jeans.  It was totally overwhelming and wonderful.  A torrential downpour started soon after we got there, so we squeezed into a tiny bar to have a spiked fruit punch until things let up a bit.

The clothing that we found there was incredibly cheap and incredibly cute.  Unfortunate Thai women are considerably smaller than me for the most part, but I did find some fun stuff to bring home.

We indulged in some street vendor food.  Ask me in a few days if that was a mistake….

We wandered the market until we ran out of money and it shut down.  Dinner was at a really random but famous restaurant called Cabbages and Condoms.  I’m pretty sure that you can guess what the general theme was…

On the way home from dinner, we just had to stop for a foot massage.  One massage a day just isn’t enough, right?  It was amazing until the woman started giving me a shoulder and neck rub.  That woman basically was abusing my back.  How does someone so small have such strong hands??? She told me that being so tight would cause headaches and difficulty sleeping.  I’m pretty sure that my massage didn’t solve these issues.  But it did certainly add backache to my list of ailments…

To be continued.


Dogs of Asia

So I’m sure most folks can tell by now that I am a huge dog lover.  So instead of inundating every blog post with a ton of dog photos, I figured that I would get them all out of the way in one fell swoop.  Yes, I am that weirdo who pets the flea- and mange-ridden dogs when traveling…. These are the dogs that I encountered in Bhutan and Thailand.

My favorite (photo taken by our wonderful photographer at the race, Hannisze):

Please feel free to share my blog with anyone you think might be interested. And be sure to click the “FOLLOW” link so that you will get email updates every time I post!  I would hate for you to miss one minute of my shenanigans…. 

The Last Secret: The Last Installment

Well, time to finally complete the coverage on the amazing race we had in Bhutan.

Stage 4: Getting closer to the finish

After getting down from the monastery, it was time to jump in the car and drive around to Paro.  On the way, we saw a sign that made me smile, “CAUTION zebra humps”.  I’m assuming it meant that there were stripes painted on the speed bumps in the road, but I thought that it was funny.  There are a lot of interesting and comical signs along the road in Bhutan, mainly having to do with road safety.  With the treacherous, winding, narrow roads it does make sense.  I wish I had taken pictures of some of them, but unfortunately after reviewing my photos, I didn’t see any.  

Camp 5 (the much better farmhouse): After a few hours of driving, we finally made it to our camp for the night.  It was a sprawling farmhouse with a courtyard and dining tents set up in back, set amongst the rice paddies.  This camp is always a real treat for the racers since the owners offer hot stone baths.  Basically they have wooden tubs filled with water into which they place stones that they have been heating over the fire for the day.  I have foregone this luxury both years after I found out that they don’t change the water in between bathers.  I can handle a lot of dirt and grime, but for whatever reason that one is a little hard to handle.  But it seemed like the people that took the bath found it utterly indescribable, so I’m happy for that.

Once we arrived in camp, I promptly climbed to the rooftop in order to try and catch a snooze.  I heard my name being called shortly thereafter and I am super glad that someone found me.  The owner of the home was making some of our staff breakfast and I was pumped to get to join.  It was an incredibly simple affair of eggs freshly scrambled and placed on top of rice.  There was a chilli and yogurt sauce as a topping and steaming hot milky tea as an accompaniment.  I’m not exaggerating when I say that it was one of the best meals that I had while in Bhutan.  The owner and her daughter were incredibly nice.  I later sat in companionable silence with the older female owner in front of the house, waiting for the runners to come in.  The silence was punctuated with her trying to say something to me via pantomime.  I usually had no clue what she was trying to say but we were both laughing and smiling, and I enjoyed her company.  Sometimes it’s the really small moments that make travel so exquisite: sharing tea with a family, feeling the sun on your face in a rice paddy, communicating via exaggerated gestures.  It was a nice afternoon for me sitting by the finish line.  I finished another book that I was reading and managed to catch up on the very writing that you are reading now.  

Eventually most runners came in and it was dinner time.  Jenn and opted for backpackers meals in order to get rid of some of the weight that we were lugging around in our duffel bags.  The MSG-laden meal was utterly delicious and I walked back to the finish line in the darkness with a full belly.  I took an actual shower !?!  Well kind of, I stood in a big plastic tub while a hose spit out lukewarm water at me.  It was the cleanest I have been in 5 days, so I’ll take it.  I slid out of my sleeping bag close to 10pm in order to welcome the last runner into camp.  Better get some sleep, it’s the long day tomorrow.

Stage 5 (long day)

The morning started early with a staggered start.  The hour in between the two groups of runners will hopefully allow the field to be a little closer.  I was at checkpoint 2 with another volunteer and a local driver.  The views were beautiful.

Everyone but 3 or 4 runners were in really good spirits when they reached checkpoint 2.  And despite the physical discomfort of a the heat and some climbing, most were able to appreciate the beautiful view from the checkpoint.  After all runners were through, the other volunteer walked with the last runner while I was whisked away to the finish.  It would be another long day until everyone came in, but it was a beautiful day and the finish line was a pretty great place to spend an afternoon.

Camp 6: After most runners were in, I walked back down to our camp.  Last year we camped in tents in a grassy field below the ruins of the finish lines.  This year, we were staying in houses in a tiny village.

We were entertained in camp by a spunky 3-pawed puppy.  One of our racers was a vet, and he thought that the paw had probably been lost traumatically after the puppy was born.  Despite several other cute little pups, this guy seemed to be the most well fed by our runners.  From camp, we could watch the last few runners come in.  It felt cruel that they had to make one last climb before they could come back down and join us, but everyone had great big smiles on their faces. We had one last buffet meal put together by our wonderful staff.  Most everyone looked absolutely great despite the high mileage of the day, but our Bhutanese boys needed a little TLC.  They are always so grateful to have our help, and one of them even smiled for the camera despite the disarray that his feet were in.

In this photo, you can see the skimpy trainers that he had been running in.  Poor guy.  Our runners were generous enough to donate shoes to both of our Bhutanese runners so that their feet would have some relief on the last day at least.  Maybe for the next race, we could make arrangements to have racers bring extra running supplies for our local runners.  It seems like in some countries, it is difficult or cost prohibitive to get high quality running gear.  With as gracious as our runners generally are, I’m sure there would be no problem in getting some nice equipment for the racers representing their home country.  We were given a tour of our lodgings and Jenn and I were delighted to see that we had the family’s prayer room to ourselves for our last night out. Final stage tomorrow!

Stage 6 – The END! 

 We were up early to start the strenuous hike up to Tiger’s Nest.  It was a bit chaotic in the morning, but everyone got to their respective places on time.  For the first time all week, Jenn and I got to hike together! We had the trail to ourselves before the late morning onslaught of tourists.

Photos from the hike to Tiger’s Nest:

It was damp and cool in the shade at the finish line.  We had some time before the runners were going to arrive, so it was prime time to sneak a peak at the monastery.  I got yelled at by the policeman up there for having a few inches of skin showing between my socks and the bottom of my pants.  No matter how old I get, I still hate being scolded… Typically at holy Buddhist sights, the requirements are to have your shoulder and knees covered.  Something must have changed since last year so we were going to have to get creative with some of the runners attire if they were going to be able to tour the incredible monastery.  Oddly enough, this same cop startled me by chanting Buddhist mantras and prayers in the toilet stall next to mine later in the day.

Finish line:

From the finish line, you can see the runners across the chasm coming down the steps long before they get to you.  There is always palpable excitement when watching the people you took care of all week cross the finish line.  There is a lot of smiling and hugging, and usually some tears too.  After most were in, we got to take our official tour of Tiger’s Nest.

Creative use of buffs to meet the dress code:

 On the tour, I learned a few new facts.  I stuck my head into the windy, whistling cavern where the flying tiger was purported to have landed.  Apparently there is a tight passage here that connects to one of the temples.  This scary cave is the Buddhist version of the Catholics saying numerous Hail Mary’s.  Basically, you have to crawl through this treacherous passage if you committed a grave sin in order to realign your Karma.  No thank you, it looked pretty scary.  After all runners had finished (yay!), we walked en masse down to a restaurant perched halfway on the climb.  It was a Bhutanese buffet (surprise!) with all the usual fare.  There was a hot pot of the national Bhutanese dish, Ema Datshi, or chilies with cheese.  This one was incredibly spicy which meant that I ate way too much white rice in order to quell the heat.  Jenn and I enjoyed  one of the best cups of tea ever before it was time for our group photos.  

Another race finished!  Time to celebrate!  We enjoyed the luxury of our 5-star resort, traditional Bhutanese dancing, and a buffet of Western and traditional foods.   

Our flight on DrukAir had been delayed the next day, so we got half a day of sightseeing and endless souvenir shopping in Paro.  

Time to go to Thailand!  And say goodbye to the land beyond the earth and the sky.

The Last Secret: Second installment

Stage 3: Phajoding Monastery – 3,600 meters!
I forgot how long the walk up to the monastery is. For whatever reason in my mind, I had been thinking that last year wasn’t that bad. Ha.  And I kept telling Jenn that it wasn’t that bad.  Just straight uphill for hours. About 10km uphill with 1000 meters of elevation gain. I started at Stage 1 where people already didn’t look that happy about the hill climbing. And then was dropped off at a temple below checkpoint 2. It was about 2 km straight up in order to reach the checkpoint. It was one of those illusion peaks where every time you think you have gotten to the top, suddenly a lot more climbing materializes in front of you. There was a giant prayer wheel with a lopsided grinning holy man spinning it directly opposite the bench that was the checkpoint. The ringing of the bell was comforting in an odd way.

 Apparently two local men were battling over who would get to take home the empty water bottles. Kinzang made a deal that whoever got the bottles would have to take care of our trash as well – good negotiator. When we had about 5 runners left to come through, I decided to take off towards the finish. Hard to say how long the hike would take me with my heavy medical backpack.  It was a nice flat walk to the BBS tower – that’s where I got dropped off last year. Thousands of prayer flags fluttered in the breeze as the climb commenced.

 One of the new Bhutanese runners had a new knee effusion so I put an Ace wrap on him, gave him some Tylenol, and sent him on his way with his buddy. I had terrible bilateral effusions the year before after the long day. All of the up and down with a heavy pack was brutal. Interesting tidbit: the same thing used to happen to me after runs over about 16 miles, and then it totally stopped after taking Glucosamine. My Vizsla never limped another day in his life, even after playing ball hard, after I supplemented his food with it as well.  And I’m pretty sure the placebo effect does not work on dogs…  Good stuff. But anyway, the brutal and grinding uphill was upon me. Even walking slowly, I would eventually have to pause to get my heart rate down. I was surprised that I was never really out of breath on the climb. Although my legs began to poop out towards the end. I kind of kept myself within the last 10 runners so I could keep an eye on everyone. I cannot believe that even with my pack, I was faster than the bottom of the field. I’m never fast! 

 About midway up, there was a respite from the climb. The trail narrowed, flattened, and began winding through thick green Bhutanese jungle. It was so beautiful and peaceful. Butterflies flitted in the light that filtered through and the air was thick was the smell of several varieties of wildflower. But all good things come to an end. The climb began in earnest again. Every time you would swing around one switchback, you were greeted with another wall of red hard-packed dirt. Sometimes it seemed as if it went straight up. Over and again. I was technically supposed to be sweeping so when I estimated that I had about a 30-minute climb left, I parked myself under a tree to wait. The last runner was really struggling. He walked about 10 feet past me and then threw himself to the ground. I heard him mutter, “this can’t be serious, will it ever stop?”. I felt for him as I can hardly imagine making this climb with already about 70 km under my belt.   Finally the rest of the sweep team arrived. There were 2 locals, our photographer (who was the wife of one of the runners), and one of our volunteers.  After a lot of swearing and questioning, we caught sight of the monastery complex. We also caught sight of the last runner. The gentleman who was in 2nd place had walked back down the hill in order to carry the wearied man’s pack. Incredibly generous. Our motley group of six finally staggered up the monastery steps. I was greeted with claps which always feels nice. 

I made it!

 I wish I could say that there was hot lunch waiting but unfortunately it was pretty cold by my arrival. But the coke was delicious! And I was so hungry that the food tasted good. There was a fire going which was a good thing given that it was very cold at 3,600 meters and a constant drizzle that occasionally decided to ramp up into outright rain. The skies felt like they were right at the verge of snow. Ours was a sad camp filled with shivering runners. The afternoon got a little long just trying to stay warm. The highlight of everyone’s evening was the soccer game against the monks. Everyone got really into it this year and we had quite a few talented players. Global Limits finally broke its losing streak and crushed the red robed boys 5-2. 

Dinner was a cold and cramped affair in the monk’s dining hall. We were fortunate to at least have a place to get out of the rain. Stephan had arranged for a very special surprise for one runner in particular which benefited all of us – birthday cake! We sang happy birthday and then watched 37 runners demolish a giant birthday cake. Well, three quarters of a birthday cake. Apparently the porter who carried it up took a spill on his way. Oops.

I was surprised to bump into a mule on my way to the toilet before bedtime. He didn’t seem real happy to see me either. Well fine. It was pretty cold in the dining room overnight and I did not sleep very well. I know that I had weird dreams but I can’t remember them. What I am dreaming of now is a hot shower and a soft bed in a 5-star Paro hotel.  As I drifted to sleep, I was really surprised to hear a familiar tune, and also one of my favorites, Guns N Roses’ Sweet Child O Mine.  Apparently the Bhutanese monks are GnR fans too.

Stage 4:  The Way Down

 It was a difficult but beautiful walk down the mountain. I think it is harder for me to walk fast than run slowly. Here are some beautiful photos from the trip down:

Hard-working, kind Bhutanese race worker, Kinzang:

 Final race coverage coming soon!

The Last Secret: First Installment (2nd try)

Okay I went to town to get some wifi.  Enjoy more amusing musings on the race:

We made a pit stop after lunch to tour the Punakha Dzong. As I walked over the covered bridge to get to the entrance, I dodged a mob of dogs and Indian tourists. People from India do not have to pay the daily tourist rate of $250 (!) to visit Bhutan so they are the most noticeable tourist subset.  People were throwing crackers off of the bridge which caused a feeding frenzy of the river trout below. Looking down into the water, it looked like a moving pit of dappled brown.  Walking towards the steep entrance, I was met by the fragrance of spring flowers. There were beautiful showers of purple blossoms hanging from the trees. Above the doorway, there were strange looking dark oblong shapes hanging down. They were actually giant bee hives!  I’ve never seen that shape of bee apartment before. A bell was softly chiming in a steady rhythm. It was coming from one of the giant prayer wheels as it lazily spun around in a clockwise direction. The main temple was absolutely spectacular. 30 foot statues of the Buddha and other important figures looked down imposingly. A wild orgy of colors covered every wall and tapestry. A quiet hush mingled with the scent of incense to lend a meditative atmosphere. I smiled when we boarded the bus in the parking lot once again as there was a young cow out there plaintively mooing at the passers-by. He was facing the parking lot between two other mini-buses like he had backed into the space.  I wish I could have had the foresight to snap a photo of him.

After a little bit longer of getting beat up by the erratic road conditions, we finally pulled into camp. It is in the same location as last year – a tiny village of tents huddled close to the river bank. After the heat of mid-day, a strong wind started rushing down the valley at us. Dust and dirt was swirling despite the local staff’s best efforts to throw water onto the hardened ground. Jenn and I had the inaugural edition of setting up our tent complete with sleeping pads, travel pillows, sleeping bags. It takes me a few days to get into the rhythm of setting up and taking down my little portable life, and so I spent a lot of time tearing through my duffel bag and backpack only to realize that I had forgotten to get out what I had gone in there to get in the first place. Jenn helped me look over the medical briefing to make sure that I had not left anything out. And tried to advise me how to tell everyone that we didn’t have the resources between the two of us to tape everyone’s feet every night without sounding cold and heartless. She is always much better than me at telling people “no” without coming off like a big meanie.

Opening briefing time – action shot:

Despite it being only 7pm, I was desperate to pull my kindle out and crawl into my sleeping bag. Tomorrow is race day number 1.  
On the road again – Stage 1
The start was absolutely moving. As we pulled up to the Dzong, there was a gauntlet of students lining the bridge, rhythmically clapping. 600 of the local high schools students came out on a Sunday to wish our runners luck. We lined up on the steps of the imposing fortress for the opening ceremony. The students were to sing us their national anthem and it was charming how they all cleared their throats before uttering the first note. Their lilting voices rose and fell with the mysterious melody. Some of the students looked bored and almost embarrassed to have to sing in front of these foreigners, but some had their eyes turned inwards and were quite serious.  

I could barely handle this mangy little face:

Local woman at the race start:

Scenes from Stage 1:

Stage one went off without a hitch. I went directly to the finish while Jenn manned Checkpoint 2. Everyone was all smiles when they arrived into camp. The runners commented on the beauty of the course. I was nearly floored when the afternoon drifted by without a single runner asking for anything medical. A girl could get used to this!  
We stayed at an isolated monastery this evening.  Here are little mental snapshots of the experience: the clouds clinging to the mountain side on the ride up, little smiling monks in red, quiet, fresh air, so peaceful, absolute blackness of the night.

This black and white dog followed us the following year from this monastery for another 2 stages of running.  She amazingly made her way back to her home monastery!

Stage 2 – to the taxi driver’s

 I left bright and early this morning.  We had to drive 4 hours around one of the mountain passes in order to be at the finish before the first runner made it there.  This was my really long day last year.  One of the docs has to walk 28 km of the course since no part of the trail is accessible by vehicle.  Jenn gamely volunteered!  I was only too happy to give her the reins on this one as last year left me exhausted and with a giant leech on my wrist.  At the finish, the first half of the runners were elated with their day, the other half looked kind of beat up.  It was nice to hear how impressed everyone was by seeing Jenn out on the course.  And despite scaring the bejeezus out of everyone at the race briefing about the impressive amount of leeches on the course, there were only a few small spots on people’s feet and one oozing scalp wound.  And otherwise on a medical front, all that was asked of me was the distribution of a few Tylenol – winning!
So the funny thing about this camp is that it’s at a farmhouse in a small village.  Okay that’s not the funny part.  The funny part is that this particular farmhouse is owned by a taxi driver who is a well-known polygamist in these parts.  Okay even that’s not the funny part.  The really funny part is that he wrote a book about his life and I actually read it.  He gave it to me last year and it has been sitting on my book shelf for the right moment I guess.  Well I read it once I got to Bhutan and it was pretty ridiculous.  I gleefully read Jenn passages out loud regarding the author’s perceived prowess with the fairer sex and how he thought it would continue on well into his 60’s.  It was a little hard to interact with this guy given my oddly intimate knowledge of his life but I pushed through.  Jenn later found out that this book was taught in local secondary schools!  Maybe that’s the funny part.

There was a beautiful little girl in his home who became my little buddy.  She walked around hitching her pink camo fleece pants up with one hand while smoothing her dark hair back with the other.  Her mother kept scolding her to come back into the kitchen but once her mom was occupied with another task, she would slip into her high heeled pink sparkly sandals and sit with me.  It was incredible to see how quickly she picked up how to play games on my iPad.  Angry Birds turned out to be her favorite. 

Stay tuned for the rest of the race coverage.  Thanks for reading!

The Last Secret: First Installment

Thank you for your patience!  My five glorious weeks of travel are finally concluded and I’m trying to get caught up with my real world life.  As usual, I am posting my observations written in real-time over the race week in several installments of the 2016 Global Limits multi-day ultra marathon – The Last Secret:

Eve of the RaceBah, I can’t believe that I once again find myself reflecting the evening before yet another 6-day race. It always feels like the week is stretching out so far in front of me, yet I know that in the blink of an eye I will be raising a toast to the runners at our finishers’ banquet.  Here’s a few photos from my first jet lagged 24 hours in Bhutan.
My ride:

The city of Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan:

One of Thimphu’s claim to fame is that it has no traffic lights, just a cop dressed up in a fancy booth directing traffic:

It was the usual chaos the morning that we left for camp. With baggage piled up everywhere and runners milling about, it was starting to feel like race time. 

 The mini-bus wound through the mountains, sometimes on pavement, sometimes on dirt, and sometimes on a mix of the two as an Indian company was actively paving and reinforcing the roads as we drove on them. The drive got long as we bounced down the road and the day got hotter. Finally it was time for lunch in what I like to call Penis Town. I will have to look up the significance of the town but basically there are giant penises painted all over the building walls. Quite creative renditions of penises at that. And there are shops that sell any kind of kitschy penis souvenir that one might need. My favorite was the medium sized sculpture with “good luck” painted on it. Even though we went through here last year, it was equally as amusing this time around.

I really hope that something was lost in translation here…

Lunch was in a beautiful green hotel with intricate painting along all the sills, and also with very aggressive looking penises adorning the door frame. There were beautiful views of the surrounding valley as an accompaniment to the usual Bhutanese buffet meal. I give it about 2 more meals before I can’t eat any more of the traditional fare. It’s good, but I guess I just don’t do well with monotony. Hence my job as a ER physician and my crazy free-wheeling lifestyle.  
(Oh my gosh, the Internet connection has been abysmal here tonight in rural Wisconsin, and it’s not allowing me to upload photos to go along with the rest of my narration.  I promise to continue this post tomorrow once I can get some decent wifi!)

Journey’s End

Whew!  That was a long trip.  After my recent blurb from Dubai, I got on one more Emirates flight to Bangkok.   I’m telling you, that airline is amazing!  I got a proper cheese plate for dessert, and they have twinkle lights up in the ceiling when they turn down the cabin lights.

l After passing immigration, getting my monster duffel bags through customs, and finding my shuttle pick-up, it was well after 1am.  The hotel where Jenn was waiting for me was advertised as being 3.5 km from the airport.  So I was starting to get a little nervous when it took about 15 minutes of winding through local markets and very suspect alleyways to arrive at the hotel entrance.  When I later told Jenn about this, she reassured (?) me by saying that I was much too old to be kidnapped in Thailand.  Haha.

It was so great to reconnect with Jennifer Starling.  We haven’t seen each other since the race in Cambodia but we picked right up where we had left off.  6:00am came like way too early.  The shuttle ride back to the airport took much less time in the daylight hours.  Check in went smoothly with DrukAir, and soon it was first selfie time!!!

We enjoyed a breakfast of champions at the airport:

The flight to Paro was interesting.  We made a pit stop in northern India to offload and upload some folks.  Then on to Bhutan.  The flight into the valley where the runway is was just as hair raising as last year.  The final approach had us making S-turns until we gently touched down on the runway.  It’s good to be here.

So how do you keep a blog fresh when you go to the same race two years in a row?  I’m not sure.  I will try to look at the country with fresh eyes.  And I have a different group of runners so that will change the dynamics I’m sure.  I will try my best to keep the blog interesting, dear reader.

What was I thinking?

I’m sitting in Dubai’s very fancy airport after a 14 hour flight out of Orlando.  Hmmm, it feels like I just got off of a 14 hour flight.  Weird.  So giving myself 48 hours in between two major trips was not the smartest move that I have ever made.  In that time span I had the following to-do list: unpack, do laundry (which was delayed because my power went out for 3 hours one day, really????) , repack, organize and replenish medical kit, buy snacks, go to the dentist (this merits a gold “what was I thinking” award), re-certify for my Pediatric Advanced Life Support training, pick Nick up and celebrate him passing his ATP oral exam (yay Nick!!!), pick up prescriptions from pharmacy, blog my NZ trip otherwise it would never happen, and….I think that was it.  Oh yeah, there was a lot of questioning of why I did this to myself.  But anywho, as I’ve mentioned before, I don’t seem to be happy unless I’m running around at 100 miles per hour with my hair on fire.  And these last two days definitely met that criteria.  But enough of my whining, let me tell you (and show you) the first part of my journey to the Kingdom of Bhutan.  

I departed from Orlando and got onto one of Emirates 777’s.  This is my first time flying Emirates but based on the Jennifer Aniston commercials, it’s supposed to be pretty swanky.

That lady knows her airlines.  Fancy indeed!  The flight attendant caught me trying to surreptitiously take a photo of the cabin.  She was kind of enough to get a photo of me hamming it up.

This is definitely the first time that I was ever offered a menu on an airplane that not only included top shelf liquors but also cocktails.  I was intrigued by the breakfast martini.  The flight actually flew by (har, har), and before I knew it I was walking bleary eyed down the jet bridge into Dubai.  Fancy didn’t stop at the airplane.  This is a really nice terminal with high ceilings, full-length curving windows, designer clothing stores, and literally any kind of food that you would ever want – from caviar to McDonalds.  

I’ve got another hour before I board my flight to Bangkok.  I’m meeting my fellow race Doctor, Jenn Starling, there for a quick overnight.  Then it’s on to the Land of the Thunder Dragon, Bhutan, which lies in the eastern Himalayas between Tibet and India.  I know that this was a bit of a filler blog post, but I just wanted to whet everyone’s appetite for full coverage of the Global Limits race.  Stay tuned!

New Zealand!

Well folks, I just arrived back home after an amazing 2
weeks in NZ. Nick and I, along with 2 good friends (Bill – my good buddy for at least 10 years and my guru for all things having to do with firearms, and his wife Kristin) from home, spent one week sightseeing and one week hunting on the South Island. Given that I leave in a day and a half for the Global Limits race in Bhutan, this will mainly be a photo blog instead of my usual witty banter. Hope you enjoy. 

So after >24 hours of travel, I arrived in Christchurch at 9:30am right into the smiling arms of Nick, Bill, and Kristin.  What does one do on their first day of vacation???  Wine tasting of course!  You should always make your priorities a priority!

After soaking in the thermal springs at Hamner Springs, our tired group had dinner at an Irish pub (random, I know), and passed out.  The next day had us on the road with a few stops for short hikes, and then the Pancake Rocks at Punakaiki.

I have arrived!

My crew:

Pancake Rocks:

After a night in Hokitika, we awoke to pouring rain… This will become a theme for the next 5 days.  We all had eggs Benedict for breakfast (another theme of the trip), and then hit the hunting and jade stores.  With as much I travel, it’s become more and more difficult to come up with good souvenirs to bring home.  But I found a camo hat for my nephew and jade bracelets for my little nieces.  We hit the road, and spent the next several days driving about 4-5 hours a day, taking mini hikes, and experiencing NZ in the rain.

A rare moment of clear weather in Queenstown (so this is what New Zealand looks like) :

And then back to the rain in Milford Sound (which made for insane waterfalls):

The worthy vessel that we spent the night on:

A rare moment of (a tiny bit of) blue sky:

More Milford Sound.  And the crazy tunnel through the mountain that we drove through:

After Milford, we drove to Cromwell and stayed at an amazing B&B, plus more wine tasting:

Then we went up to Mt. Cook which was silly since the rain never stopped and we couldn’t see anything, not even Mt. Cook:

Our first week of bombing around was now over, and it was time to head to the hunting lodge.  We had a few days of sunshine and the views were unbelievable:

And just like that, a year and a half of planning and anticipating was over.  A short overnight in Christchurch (which is still pretty devastated from the earthquake in 2011), another looooooooooong couple of flights home, and here I am, back on my couch in Orlando.  

Hope you enjoyed the photos!  Stay tuned for my coverage of the Global Limits ultra-marathon in Bhutan.

Cross-country and Coca

Just wanted to share some pictures from an epic cross-country flight that Nick and I took.  We flew the Cirrus from Kissimee, Florida all the way out to Las Vegas and back.  It ended up being more than 3,600 miles round trip and about 25 hours of flying.  We had to dodge quite a bit of weather and plan special routes due to the altitude of the mountains out west.  There was a lot of turbulence but beautiful views of the Great Plains, Texas oil country, desert, and snow covered peaks.

And for those of you who haven’t gotten enough information about coca… My second coca paper got published!  Happy reading!

All you ever wanted to know about coca, and more!