Tag Archives: sport

Kitesurfing is Madness

Salt water stings when it is forced up the nostrils at 100 km an hour.

This is me (Mark) during a kitesurfing lesson in Santa Marianita, Ecuador. I was doing my best but a water kite is a powerful piece of equipment. It can produce the same acceleration as a jet boat, but without the surety of control. All it takes is one gust of wind…

Still, if it wasn't for the risk I wouldn't be interested in kitesurfing. I get a real thrill watching people tearing along the surface of the water and launching into the air. I dream of being able to do the same!

It is an exciting sport but it is devilishly difficult to learn. From previous experience I knew that kitesurfing has a steep learning curve so I committed to an eight hour course to give myself the best possible chance.

The reason I'm still sneezing salt is because controlling the kite can be counter-intuitive. When a strong gust of wind catches me by surprise my muscles instinctively contract and pull on the control bar. This causes the kite to instantly gain power and next thing I know I'm swallowing pelargic fish.

We had an adversarial relationship.

For those unfamiliar with the sport it may help to think of motorcycles. If you pull back on the handle you accelerate, so time needs to be invested upfront to learn how to control the vehicle in all situations. And so it is with a 12 m squared kite, which at worst could drag me on land and through all manner of solid objects.

Speaking of which, my mates love to remind me of a time when I was demonstrating how to use my new kite on the beach. I misjudged the wind speed and a gust of wind lifted me off the ground and two metres forward in the air. I lost control, ripped the emergency chord and watched my friends run back and forth across the beach, doing their best to tame the beast while trying not to spill their beers.

Despite the hazards it is good fun. With practice my kite control has improved and by the end of the lessons I'm hoping for results…

My instructor Pauet, a great bloke.

 

 

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Sandboarding in the Desert

The coast of Peru is one long stretch of desert. We got our first taste of it on the trip from Cuzco to Lima, which covers some fantastic landscapes, moon-like plataues of rock to massive sand dunes.

We had learnt that it is possible to stay at a small oasis in the desert a couple of hours south of Lima. The oasis has become a resort style town called Huacachina and it is surrounded by crazy-huge sand dunes that you can sandboard on. We were mad keen to give this a go so we stayed a couple of days and hit the dunes.

The oasis at Huacachina.

The dunes stretched as far as the eye can see.

The size of the dunes requires some serious machinery to get around. This came in the form of dune buggies on steroids. These machines roared up the hills at speed. As we would reach a summit the driver would plant his foot and we would plunge down the other side. It was like a roller-coaster ride, a huge rush!

We were pumped by the time we hit our fist dune. We rushed to the crest and after a quick wax we were throwing ourselves head long down the biggest dunes we had ever seen.

Waxing the board.

It was an awesome buzz. Here's hoping we get to do it again sometime soon!

 


A Fiesta in the Amazon: San Ignacio de Moxos (Bullfighting)

Part of the festival celebrations involved bull taunting – a cross between a rodeo and a bull fight. We sat in a makeshift stadium (that looked like it would fall over in a strong gust of wind) and watched with a mix of awe and horror as the event unfolded. It was a total free for all on the field. Most of the guys were drunk, fighting each other to ride the bulls, only to fall off and get trampled. Several people were injured, some seriously. There was no security, no management or control. The treatment of the bull was completely cruel for the frightened animals. The only saving grace was that the bulls were not killed like they are in Spain, and at least some of the bulls evened the score.

As the afternoon progressed and the alcohol sank in, the bull fighting degenerated and more and more people started getting injured. There were so many people on the field that the bulls had no option but to plough into someone who was too drunk to get out of the way fast enough.

There was one old guy, affectionately known by us as Stumbles the Drunk, who could hardly stand and spent his time zigzagging across the arena, occasionally waving his shirt in the general direction of the bull. He didn't seem to know where he was and occasionally looked up at the crowd with confusion. We knew this wouldn't end well. Sure enough, a bull ran straight for him, he froze and they head butted each other. Poor old Stumbles ended up unconscious on the ground and was carried off by his arms and legs to a waiting ambulance.

Stumbles the Drunk, the people's champion.

The more drunk they got, the more the guys had to show off how macho they were. Shirts came off, insults were fired, people clawed at each other to get onto the bull first and pulled the slow ones off. Then they started actually throwing punches, which involved crowds of people joining in and quickly forgetting about the bull running loose behind them. All chaos broke loose when a second bull came free of its tether and ran into the crowd!

Macho men.

Fight!

Towards the end of the afternoon a bull ran at the fence line where men where clinging to the side hoping to avoid contact. Unfortunately, one guy was punctured in the stomach by the bull horns, thrown in the air and then fell to the ground. A crowd surrounded him and we couldn't see what was happening until they tried to carry him to the edge of the field. Only then did we see a pile of intestines lying on his bare abdomen. He was quickly put in an ambulance and taken to Trinidad (3 hours away). We asked around the next day to see what had come of him. One person said that they managed to put his intestines back inside him and sew him up, but another said that they thought he had died. We never found out for sure.

After this incident, people began to lose interest and the general drunken behaviour took over from the revelry of the earlier celebrations. The bullfighting was wrapped up, followed by more parties late into the night. Some people came off second best but to be honest, we didn't feel too sorry for them after the way they were tormenting the bulls. The safety standards are not what you expect elsewhere, but that's Bolivia in a nutshell!

Chaos on the field.

 


Fútbol

Maradona

Ah yes, the beautiful game. The crowds, the players, the cry of 'goooooal'.

You won't be surprised that our list of things to do in South America included seeing a live game. Our first attempt was the famous Boca Juniors of Buenos Aires, however we found that tickets here are grossly marked up for non-members. Our second attempt was to see the Corinthians play in São Paulo. This time it worked out.

The Corinthians are the reigning World and South American club champions, having won the 2012 FIFA Club World Cup and the 2012 Copa (thanks Wikipedia). So we were quite lucky to see 'em play a home game. We made a video to try and capture the experience.

The Corinthians stadium also hosts the Football Museum of São Paulo. This is an awesome multimedia extravaganza. Our favourite part was the radio section, which played a series of clips from famous announcers throughout the decades. Why did we like it? Because an astute ear will notice the evolution of 'gooooooal' over time 🙂 Good fun, highly recommended!

A group of deadly strikers.

Brazil will be hosting the FIFA World Cup in 2014, which kicks off in São Paulo on 12 June. We saw that work was underway on both upgrading existing stadiums and construction of new stadiums. Some are pessimistic that Brazil will be organised in time, but that's always the case with these events. Fixtures are already up, if you love soccer this will be huge!