Life, Football, Technology and Vespas…

Travel

Venice Gondola Ride

Here is a short video of the Gondola ride we took in Venice in July. July is the height of the tourist season and the contrasts between the noisy streets that were full of tourists and the tranquil and serene canals, only metres from each other, was amazing.

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Nigerian Arrival

We are all finally back in Lagos, but not without some drama! Having arrived on time with SAA, we had to wait over 2 hours for our bags to arrive in the ‘baggage hall’ at Murtala Muhammed Airport. This is nothing surprising and having checked in 10 bags, I was just happy to see all of them spit out onto the conveyer belt. Evidently ‘priority’ labels on the bags mean nothing at MMA!

The interesting piece of drama however was when we were leaving the airport building. As is the usual procedure – you have to dodge, beg and bribe the vultures that are known as ‘customs officials’. They really are a scab on this country. They are the first Nigerians that many people encounter and no one I know has ever said it was a pleasure to have been welcomed by them…

As I was waiting for my bags, I walked around the luggage collection area and watched how they would stand there scoping out who they are likely to get a sizeable bribe from. Then they all dash over to the identified victim, halt them and demand that they search through all of their bags. Typically they are looking for expats and affluent Nigerians, using as much intimidation as possible to try and speed up the payment process.

It was when we were leaving the airport that the most bizarre thing happened. A Nigerian man, as he was approaching customs, suddenly pulled out a small Nigerian flag and started waving it frantically. His ‘entourage’ were pushing his trolley with his bags and were stopped by customs. He refused to be drawn into the arguing and bickering that ensued, choosing instead, to stand there and flap his flag constantly. And what happened next is something that would not and could not happen in any other international airport in the world.

The customs officials simply refused to let ANYONE leave the airport until this dispute was settled. Effectively, everyone had to wait until the bribe was paid before being able to depart, which took approximately 15 minutes. Can you imagine heathrow not allowing anyone to leave the airport because of a handful of corrupt officials???

As a friend of mine said to me once : WAWA. (West Africa Wins Again)…


Airline Meals

I am not for one second about to tell you how to get a better meal on a flight. For that you need to be ‘kinda big deal’ and sit in the front of the plane. But, I can offer a tip if you are travelling with children or you want to get your meal as early as possible without having to opt for a bland vegan or halaal meal.

If you book your flight through the airline’s website (should always do this whenever you can) you should have the option of selecting your seat, as well as selecting a special meal. One of the options for the special meal is usually ‘low calorie’.

On South African Airways, this is nearly always a roast beef fillet with roast vegetables and a side salad with some cheese & crackers for afters. You will receive your meal before anyone else, so you can kick back and relax longer after your meal.

If you are travelling with children — we find it difficult (esp when travelling alone with young kids) to eat a meal and assist them with theirs at the same time. Taking a special meal allows you to get your meal first – so if they are hungry, you have food at the earliest opportunity and also, as in my case, you are able to at least share some of the meal with the children until theirs arrives. When theirs does arrive, you will be done with yours and have more space to help them.


Crazy Idea

So Willem came back from his epic cycle journey last week and amongst all the hubbub and excitement, inevitably, the talk of what would be the next crazy trip surfaced. A few suggestions later and a plan was hatched.

Staying on the cycling theme – the idea is to head from Nairobi, Kenya to Pretoria, South Africa. A total of about 4500km, Epic journey – through some of the most remote and beautiful areas on the planet – Serengeti, Kilimanjaro, Lake Malawi, Victoria Falls… I made the decision that if I say no to this, I will probably never do an adventure like this.

I am so excited that I am already looking into routes, bikes, equipment…

In the little research that I have done, this bike is looking like an early frontrunner. According to this review this is a top, top bike and ideal for this type of adventure. It also one of the better priced bikes and if I am not mistaken, it is possible to get the 20% VAT discounted too if shipped outside of Europe.

There is so much to think about. Obviously, doing something like this is a huge challenge and as a result, it would be great to raise some serious money for charity. I have read a couple of blogs of guys cycling across, through and round Africa and they have all raised money for charities providing mosquito nets to help prevent malaria. Sounds like a good plan.

I am initially calling this adventure – Big Bike Africa. Let’s see how many other crazies want to do this…


Scotland / N. Ireland Holiday

We have just recently returned from our trip to the U.K. visiting family and friends. Somehow we managed to time our visit with a tremendous spell of weather! Two whole weeks of sunshine – in Scotland! It has to be said that when the sun is out, Scotland is one of the most beautiful countries on the planet!

We had a fabulous time and so not to bore anyone with ‘what we did on holiday’ I will just list the best things about our holiday:

  • Surprise visit at the airport. Having travelled from Lagos to Glasgow via Dubai, I thought it was going to be another few hours until I saw everyone – only to walk out of arrivals with Anelda, Caelum, my Mum and my step brother, Neil waiting there for me. It was a great surprise and I am glad they did it!
  • Quad’s birthday night. It was my brothers’ and sister’s birthday on the Friday we arrived and we ALL went out on the town in Montrose. My dad, my step brothers – Anthony & Neil, Anelda, myself, Helen, Georgina, Natasha, Matthew, Richard + girlfriend, Leigh and Phillip. It was quite a laugh and quite a mess! Here are the photos
  • Spending time in Montrose. We originally had the plan to go somewhere in Scotland, book some place for all of us… but in the end we stayed put in Montrose and it was the best thing we did. It meant that we could spend more time with everyone and visit some of the wonderful places that surround Montrose such as Lunan and Edzell.
  • Mum’s 50th birthday. Great party. Typical ‘Ryan Wild Style’! Photos
  • Seeing Fred, Rick, Nan & Jane, even if it was for a short while.
  • Fishing with my dad and Anthony – even though we caught nothing!
  • The Montrose Highland Games
  • The long evenings in Montrose – mostly spent feeding the horses in the fields next to Mum & Days house.
  • The day trip to Edinburgh Zoo – photos
  • Seeing Roland, Emma & Rufus and going to the botanical gardens in Edinburgh
  • Going to Belfast and seeing Joe, Edel & Leo.
  • Caelum spending valuable time with all his family in Scotland

It was such a great holiday and we are so lucky to have such good friends and family. We can’t wait to go back!


Elmina, Ghana.

Ghana

Ghana

One of the reasons that we decided to come to Lagos was that it would present a great opportunity to see other parts of Africa. Due to the Eid festival this weekend, Monday & Tuesday were declared public holidays here in Nigeria, so we used the opportunity to dash to Ghana for the weekend. We flew into Accra on the Friday evening and headed to Elmina – a fishing village just west of Cape Coast. The Coconut Grove Beach Resort provided comfortable accommodation, spectacular sea views and amazing, fresh seafood!

Using Nigeria, and inparticular, Lagos as a benchmark for other West African destinations is probably not a good idea. The smooth, un-chaotic roads; the pleasant shops; restaurants and side street bars made Accra look a million miles apart from Lagos. It is hard to believe that it is only a 1hr flight difference between the two cities. It really show you how corruption, fighting and bad governance can really drag a country down. Nigeria, with all it’s wealth, should be streets ahead of neighbouring (and dare I say all other) African states. But unfortunately for the majority of her people, non of Nigeria’s wealth from their natural resources is finding it’s way anywhere remotely close to them.

Anyway – leaving the comparison to Nigeria aside (as we could be here all day), it is understood that Ghana is a relatively peaceful nation with a stable government and economy. We certainly found the arrival at Accra airport to be a welcoming one. With information for tourists, ATM machines, restaurants and taxis all close by, it felt that Ghana is doing it’s best to hold it’s arms out to people and say “Come on in!”. First impressions evidently last. Let’s hope and pray that the the recent finding of oil in the west of country has a positive impact for them. When we arrived in Accra we stopped at “Papayes” which is said to be the best chicken takeaway in Accra. And there were no objections to that statement as the food was excellent.

The drive to Elmina was long and a bit treacherous. The roads, although smooth and well sign posted, are single lane and most people we encountered on our journey to Elmina did not seem to have any regard for the ‘solid line’ in the middle of the road. We were lucky enough to dodge a car coming towards us, head on in our lane! A good piece of advise would be to drive during the day.

Ok – this is one of the reasons why we came to Ghana:

Ghana Coast

Ghana Coast

Simply stunning. Miles and miles of unspoilt, pristine coastline. You would have to be mad not to enjoy this.

If you like seafood, then you can do a lot worse than this:

Snapper & Plantain

Snapper & Plantain

Part of the attraction of Elmina is it’s long and partly gruesome history – the worst of it can be told by a visit to the Elmina castle. The Portugese and the Dutch really knew how to disregard the value of human life back in the day.

Condemned Cell

Condemned Cell

This is the entrance to what was known as the condemned cell. No food and no water until you died. If you were led to this cell, you would not see the light of day again. The only way you left it was when your carcass was removed and I cannot imagine that that would have been done in any hurry after you eventually died.

The castle and the guides are fantastically informative, the best has been done to convey the harrowing history and stories that the castle has to share. It has been recently renovated by the local government and sponsor groups and has earned the status as a world heritage site. If you have the chance to go, it is well worth the visit. At the time of our visit entrance was GH¢9 ± $6 for an adult.

Elmina also offers a close up look at the hustle and bustle of a West African coastal village. From the resort it is a few minutes walk to the fishing landing site where you can witness the women hard at work preparing the fish – salting and smoking using traditional methods. Continue along the road along to Elmina and the it soon opens up into a free-for-all market, trading in anything from Chelsea shirts to huge cooking pots!

It is quite safe to walk around and soak up the hustle and bustle. The majority of your energy will be sapped from negotiating with traders and fending off people wanting you to sponsor their ‘soccer school’…

Here are a few pictures from the trip:

Elmina, Ghana

Elmina, Ghana

Elmina Fishing Boats

Elmina Fishing Boats

On our way back to Accra we stopped at the side of the road to witness someone cooking ‘grasscutter’. From my earlier post I included a photo of a West African man selling grasscutter at the side of the road. Well now I had the privilege to witness it first hand:

Grasscutter - Before

Grasscutter - Before

Grasscutter - After

Grasscutter - After


San Francisco & New York

I said in a previous post that I would update some of the pics and details from my recent trip to the States. The US is an amazing place and really has to be seen to be believed. Everything, as they say, is big there. Nothing is done in half measures.

Our reasoning for going to SF was to attend a training course on IronPort email security. Long way to go for a 3 day course, but someone has to take one for the team! To say I was impressed with the course would be an understatement. The Ironport devices are quite simply – superb! Our needs here at TI required that we needed a serious solution to fight UBE.

Anyway – our flights were booked for a 10 days. It is an 20+ hour series of flights with 4 hours @ JFK. So long and tiring is about the best I can describe the journey there. On the first night we were in SF, tiredness overcome the excitement and we gave up at about 7pm pacific time – no idea what it was in my time only that it was yesterday in SF when I went to bed!

I put some pics on FB – http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=64686&id=714196999&l=f69c5 and here are the ones from the iphone http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=62510&id=714196999&l=d0a99

We managed to get ourselves on a flight from SF to NY after the course finished on the Wednesday for $181. Probably the best money I have ever spent. NY is a great, vibrant bustling city. I am from London so I see a lot of similarities in the two and maybe that is why I enjoyed it so much. I would truely love to live there one day.

There are lots of funny, quirky little stories, but I will leave them for another day.