Friday, 2 March 2018

Operation Mend Ruth

I had a shoulder operation on Tuesday to repair the damage caused by my bike accident last December.  I had a grade IV acromioclavicular joint separation which would only properly heal with surgery.  My clavicle and scapula had fallen out with each other: indeed my clavicle was pushed up and back out of position.  You can see the protrusion of my clavicle to my left shoulder below.
20180208 Shoulder
Or internally...
20171209 Shoulder - xray 02 Dec
I was in hospital by 0730 and second on the list, marked up ready to go.
20180227 Marked up
I didn't move into theatre prep until after 1030.  The anaesthetist's first attempt to put a cannula into my hand failed after prodding and poking "you have very narrow veins," he commented.  His second attempt, into my arm, worked and then they (4 of them) started on my left arm/nerve block.  This involved a local anaesthetic into my neck and then, guided by ultrasound, injection of the nerve block into the top of my shoulder.  I'd been given some gas to calm me by this stage and it was actually quite interesting to watch the screen as the needle entered my shoulder and they guided it to my major veins.  As the block went in the muscles in my arm cramped in phases - very painful.

And then I woke up in recovery.

The operation went very well apparently.  I think I was under for ~90 minutes. Recovery wasn't much fun as I was very nauseous and shaking.  They kept giving me oxygen and by the time I was wheeled back into the ward I had 5 blankets on me (!).

I had a surprise when the physio came round.  I was lead to believe that I'd need to wear a sling for a couple of weeks. Ah, not quite.  I have to wear it for 6 including for 4 weeks at night.  No shower for at least 2 weeks (when the stitches come out) and no driving for 8.

I am currently staying with Roger who kindly offered to look after me until I'm able to fend for myself.  This was my thoughtful breakfast in bed Wednesday morn.
20180228 Breakfast
An hour or so later I was up and sort of clean.  I'm wearing Rog's tops for now as I need clothes I can pop on over my sling to avoid trying to feed my arm in and out of sleeves.
20180228 Dressed too
Being one arm down - particularly my 'good' arm - is a challenge.  There are obvious issues such as brushing teeth and hair but one doesn't realise how much you use both hands for: tying shoe laces, peeling a banana, doing up a zip, spreading butter, undoing jars, putting toothpaste on toothbrush, touch typing etc.  Nothing is insurmountable but it all takes extra time and patience, not something I am renowned for having excess of.

In order to occupy myself I tackled Riona's jigsaw.
20180301 Jiqsaw complete
And today I picked up studying again.  Golly - what an effort!  Typing is slow, organising paperwork awkward and writing a challenge.  I believe it's good for the brain to learn new skills but come 6 weeks I'll certainly evert to my left hand for most things.
20180302 Hand writing
Anyway, very grateful to be warm and cosy whilst Storm Emma does her stuff.
20180302 Back gdn

Thursday, 8 February 2018

What goes up must come down

Once back in South Africa I spent my last couple of days in a Johannesburg hotel.  It was very near the airport and full of quirky aviation features.
2018-01-17 16.49.03
The bar stools were aircraft tyres although, funnily enough, no-one deemed them comfortable enough to sit on.
2018-01-17 16.49.29
Working hard honest.
20180117 Pool
My flight home turned out to be a classic Ruth adventure.  We were flying from Johannesburg to Schipol.  As we neared our destination the pilot announced that, due to weather (it turned out to be a major storm across NW mainland Europe), we were in a holding pattern for 45 mins.  So we dose-doed around Amsterdam as elegantly as you can in a 777 for 3/4 of an hour and then came into land.  Or tried to.  Being the geo spotter I am, and particularly because I was bored by this time, I was watching the flights stats screen as we came into land.  2000' feet, 1500' feet, wheels down...  It was the rockiest landing I've ever experienced and people around me were deploying their sick bags.  1000' to go ("thank goodness") and suddenly the pilot nosed up and accelerated.  And then the flight stats screen displayed JNB-BRU. I looked around me and exclaimed "we're going to Brussels!".  The flight attendants told me to shush awaiting the Captain's input (pardon me) and then the Captain tannoyed to say that we couldn't land in Schipol (it was gusting 60 knots) and we were going to Brussels.  So off we went to Belgium.

We landed, taxied and were told that we had to refuel (good point - there is only so long a 777 can be airborne) and would wait until the weather cleared in the Netherlands and then we'd pop back.  However by then, obviously, 100s of flights over Europe were out of place.  Schipol had closed that morning and air traffic control were naturally focussed on landing the long haul flights and just not letting the short haul take off.  At the end of the day, if you have an aircraft coming into land from across the equator, which has been flying for 11 hours and probably only has a couple of hours' fuel left, you're going to make it a priority over a local European flight.  Wow I really do so love how air traffic control works.  It was absolutely seamless.  We tried to land, failed and within a minute air traffic control re-routed us to Brussels, which obviously delayed other flights into Belgium etc etc.

Anyway, after 3 hours on the tarmac we took off for what I think will be my weirdest ever city hop: Brussels to Amsterdam in 25 minutes. In a Boeing 777.

Anyway Schipol was OK except that due to its earlier closure the re-booking facilities were max'ed out and I went all African and simply pretended I didn't understand the queueing system and re-booked my tickets on an available machine (no-one was using it honest) and caught the last flight out of Schipol to London.  Meanwhile I had time to amble amongst the tulips and other non-seasonal events.  I was a little confused by this scene.  There was a guy behind the clock face sort of repainting the clock handles. Very strange.
20180118 Schipol
Aaah, this is better.
2018-01-18 18.32.33
Anyway, I landed at Heathrow late Thursday evening and rocked up to my aunt's at 2200 (I had warned her: she'd had time to hide) and stayed with her overnight.  What a relief.  And then the next morning I ambled home.  I've had shorter journeys back from Africa.

As I rebounded over the next few days - washing, post etc - I emptied my wallet and was amused to see its collection.  This is why I adore travel.
20180119 Money

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Cape Cross - Seals

On Saturday (13 January) Reinhard and myself hired a car and driver (the lovely Zane) and went to Cape Cross.  I'd met Reinhard on the catamaran earlier that week and he'd quickly sussed that I was a bit of a sucker for marine life.  He'd been to Cape Cross before, I think this was his 14th visit to Namibia, but thought I'd enjoy the trip.  Wow.  And I did.

Cape Cross is about 1.5 hours drive north of Swakopmund on tar roads so a very easy journey. It consists of a fur seal colony of around 80,000 to 100,000 seals.  It was first 'discovered' by Portuguese explorer Diego Can in 1486.  He erected a wooden cross which has since been replaced by a stone one, and added to by a German cross.
20180113 Cape Cross   13.38.08
20180113 Cape Cross   13.37.42
20180113 Cape Cross   13.38.23
20180113 Cape Cross Seals  13.40.26
The shoreline is just covered in seals.
20180113 Cape Cross Seals  13.48.02
20180113 Cape Cross Seals  13.48.46
20180113 Cape Cross Seals  13.59.47
There is a dedicated walkway. This works fine until you realise that the seals have fathomed out how to join the visitors - and they are snappy things so best given a wide berth.
20180113 Cape Cross Seals  13.53.08
The pups are very cute.
20180113 Cape Cross Seals  13.58.18
A pup nursery.
20180113 Cape Cross Seals  13.45.19
It's a hard life being a seal.
20180113 Cape Cross Seals  13.47.07
20180113 Cape Cross Seals  13.41.01
20180113 Cape Cross Seals  13.51.50
20180113 Cape Cross Seals  14.00.52
20180113 Cape Cross Seals  14.02.05
It was lovely just to stand and watch (and smell) the wildlife.
20180113 Cape Cross Seals  13.44.27
On the journey home we passed typical dwellings.
20180113 Cape Cross to Swakopmund   14.59.40
20180113 Cape Cross to Swakopmund   15.31.33
And a salt factory.
20180113 Cape Cross to Swakopmund   15.44.15
And, at my request, we stopped to see this abandoned trawler.
20180113 Cape Cross to Swakopmund   15.12.25
Reinhard, left, and Zane, right.
20180113 Cape Cross to Swakopmund   15.13.23
After an early dinner with Reinhard - in the German restaurant Kucki's - and the promise to myself of a prompt night, I fell in with some bad company back at the hostel from the UK who shared their wine with me then dragged me (not that I needed much dragging) to a quirky local bar. I just loved the soap dispensers in the bathroom!
20180113 Mad pub 23.23.44
And that was my last night in Swakopmund.  Staying up far too late talking absolute nonsense with a two Brits (Hull and Newcastle) plus two Germans.  Memorable.  

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Swakopmund - Ambling Around

In between various excursions to see seals, snakes and lizards, I pottered around Swakopmund.  It's a beautiful small town with lovely coffee shops, bars and old buildings - many of which were built by the Germans at the beginning of the 20th Century.

One afternoon I paid 20 N$ (~£1.20) and climbed the Woermann House Tower to enjoy the views of Swakopmund.
20181010 Woermann House Tower
20181001 Woermann House
View to the north.
20180110 Woermann House Swakopmund N
20180110 Woermann House Swakopmund E
20180110 Woermann House Swakopmund S
20180110 Woermann House Swakopmund W
And down into the wonderful courtyard.
20180110 Woermann House down
With its decorative tiles.
20180110 Woermann House courtyard plants
This is another beautifully preserved building, Hohenzollern.
20180110 Woermann House view
I'd never seen one of these before! A mobile ATM. I'm not quite sure why it was parked here bearing in mind there were numerous ATMs just around the corner.
20181212 Mobile ATM
And when in Namibia, drink Namibian...
20180112 Namib Dunes
But I wasn't brave or probably capable enough to down one of these huge steins.
20180112 Stein
I met some interesting people along the way all with their own stories, backgrounds and cultures. Many of them were German but Swiss, Irish, French, Austrian, South African, American and Romanian all appeared along my journey.

I dined out with a French, Swiss and German trio one evening.  They were fun to chat to although we'd unfortunately chosen to eat in a noisy bar so I struggled to hear the conversation.  The Swiss lady was particularly inspirational as she'd travelled solo all over Africa (Rwanda, Uganda etc) and was driving herself around Namibia.  Perhaps I should do so next time.  The French guy had ridden his motorbike down from Gibraltar and the German was just starting a 4 month exploration of Africa.  Blimey - I feel very untravelled.

The following evening I dined with Reinhard at the Jetty.  A place of glorious sunsets. Rienhard (German) is a paraglider and outdoor instructor who I met on the catamaran trip.  As my German is non-existent and his English poor we had to resort to typing messages on his iPad using a translator tool which made the conversation a little stilted.  But not uninteresting.  I think he was just glad to escape his paragliding colleagues for a bit.
20180111 Jetty Sunset 19.34.30
And there goes another day in Namibia.
20180111 Jetty Sunset 19.44.42