Posts Tagged ‘Sporting Debacles’

MBA Exchange to Duke University, USA – March & April 2015

Attending the fan-fest in Indianapolis ahead of the Duke-Wisconsin final

Attending the NCAA basketball fan-fest in Indianapolis ahead of the Duke-Wisconsin championship final

The much-anticipated arrival of our second son in early June did confound plans for the whole family to join me on MBA exchange to the Fuqua School of Business (http://www.fuqua.duke.edu) at Duke University in North Carolina. While my exchange scholarship covered tuition for the whole semester, complications around flying with babies – not to mention having no nanny in America – led us to opt for a more prudent approach to the exchange programme with me going alone for just one term in the end.

An epic semi-final between Wisconsin and Kentucky

An epic semi-final between Wisconsin and Kentucky

Duke proved an incredible experience, but being away from Katherine and Charlie for a couple of months was very tough indeed. On the academic side of things I had the opportunity to take some superb courses in Leadership, Negotiation and Behavioural Economics as well as a trans-disciplinary course in Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Conservation Development, but there were also a number of highly memorable extra curricular experiences…

A prestigious business school like Fuqua attracts a procession of noteworthy visiting speakers and inspirational guest lecturers. While it was a privilege to attend their presentations, there was much more to my Duke experience than simply high quality courses and talks from captains of industry. Duke is a renowned basketball school and arriving just in time for the onset of March Madness – in a year that Duke would end up going all the way to winning the national championship title – was a real stroke of luck.

Duke's number one little fan on game day

Duke’s number one little fan

First I joined a group of fellow exchange students for the round of 16 in Charlotte, and later for an epic road trip to Indianapolis to attend the final four knockout. Winning tickets in the student lottery allowed us to watch both semi-finals and the final live. Being amidst 73 000 very vocal, fanatical supporters inside Lucas Oil Stadium was an unbelievable sporting experience that I’ll never forget.

After the fun and festivities of Duke’s victory in Indiana, I had some road races to look forward to back in North Carolina. First, I took on the never-ending hills of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Raleigh marathon (http://runrocknroll.competitor.com/raleigh), which destroyed my legs and caused me to fade badly towards the finish. My 3h37 time was the slowest marathon I’ve ever run, but still placed me 79th out of over 2 000 competitors, hinting at the severity of the course. Barely a week later I tackled the Tar Heel 10-miler (http://tarheel10miler.com) around Chapel Hill, which was shorter, flatter and much more fun!

My two months in America concluded with a long weekend up in Connecticut to visit some recent safari companions and great friends – the Traggio family – before proceeding on to New York City to take care of some Passage to Africa business with Michael Lorentz, and then a long flight home.

It was a privilege to attend Duke for a couple of months and I thoroughly enjoyed my time in America but, as it draws to a close, I am very excited to be headed back to my family in South Africa and look forward to guiding a couple of outstanding Passage to Africa safaris that are on the cards for June and July.

A deafening 73 000 fans crammed into Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis to watch the Final Four

A vociferous 73 000 fans crammed into Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis to watch the Final Four

Typhoid, the CWC and India Whitewater, India – Feb 2011

The International Diner has a lot to answer for.  This newly opened establishment in GK1, New Delhi, is the worst restaurant I have ever had the sorry misfortune of dining in.  With some minor assistance from the loathsome Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), who seem to unrelentingly torment and test cricket fans on a near daily basis, this shoddy eating place has tried its utmost to singlehandedly ruin my February. A couple of friends joined my wife and me for dinner at the new diner earlier this month; the very same night three of us succumbed to chronic food poisoning.  A couple of weeks later two of us contracted typhoid from the contaminated food we had eaten in this unhygienic eatery.  Eating out is supposed to be an enjoyable treat, but this is not always the case in India.  Our Friday night dinner outing certainly turned into a nightmarish debacle from which I’m yet to fully recover.

It’s a common adage that everyone makes mistakes but only the real dumbasses don’t learn from their booboos and keep repeating the same schoolboy errors.  And it must be said India’s preparations to host major international sporting events definitely falls into category two.  It seems no lessons were learnt from their diabolical Commonwealth Games fiasco and the Cricket World Cup has ignominiously followed suit … Eden Gardens stadium renovations not completed in time, last minute venue changes for matches, difficulties in purchasing tickets, ticket delivery problems, archaic security protocols (no digital cameras, lip balm or even sunscreen are allowed into many of the match venues) and, most shockingly, we see empty stadiums for almost every game the host nation isn’t involved in.  In a country of 1.3 billion cricket fanatics this is nothing short of criminal and a serious indictment of the BCCI and the inane bureaucracy that thwarts cricket fans at every turn.

Despite the challenges of watching live cricket in India, Katherine and I overcame the gauntlet and joined a few friends at the Feroz Shah Kotla stadium in Delhi for a fun night out watching South Africa cruise to victory against the West Indies at the start of the CWC group stage.  Lets hope it’s a sign of good things to come at the business end of the tournament towards the end of March.

My India Whitewater book project is progressing well.  It’s presently marginally behind schedule, although the plan remains to try and have the inspirational coffee table book completed by mid-April and for it to hit the shelves by mid-year.  Keep an eye on this website and www.aquaterra.in for further updates.

Travel wise it was a relatively quiet month, although I was also fortunate to travel to Orissa on a livelihoods assignment for CRS and I will be headed to the northeast early next month for some more work covering their HIV work up there. What I’m most excited about, however, is a weeklong trip to cover multi-day elephant-back safaris in Corbett Tiger Reserve during March.  So, there are plenty of exciting travels and assignments to look forward to in the near future before Katherine and I undergo the daunting task of packing our life into boxes as we prepare to ship out of India in early April.

The next exciting chapter awaits us…

CWC Build Up and a Cold Winter in Delhi, India – Jan 2011

It has been a brutally cold January – by Indian standards anyway – and, although Delhi has not suffered the same foggy weather and associated delays as last winter, it has been bloody cold.  We have had heaters running day and night in a place that spends eight months of the year above 40oC.  It is a bizarre climate and, more than once, I’ve longed to be back on the white-sand beaches of the idyllic Andaman Islands!

The cold weather, however, has been good for productivity, so, on the work front, my India Whitewater book is roaring along and looking on track for our March 31st deadline with its release still scheduled for May 2011.  In stark contrast to my book’s speedy progress, preparations for next month’s Cricket World Cup have been somewhat less impressive…

The only thing colder than the January weather in Delhi was the heart of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) scoundrel who announced on last the day of the month that India vs. England, arguably the biggest match in the first round of the Cricket World Cup, had been shunted from Kolkata to Bangalore.  Speculation about a venue switch had been rife ever since the International Cricket Council (ICC) announced after a recent inspection of Eden Gardens that renovation work was so far behind schedule that the ground was unfit to host the big World Cup showdown: a grudge match between India and the former colonial masters.

So here we go again … you remember the Common Wealth Games fiasco?  Well, history is repeating itself as India, yet again, fails to impress on the world stage.  While cricket fans are left reeling from the ICC announcement that Kolkata’s Eden Gardens isn’t ready for the World Cup (which starts in less than three weeks), it’s the financial sting of the decision that hurts supporters the most.  Cancelling flights, hotels and match tickets without recourse to compensation is the final insult and a sharp slap in the face for avid cricket aficionados from India and abroad.  Yet, nothing changes; the same inept villains retain their jobs, no one is hung out to dry by the Indian media for incompetency and all we get is the same nonchalant head bobble, a shrug of the shoulders and the far from placating phrase … “Well this is India!”

So I’ll sign off with the news that twenty mates and me are about to get cracking on cancelling our Kolkata flights and hotels, before investigating whether heading to Bangalore is even a feasible option.  Well done India – you very successfully punished our forward planning and thwarted our best attempts at efficiency, yet again!

CWG, Kali-Sarda & Bandhavgarh’s Tigers, India – October 2010

October proved to be a great month in India!  After an incredibly wet monsoon, the rain eventually abated, the humidity disappeared and the weather became tolerable once more.  The changing seasons signalled that it was time to start travelling again and, hopefully, enjoy some fun-filled adventures along the way.

The month kicked off with a visit from an old Welsh friend, Huw Roberts, and his Australian girlfriend, Celi.  Their stay happened to coincide with the much-maligned Commonwealth Games taking place in Delhi, so we decided to brave the terrible traffic, collapsing pedestrian bridges, high security and a dengue fever outbreak, and headed to the main stadium to watch the Athletics finals.  It was without doubt the most spectator-unfriendly event I’ve ever experienced, highlighted by the fact that the stands were, at best, only 15% full for the men’s and woman’s 100 metre finals.  What a pity, especially for the athletes.

I decided to escape the rest of the CWG carnage in the capital and joined Aquaterra Adventures (www.treknraft.com) for a weeklong expedition down India’s most under-rated Himalayan river.  The Kali-Sarda traces India’s international border with Nepal as it snakes its way through deep valleys and a pristine wilderness dominated by wildlife, warm water, enjoyable rapids, idyllic weather and picture-perfect riverside beaches for camping.  Twice, when we beached our rafts and kayaks for the night, we found fresh leopard tracks criss-crossing the beach we were about to sleep on!  It was an action-packed and highly entertaining week on the water and I succeeded in collecting some great photographic material, as well as cool experiences on the ‘ducky’ (an inflatable kayak), for my book India Whitewater.

After a frenetic week back in Delhi processing photos and chasing magazine deadlines, it was time for the highlight of the month… A stay at the Taj Safaris luxury lodges of Pashan Garh and Marua Kothi courtesy of AndBeyond India (www.andbeyondindia.com).  After spending a day marvelling at the spectacular and erotically sculpted temples of Khajuraho, we headed to Pashan Garh: an ultra-luxurious bush retreat on the outskirts of Panna National Park.  Panna was a true wilderness experience and, with almost no other vehicles in the reserve, our enthusiastic naturalist guide, Dipu, shared the park’s secrets with us.  On top of some great wildlife viewing, quality birding, boating on the crocodile-infested Ken River and soaking up the beautiful mountain scenery, he also managed to track down a staggering four leopards during our 3-day visit!

From Panna we drove four hours across Madhya Pradesh to reach Marua Kothi, situated a stone’s throw from India’s premier tiger reserve.  Bandhavgarh was the antithesis of Panna.  Peace and solitude went out the window the second we entered the fray in the revered Tala tourism area.  This is India’s most famous tiger-viewing zone, renowned for having the highest density of relaxed tigers in all of Asia.  The frantic nature of the tiger search took some getting used to, but in the end Yugdeep tracked down a couple of the iconic cats for us.  We enjoyed an especially memorable sighting of a 4.5 year old male silently stalking cheetal (spotted deer) right past our vehicle.  When the spotted deer eluded him, the King of the Jungle proceeded to roar: an unbelievable sound that capped off the quintessential Bandhavgarh sighting.

The action looks set to continue throughout November with trips to Jaisalmer in Rajasthan, Amritsar in the Punjab, and a photographic assignment to Manipur in the remote northeast of India all on the cards during the upcoming month.  To top it all off, Katherine and I will be tackling the Delhi half-marathon on the 21st of November!

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