A Retrospective RTW journey?

Thank you to our faithful followers for your encouragement and comments!  So here are our thoughts.

As we slowly worked through our “to do” list in 2020 which was drawn up in Thailand over Christmas 2019, we came across boxes of transparencies/slides taken on previous trips prior to the digital age. From this came an idea: why not try and see if we can retrospectively record our experiences from our first attempt at a RTW adventure over 38 years ago in 1982. 

When we considered how we should record our trip, this blog came to mind. This would give us a permanent, easily accessible, record of our travel from this time, in a format that we are familiar working with. While this is a self indulgent exercise for us, it might fill in for the lack of travel we are all suffering from.  We thought it would be an interesting comparison between that first attempt and our more recent trips.   What was travel like 38 years ago?

So how will this work?  During our cleaning up, we also uncovered old tickets, receipts and maps, dug up a few faded photos plus the transparencies/slides. We received copies of letters we sent en-route to friends and family. We even still have items that travelled with us, I Anthony is more reluctant to throw stuff out than Anne is.  Anthony’s defence is that seeing and handling an item can illicit more memories that just a photo.

To start the process, each of us separately jotted down a high level list of memories, before we looked at the pictures, to see what we could remember unaided. How will writing in the present about long past experiences work? We shall see.

What will be missing? Sadly neither of us kept a detailed diary that we can fall back on to fill in the gaps so our thoughts and musings at the time. Many we met travelling were recording their travels to write a book later,  I am not sure how many ever did. What will also be missing are the names of many wonderful people that we met, which is a pity. I did find a small notebook in which I kept diary notes for the first month of our journey.  A review of my simplistic scribblings confirmed the theory that I had limited literary skills at that time. Anne keeps saying that I have improved immensely since then.

What memories will we dredge up as we go through this process? We have no idea, but this will be an interesting challenge, given what I, Anthony, when asked to remember my childhood, would only fill a couple of A4 pages. How does someone write their memoirs and produce a book?!  

The result we hope will a permanent record of our first and somewhat naive, long term travel adventure. Some of you will actually feature in this journey, a bit like an Alfred Hitchcock film where the director appears in a walk-on role early on in the story.  

Drawing on the structure of the Star Wars movie series, we have numbered the last two RTW trips, Episodes 1 and 2, and so we will title this one “Episode 0 : In the beginning”.

We appreciate our patient followers’ forbearance. So here goes……

– Anne & Anthony

Looking Forward / Looking Back

My dusty Linkedin profile proclaims my occupation, somewhat optimistically, as “Adventure Motorcyclist”. When I reflect on our single motorcycle adventure last year, all of three days through the Bunya Mountains in July, it makes me think I can expect a call from the government regulators for creating a false or misleading impression.

The last twelve months have seen unprecedented changes and challenges to all our lives. Employment terminated, families separated and loved ones lost as the world and the frontline health workers battle with the COVID-19 virus. International travel from Australia for most of us has been banned for the foreseeable future, even Australian interstate travel is risky with sudden interstate border closures having the potential to strand us and the motorbikes at any time, like Western Australia’s five day lockdown from 6pm today only just announced, after a straight 9 months without a single Covid case, a perfect example.

With the start of the rollout of vaccines across the globe, hope is that country borders will start to open up to travel, but realistically, this will not be until late 2021 and probably more likely 2022 so a steady stream of blog entries to keep those lounging on the couch happy will not eventuate. So, looking forward, we do not have a practical adventure in mind at present, but to fill in the time for the couch dwellers, perhaps we need to look back in time. A long way back… Interested?  Any thoughts on how far back we’re going?

– Anthony

Reconnection – on the road to recovery.

Anne has said that my medical episodes come in twos, heart, ankle etc so that the second detached retina operation will be the last.  The power of positive thinking which Anne has always been good for.  Two weeks after the surgery is my first followup and I have a long list of questions, mostly around understanding the recovery process. 

This must be a question that many people ask after surgery.  Is the level of pain, discomfort, weeping etc within acceptable bounds? You do not want to be a hypochondriac but conversely neither do you want to miss something important.  I was provided a checklist of issues to look out for, but what about other symptoms not on the list?

I am very pleased and relieved, as we both are, to report that the recovery is progressing in a timely fashion and all that I am experiencing is normal. While I still have to undergo surgery next year to remove the silicone oil which has some risks of further retinal detachment, we are on track and will be back for a further follow up in early December to look at my other eye.

I thought that those of you who have been brave enough to see the graphic photos from my operating team might be interested to see, some non surgical photos of the retina pre and post surgery to round out your ophthalmic education.

My retina, detached from the back of the eye.
The bottom of this image shows the retina reattached.

Finally I would like to say a big thank you to all of you who have sent messages, prayed and otherwise wished me well, both via the blog and Anne on Facebook, through this eventful journey. 

– Anthony

Detached again – the Sequel

Since receiving many positive comments about the blog entry “Detached in Rockhampton”, I have been concerned about how to keep that level of excitement and interest in the blog given the lack of travel opportunities. So I have done what film producers do when bereft of ideas, create a sequel.

As I sit in the entrance of St Andrews hospital (last Thursday), I am reflecting that this blog entry was planned to wax lyrical about the marvellous progress I had made since my detached retina operation four weeks ago.  Alas, I am scheduled for more surgery in two hours’ time as the first round is failing. In spite of the great surgery, careful recovery progress, the bottom of my retina is detaching again and will continue to do so unless more radical surgery is undertaken. 

Our first checkup after four weeks saw us travel to the Queensland Eye Institute armed with a list of questions based the next phase in the recovery, when to swim, bicycle, travel etc.  It took less than a couple of minutes for Dr Shama to dissolve this plan after reviewing left eye scans.

Plan B: a rubber band and some 5W-20 or was it 10W-30 given our warmer climes? I believe that the technical term is a Left Vitrectomy, detached Retina with buckling. Yes they use a belt and buckle around the eyeball, what fun.

Seriously, as the gas bubble dissipated and was being replaced by natural liquid, the pressure was reduced and the retina has not stayed stuck to the back of the eye. The gas bubble works in 80% of cases, just not in mine. The planned option is to fit a silicone belt buckled around the eyeball and inject a silicone based oil then in place of the removed gas.  The oil will remain in place for up to six months before a further operation to remove the oil next year.  If successful, I should recover 30 to 50 percent of my left eye’s vision. I got all this news at 11am just before we were due to have lunch with friends. No eating and drinking allowed for me.  I just had to watch, as no food or drink for at leat six hours before surgery, while Anne and our friends tucked into a tasty looking lunch.

I think hospital wards must be a little like aircraft, the crews are always different as no one from my last operation four weeks ago is around this time in the same ward (2F). The paperwork is significant and duplicates all that I did four weeks ago. However it is to ensure I get the right surgery so no complaints here. 

I have the same surgeon and anaesthetist as last time so the team is all together again. Dr Sharma organised the people he wanted on the team again with little notice. A big thanks there.

I just hope the after party blues will not be as bad as last time. Sadly I have been told the procedure will be more uncomfortable than the first time. My discussion with the anaesthetist about how seedy I felt leads to a change in anaesthetic mix. I had been chatting with the anaesthetic nurse and she had enlightened me to all the mixing drugs and monitoring of the patient that goes on during the operation.  I just thought that the mask went on and then it was off to coffee for the anaesthetist. Must be all the old masters paintings I have seen where they anaesthetic was administered via alcohol or a piece of blunt wood.  Science has moved on, thankfully.

Let’s get this show on the road.

I am told I have wiggly veins in my hand so the cannula into my arm near the elbow. Sadly no more commentary as the lights go out pretty quickly so over to my photo team. 

Anne has asked that I include a warning this time for those of a more sensitive disposition. So here goes WARNING – DETAILED MEDICAL PROCEDURES ARE  INCLUDED IN THE FOLLOWING PHOTOGRAPHS.

The team hard at work to save my retina.
Look at the neat stitching.
Just pull the thread a little tighter.
Amazing the skill level to do this. (A Closeup)

Back in recovery and while I drift in and out of consciousness in the first few minutes I do not feel seedy as I did last time. The change in the mix of anaesthetics has worked and I feel good.

Back to my room in ward 2F and a quiet night’s sleep as there is very little elective surgery that day.  I am the only patient for eye surgery.

Taking it easy after a busy evening on the operating table.

Two new things I learnt in hospital this time, firstly some people have  this operation up to five or six times, not me I hope.  Secondly remember, while recovering from the effects of the anaesthetic,  the nurses adjust the bed up and down for treatment and when you get out of bed they have not shortened or lengthened your legs.

Safely home with Anne caring for me.
Day 6

So what’s next?  After a week on my back, opposite of the last time, and a further week of recovery, I return to the surgeon for a follow up.  I must wait for three to six months before the oil is extracted, yes another operation under general anaesthetic, but I am planning for this to be the last of the eye blogs. Again a big thanks to all involved in my treatment and this was all done in the space of 10 hours, two less than last time.

– Anthony

So what did we think of the campervan?

Over the past 7 years, we have travelled on motorcycles around the world and in Australia, in a four wheel drive camper in Australia and Southern Africa, a car and camping equipment in Scotland  and a 7 meter long campervan with bells and whistles in Queensland.  The last one being the most recent and only time we’ve travelled in this way.  I’ve had a dream to travel long term around Australia for some years now so after the most recent experience is a good time to review the pros and cons of each mode.

Motorcycles with camping equipment – in our case, 3 man tent

Pros

  • Total independence
  • Always clean and safe
  • Everything has its place and easily packed
  • Cheap accommodation and meals
  • Can pick remote and quiet spots

Cons

  • Long or hard days’ riding make camping at the end of the day harder
  • Limited space for fresh food and water
  • Exposed to the elements (including evening mosquitoes and flies)
  • Limited space in the tent to keep riding equipment away from elements
  • Awkward to get dressed in the tent
  • Limited recharging capabilities
  • Ground can be uneven/sloping making for an uncomfortable night

    Some days are just exhausting

     

    Remote camping – bliss

     

    Remote camping – more bliss

Motorcycles without camping equipment

Pros

  • Travel lighter
  • Minimal packing in the mornings
  • Can travel anywhere
  • Can dry out riding clothing overnight
  • Easier to do hand washing
  • Can recharge all cameras and devices in hotels/motels

Cons

  • Have to stay in hotels/motels = cost
  • Beds may be uncomfortable
  • Have to eat out = cost
  • Cheaper places might not be the quietest
  • I miss not camping!

    Our recent 3 day trip with just those 2 panniers of stuff.

Car and camping equipment

Pros

  • Can go anywhere the car can go
  • Can take as much as on 2 bikes 
  • Can share the driving

Cons

  • Can’t be quite remote enough
  • Ground can be uneven/sloping making for an uncomfortable night

    Our car was born for country roads

     

    Our week end cabin, the old village school.

     

    Cosy evening by the fire

    One of our camping spots in Scotland – so serene

4×4 camper 

Pros

  • Total independence
  • Consistent sleeping comfort 
  • Can carry more clothes
  • Can carry more and fresh food
  • Can travel anywhere and be as remote as one wants
  • Easy to boil water/cook
  • Can eat out of the elements
  • Can keep devices charged
  • Can share the driving

Cons

  • Roof top tents can be tricky in high winds (as happened to us in Namibia)
  • Some campers might mean cooking outside (with the flies, heat/rain)

    Surrounded by wild animals – the night symphony of animal sounds is unforgettable

     

    In our wild camp spot in Botswana

     

    This where our rooftop tent folded itself over us in Namibia so we spent the night in the driver’s cab. A most memorable night!

     

    The downside of the central desert of Australia when the flies are desperately thirsty and go for your eyes and mouth.

     

    In one of my favourite places, Docker River, Australia

2 wheel drive hire Campervan

Pros

  • Consistent sleeping comfort 
  • Can carry more clothes
  • Can carry more and fresh food
  • Easy to cook fresh meals
  • Can heat/cool main cabin when plugged in
  • Can eat out of the elements
  • Easy to pee in the night
  • Can recharge all cameras and devices
  • Can share the driving

Cons

  • Need to find powered site every 3 days
  • Cannot drive on tracks/dirt roads
  • Have to empty toilet and refill water every 3 days
  • Length and height constraints 
  • Packing sleeping area time consuming before moving off (the bed is made by placing the table top and some planks over the storage cupboards and moving cushions to make the matress)
  • Storage not that easy to access
  • Powered sites feel like being in a car park
  • You take more than you need and end up filling the storage space!

    Farm stay off grid in Central Queensland

     

    “Car park” camping in a commercial camp ground

On our last trip, we had the opportunity of talking to people travelling with different modes of transport and sleeping arrangements:

  • Motorcyclists staying in cabins/hotels
  • Motorcyclists with Elite camper trailer with Queen size bed etc etc
  • 4×4 towing large caravan
  • 4×4 towing offroad (dust proof) campertrailer
  • 4×4 with home made sleeping arrangement 
  • Campervan with bed that did not have to be collapsed and remade daily

They all had some great features and and tips and more pros and cons.

I think ultimately, the choice will depend on where you want to go and what comfort means to you.  Can you guess my favourite?

I love remote camping but sleeping in a tent is getting less comfortable as we age.  While in Australia, we are very unlikely to hire a monster campervan again but are glad we tried it.  My favourite mode would definitely be a 4×4 camper although nothing beats the feeling of being on the road on bikes, so that would mean bikes with no camping equipment… Luckily, we both feel the same. But that is not going to happen for some time now.  We are glad we seized the opportunity when we could.  Stay happy and safe everyone  🙂

– Anne