Hello from the other side – a working traveler’s diary

When I came to the Middle East in August last year, I did so with a number of goals in mind:

  1. Gain international work experience
  2. Get out of my slump, my routine and comfort zone and meet new people from all over
  3. Participate in more global races (triathlons, marathons, long distance swims)
  4. Travel
  5. Save

I’m happy to say that I’ve done a fair amount of 2, 3, 4. I continue to gain international work experience and I’m finally on track to start saving. If you look at my social media properties, you’ll get a glimpse into a few of the adventures I’ve taken (Besides Doha, Dubai, Bahrain, Abu Dhabi, desert safaris too), or the people I have met. But don’t for one second think it has been all peachy, all happy times. It’s real life and in real life you battle real things like missing family and friends, missing key events, not knowing when you can take leave, being tired, salary issues, and not living in a place you’re happy to call home. I’ve been to dark places in my mind. Anxiety has been a big thing for me too, especially in a professional capacity, but I know my limits and I know when to switch work mode off. Have I perfected the art of doing that? Not at all, but I’m doing my best to get it right. I’m lucky in that I have my sports and training to preoccupy my mind when I’m feeling low. It’s a good release, in terms of expressing my frustrations in training. If you see me on the road on a Friday or Saturday, and you see me talking to myself with very strong expressions, you’ll know why now. Haha. You see these are real things you deal with when you live abroad. And thanks to technology, we can always send a WhatsApp message, talk to the family and friends on FaceTime or even write posts like this.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. You learn a lot about yourself when you move away from your comfort zone. And that is probably the best experience you can take away from moving. I have no regrets about moving. It has been an incredible experience and one that I want to continue for the foreseeable future. Whether I stay here, or move on will be determined in time, but as a traveler, an explorer, a realist and a storyteller, I felt it would be good to share an alternative view on the happy, smiley selfies too.

I’m interested to know a few things from those of you reading this.

  • How have you dealt with moving away?
  • How have you adapted to the new cultures, languages you’ve been exposed to?
  • What do you do when you feel low?
  • If you’ve dealt with anxiety on your journey, how do you channel it into something positive?
  • What’s your tipping point, your limits?
  • When you’re on the road, exploring the world, what tricks or tips do you have when you’re feeling bleh?Has your experience been better or worse than the place you originate from?
  • Has your experience been better or worse than the place you originate from?

Wanderlusting no more?

This proposed bill to tax South African expats has me baffled. For a number of reasons. It’s making me worried too (I’m a Virgo, it’s in my nature). I’ve read many articles, seen groups on Facebook trying their utmost to grow their numbers to petition the finance minister’s proposal and I’ve reached out to a few people too. Cape Talk’s Kieno Kammies spoke to a tax practitioner this week (listen here) and from that, I thought it might be a good call to gather my thoughts, questions and put this post together. This isn’t what you would expect to read on me blog, but because I’m on what some may call an adventure that involves a fair amount of weekend getaways, this proposal will directly affect me. So maybe some tax experts can weigh in here.

Disclaimer: If you have an opinion that you wish to add, please be constructive (whichever side you are on). Hate speech or cockiness is not necessary. I’m trying to understand this and also have an adult conversation. K, thanks, humans.

My questions:

1. Why should you have to pay tax if you aren’t living there anymore? Paying for something that you’re not benefiting from seems a bit pointless don’t you think?

2. People go abroad to save and travel. Surely it’s their choice to do so? If they return, they will be paying tax and contributing to the economy they now live in.

3. How will SARS implement this? Do they know the number of citizens living abroad? This is going to be very costly to the economy. Another area where budgets and resources could be better allocated, perhaps?

Yes, moving to low/ no tax jurisdictions seems appealing. ‘Inflated’ salaries are a thing, but don’t think for one second we’re living like kings and queens. Rent is ridiculously expensive for what you get. Food and transport aren’t cheap either. Then there’s just living; movies, celebrations with friends, escaping the city for a weekend getaway, VISA APPLICATIONS (Death)… When you add it all up, those inflated salaries are done. So with this new proposal of being taxed on top of paying those bills means there’s not much left. You’re also now, by SA standards, in a higher tax bracket, so obviously, you’ll need to pay more when doing the tax return.

So what are the choices? Of course moving back to SA isn’t a bad choice – it’ll always be home. I’m just not there right now. Sometimes you just need a bit of adventure in your life. I’m not married, I don’t have kids, I don’t run a business… I’m relatively responsibility free. So why not take up a challenge, an adventure like this while I can? If I’m to be somewhat selfish for a change, professionally this is good for me. I’m able to gain international work experience, which is arguably the biggest pro in this whole experience. Plus, I love to travel, but traveling from SA often isn’t doable from a financial perspective. Geographically it’s challenging too.

Look, I’m in my 30s. I didn’t move abroad, leaving my family and friends behind to battle to make ends meet. That’s not the life I want. So I guess, I’m left wondering WHAT NOW? I’m just keen to hear from the experts and my fellow expats.

#AVonVoyage to Abu Dhabi – A Maxi Triathlon weekend

Last weekend, I participated in my first ITU World Triathlon Series race in the awesome city of Abu Dhabi. I’m unable to race Ironman South Africa this year, so I thought a Maxi triathlon in the region would suffice. In case you don’t know, a Maxi consists of:

– 1500 meter swim
– 80 kilometre cycle
– 20-kilometer run

This and 70.3 is a great distance for me. I’m able to find my groove, and I know how to pace myself accordingly. When it comes to Olympic distances, I tend to push hard on the swim and the first bit of the cycle. So I get a lot slower towards the end of the race. That’s going to change, though, as I build up to the New York City Triathlon in July (WOOOOHOOOO). Back to Abu Dhabi though.

I arrived in the UAE on Thursday evening. I had a bit of drama with the Etihad Airways ground staff in Doha. They wouldn’t let me take my bike bag and a checked piece of luggage on, even though the agent who works for the airline and who booked my package assured me that everything had been arranged especially for us triathletes. Alas after a bit of annoyance and a broken piece of hand luggage later, I got through. When I arrived in Abu Dhabi, I caught one of the cabs waiting outside the airport… A nice little (not so little) Mercedes-Benz took me to the Centro Al Manhal By Rotana.

Sidebar, nice comfortable accommodation on Yas Island if you’re looking for somewhere to stay. It’s close to the Marina, the racetrack, the mall, Ferrari World. It’s perfect!

On Friday, after a bit of breakfast with a friend who came through from Dubai (45minutes or so), I headed off to registration. It was smooth, a breeze. The one weird thing is that the race briefing was held on the grandstands… Standard really, but there was no shade, and for athletes who are supposed to be keeping hydrated and resting, this seemed a bit off. It was about 28 degrees, so it was hot. First world problems, blah blah, but that was one observation. The one thing that saved the briefing was the ever entertaining and awesome announce, Paul Kaye. It’s weird; I almost feel at home when he’s on the circuit giving us our briefings and throwing in some quips and funnies along the way.

True to the pre-race routine, I checked the old bike, packed the bags, got the bottles ready and hit up a restaurant in the mall for some chicken protein boet. I always say I’ll have an early night, but inevitably land up having a late one, and then I don’t sleep properly for fear of missing the alarm, etc. So by 3 am, I was up and at it. I gave up coffee and chocolate for Lent, so a cuppa tea was on hand to wake me up, lol. My other race must-have is my FUTURELIFE High Protein, trusty and now old faithful ☺

Once everything was sorted in bike-check and transition, I headed off to the swim start. It’s quite a walk from where the bikes were, so if you’re doing the race next year, give yourself enough time to get there. The race was supposed to kick off at 7 am, but due to some delays on the cycle route, they delayed it until 7:30. One gent, who was clearly very anxious, was getting rather frustrated, tried to get me involved in his frustration meets anxious tendency, and I was like BYE! I’m one of those characters who gets really quiet. I’m singing songs in my head and analysing the water conditions. I guess you can say I ‘Zen’ myself, haha.

We finally got going, and so did my swimming muscles it would appear. I haven’t been able to swim properly because believe it or not; it has been pretty cold in Doha. It wasn’t ideal because I love my swimming and I usually do pretty well here, so I was a little worried about that. It turns out muscle memory is a winner – I climbed out the 1500m swim, some 22 minutes later. I believe I was fourth out the water too, so I was pleased, to say the least. That success didn’t last long though because of the cycle, once again, was weak for me. I don’t know why but I just can’t get it right. I think it has a lot to do with bike positioning and the fact that I don’t have tribars. I need some cycling assistance, so if anyone is keen to help a brother out with some tips and guidance, holler!

The cycle route was interesting. We got to ride around the Yas Marina Island Circuit, which is quite technical and isn’t short on turns. We cycled around the outskirts of the circuit and through Yas Island too. So at least there was some reprieve too. The Maxi athletes had to do four loops, while the Olympic racers did two. We were all on the track at the same time at one point, which could’ve gone horribly wrong, but luckily for most, it seemed okay. My suggestion to organisers would be to relook the cycle. It’s just a little too boring for the Maxi I feel. I managed to do the distance in 2:31, which isn’t bad, but still, I need to put a lot more work into it to make the cycle count. The run was grand, and thank goodness for good weather conditions. If the sun was baking down on us, I think I would’ve battled a lot more. The run was a double loop of ten kilometres each. At about 11 km in, I stopped to grab some coke and an orange. I walked a bit, then ran and then walked again. A fellow racer, probably in his early sixties came running past me and said there is no way I am to walk. It’s funny, because this always seems to happen to me, and it’s always the ‘wiser’ gents. So I carried on, and he was hot on my heels, so I just carried on knowing he would curse me if I walked again haha. I managed to finish the race in 4:34, which I think is good? I haven’t done the distance before, but I’m pretty happy with that performance.

I enjoyed the race. I thought it was fun, tough but good. I love pushing myself too. So perhaps that why I felt so shattered afterwards? There’s always a lot of room for improvement, and I’m ready to keep moving forward. I wish I were doing Ironman South Africa on the 2nd of April, but alas this year it isn’t meant to be ☹

Gallery: #AVonVoyage to Abu Dhabi

We didn’t have a lot of time to explore the city too much, but post race, and a delicious burger later, myself and a few tri club friends decided to head off to Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque… It’s one of THE most raved about Mosques in the region, so we had to check it out. What a marvellous piece of architecture, culture and a beautiful, calming place. It was busy, full of people from all over the world. It’s a place you need to visit if you’re in Abu Dhabi. As I said, time was limited, but next time I’m keen to hit up the theme parks, and also see more of the city, the souqs and eat more local food. Hopefully, that will be sooner rather than later.

Stay tuned for #AVonVoyage to Oman, and more races, coming soon. Who knows where to next after that? Well besides Dubai this weekend 😉

#AVonVoyage to Dubai

Last Thursday I hopped on board an Emirates plane en route to Dubai in the UAE. I had a bit of a scare at the airport, with my exit permit not being issued in time, but luckily after several frantic calls all before 5 am, I managed to get it. The mission for the trip? Well firstly, to complete the Standard Charted Dubai Marathon… My first real marathon, really. The last marathon I did was in April when I participated in my first IRONMAN event. Yip, that was my first marathon. What a way to introduce yourself to marathon running, huh?

The last time I was in Dubai was in 2012. I had no expectations when I got there, and so my time there was a lot more than I ever imagined it would be. The city was vibey, fun and my friends looked after me real good. It was enough for me to start looking at any working opportunities there. It wasn’t meant to be, but now being based in Doha, Qatar, it’s a lot easier to visit the city. So upon my return to the city, I was absolutely blown away by how much it has changed. For one, it’s a lot ‘taller’. There are so many more buildings, so many skyscrapers. The Dubai Canal is a new addition to the city, and the Metro is fully functional too. This city is truly world class, and they aren’t playing games when it comes to proving how much they want to be considered as such.

I headed off to the race registration. Now usually you find a big expo with loads of stalls and brands showing off all their latest trends and products. So I was a bit taken aback by the lack of exhibitors there. In fact, I was disappointed because I was hoping to get myself a new pair of running shoes there. I mean, in my head there’s no better place than the number one hub for runners, right? Alas, it is what it is and the one good thing is that I didn’t have to stand in too long a queue, which is always a bonus. All wrapped up, all registered and now officially ‘poeping’ myself, I headed off to my hotel. If you’re ever looking for a central place to stay, I would definitely recommend the Metropolitan Hotel. It’s newly refurbished, it’s a short walk from the FGB Station and it’s very affordable too. The room was comfy and it’s close to the Burj Al Arab…. So it comes highly recommended. It worked very well for me too because it was about 3kms from the start and finish of the race. There’s also a really nice grocery store down the road (it sells biltong). PLUS if you’re South African, there’s a Mugg & Bean in the centre too… A little taste of home never hurt. Gosh, was that necessary. I vowed to get myself a banana muffin after the race, but that didn’t happen this time around. So I’ll just have to go back I guess 😉

On race morning, I got up early, enjoyed my High Protein Futurelife and then headed to the start. It was supposed to be pretty chilly, but to be honest the humidity kept it quite warm. Perfect for running really. After checking in my bag, I made my way to the start – EEEEEEEEEK! I’ve come this far, the only thing left to do now is to run. And that I did. I managed to find my rhythm quickly and I slowed my pace down too. Sidebar, I recently did a 21km training in Doha and I managed to do it in 1:38, which is my fastest. Granted it’s flat here and the weather is perfect. I didn’t expect to keep that pace for the marathon. In fact, I knew I had to slow down, and that’s what I did. I found a group of runners from Dubai, who were running a really nice pace, and so I hooked onto their bus and ran with them. At around 19kms, I need to use the little boy’s rooms, and so by the time I was done (like literally 2minutes), they were gone. I tried to catch up, but they’d upped their pace and I couldn’t keep up. I kept it steady, though and found another group to run with. At around 30kms in, the wheels started coming off. I think I’d pushed a little too hard. That coupled with old running shoes and too little distance training in the build up. It was possibly the longest 12kms of my life. I battled through, but I came out on top and managed to sneak in a time of 3:48… Super stoked about that one, seeing as though my marathon time in Ironman was a long 4:50.

A few lessons learned on the run:

– Don’t drink too much

– Get your nutrition right. All I wanted were some baby potatoes (my mum will be happy)

– Slow it down in the beginning, and pick it up for the last 10kms

– Do more longer, slower distance training in the build up

– Make sure your running shoes are conducive to running long distances like this

– Have fun

If you have any tips, please feel free to share with me too.

I really did enjoy the experience and I’m keen to do more marathons now… I’m a global runner and I love this ish. Between running, swimming, cycling and a combination of all three in the form of triathlon, expect more travel and race reports from me. I’m longing to go to Ironman South Africa, but it’s looking unlikely. New York City Triathlon in July is definitely on the cards – entry was paid for last year and it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity. Plus it’s New York City… My home away from home 🙂 As for the city of Dubai. Well, I do love thee. The pulse, the people, the forward-thinking types, the infrastructure, the cleanliness, the services, Dubai stays winning. I’ll be back there soon, but first we prep for ITU World Triathlon Abu Dhabi 2017 in March.

Hello from Doha, Qatar

It has been a while since my long blog post… I think it’s because I’ve been so busy trying to settle into my new environment, my new job, and my new way of life in the Qatari city of Doha. It has been almost four months, and it’s time for my blogging hiatus to come to an end.

A quick recap… A lot of you still may not have realised, but I no longer live in SA. I moved to Doha, Qatar on the 11th of August. I was yearning for an adventure abroad and so when the opportunity to come out here and work on a very exciting project (well four), I simply couldn’t turn it down. It scared me to no end. I mean I knew one old university friend was based here and besides her, I knew of a few people who knew my people in some way. That’s part of the adventure huh? Some of the things I’ve done since I’ve been here:

  • Been a #YesMan… Go meet people from all walks of life because why not? And boy have I met some incredible humans.
  • Use apps like Internations, Meetup or dare I say it, even Tinder
  • Tenpin bowling. It’s not novel, but it’s fun and a good way to let your hair down
  • Go smoke shisha at the Souq Waqif
  • Walk and explore (not in the height of summer because it’s revolting). In my case, it’s run ’cause you know… Triathlete
  • I went dog walking… I love dogs, I needed some attention from our furry friends, and they needed some love and affection too. The fit was right. So fulfilling, special and I met some awesome people too
  • Tried a vegan restaurant. Absolutely delicious!!! IF you ever come and visit the city (or me) we’re going to Evergreen Organics
  • Desert safari with friends
  • Visited the Museum of Islamic Art (MIA)
  • Kayaking around Katara Recreation Centre
  • Mall shopping (there are malls for days in these parts)
  • Joined a triathlon club

Some of you might think that’s what I do back at home. Yes, you’re right… For some of these, but for most of the listed items above, I’ve taken for granted. Before coming here, I slipped into a routine, a comfort zone if you like and that’s made me somewhat complacent. Life is about living and I’ve become a strong advocate of the idea of growth only being possible when you’re out of your comfort zone. There’s a limit though and we need to be able to draw the line or strike a balance between what is possible and what isn’t. No experience is ever wasted, but I’d much rather be doing stuff and fail, then to live in a bubble and wonder what if? Or worse, have regrets.

I went back to SA a few weeks back and that was good for the soul. Seeing your family, your friends… Your people is best. Having said that, I was pretty excited to head back here. I think that’s a good sign, right? 🙂

And so with this massive change in my life, I feel like it’s only fitting that my blog content shifts  slightly too. There will be more adventure, more news on health and wellness (my journey in this space), more on the city of Doha, but there will still be entertainment too. I hope you’ll my #DesertDiary and this project I call #AVonVoyage.

The #NewSunCity is coming

Do you remember the entertainment centre at the Sun City Resort ? It used to be the hub of a lot of activity. There was a casino in the centre many years ago. It then became the centre of all things fun, and the are was filled with restaurants and pubs, a movie theatre and retailers alike. I remember spending many an evening after the Miss South Africa pageants or SAMAs, standing in the Nandos queues to get some well-earned dinner after a busy working evening. Sometimes when the work was done and we felt like letting our hair down, we’d head to the clubs there for a couple of bevvies.

MiWay Sun City Ultra_ Jason Von Berg

But even before the clubbing days, I remember the arcade games, the hippos and crocodile games that used to keep me company for hours on end. In short, the entertainment centre was exactly that, and it appealed to young, old, the hungry and the party animals 🙂

Well, it hasn’t been around for a few months now and that’s because it’s getting a major facelift. This is part of the resort’s overall revamp, which should be wrapped up and ready to be revealed later this year. I went through to Sun City recently for the MiWay Sun City Ultra. So because I’m curious, I managed to get a sneak peek at what’s going down as far as the #NewSunCity is concerned. Check out some of the pics below.

I think this new entertainment centre is going to be quite something. It’ll still have that iconic Sun City look and feel, but just newer, fresher and a lot more modern. For one, the skylight in the centre is going to be incredible. No more artificial lighting during the day, but rather the natural rays from the sun will beam its pretty self into the centre. The restaurants, movies, retailers will all return. The Sun City Superbowl remains, which is great news. There are going to be some awesome new additions in the form of the ‘Walk of Fame’. I was told about this last year, but to see where it is going to go and how it will roll out is really exciting. I’m pretty damn broody at the moment, no lies. Seeing how they’re catering for the kiddies makes me even more ready for little VB’s, but while I wait for that stage of life, I think I might just bring out my inner child again. The new designs include a ten-pin bowling area, right next to the magic centre. So you can imagine how much of a jol the young and old are going to have there.

From a corporate perspective, the first floor will have a lot of conferencing facilities. Work hard, then play hard and boy is there a lot of playing to be done. The shebeen restaurant, the amphitheatre for some acoustic music sessions, the Valley of the Waves, the golfing… It’s all there, so it’s actually great for a team building or conference venue. I asked the team if they’d experienced a drop in reservations or visitors since the plans for the revamp were initiated. Not at all. In fact, they were at capacity from a reservations perspective was concerned, and the resort was buzzing with tourists and day visitors. I guess the warm weather and close proximity to Jozi and Pretoria helps a lot too. It’s also perfect for the whole family. This time, I stayed at the Vacation Club, which is perfect for the family or for a bunch of mates.

I hadn’t been to Sun City in a couple of months, and to see how much work they’d done in that time is incredible. The chances are the next time I head up there will be for the unveiling of the #NewSunCity and I cannot wait. Fun City… Obviously, I’ll probably do another triathlon while I’m there too, haha. Stay tuned, more on this to follow.

 

#AVonVoyage to Sun City – you should do the same

Do you have a place that takes you back to your youth, or brings back good memories? Be it a resort, a beach house, or say a trip to the bush that always takes you back to a time where you were relaxed, calm, and that always make you smile when you reminisce? I have a couple, but one that I still seem to visit a lot is Sun City up in the North West Province. The resort has been around since the 70s. I’ve been going there since I was young, and if you’re trying to do the math, I’m not that old.

I remember going to Sun City when I was around 9 or so. My mom, my uncle and aunt decided the beach was too far, but Joburg’s answer to the beach aka the Valley of the Waves was well worth the trip. The Lazy River, the Temple of Courage and some of the other rides were a perfect way to enjoy the warm weather and to keep them/ me busy. At the end of the day, we went and chowed some deliciousness at the entertainment centre and that would be followed by some fun at the arcade. Who remembers those crocodile games? Such fun – and such grand memories too.

In more recent years, I’ve been going to the resort in a working capacity, be it Miss South Africa; Kylie Minogue, Kelly Rowland and Marcos Hernandez at the Sun City Superbowl, or the South African Music Awards and each and every time, the fun in Sun City was had. So recently, I went through to the resort again. Only this time for a slightly different occasion. I was there for a triathlon – you know, my new life and all. It was my first 11Global triathlon. I decided to make a weekend of it because well, you know… Fun City. I left Joburg at around 3pm and after hitting peak hour traffic, I finally made it through to Sun City by 6pm. Immediately I felt a sense of relief to be out of the hustle and bustle that is Jozi, and it was great to be back in a place I really enjoy. My room in the Sun City Hotel was one of the luxury rooms. It had been a long day and a long week, so I decided to kick back and relax for a few minutes. That bed is so comfortable. So comfortable in fact that I almost fell asleep, but being an athlete now, the body must eat and so I headed downstairs with the intention of going to the entertainment centre, where a lot of the restaurants are. I saw the new Mugg & Bean in the restaurant, so I decided that would be perfect for the evening. That is just one of the many new additions to the resort by the way. There’s a helluva lot of construction and refurbishment going on at Sun City, but I’ll chat about that in a bit.

I kept the evening calm and headed to bed quite early – and luckily so. The next day was a lot busier than I had actually planned. I went to cheer on my family friends participating in the triathlon in the morning, and it was good to see what was in store for me too. A few friends and I then headed into the lake for a practice swim, which was too rad. A good warm up and a nice way to ease into the day too. I retreated back to my hotel for breakfast, and besides The Palace breakfast which is amazing, the Sun City Hotel breakfast is awesome too. If you’re heading through soon, try their home-made carrot muffins and/ or the crumpets. Deliciousness!

Sun City is one of those places that honestly just functions like a city. It’s a lot smaller, but obviously it works. The buses come regularly – the signage around the resort ensures that you get to the destination you’re wanting to go to etc. Take my situation for example. I wanted to go see my friends at Vacation Club. We decided an afternoon drive in the Pilansberg would be a good idea, so the bus took me from the entertainment centre right up to the Vacation Club. Look, I could’ve walked but it was hot out there, so I opted for the AC’d bus instead 😉 This year, my love for the bush was reignited when I went off to the Kruger National Park in April. So any excuse I get to into the bush is one I’m willing to make. We saw a lot of elephants, several rhinos and then the regular impala, zebra and giraffes. I would’ve loved a leopard or a lion, but a break in the bush is good enough to make the soul feel content. It was also a great way to clear the head of the week gone by and prep mentally for the triathlon the next day.

The triathlon itself went really well. I mean don’t get me wrong. The heat was intense, as was the wind, but I managed a good time and a podium spot for coming third in my agegroup. I had no idea that I’d actually got a podium spot, so luckily my friends were around to accept on my behalf. I missed my one shot, haha. After the triathlon, I took some time to lap up the Sun City lifestyle. We’re now into the last few weeks of the year, and I could definitely feel the holidays, the good times that await us when I absorbed the Sun City fun. People are chilled, happy, laughing, drinking, relaxing at the various pools. It’s a good place and a good time of the year. It’s also perfect for those wanting a weekend escape. It’s quick enough to get there. So you really should utilised this opportunity if you get the chance. Moms and dads can enjoy the Nedbank Golf Challenge, which kicks off very soon, and of course the kids can enjoy the Valley of the Waves and some of the other attractions among the four hotels.

I mentioned earlier that there was a lot on the go at the resort. Besides refurbishments at the Cabanas and the Vacation Club, there’s some major change to come in 2016. So big, they’re investing R800-million to make sure the resort is in exceptional knick and perfect for both local and international guests. For starters, the Santori is no more, but don’t fret there’s a new Mediterranean restaurant called Bocado, which opened in August this year. The resort now also boasts a new steak restaurant called Harvest Grill and Wine in the Entertainment Centre. Families frequenting the Vacation Club will also be glad to hear that there is now a Spur on the resort too… Best burgers, and a great place for the whole famdamily to to enjoy. There’s also an adventure hub called Adrenalin Extreme, which is targeted at the teenage market (not limited to them only I hope, haha). Why? Well because there’s a Human Sling Shot, a quad 4×4 challenge and Hovercrats to name a few things. The Valley of the Waves will offer two new rides in the next couple of months.

There are two things I’m particularly keen to see next year. The first is the Sun Park, which will be a multipurpose facility for events and music festivals. I know a couple of artists have already been booked to attend several events this holiday season, so check out the site to find out more, but Sun Park is going to be such a jol when it’s open. The Entertainment Centre will undergo a massive renovation. It’ll close very soon, and it’ll be making room for a full Experiential Centre in 2016. There will be a South African Hall of Fame, which will honour the country’s top sportspeople, as well as performing artists. There will be a lazer tag game, a ten pin bowling ring, the arcade will still be there and there will be plenty more. I have no doubt in my mind that I’ll be back at the Sun City resort in 2016, and I cannot wait. If you’re not heading down to the coast this December and you’re in the North West, Gauteng or MP, you really should consider a trip to Sun City. It’s relatively close by, and everyone can something on the resort!

For more information about Sun City visit www.suninternational.com. Like Sun City on Facebook SunCitySA and follow on Twitter SunCityResortSA

 

 

#AVonVoyage to Durban for Tsogo Sun Amashova race

A few years ago if you’d asked me to do 106 kilometres on a bicycle, I would’ve laughed in your face and thrown the duvet over my head in defiance. Things change, however, and now I do triathlons, run half marathons (still only half yes), I swim long distances, I ride both road and mountain bikes… and I do long distances at that. Is it hard? For sure. Do I love it? Couldn’t be happier. Health is wealth and I’ve been afforded so many incredible opportunities (Futurelife, Ride4Smiles, traveling to Brazil with Nike, joBerg2C and #NissanMagic) as a result of such a lifestyle change. It’s a blessing to travel, see the country (world) and keep healthy while doing it.

So at the weekend, I set myself another challenge… the Tsogo Sun Amashova Durban Classic cycle, in which I would attempt 106 kilometres, from Pietermaritzburg to Durban. Tick! It was a challenge, to say the least, but I absolutely loved it. I’ll definitely do it again and hopefully improve even more on my time, which, by the way, came as a shock. Sea level is the business! I had a great weekend with friends, but old and new and Durban is just what the soul needed. #TsogoShova 2016? It’s on!

A Von Voyage to Namibia for Ranger Odyssey 2015

On a random Tuesday evening last year, I saw an advert on TV that caught my attention. It was for a competition called Ranger Odyssey. The advert was looking for those in search of an adventure of a lifetime and for those who was bogged down by a pretty dull and boring routine. It kinda lit a fire under my ass, but as fate would have it, I missed entering because of this routin and stalling. I kicked myself when I realised I missed it, but that’s just the way the cookie crumbles really. It wasn’t meant to be… Or so I thought. Fast track to May, a new job and a new adventure ahead. Luck was on my side and it looked like I would be involved in the Ford Ranger Odyssey, but just from a different angle.

After some initial preliminary judging, I thought that was it, but then I was asked to head to the Karoo to be part of the Bootcamp experience. That I did happily, obviously. It was there that I got a crash course in 4×4’ing and I got a little taster on what the would-be contestants would be doing in Namibia. I spent four days there and helped choose what I thought was a very strong group of twenty contestants from South Africa, Angola, Mozambique, Nigeria and Ivory Coast. I really thought that was that. To my sheer delight, I was asked to attend the actual Odyssey… for eight days… What? Really? From being a hopeful contestant to actually driving the route and being part of this experience was pretty damn cool to say the least.

My long weekend in the African bush was replaced by eight days in the Namib desert; in tents, a Ford Ranger and an awesome group of people. Sounds awful right? 😉 I am often reminded how lucky I am to do what I do – and this experience was just another one of those reminders. I set off for Windhoek in the wee hours of Monday morning. A quick two hour flight and we landed in the Namibian capital. Customs officials were on as usual on ‘fine form’ making us feel uneasy and somewhat unwelcome, but whatever. We made it through. The nine of us then headed north-west to the camping spot of Purros in a very small and dinky plane. Not my favorite pastime, but the two-hour trip allowed me to catch up on some sleep, which was very necessary.

The experience itself was incredible -exactly what I imagined it would be. The scenery, the various locations we found ourselves in, the food, the content we produced, the people… This really was a career highlight. I think I’ll stop rambling now because I want you to see what I saw.


The winner of this year’s Ford Ranger Odyssey will be announced tomorrow evening. Can’t wait to see who takes top honours.

My Lagos adventure continued

Lagos; one of Africa’s busiest cities. With a population of more than 7million people, it’s a city with a lot of energy, entertainment and on a broader note, opportunity. I’m staying at a hotel called the Eko Hotel & Suites, which is the venue for the inaugural Africa Magic Viewers’ Choice Awards taking place this Saturday. The hotel is located on Victoria Island, which is  one of the most sought-after locations in the city. There’s a huge amount of development happening around here with a massive land reclaiming project underway. The new area is called Eko Atlantic. It is being referred to as a city and it will retrieve over nine million square metres of land from the sea and will ease the current demand for property, resources and the rapid population growth in this busy city. Check out this incredible pic (and the site) to see how this land reclamation process is going.

So that’s just a little bit of what’s going on the city. I’m loving being here – traveling the globe is incredible. Meeting new people from different cultures and seeing places you never thought you would is nothing short of awesome. I had a few issues with my passport on Monday. In fact I only got word that I was flying to Nigeria at 23:40 on Monday evening (my flight was set to depart JHB at 08:30). Tight much? Alas, it worked out and while I was exhausted on Tuesday morning, my flight here was great. The cabin crew were friendly, the leg room on board was fantastic and in general I was highly impressed with Arik Air – highly recommended.

After clearing customs and all of that jazz we hit the busy streets of Lagos en route to our hotel. I’d heard many stories about how heavy the traffic was and that we would be stuck for hours on end. That wasn’t the case. I think we got lucky, but it was great to move freely in the streets. Our driver was a little scary, I won’t lie. The way he was weaving through the streets and using that hooter at quite a high speed was all kinds of hair-raising. It’s the same anywhere you go in the world, so it’s not a surprise, but it’s always quite daunting when you can see how close the car next to you is etc, haha.

Our night was super chilled, relaxing and bed summoned us pretty early. I got up at the crack of dawn to hit the gym (I’m a freak like that, but then you should know that by now). Now imagine running in a gym in Lagos, a city known for its extreme temperatures, humidity. Imagine there are no windows there, so there is no fresh air and then imagine the AC isn’t working. It’s not ideal, but at least I sweated out all the garlic I consumed the night before 😉 It wasn’t ideal but hey, one remains calm and keeps running.

Another great thing about traveling? The random conversations you have with people? I was sitting working at breakfast and a local asked if he could sit at the table. Now for us South Africans, it’s kind of strange for someone you don’t know to ask if they can sit at your breakfast table. It’s just something we don’t really do, but in retrospect I think it’s really weird that we don’t. It’s common in the US and the UK, so we should exercise this in our own country. *Noted. Anyway, my new ‘friend’ told me he was a geologist out in Lagos for some meetings. He then quizzed myself and my friend/ colleague Leanne about our country, our purpose for being in Lagos, as well as our thoughts on apartheid. The latter is quite deep for 7:30, but hey. The conversation was good, we served as great ambassadors and then we said goodbye and moved on. Oh, the beauty of traveling. Leanne and I needed to get connected to the Net and on our mobiles so we hit up a cellphone shop. What was expected to be a 1-hour max excursion turned out to be just short of two and a half hours. Organised chaos I tell you, but the assistants were patient, extremely apologetic for the delays and friendly throughout, so it made it worthwhile. Note to prospective travelers, you will need to get your new sim card rica’d by the officials here. All you need is your passport, your address in the city and you’re good to go. Pretty easy going, but there are delays-  clearly.

Today we’re in a series of script and audio/visual workshops and later we’ll hopefully sneak into the rehearsals for the big show. Tomorrow will be a busy ass day, but more on that then 🙂 So now you know where I am, what I’m up to and hopefully you’ve learned a bit about Lagos too.

Laters.