Perth to Sao Paulo via Abu Dhabi

I’m writing this from the friendly Hostel Alice in Sao Paulo, the Southern Hemisphere’s largest city and Brazil’s business and transportation centre. Although it’s obvious in hindsight, I didn’t realise Sao Paulo was named after St Paul from Tarsus in modern day Turkey, a town nearby my former hometown Mersin.

My journey from Perth to Sao Paulo took only two flights but an indirect route and long duration (36 hours). Cara kindly dropped my off at Perth Airport and there I boarded the 11.5 hour Etihad flight to Abu Dhabi. Etihad plane at Perth Airport

The Etihad plane taxiing to the gate, Perth Airport

Etihad’s service and modern plane impressed me although their food was average. I loved the provision of noise-cancelling headphones, particularly since I left mine home in the interests of reducing baggage weight and space.

Abu Dhabi International Airport

After touching down at Abu Dhabi International Airport

With 10 hours overnight in between flights, sleep was key. I knew Abu Dhabi Airport had sleeping pods and I went to find them. I guess I already gave off a backpacker vibe because, when asked about the pods, the information desk man showed me a price list to check if I could afford one before pointing me in the right direction.

Interior of Abu Dhabi Airport Sleeping Pod

My sleeping pod interior with the cover closed, Terminal 3, Abu Dhabi International Airport

After eventually finding GoSleep Sleeping Pods, the woman kindly offered eight hours for the price of seven. At AUD 95 (they accepted multiple currencies) for seven hours, I bet many backpackers do indeed choose a bench instead.

Abu Dhabi Airport Sleeping Pod

The open sleeping pod

The sleeping pod room was dark and somewhat noisy but the combination of earplugs and my excellent Hibermate Sleep Mask with Ear Muffs blocked out all noise and light. The six hours of sleep was golden and made this long journey manageable. Although expensive for what it is, I recommend the sleeping pods for anyone who needs a sleep and isn’t claustrophobic.

The view shortly after departing Abu Dhabi

The view shortly after departure from Abu Dhabi

Rivers near the West African coast

Rivers near the West African coastline

The 14.5 hour Jet Airways operated flight for Etihad from Abu Dhabi to Sao Paulo flew over a significant chunk of Africa and the Atlantic Ocean, both firsts for me. The African mountains, rivers and plains looked attractive from the sky and the continent is definitely on my future places to visit list.

When not looking out the window, I spent most of my time playing an addictive arcade game on Etihad’s E-Box entertainment system causing the system to crash twice from overuse.

Waters offshore Brazil contain some of the world’s deepest, most technically-difficult to extract and largest reserves of oil and gas. From the plane I was surprised at number and density of the drill ships, production platforms and support vessels.

First sight of the South American continent

My first ever view of the South American continent (and continental Brazil)

The South American continent came into view indicating my journey end and South American adventures start.

Sao Paulo from the air

This photo provides an indication of how massive Sao Paulo is

Jet Airways plane at Sao Paulo Airport

The Jet Airways plane after landing at Sao Paulo’s Guarulhos International Airport

After landing and going through Brazilian immigration, I was thankful to have prearranged a transfer through the hostel. Luckily Sao Paulo’s infamous traffic behaved itself and the journey into this mega city went smoothly.

Farewell to a multi-generational Mitsubishi Magna

Farewell Mitsubishi Magna

Blooming jacaranda trees provided a fitting backdrop for the Magna’s farewell

Today I farewelled a car that served three generations of family across two states. This morning a tow truck driver came and towed my white Mitsubishi Magna sedan. The car will be auctioned off with proceeds going towards preventing youth homelessness via Kids Under Cover.

The Magna entered life at Mitsubishi’s Tonsley Park assembly line in 1994. In 1995 my dearly departed maternal grandparents purchased the car new from Ceduna Mitsubishi in western South Australia. Later, my parents became owner number two and, in 2009, they were generous enough to give the car to me to use in Western Australia.

Magna in South Australian countryside

The Magna in all its glory in the South Australian countryside, 2006

As part of my move to Perth to join a consultancy in late 2008, I negotiated to have the company pay for car relocation. Packed to the ceiling with my possessions, the Magna crossed the Nullarbor on the Indian Pacific train. Unknown to my then boss at the time, the company paid several hundred dollars to transport a car worth not much more than the transportation fee!

Gaziantep slippers on Magna mirror

A shoe ornament from Gaziantep, Turkey hung from the Magna’s rear view mirror

Changing the state of registration to Western Australia required an inspection. A new windscreen and a few other tweaks later, the Magna was ready to extend its reign for several more years. If the car had no provenance I would not have persisted with the transportation and registration bureaucracy and expense. However, this was not a normal car, but a family heirloom! Indeed, the Magna performed very well and, until the last few years, operated very reliably for a 1994 model. It wasn’t a spectacular car but it performed its job.

Mitsubishi Magna sedan

Before towing, I removed the license plates for return to the Department of Transport

21.5 years and 256,000 kilometres after coming off the production line, the Magna has left the family. Farewell to a fine servant!

The 2015 Mandurah Half Ironman Swim

Today I completed the 1.9 kilometre Mandurah half ironman swim and, hence, reached my goal to become an efficient swimmer.

I originally intended to finish all three race legs. In early October I re-evaluated the situation. Considering interrupted preparation including trips to Malaysia, Melbourne and Adelaide, preparing for South America, packing up the house and my life, and the flight to Brazil two days later, I decided to only attempt the swim. This aligned with my swimming goal and was far more manageable.

Yesterday afternoon I drove an hour south of Perth to Mandurah foreshore for the surprisingly efficient registration process. After checking in my bike (I didn’t want to risk disqualification) I travelled to nearby Wannanup where Bernice, Gerry and Nick kindly hosted me.

This morning the 4:45 alarm rang. As the transition area closed at 5:45, early access was critical. The 700+ bikes on racks made an impressive sight. The pros placed their expensive machines on a special red-carpeted line.

Mandurah half ironman bikes

Mandurah half ironman bikes in the transition area

The professional men began their open water swim at 6 am followed by the pro women and then various age groups of amateur men and women. Each wave wore colour-coded swim caps and my navy-capped wave was one of the last, starting at 7:01.

The water was murky and I took time to get into rhythm. I felt best in the middle 60%. I didn’t experience much carnage, only the odd bump. One woman who bumped into me said she thought I was a buoy and I immediately replied I am 😀

The picturesque swim course goes around canals and, about half way in, under a bridge. The finishing stairs appearing in the distance were a welcome sight and minutes later I was out of the water and running to the transition area. I’m uncertain what time the swim took (~50 minutes I guess) but I made it!

Final Air Yoga Stretch

While visiting the Gili Islands I undertook some intensive yoga classes and when I returned to Perth I wanted to continue with the stretching.

Unsure which classes to take, I then remembered former Toastmaster (and occasional Cirque du Soleil physiotherapist) Trevor had started Air Yoga. Choice made, I purchased the 20 lesson pass and for the past six months I have been hanging around at Air Yoga’s Leederville studio.

Hanging Around Air Yoga

I took Beginner Air Yoga classes first to adapt to the hammock and learn the basic moves including how to go upside down. Besides inversions, the hammocks are used for stretching in many different positions both from in the hammock and from on the floor.

The exercises were tough and I always looked forward to the final relaxation position, lying in the hammock.

Air Yoga is great for flexibility and core body strength. The yoga classes complemented my triathlon training and served my tight running legs well.

In the six months I improved my Air Yoga movements substantially. Although Friday was my last Air Yoga session in Perth, I intend to continue similar exercises in South America.

Farewell Banyandah Toastmasters – for now

After four years, last week was my final Banyandah Toastmasters meeting – at least for now.

Toastmasters is an international organisation aiming to improve people’s public speaking and leadership skills. Located opposite Maylands train station near Dome Cafe, Banyandah Toastmasters is Western Australia’s oldest Toastmasters club having started in 1974.

I joined Banyandah in November 2011 to improve my communication skills and participating in the club has had a significant positive impact. In addition to completing the ten speech Competent Communicator Award, I have entered speech contests, created the club’s website and was twice Club President.

I have learnt from and shared many fun evenings with my fellow members, including Matt, Kym, Ross, Anita, Keith and Adam. The positive and jovial atmosphere is one of Banyandah’s key attributes.

Public speaking can always be improved and practised and, as Banyandah is such a welcoming club, I may well be back there then upon returning to Perth.

Seven Years of Running

Running race medals

Some of my race finisher medals

This morning I ran the 2015 Fremantle Half Marathon, my final stand-alone running race for the foreseeable future.

Excluding Little Athletics in childhood, I only started running in June 2008. After struggling at first, running became easier with practise. Looking back, I’m surprised at how fast I improved. In September 2008 I finished my first big event, the 12 km City to Bay in 1:01:13, just over 5 minutes per kilometre.

Almost from the beginning, my main aim was to complete the 2010 Istanbul Marathon. The race was a great excuse to return to Turkey, a country I had lived in for six years. I completed two marathons: Istanbul and the preceding 2010 Perth Marathon.

Aya Sophia after the Istanbul MarathonAya Sophia after the Istanbul Marathon

Standing in front of Hagia Sophia after finishing the 2010 Istanbul Marathon

Training for a marathon (42.2 km) requires major dedication and lifestyle changes, something, after the Istanbul Marathon, I was not prepared to repeat. Half marathons are far more manageable and the City to Surf, Perth and Fremantle half marathons were my primary running goals most years.

2014 City to Surf Half Marathon Start

At the start of the 2014 City to Surf Half Marathon

I had intended to finish running following the 2010 Istanbul Marathon but I found the activity too enjoyable and a great way to stay fit.

As much as I would love to bring my running gear to South America in November, I will be travelling very light so extra shoes, clothes and equipment won’t pass the grade.

No doubt I will run races again but when that will be I cannot tell.

2014 Swan River Run

The look of determination near the end of the 2014 Swan River Run 14 km – no onesie-wearer was going to beat me!

PS: I had fun this morning at my final stand-alone race but it was not a personal best. I ‘hit the wall’ and walked most of the last 5 km, finishing in 2:01:00. Running 17 km two days earlier and a warm, sunny second half no doubt contributed to this performance.

Two months to go in my Half Ironman Quest

On the 8th of November I will participate in the Mandurah Half Ironman. A half ironman is a triathlon which consists of the following legs in order:

  1. Swim: 1.9 kilometres
  2. Bike: 90 kilometres
  3. Run: 21.1 kilometres (half marathon distance)


My primary motivation for entering the half ironman was to learn to swim efficiently, something I’ve desired for a long time.

In May, to understand how to improve my technique, I took a coaching lesson from Sally Scaffidi of Swim Smooth. Sally videoed my stroke and her post-swim advice, recommending stroke-specific training drills.

For the last 3 months I have swum laps in my local aquatic centre’s outdoor 50 metre pool up to 6 times a week. On most occasions I rewarded myself with a sauna and spa for slogging it out and drinking chlorinated water in the winter weather.

My stroke has improved massively although I still have a fair way to go. Last week Sally gave me a follow-up coaching lesson. My primary element to correct is bending my elbow in the ‘pull’ instead of using a straight arm. Other improvements required are looking further forward instead of directly below and lifting my head out slightly when breathing instead of a long way. To assist with my drills, I have a pull-buoy, fins and hand paddles.

Going forward, after more training sessions in the pool, I will focus on swimming in the sea using a triathlon wetsuit to mimic race conditions. The wetsuit and the sea water will improve buoyancy and the wetsuit will also reduce drag. The sea also provides variable conditions with waves, currents and creatures.


Last week I revisited Andrew Budge of Trysport to fit the aero bars and other parts ordered at his request and adjust the bike to suit my dimensions. This week I set up my CycleOps Fluid 2 bike trainer in the lounge room and undertook my first cycle session assisted by the awesomeness of the Pearl Jam Twenty 3-Disc Deluxe Edition DVD. I’m less concerned about the bike part of the triathlon as long as I put in the training hours.


Having completed 3 half marathons this year, one may think I’m ready for this leg of the triathlon. However, this is not the case. Running immediately after a bike ride is very different to running independently and is requires specific practise.

A bike ride followed by a run is called a ‘brick’ session and these are extremely important when training for a triathlon. My peak training aim is a 3 hour bike ride followed by a 1.5 to 2 hour run.

Fantastic fitness will be a positive side-effect of the triathlon training and I’m looking forward to that. Two months to go!

Roast pork, cauliflower potato bake, spicy apple salsa, broccoli

Roast pork, cauliflower potato bake, spicy apple salsa, broccoli

Last night’s dinner:

  • Rolled roast pork: rubbed in olive oil and then thyme salt and cooked in the Weber Baby Q
  • Cauliflower and potato bake topped with tulum cheese with nigella seeds and cooked in the conventional oven
  • Boiled broccoli
  • Spicy apple salsa left to slowly cook for a few hours on the stove

The roast pork turned out very well and although not all the skin crisped, there was enough crackling. The apple salsa, cauliflower and potato bake and broccoli, with their contrasting tastes and textures all complemented the pork.