After a 3 year gestation, our Molesworth Station Book is done - one of the most satisfying book projects so far.
Harry Broad is the author, and I’ve produced the photos. It’s been an incredible adventure.
Here’s an interesting behind the scenes video I shot while filming the unique Robinson Saddle muster (caution; it contains hardwork, a greenhorn learning to ride, some skinny dipping, some adventure, and a few laughs. But, mostly it contains spectacular scenery and a rare glimpse into a unique high-country lifestyle and job):
Special thanks to Landcorp Farming Ltd, Department of Conservation, the managers of Molesworth (Jim and Tracey Ward), Craig Potton Publishing, everyone who has featured in the book, and especially the many people who worked hard for us to make the project successful. Thank you.
Just had an enjoyable Radio New Zealand interview with Harry Broad and Kathryn Ryan. You can listen here to Harry share some wonderful stories he’s uncovered through his research (I never get sick Harry’s colourful telling), and I attempt using words to explain my visual portrayal of the Station and experiences.
TV3’s 3rd Degree show last night said they have ‘new’ evidence proving Robin Bain was the murderer, from tiny marks on 20 year old photos. I’m a professional photographer, and once an A grade competitive target shooter (full bore and .22), so I took an interest in the ‘new’ photographic evidence.
I think what was portrayed was VERY UNSAFE and doesn’t offer a ’slam dunk’ to the case as claimed by some. I looked into it and can easily show the new evidence does not prove anything. I’ll show you why:
Original evidence. Note shadow direction, high contrast, sharpened image
This was taken on film, printed to paper, scanned and presented here. It’s high contrast, has been through various reproductions already, was a crop of the original frame, and looks to have been sharpened to maximise it’s contents (this is a problem as I’ll explain).
I looked at my own hand and immediately saw I had two marks, which turned out to be exactly the same size as my .22 rimfire magazine. Hmm, interesting. I grabbed my iPhone and here is my quick shot taken on the couch during the programme:
my first snap with my phone on the couch watching the 'new' evidence. Wow, I have two natural fold lines EXACTLY the same width of a .22 magazine too. Getting itneresting.
NOW I’m interested! How can it be so easy with a quick photo of someone else’s thumb (mine), get immediately into the ballpark of the new evidence? OK, let’s try with my Canon 1DsMk3 and 24-70 lens, and try to roughly copy the lighting (note the shadow direction - it will give very good relief to any folds or imperfections on Robin Bain’s skin from that side angle). Here’s the first go (quite difficult with camera angles and only 2 hands):
“You should come on the May autumn muster to Lake McRae.” said Jim Ward, Manager of Molesworth high country Station.
What an invitation; for those that know Molesworth Station you’ll understand the significance of such an invite! For those that know Lake McRae (see map at bottom), many will regard this as a holy land of sorts. To join in on the annual cattle muster to push 400 cattle over the Inland Kaikoura Ranges to their traditional winter pastures is epic. Not only is it regarded as one of the highest cattle musters in the world (at over 1400m/4700ft), but it’s also one of the most remote seldom visited spots in New Zealand. With three stockmen & horses involved, and small backcountry hut, it’s also a very few lucky folks that have ever participated in this 100 year tradition. More folks have climbed Everest than been here. This is not a commercial trip, but a unique rare opportunity to join the stockmen on part of their annual work programme in the high country.
For the last 18 months I’ve been working on a book about this historic high country station with Harry Broad. Lance McCaskill wrote a seminal book about the first 50 years of Molesworth history. We’re bringing the history of this fascinating iconic high country run up to date. It’s New Zealand’s largest farm at 500,000 acres and sits nestled amongst mountain ranges between Blenheim, Hanmer Springs and Kaikoura.
Back at my office in Wellington, Nina, my Business Manager, was excited. She’d grown up with horses and rode professionally back in Sweden. On weekends she trains riders and horses. You will be fine, I’ll teach you she said.
Learning: my horse riding crash course on Red. Photo & teaching by Nina Tötterman
So started a wonderful bi weekly programme designed to advance me from newbie to competent horse rider in less than a month, but most importantly to toughen up my softer spots. Each Tuesday and Thursday we shut the office at noon, headed for Wainuiomata and climbed on horses. My third lesson as cantering bareback. They pushed me hard to learn on the crash course but I’m very grateful now. Luckily I apparently picked things up fast, learning I think more about animal behaviour and psychology than staying on Red, Ray, or Teddy, the three boys I learnt to ride on. Bruce and Kelly’s property in Wainuiomata had a great variety of steep hills and trails to explore between flat work. Things started to arch and hurt in places you’d normally only see with a mirror; apparently a sign you’re doing it right. Weird that.
Nina, my Bus. Mgr & horse whisperer controlling an over excited high performance F1 hot blooded 'Shaka'
One Sunday night the phone went; it’s Jim. “Can you get down tomorrow? We’re bringing it forward due to weather”. I hurriedly finished my GST tax return, a quick pack and assemblage of equipment and I was on the ferry heading for the South Island.
I arrived late evening, got a bit of gear organised, hit the hay around midnight, to be up a 4.30am for breakfast with Jim & Tracey and the three stockmen that I’d be riding with for the next 3 days, Andy McLachlan, Cory Hollister and Tom O’Sullivan. Nine months before I’d met these guys on their first week on Station as they learnt horse shoeing from visiting farriers so they could look after their horses in the remote out stations through the year (a skill we’d rely on later…
Some things stand out in my working photographic career; but having a photo tattooed onto skin, as a living memorial, has to be a remarkable compliment.
Nick Johns contacted me for permission to use a photo as a memorial to his brother. Some things cross boundaries, and this does for me - creating an image someone feels is good enough to permanently etch onto their body in honour of someone they have lost, is very humbling.
Nick wanted to tell everyone that his brother died as a consequence of drug addiction. ” We are all addicted to something in this life. But the trouble with drugs for the addict is they progress, as Tim did from the so called harmless drugs, Marijuana etc to eventually the hard drugs, in Tim’s case Methamphetamine. The only good thing to come out of this, is it has shown the next generation in our families how drugs will destroy lives. It destroyed their awesome Uncle Tim whom they all loved so very much.”
Thank you Nick for wanting to share this, and for creating a very humbling experience for me, from what is a very sad experience and loss for you. We’d both love to hear your comments if you’d like to post any here.
So the buggers put me on the cover, freezing my bits off. I can’t be too upset, testing a new outer shell garment for Swazi Apparel can lead to trouble when you push the limits, but you’re going to get an experience out of it too. Here’s the shot, a quick story behind a beaut experience.
Freezing my proverbials off, Mt Taranaki winter
I set off with Bia Boucinhas (a Brasilian friend training as a mountain/Antarctic guide in NZ) to climb Mount Taranaki and get some winter photos. Davey Hughes of Swazi had stuffed a newly designed goretex lightweight ‘Narwhal’ anorak into my hand and told me to test it the day before. Of course I’d said. Little did I know what a testing it, and we, were going to get. The day had been fine as we set off to climb to Syme Hut on Fanthams Peak for the night, before climbing Mt Taranaki the following day. As is often the case here, the weather changes very fast despite the best weather forecasting, and sure enough we were pushing through cloud and wind by the half way mark.
Approaching the summit of Fatham’s Peak we were hit by hurricane strength winds and a freezing southerly which made it very hard to stand up. Visibility dropped to 3 metres making it very hard to find the white ice covered hut in a total white out where visibility was 2-3 metres. Things were getting serious at this point as our core body temperatures were plummeting fast in the… > > > Continue reading : full post + comments > > >
I’ve been photographing a book about Molesworth Station; New Zealand’s largest station at 200,000 hectares (500,000 acres!).
The dramatic changes in landscapes, colours and seasons are imperceptible to our human time scale. I’ve just compared 3 photos taken 5 months apart and watched the richness of colour fade out to a stark reality of a barren winter landscape. Beautiful.
Molesworth Station seasonal contrast. Click to enlarge
Yesterday Garry Glynn contacted me to photograph a family heirloom piece. Other photographers he’d contacted weren’t interested; I assume it being a small paying private job. I had a hunch that there was something more interesting about it, took it on, and luckily I was proved right.
89 year old Garry arrived and delivered to my hand a small simple heavy brass drinking cup similar to many I’d used in India. Nothing special except it had engraving around the outside. It carried a story that I’m still thinking about today; a story of history and horrific human bloodshed.
From the Battle of Mahajapore. Scroll down for result
Turns out Garry’s relative (Col Sgt J. Barry, 39th Dorestshire Regiment) was present at the Battle of Maharajpore, India, on the 29th December 1843. He was lucky to make it. 5000 people did not make it that day! In a nutshell, Central and Northern India had fallen to British forces in 1818, but Marathas in Gwalior saw the failed British campaign in Afghanistan as opportunity to regain independence. The battle ensued. It’s believed that nearly 800 Bristish soldiers and 3-4000 Marathans were killed; an unbelievable slaughter of human beings in one day. The significance of this event for the British is remembered with the Gwalior Star campaign medal.
Garry is passing this family ‘war trophy’ or heirloom down to the next generation and wanted a photo showing all the cup’s text to give to his relatives. My job was to attempt that. Given the circular object with concave face, and the highly reflective nature of the surface, the job wasn’t straightforward. But I love a challenge, and I reckon it could be done.
First up was to prepare the vessel. A good polish brought out a good shine, and a closely held candle flame sooted the surface up nicely, and another shine left a little soot in the engraving. Next was figuring out how to light the face of the vessel with even light. No problems there, get an Elinchrom studio light out and pop on a softbox, but trouble is that you can’t get a camera in there without interrupting the clean lighting. I tried a couple of tilt shift lenses attempting to shoot off the central axis, but this just distorted too much. Then I figured the concave front face would let me lower the softbox and shoot over the top without breaking the clean reflection - great.
Camera shooting over studio flash and softbox
Once a nice even light was sorted, next was to carefully rotate the vessel and photograph ovelapping images. Another lens base proved to be the perfect stage.
Photo slices ready to be worked up
I ran this through a panorama stitching programme and gave it a clean up. Garry just called around today and seems very happy with the result:
The final result
But I’ve been thinking about the cup since: what horrors and good times it has witnessed, and what route it has taken to arrive in my hands? Garry tells me that a number of ‘retired’ seasoned British soldiers were offered land in New Zealand in exchange for being willing to fight in the NZ land wars if necessary. They become known as ‘The Fencibles’, and this is the route in which the cup arrived in NZ.
I also found this gritty, stiff upper lip, description of the battle by Henry Man. It’s a short honest read that gives you an appreciation of how gnastly that day must have been. Please take a moment to read it if you can.
So, all in all, a photo job that paid for itself in not only in dollar terms, but that was also rich in knowledge, experience, and technical challenge.
Things have been really busy since returning from Antarctica; I’ve been a little remiss on updates amongst the exciting jobs.
I’m working on three new books at the moment. One book is on a well known high country station which I’m really enjoying. I had another visit last week and again met great people, great scenery and it was nice to photograph hard working people in dusty dry conditions; hard on photo gear, but good atmosphere. Here’s an image that evokes one of the mornings with the stockmen.
I also had the pleasure of meeting the Bush’s of Bush’s Honey, Blenheim. They’ve been beekeepers since 1916, and are very nice folks - I’ll be buying their honey from Moore Wilson’s from now on. They put me in a bee suit to take some photos of working their hives. They’ve developed their craft without the use of smoke to calm the bees, necessary in a very high fire hazard zone in the high country. Fine for them, but I soon discovered that bees (when there are millions of angry ones) are experts at exploiting weaknesses. If I put my camera too close to my eyes they could sting through the veil mesh, and after 2 hours their tally was 4 stings to my face. No probs at the time, all part of this job. But, a day later I was feeling very sorry for myself. An extremely swollen face was testament to the poor lymphatic drainage abilities of our faces; I was the elephant man incarnate and scaring small children and some adults. I was unrecognisable! I’d post a photo here, but seriously it’s not good for PR. Thankfully the swelling has pretty much left now after a week, and I found out that if I was allergic to bees I wouldn’t be here to write this. It was surprisingly extreme photography, very exciting with hundreds of bees smashing into the body aand face mesh, while trying to take photos. I now understand why the Bush’s take safety so seriously. Thanks for the amazing experience guys - and the honey sandwiches!
Photographing the Bush boys collecting honey. An extreme exercise in photography. Click for larger photo
I’ve also been working up the Whanganui River, with a spot of walking, jetboating and canoeing with Bridge to Nowhere tours. A great place somewhat off the beaten track, and some great images. A highlight was calling into the old convent at Jerusalum near Pipiriki early one morning. Such a peaceful place with sun forcing through the river fog on a windless morning, surrounded by trees groaning under the weight of ripening fruit. A little paradise.
Some nice news this week. My book Majestic New Zealand justwon runner up in the Whitcoulls pictorial book of the year awards at the Travcom conference. Simon Mcmanus (VP at Travcom) kindly let me know that the judges said it was very close to judge. So, I’m proud about that, and grateful to Travcom and Whitcoulls. The book is available signed via my website bookstore and here’s a short youtube clip of the book. Sorry about the music, but I’m a photographer….
Bianca Edwards doesn’t do things by halves. But her back was broken in halves. Her story is as remarkable as her attitude. Several weeks ago I shot the New Zealand Geographic Magazine article on ‘Happiness’. Bianca was part of this story. I enjoyed meeting her, and thoroughly enjoyed working together on an image that captured her remarkable spirit. On the drive back to the office, my assistant Aliscia Young spoke about the inspiration we’d both experienced. Let me tell you about it.
Bianca was a top athlete, competing in multi-sport events, and while training, was hit from behind by a van at 100km/h. Her back was shattered and she was lucky to survive. What followed is a remarkable recovery led by determination, optimism and, I think above all, the unwillingness to be a victim to her situation. The article by Dave Hansford focuses on how Bianca was able to readjust her expectations; from expecting to win events, to making simple steps, like wiggling a toe. A trait that some research suggests is key to being happy.
So, knowing this, how do you approach a photo shoot that gives dignity to the subject, captures their spirit, and avoids creating another cliched photo of a disabled person toiling against obstacles?
Discussing angles on the phone with Bianca was a joy - full of ideas and keen to give it her best, we threw around ideas about the things that were important to her - fitness, swimming, study, Ducatis… Motorcycle riding was key, especially with her friends and fellow Ducati owners Carla and Fiona (friends like this that Bianca rates in her recovery) . Hang on….from not being able to walk, to riding big motorcycles?! The angle fast became clear. But, how to shoot a portrait that captured this story?
After the shoot. Carla, Rob, Bianca & Fiona. The Ducati women of the Wairarapa.
Bianca’s story in the happiness article for me is one of ‘freedom’ - freedom of movement, but also freedom of mind. So, it was important that we had a very dynamic image to portray freedom. We tried to accomplish this with an open face helmet, but the freedom died. With considerable care we took this without the helmet. I think we caught Bianca’s spirit in the image below. What do you think?
Bianca Edwards and her Ducati, with Fiona and Carla
TECHNICAL SPECS: We pottered very slowing along with a 1/8th sec shutter with ND filter, while using my aerial photography gyro stabiliser to maintain sharpness but achieve a blurred movement. I super-clamped and magic armed 3 strobes to the back of the vehicle, and shot from the rear hatch. Canon 1dsMk3, 16-35mm, ND filter, 3 canon flashes, Kenro gyro.
I just had the opportunity to photograph some remarkable animals. Kaimanawa wild horses can polarise people. They made me think.
I was a professional conservation manager before I was a professional photographer. I am well aware of the issues with these introduced animals living in an environment of high conservation values, such as these horses. This issue touched me years ago as minute taker for one of the advisory meetings on mustering the horses back in the 1990’s when scientists and managers nutted out the operational plan to manage their numbers. I’ve also studied zoology, and animal behaviour is a huge interest area given my photography. I’ve never gone out of my way for horses, and really haven’t had much to do with them.
Young Kaimanawa wild horse stallion all fired up after challenging another horse. We've made a canvas print of this boy available below.
Why am I explaining you this? Well, my recent experience was a surprise. I discovered a spirited animal with interesting behavioural traits I hadn’t expected. The horse, domesticed by man over thousands of years, again returning to a wild state & rebuilding its wild traits. I discovered a huge difference between domesticated horses, and those that run free.
The word ‘broken in’ refers to spirit I feel. I saw colts and stallions galloping kilometres across open tussock to challenge each other, and then race back. I saw stallions protecting their herd, and a mare cautiously introducing her new foal to her herd. I saw piles of horse poo stacked high as a territory or social marking. But, beyond all I saw spirit. Of course, I’m in two minds - I’m into conservation, but I can also see the other side of the argument to retain some of these animals; to have a wild animal running free - for their spirit but also ours as humans. A quandary alright; one that touches on our conservation ethic, but also strums spirited chords deep within our psyche. Both have value.
I went to photograph horses. I found a lot more.
I’m pleased to make my favourite image from the day available as a high quality canvas print. He’s really fired up and full of himself, and the flowing mane and glare in his eyes says it all.
Thank you to Peter Cosgrove for his generous gift of time and hospitality to make this trip possible. What is your view about these animals?
A bit outside my normal beat, but despite initial trials and tribulations, it became a most satisfying and challenging week. Meeting, filming and spending time with such a varied group of people interested in happiness, really made me happy. Not surprising really - from a buddhist monk to a philosopher, brain researcher and even an athlete who has learnt to walk again and now shes rides ducatis for fun, it was very inspiring. I hope my images do them all justice. Here’s a hint of what’s coming. And here’s another teaser from NZ Geographic http://twitpic.com/3bf5ed. Have a look out when the next issue arrives, and let me know what you think. I’ll be writing more on this subject. All the best, Rob
Michael Kerrisk contacted us for a cover photo for his new book. He’s very smart, and he’s a Kiwi doing good stuff in a far off land. Naturally we thought it great to have iconic kiwi image gracing his book cover and pitched a fresh fern koru image.
Michael loved the idea, in terms of what the koru represented, the clean fresh NZ link, and the obvious fractals pattern association (you’ll need a big brain to understand that apparently).
So here it is - a NZ connection to a new book on Linux Programming. Judging by the spine, she’s a tome and a half.
Congratulations Michael. It was a pleasure to help add the finishing touches of the New Zealand connection.
Michael Kerrisk's Linux book. Cover photo by Rob Suisted
Want to see more stock photos of New Zealand fern korus?
A couple of weeks back I spoke to Evan’s Bay Pre Shool. Not my normal speaking audience, but it turned out to be a rich experience. I got more than I bargined for. The clincher was when Courtney said that “the kids often played at what you do for a job”. It keeps giving; the kids just delivered me a thank you card. Thanks to you all; I now have it hanging in my office.
Thank you card from Evan's Bay pre school
Have a read about my visit here. It’s got a couple of cute photos and I wrote about why it was such a nice morning.
Rob talking to the kids
The kids ran their own photo competition and are proud of the results. Here’s a nice comment.
I shared dinner with the first man to walk to the South Pole and the North Pole last week! Robert Swan is a remarkable man in many ways. I want to share a bit about him, his 50 year project and what this meeting meant to me. I can’t believe my luck.
Robert Swan, South Pole
Robert Swan walked to the South Pole in 1986. At 33, he walked to the North Pole (1989). He’s earned a spot in history alongside the heroic explorers of old, becoming the first man to walk to both poles. Incredible. He doesn’t do things by halves, and he’s taken on some Herculean tasks since.
Robert Swan was in Wellington last week and I was invited to a small dinner. Robert gave a pre-dinner slideshow that set the scene for an inspiring evening, and touched many chords for all of us. For me, having been to both polar regions, having some idea of how epic his walks were, and being a student of polar heroic history, it was a big treat sharing his tales, elbow to elbow, at the dinner table.
Robert Swan's final message to us
Robert was inspired by Antarctica and the heroic explorers when he was 11. He dodged Oxford Uni (much to his father’s chagrin) and in his twenties decided to raise $5,000,000 for an expedition, bought a ship, convinced 25 volunteers to give up 3 years, and set sail to Antarctica, to walk to The Pole. It took him 5 years to get 1000 sponsors and enough money, before setting sail in 1984 - meeting Capt. Scott’s last surviving expedition member Bill Burton in Lyttelton. He tracked down original sponsors of Capt Robert Falcon Scott’s 1910-1913 expedition, e.g. Shell Oil supplied petrol to Captain Scott and again supported Robert’s attempt. It’s worth mentioning that Robert had never even been camping at this stage!
This month I gave a speech at the Photographic Society national conference. I chose to talk about how photography can add to an exceptional life.
Partly I talked about how I’ve learnt that serendipity is a very important index to monitor in life and business. True to form a nice bit of coincidence appeared while researching my speech. It’s this that I want to tell you about, and why I’ve found it so vital to have.
What is serendipity? I know it’s fortuitous coincidence, but what is it really? And why do some people have more of it than others? I’m very interested.
My speech was titled: ‘Shooting from the Heart - seeking an exceptional life via photography’. Of course, photography is my income, but it pays me richly in many better ways; I’ve been lucky to meet some amazing people, wildlife, visit some special places, and share great experiences so far in my life. The ‘juice of life’ is what I call it now, and it’s something that should ideally be enjoyed and sought in a pure sense, not driven by necessity or ego.
I’ve found that the more I try to discover this in a pure sense, without selfish interest, the more serendipity or coincidence appears. It might sound a bit flaky or woolly perhaps, but I can assure you that there is a sensible reason for it, and here in lies what I have learnt so far, and wish to share.
Creative professionals know that creativity comes from an open still mind. A mind that contains stress or fears becomes closed and creativity suffers. Same with opportunity, same with serendipity. I think that we all have similar portions of coincidence in our lives, but an open mind simply sees more of it. I have the confidence now to use serendipity as a powerful defacto indicator that my mind is more open, and therefore probably more receptive to opportunity and creativity. Make sense? Watch out for it and tell me what you think. Does it happen to you also? I’m very keen to know more.
New Zealand Geographic featured a nice article about Rob’s TankCam, otherwise known as RoboCam (nice touch guys!). If you’re interested in a behind-the-scenes look of the Fairy terns shoot please check out the article here and Rob’s video here.
Let us know what you think, it’s always great to hear your feedback!
Mark Carwardine and Stephen Fry had the classic ‘encounter’ with a frustrated male Kakapo bird which has since become gold on YouTube. 1.7 million views last count (see video below).
I came across old photos of my own encounter with a friskly Kakapo recently. The famous person around at the time was Don Merton (famous enough), but unfortunately there was no video camera. Fame and glory were not to be this time, so you’ll have to make do with this image:
Rob Suisted being Kakapo’d by an over enthusiatic ‘Trevor’ on Maud Island. Photo by Don Merton. Kakapo are one of the rarest birds on earth (123 birds), the heaviest parrot, the only nocturnal one, and a Lek breeder.
Remarkable experiences. Conflicting demands. How to make the most of them & life?
I’m lucky in my life, and work, to see and experience some remarkable things. The trick is not to take this for granted. It’s easier said than done when the object of the experience usually must be shot with camera. There are fundamentally opposing demands here and I want to explain a solution I’ve found to this problem….
Came upon this scene last night. Very frightening for home owners evactuated on Gloaming Hill, Titahi Bay. A big loss for conservation too as the fire took out a huge area of regenerating forest in the Conservation area. The fire had the potential to sweep up a final hill into the residential area in the high winds.
Recently we launched my latest book, Majestic New Zealand, in Conservation House, Wellington, NZ. The Director-General of Conservation, Al Morrison, kindly did the honours and hosted the evening.
Just prior to his speech, Terri Ripeka Crawford and Mere Boynton performed a completely impromtu song and dance performance of ‘Te Kokako’ - a composition by the late Hirini Melbourne, in honour of my book. I want to share this with you.
It was amazing, completely unexpected, very spiritual and moving for people (yes, we saw tears). For me it was a great honour and a moment of complete presence and clarity in the evening which created good memories. Thank you very much to both of you. I hope my blog readers will enjoy watching the performance, as we did.
TANKCAM (’Rob-o-cam’). Tough assignment to film NZ’s rarest bird - the Fairy Tern for NZ Geographic Magazine. Less than 40 birds known, they nest in the open and human disturbance may stop breeding.
Solution was to build a remote control vehicle that I could very slowly inch towards the nest over an hour while we monitored the birds’ reaction and leave it set up to capture intimate scenes (very, as you’ll see below!). So that’s why I built TankCam. We’ve kept the highly successful assignment under wraps until now. This video tells the story and gives you an idea of three days worth of filming, behind the scenes. Please view and post your comments - it’s great to get your feedback:
It’s taken a while to post, but here it is, an exciting short trip to ride a motorcycle in Southern Indian at short notice. Here’s a copy of a dispatch to friends: Change of life circumstances, an opportunity, brother in India, tickets booked Wednesday, Mumbai by Saturday, Classic Royal Enfield Bullet motorbike rented illegally from Policeman by lunchtime, an adventure unfolds….
A mass email for those interested to know more…
Thought I had better file something from India before departing. Things have been so full on the classic Royal Enfield Bullet 350cc motorcycle Suisted tour, and not really near touristy type places that getting to an internet connection has been a bit hard.
So, in the nutshell, joined brother Phil and Nicki in Panaji Goa about 8 days ago. Served a whirlwind apprenticeship under Phil, learning the ropes on communicating (yes you might be speaking with an english speaker, but our logic is worlds apart - once you’ve confused them you’re stuck), wheeling and dealing, route finding (read communication), food, chai, riding a motorbike that is doubly back to front - gear lever on opposite foot, and change direction reversed - if you emergency brake like in NZ you only succeed in changing up a gear!).
Phil and Nicki really impressed me at how quickly they’ve learned, and esp. Phil dubbing Nicki as he hasn’t done many miles on a motorbike - let alone dubbing (not to mention the nerves of steel and trust that Nicki has sitting on the back watching the traffic and potholes unfold) . With that done, we set off into the maelstrom of traffic on my 350 bullet ( it dones 80KM flat out - basic design unchanged since 1940s). Road rules don’t really exist, the basic factor is might is right, and motorbikes are bottom feeders. You need to treat the centre line as fully moveable and stay 100% awake, and use horn all the time on traffic you come up on (and cows and dogs). Trucks will pass trucks on blind corners - it’s your job to expect this and be ready to run off the road for them…
Overtake the bus on the right side, the tuk-tuk on the wrong side, through the roadworks, over the bridge. Catch the bus overtaking the truck on the blind corner - Situation Normal!