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27. August 2009 10:07
by Rene Pallesen
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Going Solar

27. August 2009 10:07 by Rene Pallesen | 0 Comments

going solar


When we came back from our holiday our watertank had started leaking significantly. Actually it had started leaking slightly back in May where at the same time the government was introducing the stimulus package as part of their rescue plan for the financial crisis. Part of this package was an increased rebate on Solar hot water which provided a total $3400 government funding.

Back then I got a couple of quotes, but never proceeded hoping that the tank would last a little longer.

When we came back the leak had become a lot worse and could burst any time. It therefore had to be replaced very fast. It seemed that just replacing the existing electric tank would cost almost the same as installing Solar hot water and would be more expensive in electricity. Besides we have already installed extra insulation and energy efficient appliances so it only made sense to use Solar hot water as well.

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It took them 3 hours to pull down the old 160 litre tank and install a new 300 litre tank on the roof. So far we are happy with the system. We have more hot water than before, it is not nearly as hot as the old system, but plenty hot for what is needed (The old system had water which was close to 90 degrees Celcius and the new is appx 60 degrees).

It has an electric booster installed for cloudy days, but once summer is here I should be able to turn that off completely. And an extra advantage is that it has cleared out some space on the side of the house.

27. August 2009 02:00
by Rene Pallesen
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Jump shots

27. August 2009 02:00 by Rene Pallesen | 0 Comments

jump shots


While we were travelling in Denmark and Italy we did a large number of Jump shots.

Here are some of the coolest ones we did.

First in Denmark

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Then Italy


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17. August 2009 10:30
by Rene Pallesen
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Switzerland - Going home

17. August 2009 10:30 by Rene Pallesen | 0 Comments

switserland


After Lake Como it was our last day and Italy and was time to go home. We had to return to Milan that evening to fly back to Sydney next morning.

We decided to detour around the lake and possibly stop at some of the villages along the way. At the top end of the lake we came to a T intersection. I told kim that Switzerland was one hour if we turned left and Milan was 2 hours to the right. I asked her if she felt like a quick dash across the border before returning.

Most of the borders to Switzerland (and Austria) are located on the top of the mountain passes since the Mountains was what defined the borders the old days. The road up to this mountain pass was very narrow and full of blind corners. Kim developed stomach cramps on a number of occations on the trip and we eventually came to the conclusion that it was the tension when driving on these roads.

The scenery on the way up there was stunning. It was nice and cool climate and we were soon above the tree line and could see patches of snow on the mountains surrounding up.

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The style of houses changed from being traditional italian to be more swiss looking.

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Eventually we got to the border. Unfortunately the officer at the post didn't have a stamp to stamp Kims passport.

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We had lunch at the border and then returned toward Milan. We had dinner at the southern end of Lake Como and arrived at our airport hotel at 10pm.

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I had to return the car to the rental company at the Airport. Fortunately the hotel had an efficient shuttle bus service that made it easy to come back to the hotel. Unfortunately I forgot the cover for my phone in the car so I had to make the trip twice and was pretty knackered (and grumpy) when I eventually got back.

At 6am next morning we were back at the airport returning to Sydney.


17. August 2009 10:29
by Rene Pallesen
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Lago di Como

17. August 2009 10:29 by Rene Pallesen | 0 Comments

lago di como


After the Riviera we drove up to Lago di Como (Lake Como). This was the only place on the trip where we hadn't organised accomodation prior to us arriving.

When we arrived we initially used the TomTom to find us a B&B, but it kept taking us up into the hills on all these narrow streets with blind corners. We therefore instead decided to drive up along the shore of the lake and just check out whatever hotels we came past.

We ended up finding a place for a reasonable price in Argegno. It was right on the lake next to the passenger ferry and our room was facing the lake....perfect!

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For dinner we drove to Menaggio a bit further up the lake. Parking was impossible because there was another festival happening so I ended up doing another illegal parking (If you are in Italy you do like the Italians).

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Next morning we went down to the ferry and bought a day ticket for the central part of the ticket. This enabled us to take the ferry and hop on and off whenever we felt like it.

This meant that we we easily could get to other places on the lake such as Bellagio and Varenna. It also meant that we were able to look at the expensive villas from the lakeside.

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On the way back in the afternoon we stopped at Tremezzo at one of the large villas that was open to the public. The villa was surrounded by a beautiful garden.

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In the evening we were tired (and I was finally developing some sort of a sun tan evident from the sandal stripes on my feet).

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17. August 2009 10:28
by Rene Pallesen
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Italian Riviera & Cinque Terre

17. August 2009 10:28 by Rene Pallesen | 0 Comments

italian riviera


After Pisa we headed to the Italian Riviera, also called the Flower Riviera. I asked Kim to find us a nice spot along the coast for lunch and she picked Lido di Camaiore.

When I was a kid I went to the italian riviera quite a lot with my parents. My mum and dad met eachother here in a town called Diano Marina, both working for the same travel company as travel companies. We used to stay in caravan parks along the coast and I don't remember the place being very busy (but I may remember wrong).

When we arrived to Camaiore we were met by beaches full of hotels (whom had each closed of an area of the beach for themselves), umbrellas and people boiling in the sun and tanning oil.

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After lunch I decided to drive along the coast to our hotel in Sestri Levante...this turned out to be a mistake. After 30 kilometers full endless beaches covered in umbrellas, of dodging pedestrians and cyclists, traffic lights and people parking to go for a swim I decided I'd had enough and headed for the motorway. This part of the riviera is really not very nice and I was looking forward to go somewhere with a bit more charm.

Sestri Levante was the only place we could find accomodation. The hotel was up in the hills far away from the coast line, it was expensive and absolutely nothing special compared to all the other places we were staying during our trip.

In the evening we drove to a town called Rapallo for dinner. The city had closed off the roads around the water because of a festival, so it was really nice to sit at the water eating seafood and watch people.

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After dinner we went for a walk along the water down to the area where the festival was taking place. We were sitting there for a while listening to the music and enjoying a perfect evening.

When we came back to the car to drive home it turned out that we'd received a parking ticket (20 Euros). We were parking in a valid parking space and I thought we were outside the hours wheer we had to pay....but obviously not. I'd done lots of illigal parking elsewhere on the trip so didn't feel too bad about it.




Next day it was time to explore Cinque Terre. This is a national park along the costline with 5 small villages accessible only from the ocean (There is a trainline now). We drove to the only one of the villages that can be accessed by car Monterosso and parking right next to the village area.

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From here we walked down to the water. It turned out that the trains weren't running between the villages so the only access was by boat or walk. We didn't have time to walk so bought a day ticket for the boat.

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While on the boat we did a bit of planning and decided to go to the furtherst village Riomaggiore first and from here walk to the next village Manarola. From here we would take the boat to Vernazza and then back to Monterosso.

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Cinque Terre is a beautiful part of the Italian riviera, and although there is a lot of tourists there it doesn't feel overcrowded such as many other places. When we vere having lunch along the beached the previous day I was dreading that Cinque Terre would be as crowded as that.

In the evening we decided to drive to Portofino for dinner. We arrived there (along all these small narrow streets) around 7pm. Although Portofine if a nice place it doesn't beat the villages at Cinque Terre in beauty. The place is expensive in all respects and there isn't a lot of shops and restaurants, it is mainly fashion and expensive jewellery being sold there. Obviously catering for the Euripean rich who dock here in their expensive million dollar boats.

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We therefore decided to go back to the centre of Sestri Levante and have dinner here.

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17. August 2009 10:27
by Rene Pallesen
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Pisa - A revisit three decades later

17. August 2009 10:27 by Rene Pallesen | 0 Comments

pisa


When I was a child I spend a lot of summers with my parents in Italy. They used to work in the Northern part of Italy as travel guides and as a result we generally headed that way during the summer time with our caravan or with a tent.

When I was a baby my parent took me to Pisa (I have to trust them I an don't remember) and also up into the leaning tower.

Kim and I was planning to drive from Tuscany to the Italien Riviera and I asked Kim if it was ok to make a short stop at Pisa for me to have a look at the tower some 3X years later.

Our Tom-Tom navigated us by the backway into the city and within a short timefra we were at the tower. We had a look for a parking spot and literally found a spot less than 100 metres from the tower (so far pretty fortunate with the parking).

It was really cool to have a look at the tower. They have started allowing people to enter the tower again, but when we got there they next timeslot was 6pm in the evening (8 hours later) so we instead took some photos and bought some T shirts for Kims family.

Of cause we had to take the classic photos of trying to straighten the tower.

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And a couple of nice ones

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And then there was the silly ones

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And then some photos from the beautiful architecture of the tower and the church next to it.

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17. August 2009 10:26
by Rene Pallesen
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Tuscany

17. August 2009 10:26 by Rene Pallesen | 0 Comments

tuscany


While Kim and I was in San Gemignano in Tuscany we spent a day just driving around in the beautiful landscape. Even though we just missed the harvest it was still really beautiful. It is full of all these rolling hills, Vineyards, Sunflower fields and old Italian houses.

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Driving was fun and I could easily have spent longer time just driving around there exploring small villages etc. I would love to go back there during spring when all the flowers are out and the fields have been planted.


17. August 2009 10:25
by Rene Pallesen
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Siena and one expensive dinner

17. August 2009 10:25 by Rene Pallesen | 0 Comments

siena and one expensive dinner


On the first day in Tuscany we decided to drive into Siena and have a look around.

Our first impression was that parking was going to be a problem. There was some large tourist carparks on the outside of the city walls changing an exorbant amount of money per hour. We were planning to have dinner in the city and was planning to be there for most of the day and eventually we found a spot in a parking area that didn't have any meters. There was some italian scribling underneath the sign and we hoped that it didn't say "Reserved for residents and permit holders".

Anyway, eventually we made it inside the city walls and was met by 8 storeys of escalators from the walls to the innner city (You wouldn't want those fat Americans loosing any weight while on holiday).

We went around to some of the tourist attractions and there was unbeliveable queues everywhere. We started queuing up to get into the large tower at the main square and for 30 minuted the queue didn't move. Eventually we gave up and couldn't be bothered.

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Instead we decided to wander around the city looking at the old buildings and at shops which is really nice.

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Siena is known for the annual horse race in the center of the city. It was amazing to look at the area and suddenly realise why the horses often go flying into the barriers when they get around the corners of the race course.

The details of the houses is incredible. Everything is decorated. A metal spike is not just a skike any longer, but a instead formed into a dragon, a snake or a swan.

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In the evening we were going for dinner at an italian restaurant called 'Cane e Gato' (Kat and Dog). It was recommended to Kim by one of her colleagues who had also warned us that it was a bit on the pricey side.

At the place we were staying I found a book about Tuscany where it said that the degustation was 50 Euros (Appx $95 AUD). When we arrived we were given no menu's or any price list. The girl (Who turned out to be the daughter of the owner, who himself was in the kitchen with his wife) showed us our table.

We were told what was the degustation menu consisted of and got started. The food was quite nice...all ingredients that were in season from the surrounding country side. The pastas were home made and everything was very delicious.

At the end Kim and I was discussing what the damage was...a bit of a surprise when we were presented with a bill of 175 Euros ($320 AUD). This was a bit more than we expected.

Fortunately we didn't have a parking ticket when we got back to the car (This would have been the icing on the cake).

Another late night finishing dinner after midnight and then 45 minutes drive back to San Gimignano.

17. August 2009 10:21
by Rene Pallesen
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Manhatten of the Medievil - San Gemignano

17. August 2009 10:21 by Rene Pallesen | 0 Comments

san gemignano


After Verona we drove to Tuscany to a small medievil town called San Gimignano. It is a very small town where in the medievil days they were competing who could build the most 'high-rises'. This means that today the town is full of all these tall towers (There used to be a lot more back in those days).

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The town is full of tourists during the daytime and at night the town is again taken over by the locals including the werewolves from the surrounding area.

We were staying inside the old city walls, so for the most part we were safe except for the odd werewolf.


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They also have the world champion in Gelato...normally I don't belive marketing gimmick like this, but I must admit that the gelato was very nice.

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At night time once the tourists were gone it was an amazing place. The towers are rising into the night sky and I had a lot of fun taking photos of the towers just using the ambient light.

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17. August 2009 10:18
by Rene Pallesen
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Verona and the Opera - Italy

17. August 2009 10:18 by Rene Pallesen | 0 Comments

verona and the opera


We arrived to Milan in Italy from Copenhagen in the evening. The first thing we did after landing was to pick up our rental car which was a small Fiat Panda (Never, ever rent a large car in Italy...some streets only accomodate snall cars) and then drive to our Hotel. The Tom-Tom nagigator software on my mobile phone turned out to be exceptionally useful on our trip to find our way around.

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The next morning we drove towards Verona and at lunchtime we had a look at our map and noticed that we'd drive right past Lago di Gardia (Lake Garda). I asked Kim to plan a diversion somewhere for a lakeside lunch.

She chose Sirmione which is a long peninsula on the southern side of the lake.

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I used to stay at Lake Garda with my parents when I was a kid. The water is bright blue and it is a beautiful place.

We then continued to Verona early afternoon and found our bed and breakfast which is about a kilometer from the city centre. The road up there was very narrow and anything wider than the Panda would not have been able to get through.

As soon as we had gotten settled we walked down into the city centre.

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We had opera tickets for Aida in the old coloseum in Verona in the evening, but had to first pick up the tickets. The tickets were quite pricey so we had chosen to get ticket on the upper stairs with almost everyone else.

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It meant that it was a bit less confortable and that we would have to enter early to get a good seat. But it also meant that we were sitting up higher which is better for taking photos.

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The performance was amazing. There was approximately 500 actors on stage (and 4 horses) and ther used about a quarter of the coloseum as the stage.

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It was a beautiful and warm night with a brightly lit full moon.

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The performance finished around 1am at night and from there we walked to one of the squares of Verona and had some coffee (Places were still open).

The next morning we did a bit more exploration around Verona. Kim wanted to see the romantic balcony of Romeo and Juliet (Or Donald and Daffy Duck as I called them as they are just as real as the imaginary Romeo and Juliet)

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Since we were there we also had to rub the right breast of the Juliet statue there for good luck.

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In Daffy's house they also has a lot of interesting art work.

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Verona is an interesting city. They have a whale bone suspended from one of the gates...apparently the legend says that it will fall down upon the first 'Just' man who passes under it (and kills him??). Unfortunately (or fortunately) it didn't fall on neither Kim or I.

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The city is full of old buildings with interesting architecture


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15. September 2000 11:05
by Rene Pallesen
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New Car in 2000 . . .

15. September 2000 11:05 by Rene Pallesen | 0 Comments

new car in 2000


In September 2000, just after I returned from my trip to Borneo, I had to buy this new car because my girlfriend had written off my car whilst I was away! *smile*

I did not look forward to hunting around for a new car, but I found a good buy locally. This car is a 1997 Ford Futura, with 4.0 litre, 6-cylinder, 220-horsepower, power-steering, central locking and electronic windows (I think I am starting to sound like a car advertisement...)

Frontal view of car


Side view of car

It is pretty much the same colour as my old car, and it feels so nice to drive!

As you can see, pretty similar, but I also really miss my old car! It had a lot of computerised features - from a digital odometer, to adjusting the internal temperature of the car. It was a pretty cool car and wished I could have kept it for another few more years.

Frontal view of car


Side view of car

My first car in Australia!

A huge contrast to my first car!

It is a red hatchback that I bought early 1998, a few months after I arrived in Australia. But someone wrote it off a few months after I bought it. It was a pretty bad accident, but luckily I was alright. I was only covered by Third Party insurance, and to go through a lot of paperwork just to get reimbursement for the car!

15. August 2000 10:43
by Rene Pallesen
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Away from Headquarters . . .

15. August 2000 10:43 by Rene Pallesen | 0 Comments

away from headquarters
Ecochallenge ( Sabah 2000 )

Magellan HotelMoving into SilamRepeater StationInjured CompetitorTransporting a Repeater StationBeetleKids in Village
ArrivalSilam / Jungle OpsRepeater StationsThe CompetitorsHelicopterJungle Around UsThe Village

Village people
Away from Headquarters . . .

I managed to explore the villages at Silam.

The people here wore this white stuff on their faces - I guess their form of sunscreen.

These people were refugees from the Philippines.

Kids in the village

The kids were fighting to fit into the photo!

Kids in the village



The kids here were really cute.Caught Monkey

These kids here, had caught a monkey and was trying to sell it at the camp for 5 ringgit (AUD$2.50).


No-one wanted to buy it because they knew if they bought it, and set it loose, the kids would just catch it again, and try to sell it.

In general, there were lots of great photos at Silam village.

Car in a ditch



One of the helicopter pilots was driving through the jungle roads, took a corner too fast, and had a minor mishap.


All of us having dinnerHuge crab dinner!

We headed into Lahad Datu to get some seafood!

An escape from camp food. Camp food was disgusting. There were live worms in the vegetables (yes, after cooked). Most of the food was not fresh, and was pretty boring. The seafood was fantastic here. Whenever we had the chance, we ate lots of seafood.

Yum... Paul did not get to eat all of the crabs - all of us had a portion of it.

Huge lobsterHuge lobster

Yummm... they were huge, but we did not eat them. They were too big for us to eat, pretty impressive though. They were the biggest lobsters I have seen in my life. We saw these at the same place we ate our seafood and frogs (below).

Frog



We had this frog for dinner about 2 min after I took the photo.


This was actually when I went out with Glen in Kota Kinabalu - he asked me to pick some food and to surprise him.

I did not tell him till a year later that he ate frog meat. He asked me what it was, because he reckoned it tasted funny, but I did not tell him at the time.

I think he will only eat it again. Only if he really had to.

The tallest building in the world



Petronis Towers - the tallest twin towers in the world.

Actually, they are the tallest buildings in the world, followed by the Sears Towers in Chicago.

The towers are joined by some sort pedestrian platform.

These towers are located in Kuala Lumpur.

I went to Kuala Lumpur to pick up my Permanent Residency for Australia.

Woohoo!!! After 2 years of lots of paperwork, and correspondence back and forth with Berlin, I finally managed to get it!

The inconvenience of it all, was that I actually had to leave Australia ie collect my PR before re-entering Australia.









Below, is the only photo I have of the Lateral Linking Team that I worked with during the race.

The radio communications team

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Created: 7 Dec 2001

15. August 2000 10:42
by Rene Pallesen
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The Wildlife in Borneo . . .

15. August 2000 10:42 by Rene Pallesen | 0 Comments

the wildlife in borneo
Ecochallenge ( Sabah 2000 )

Magellan HotelMoving into SilamRepeater StationInjured CompetitorTransporting a Repeater StationBeetleKids in Village
ArrivalSilam / Jungle OpsRepeater StationsThe CompetitorsHelicopterJungle Around UsThe Village

Jungles of Borneo
The Wildlife in Borneo . . .


The jungles in Borneo are really dense, dark and humid.

You will find that some of the photos look as though they have been over-exposed, but in reality, it is just the humidity in the air.

Me in the jungle




I have a photo of this at home - Glen enlarged it for me, and framed it!

Don't ask me why - I think I look rather wasted there.

Glen and I tried to race through the jungle.

The climb to the top of the mountain is rated as a 1.5 hour climb... Glen and I have done it in 26 minutes... actually I was confident that I could do it in less than 20 and so I did!

I held the record of taking 17 minutes to race to the top of Mt Silam, covering a distance of approx 4 kilometres through the jungle, up a mountain.

I was getting really fit (My girlfriend was proud of me).

Glen in the jungleGlen in the jungleGlen in the jungle

This photo shows how dense and dark the jungle can be. It was so humid there... no, not because I hadn't cleaned my lenses.

Glen in the jungleMe in the jungle


You can see how muddy it is in the jungle - I became quite dirty after many trips into the jungle.

Look how big these trees are!Me standing in front of one of these big trees!They look almost as big as the Californian Redwoods!

I think these trees are just as big as the Californian Redwoods. They might not be as old, but definitely just as big.

Beetle



This was taken with a 300mm lens, from 1.5 metres.


The most amazing thing about them, is when they are scared, the curl up into little "marbles".

It looks like a small bug, but it is actually at least 7cm long, which is actually quite big.

Moth in palm of hand


I noticed in Borneo, most of the insects there were huge.


The wingspan of the brown moth was about 15cm wide - huge!

They are mostly active at night, which is quite common for creatures in the jungle.

A couple of the girls stationed in the jungles, was stationed here. Not a wise decision, considering these girls were paranoid about the insects.

(Note: in the photo below, I still had conjunctivitis) I had the red eyes for most of the trip.
Moth on my elbowBrown moth

Big and beautiful, don't you think? You can see how big the black moth is compared to the size of the telephone.

Black mothMoth on wall

Plant with leaves in hexagon formation



These plants were kind of special because each branch split into two, so by the end of it, they formed a hexagonal pattern.


Below, are plants known as the "pitcher" plant.

The pitcher plants are meat-eating plants - you have watch out not to fall into them because they will swallow you whole.

Pitcher plant

If you just believed that, you are very gullible! *laugh*


The pitcher plant, like other carnivorous plants, feed on insects.

They have sweet-smelling nectar that attract the unsuspecting insect to it.

When the insect lands, it finds the surface slippery and fall straight into the “pitcher”, where the plants juices drowns it and is digested by the plant.

You may have heard of other type of carnivorous plants such as the Venus Fly Trap, and the Sundew plants.

Me holding a dead snake

Yes, you see me holding the snake with a leaf.


It was a poisonous snake, and I was worried about it's venom getting on my skin.

For example a puff adder, contact with the venom numbs the skin.

I was not familiar with the snakes in Borneo, and was not about to risk it.
A Tarantella


The tarantella was sitting inside the catering tent hunting.

Everyone was looking at it and admiring it, which was pretty amazing, considering I know many people who would willingly kill a spider in sight.

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Created: 7 Dec 2001

15. August 2000 10:42
by Rene Pallesen
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Helicopters . . .

15. August 2000 10:42 by Rene Pallesen | 0 Comments

helicopters
Ecochallenge ( Sabah 2000 )

Magellan HotelMoving into SilamRepeater StationInjured CompetitorTransporting a Repeater StationBeetleKids in Village
ArrivalSilam / Jungle OpsRepeater StationsThe CompetitorsHelicopterJungle Around UsThe Village

Helicopters . . .
The radio communications team had to arrive a few days before that because we had to hand out over 2,000 pieces of radio equipment. We had problems getting the necessary approvals for helicopters so they were grounded! I ended having to hand out most of the equipment as Glen and Paul had to sort out our use of the helicopters.

We had to fly all the equipment to Silam before the start of the race, and our team managed to fly to Silam the day before the race started.

Do you believe that Paul managed to take a photo of me whilst I was flying the chopper? He was standing to the side of me, and took the photo at night time, with the door open ...

Jeez, I would love to be the pilot!Don't you think I look good as the chopper's pilot?

Just kidding.

A couple of days before the race started, I was at the airport most of the day. We had some problems with the radios in the helicopters... I must have been in and out of those helicopters at least 200 times.

I did manage to get someone to take some photos of me in a helicopter, looking very much like the pilot!

I had hoped that I had the time to explore Kota Kinabalue, but we were so busy, it had to wait.

Helicopters at HQ

Here is the 212 or "Huey" - a twin-turbine Vietnam helicopter taking off. It is a hell a lot more powerful than some of the other helicopters we were using, which were 206s.
Landing at HQ


Here are the medical guys practising abseiling out of the helicopters (Aussie style)!

At the start of the race, I was sitting there listening to the first rescue on the radio.

3 hours after the start, four boats had capsized... helicopters and boats were very busy!

The competitors were due to arrive at Silam (another checkpoint) the next day (21st Aug).

For the first few days after the race started, I had to help organise to get the fuel to the top of the mountain.

After that the helicopter came in useful. It brought up 100 litres of fuel on the 4th day so I did not have to ferry fuel anymore!

Glen with repeater stationAt site of repeater station

At the end of the race, we had to sling-load the repeaters, to get them off the mountain. That means we had to strap them onto the helicopters, and pull them off the mountains that way - quite effective really.

Transporting Equipment Photo 2Transporting Equipment Photo 6Transporting Equipment Photo 4Transporting Equipment Photo 5
Transporting Equipment Photo 1Transporting Equipment Photo 3




Repeater station finally airborne!



You can see a pole in the right photo.
My girlfriend asked me what it was for - it helps balance the load so that it does not keep swinging whilst airborne.



Below, you will see some pretty good photos from the chopper.

View from chopper - over the riverView from chopper of jungles belowView from chopper - over the river


Towards the end of the race, we had to scan the rivers for the last competitors coming in - to make sure they had completed this section of the race course. It was low-altitude flying of the river-bed.

The photo on the left shows the chopper approaching Silam Village. This village was located just outside of Silam HQ.

Aerial view of the villageMe sitting in helicopter


Glen liked wanted to have a photo of the back of my head - and I ruined the photo by turning my head as he took it...

Here's a sunset shot of the helicopters flying around.

I had to put in this fantastic photo - the lighting gives a really nice feel to the photo.

Sunset shot


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Created: 7 Dec 2001

15. August 2000 10:41
by Rene Pallesen
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The Competitors . . .

15. August 2000 10:41 by Rene Pallesen | 0 Comments

the competitors
Ecochallenge ( Sabah 2000 )

Magellan HotelMoving into SilamRepeater StationInjured CompetitorTransporting a Repeater StationBeetleKids in Village
ArrivalSilam / Jungle OpsRepeater StationsThe CompetitorsHelicopterJungle Around UsThe Village

The Competitors . . .

The competitors did not rest... three of the teams were half way through the 600 kilometre course after only three days... pretty amazing!

Two of the teams were Australian. 18 teams were out of the race. At least 10 of these were due to medical problems.

Hardly any people around here get enough sleep... the place is active 24 hours per day because there are always competitors coming in!

I was keen to find out how the Danish team would turn out. At the beginning of the race, they were not very sociable. But by the end of the race, I think the tension of the race had gone, and I managed to have a chat with them. By the third day, the Danes are doing pretty well... they had a 22nd place!

Race on mountain bikesRace on mountain bikes

This was the mountain-bike leg of the race.

The guy you see being transported to hospital in the helicopter (photos below), was doing this part of the race. He was rounding a corner on his bike and rode straight into a large branch.

Rush to medical facilitiesRush to medical facilities

We had a lot of medical urgencies... we almost lost a guy with a punctured lung !
I got some great photos and helped getting the guy into the mobile hospital. There was a lot publicity on the website and through the media about it.


Fortunately, he was only 15 minutes away from HQ, so it was possible for us to get him to the helicopter very quickly, and to the nearest hospital.

River Race

Another leg of the race involved rowing in these “sampans”, a Malay term for “boat”. At some point, the teams in the race had to also split up - some of them swimming, some of them rowing, to complete the water leg of the race.

Below, the competitors had to use a flying fox to cross the canyons. I managed to have a go at it - compared to rock-climbing... well, I found it pretty boring *smile*. I imagine most people would find it quite fun though.

Setting up of flying foxSetting up of flying fox


There are no places to climb here.

I had hoped to take one of the helicopters to Madai Caves to check out the 200 metre abseil. The road to the Madai Caves lead directly through the tiny village of Gua Madai - a small cluster of homes, their wood bleached grey.

The town’s main sources of income are tourism and birds’ nests. The nests are found high up the walls of the cave, tucked away in cracks and crevasses, and can command thousands of dollars. They are harvested about three times a year.

My girlfriend mentioned trying "bird's nest soup" whilst I was there. She said normally the bird's nest they use belong to the swallow. It is a delicacy to many Asians, and similar to shark's fin soup - that is if you have tried it. Normally the nests are made out of the birds' saliva.
Headquarters flooded!



There was so much rain at Silam that HQ was often flooded.


Many of the competitors took the opportunity to get some sleep and the slept on whatever they could find.


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Created: 7 Dec 2001

15. August 2000 10:41
by Rene Pallesen
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Repeater Stations . . .

15. August 2000 10:41 by Rene Pallesen | 0 Comments

repeater stations
Ecochallenge ( Sabah 2000 )

Magellan HotelMoving into SilamRepeater StationInjured CompetitorTransporting a Repeater StationBeetleKids in Village
ArrivalSilam / Jungle OpsRepeater StationsThe CompetitorsHelicopterJungle Around UsThe Village

Repeater Stations . . .

Paul and repeater Station in aircraftMe and repeater Station in aircraft

Here, you see Paul and I transporting some of the repeater stations by air.

From Silam, we flew down to DFVC. We stayed there for three days before going back to Silam.

Me at site of repeater station

I am at one of the repeater sites. Here, the top of one of the mountains was cleared, so we could safely land a helicopter there.

Oh... did I forget to mention that I almost chopped one of my fingers in half at the repeater site?

On top of my infected eye, I had another thing for the medical team to look at. The fingernail had been chopped in half and there was not much I could do about it except clean it up and try to avoid infections. The medical team was great there... they were extremely good.

Site of Repeater Station


We had a few problems with some of the communications gear.


Paul and Glen were handling it, and at times I tried to assist.

The first few days had been really tough.

Solar Panel Photo 1Solar Panel Photo 2
The top of Silam is covered in clouds for most of the afternoons, so the solar panels are quite useless. A survey of the conditions made prior to the race was useless.


If you ask any of the locals, they would have told us that the peak is always covered in clouds... but apparently no-one asked them!!!

Generator


We had problems keeping the generators running - they were using more power than predicted and there was no sun on the top of Silam to recharge the batteries.


The generator itself was a re-built petrol engine with a car alternator on it.

We basically tried to use a system where we used a jerry can, cut holes into it, and relied on the force of gravity to transport the fuel to the generator.

This design ended up working best for us.

Site of repeater stationSite of repeater station
Our helicopter pilot sitting on the side there, just grinning...


On the third day of the race, I hiked up the mountain three times. I was really tired and all I could think of was getting a bit of a rest and some food. I managed to get a bit once I got to Danum. In Danum I managed to get 6 hours sleep before someone woke me up and told me that the repeater had died in Silam... again all the cars had to leave in a convoy... so rush, rush to find my driver and managed (just) to get into the convoy!

The road to Danum closes at 6.30pm and all the cars had to go in the convoy.

Helicopter at Repeater Site Photo 1Helicopter at Repeater Site Photo 2
The helicopter flew all of us to the top of the mountain, and waited there for us till we were finished. Glen quite often told the pilot, "You don't have to shut down, because we'll only be here for 5 minutes." Well... quite often, we were there for as long as an hour and half! (Don't worry, the pilot was sensible enough to shut down immediately... he got to know Glen very well.)


I went up there often make sure that it was still running. It is much better getting a helicopter to fly me up there so that I can bring some fuel with me !

Glen fixing generator Photo 1Glen fixing generator Photo 2

Glen has mostly been on top of the mountain getting the generator back online.
We have to keep the generator running 24 hours per day until the end of the race.


Glen fixing repeater Photo 1


On the third night after the race started, one of the repeaters went dead.


I had to hike up the mountain on the previous day as the generator had died.

I did not leave the mountain until it was dark, so I had to climb down through the jungle in the dark!

Fortunately I had my torch with me!

Glen fixing repeater Photo 4



Paul later gave me strict instructions to make sure that I leave the mountain so that I could be back at HQ while there was still light!


I found out that I did not have any problems navigating at night... I even offered Paul to go back up when the repeater died!

Anyhow, we ended up having to send the airborne repeater up!

Helicopter at Repeater Site Photo 3Helicopter at Repeater Site Photo 4
Glen fixing repeater Photo 2Glen fixing repeater Photo 3



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Created: 7 Dec 2001

15. August 2000 10:40
by Rene Pallesen
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Silam and Jungle Ops . . .

15. August 2000 10:40 by Rene Pallesen | 0 Comments

silam and jungle ops
Ecochallenge ( Sabah 2000 )

Magellan HotelMoving into SilamRepeater StationInjured CompetitorTransporting a Repeater StationBeetleKids in Village
ArrivalSilam / Jungle OpsRepeater StationsThe CompetitorsHelicopterJungle Around UsThe Village

Silam and Jungle Ops . . .
It is so bloody hot in Silam! It must have been at least 40 degrees and 100% humidity!

Silam was the overall headquarters, and Danum Valley Field Centre (DVFC) was referred to as Jungle Ops. Jungle Ops controlled all radio communications and conducted the race through the the jungle.

From Kota Kinabalu, we flew to Lahad Datu and drove the rest of the way to Silam. Silam was the site of one of the repeater stations. We had to set up a HQ a few kilometres from this station... heaps of opportunities for a few walks in the jungle.

The operation at Silam was huge!... I had never seen such a busy place before. The place was crawling with energy. It was bigger than any military operation I had ever seen! You would be amazed to see the logistics involved in this project ! At the time I did not have the time to take a lot of photos.

We had many army trucks transporting the competitors' equipment - very good cooperation from the military. They helped out with the preparation and set-up of HQ, and with the transportation of fuel.

Arrival of army trucks at SilamArrival of army trucks at Silam

Office at HQ

This is the headquarters on the left.

The whole Ecochallenge race is governed from this office.

The map in the background contains the position of all the checkpoints at which the competitors have to go through.

View from helipcopter

Aerial view of headquarters
Both of the above photos are aerial shots of HQ and were taken from a helicopter.


I managed to get a nice aerial shot of Silam HQ. The big white patch in the middle is where the competitors stored all their equipment. Just to the left are the containers from where the race is controlled. The 4 'finger-like' white pads on the right are the heli-pads. The long rectangle to the left is the eating area, and just above it is the hospital.

Aerial view of Jungle Ops HQ


Approaching DVFC in helicopter.


This is actually a research centre in the middle of the jungle - commonly known as DVFC (Danum Valley Field Centre).

DVFC is not normally accessible the tourists and the general public, only to researchers.

DVFC is concerned about contamination into the jungle.

Jungle Ops HQ


Outside Jungle Ops HQ.

The green boxes contain bottled drinking water.

By the time the race was over, most of this had been consumed - quite amazing really, considering there were really only 10 people at Jungle Ops.

During the competitors were not allowed any help from us, and that included the provision of drinking water.

Paul at HQ



Paul with some of the radio equipment at Silam.


He is standing next to the HQ matrix, which contained all the communications equipment for headquarters.

Paul is also standing next to the only 2 beds in the HQ building. These were used by the radio operators to nap in between shifts.


Below, you see me sitting in the catering tent at Silam.


I think it must have been a good day, to have been sitting there, smiling... I am just guessing here, because obviously I did not take the photo, and I cannot remerber the place.

Me relaxing at Silam

Bad hair day

Bad hair day?


I did not have a shower for a very long time, and to hold my hair in place, I adopted various techniques, such as the sunglasses-hairband...

This place is a breathing ground for tropical diseases!

As you can see, my right eye is really red. I somehow managed to get conjunctivitis and did not know it was contagious. I did not want to trouble the medics as they were pretty tied up with the competitors. When my vision on the left eye was getting blurry and I had problems seeing what was in front of me, I was ordered to get it checked. Just as well I did!

In Kota Kinabalu, I had the same problem on the other eye... at one point both my eyes were infected. It started on my left eye on the way to Kota Kinabalu in the plane ! It then spread to my right eye. The nurse at Silam told me that I should be careful because it could re-infect to my left eye. It started to look and feel a lot better after using the eyedrops that they gave me.

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Created: 7 Dec 2001

15. August 2000 10:39
by Rene Pallesen
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Preparations at the Magellan Hotel

15. August 2000 10:39 by Rene Pallesen | 0 Comments

preparations at the magellan hotel
Ecochallenge ( Sabah 2000 )

Magellan HotelMoving into SilamRepeater StationInjured CompetitorTransporting a Repeater StationBeetleKids in Village
ArrivalSilam / Jungle OpsRepeater StationsThe CompetitorsHelicopterJungle Around UsThe Village

View from from balcony of our room


Preparations at the Magellan Hotel
( Kota Kinabalu ) . . .



All the Ecochallenge teams gathered together at the Magellan Hotel in anticipation of the race, which was due to start on 20th August.

During our stay at Kota Kinabalu, we were staying at the most extravagant hotel - as pictured on the right. It is huge! It has 3 swimming pools, and takes us an hour to walk around the perimeter.

The radio communications team had to arrive a few days before the start of the race because we had to hand out over 2,000 pieces of radio equipment. We had problems getting the necessary approvals for helicopters so I ended up having to hand out most of the equipment whilst Glen and Paul sorted out the issue of the helicopters. We had to get all the equipment and our team to Silam before the the race started.

Paul & Glen preparing the equipmentPaul & Glen preparing the equipmentPaul & Glen preparing the equipment

Glen and Paul checking all the equipment and re-programming some of the radios.
Yes, I'm busy working too!



Behind me are all the radio equipment, ready to be handed out. I am standing here waiting for the competitors to arrive as I have to sign out the equipment as I give them out.


We had to improvise a lot of the furniture, using old crates to set up tables.

Vegging in really nice rooms




After the race, Glen and I decided to make most of the luxury and just veg... aaahhh... bliss!

Relaxing on our balcony













Created: 7 Dec 2001

15. August 2000 10:39
by Rene Pallesen
0 Comments

Ecochallenge ( Sabah 2000 )

15. August 2000 10:39 by Rene Pallesen | 0 Comments

ecochallenge sabah 2000
Ecochallenge ( Sabah 2000 )

Magellan HotelMoving into SilamRepeater StationInjured CompetitorTransporting a Repeater StationBeetleKids in Village
ArrivalSilam / Jungle OpsRepeater StationsThe CompetitorsHelicopterJungle Around UsThe Village

Click here for full size map of Sabah, Borneo

Ecochallenge in 2000 was held on the east coast of Borneo, in the jungles of Sabah. It was an extreme race where the competitors taking part have to endure 10 days of running through the jungles; kayaking and swimming many kilometres offshore; and mountain-biking for 150km on dirt roads. All in all, the fastest competitors travelled 600km in a space of just over 5 days!


I had the privilege of being there, being the developer of software that was used by the radio communications team. I also helped out with the setting up of all equipment and made many trips to the repeater stations.

Being in the jungles of Sabah, let alone part of the Ecochallenge preparations, has proved to be a challenge and an experience worth remembering, and hope to be part of any future Ecochallenge events.

As shown in the map, the red trails are where most of the competitors either ran or walked. The purple trail was the kayaking/canoeing leg. The orange trail was the mountain-bike leg and the blue trail was where the competitors had to swim with all their equipment.

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Created: 7 Dec 2001