21 January 2008

17-20 January 2008 – Altenmarkt, Austria (skiing)

There were 16 of us in total meeting up in Altenmarkt (45mins from Salzburg airport) for a long weekend skiing. Seven of us were coming from the London Credit Suisse presentation team, and nine from the Frankfurt Deutsche Bank presentation team (a big thanks to Wolfgang, Alex and Vesko for organising this).

Some of us from London were flying in on little sleep – for me I had no sleep as the flight was at 6.30am and I went straight from work to the airport. It meant that when we got to the ski resort, we dumped our stuff at the very lovely apartment we were staying at, got the shuttle bus to the ski slope, got our hire gear and pass and skied for the afternoon.

The skifield (Zauchensee) was great – lots of runs to choose from and though it was snowing, there was no wind and little people about. The runs were mostly intermediate with some black runs thrown in. With it snowing there was lots of powder and we had reasonably good visibility. We skied the whole afternoon and then got the shuttle bus back to Altenmarkt (only 20mins away).

The ‘Germans’ were coming by train and didn’t get there till that evening. When they turned up we got ready and headed out to dinner with them. I was literally falling asleep at the table by 10pm, so I excused myself and went to bed. Some stayed out a little later but most of the us from CS were in bed by midnight. The Frankfurt guys were out later, but they had slept the previous night!

And then it all went wrong…

…The next morning I was skiing along happily (and doing pretty well considering I hadn't skiied for two years) when I stupidly got my pole in the way of a ski and took a tumble. Not a bad fall in any way, shape or form, but I did fall awkwardly and ended up tearing my left calf muscle. By the time I got down the slope I couldn’t even clench my calf muscle without it screaming in pain! I ended up going to the hospital and after an ultrasound came back negative on a haematoma (bleeding in the muscle), I limped out with painkillers and 1-2 weeks of no activity ahead of me.

Though I couldn’t ski, I still managed to hobble around and keep occupied. There were others who kept me company as they were either injured or tired so I wasn’t completely bored. Still managed to enjoy meals out, go to a nightclub and have fun with everyone. I just couldn’t walk very fast, or put any weight on my calf muscle.

In fact my injury kept me from making a very unwise decision on the Saturday night – to go down a very long, steep and icy slope that had no lighting except for the moon, on the back of a sled with people who had been drinking since 8pm that night! Let’s just say that there were a few more people not skiing the next day!

Being injured was not the scenario I had in mind for the long weekend but I did get some fresh air (except for smoking in public places which is allowed in Austria), met some fab people and had a good laugh.

05 January 2008

24 Dec-3 January 2008 – Lanzarote, Canary Islands

The three of us decided that a good way to celebrate Xmas and the New Year was to surf in the Canary Islands…yes it is winter, but it had to be warmer than the UK!

We flew in on Xmas Eve to a small sleeping town called Famara – on the north coast of Lanzarote – the best surfing location on the island (and far enough way from Port del Carmen)!

I flew in with Sera (my travelling buddy from Morocco and good friend), and we were picked up by her pal Marcel who flew in earlier than us. He hired a car, did the shopping and generally potted around until we got there. As it was Xmas Day the following day, we did the shopping on the basis that nothing was going to be open – I am glad we did as nothing was open!

Xmas Day was spent not doing much. Lanzarote is a very windy island so sunbathing on the beach is not always the ideal thing. It wasn’t particularly warm on Xmas Day and the wind was blowing – and without a balcony we had no option but to eat and drink the day away. Saying that we did manage to do a BBQ meal for dinner – albeit cooked on the pavement outside the apartment! Thanks to Marcel for getting an early flight so he could go food shopping while the shops were open...otherwise we would have starved!

The next day was my first day of surf school (Surf School Lanzarote)! I had booked for 5 days of surf school, Sera for 2 days and Marcel none as he had been surfing since he was 8 years old. The day would start at 10.30am, do a warm up, and hit the water until 1pm when we got lunch. There would normally be a talk about things such as surf board design, rips, waves etc over lunch, before heading back into the water until 4pm. I found the first few days exhausting as my muscles got used to the workout and I got a bit more proficient on the surfboard. It also didn’t help that I had picked up the cold that was going around London (even the surf instructors were struck down with it).

By the end of the course I was on a hardboard vs. a softboard (more buoyant, larger and easier to learn on), and was standing up on most waves I caught. Surfing is lots of fun and you get such a blast when you get a good wave, stand up quickly, feel completely balanced standing on the board and you surf the whole way into the beach without falling off! It is tiring though, and all three of us were in bed around 9.30pm most nights.

We did pluck up the energy to celebrate New Years in Famara at a little bar called ‘Lenny’s’. About 20 of us were there celebrating and after demolishing a wide range of alcohol, Sera, Marcel and myself called it a night at about 2.30am. We had thought about spending the night in Port del Carmen – but I am glad we stayed put as our apartment was a block up from the bar (ie stumbling distance)!

The weather over the 10 days was sunny, but the more the wind blew, the colder it was (we were wearing a 3m full wetsuit so it could have been much colder). Thankfully the surf was pretty good on most of the days – though some days were better than others. And I have come back with a tan – if anything to cover the many bruises I picked up! On top of that, I nearly broke my big toe, my sinuses became blocked up, I had the cold the whole way through, and my fingertips / palms were shredded after hauling the beginner softboard to and from the beach over the first few days.

But I am not complaining – I had a fab time away with Sera and Marcel, I learnt lots about surfing (and improved my surfing lots), and was glad to be somewhere warm for Xmas/New Year. And we even did a bit of site seeing on the island with the hire car we had.