What a better way of coming back to your own country by doing the same as you did when you left?
I decided to do the Santiago Pilgrim’s way, O Camiño de Santiago, in Galician; is one of the most popular walks in Europe, and also all over the world, because of its history, landscapes and people hospitality. For spiritual reasons, millions of people from all over the world do it every year, coming some times thousands of kilometers walking or biking (mainly walking), for different reasons: religious, self-conscience, history, etc.
The main reasons to do it for me was the meaning of it and Galicia, my mother region, my home, where I’m safe. The idea to walk towards that place, just motivates me and makes me feel like at home. To enjoy the journey and the people around.
This time it was special as well. The way has been highly refurbished and it was very different from last time, specially the markers or mojones along the way. One of the things I noticed, are the numbers. I do have that thing with numbers, when they are funny and special. The mojones are located on every path crossing, to mark the right way, or in unsuspected places, that you look and think: well… I don’t really need a mojon here.
It’s highly likely that it is a special mojon. I found lots of prime numbers, or funny of them, here are some below. To the excitement of the Camiño itself, for me, this time, had a special incentive, to find the next special number!! They mark the distance to Plaza d’Obradoiro, where Santiago Cathedral is located, and is the end of your way.
They all mean something, or maybe… you can find meaning on everything!
Always follow the shell…
The first one I saw was the pint 137,138 km, this is when I realized there was something going on. Unfortunately, I don’t have a photo of it.
There are some numbers below that I haven’t identified yet, but hope you can help me! I think they are hiding something…. Post in the comments!!!
This was my first time volunteering for a human trial, and as it can’t be for another reason, to contribute to decompression studies in divers, among many other things such as research on space and human spaceflight, high altitude climbing or mountaineering.
The study itself it’s titled: Does dietary creatine supplementation improve brain performance during oxygen deprivation?
Does it sound scary? Theoretically, they will put us breathing low oxygen gases, in concentrations of less than 5.5% to test how our brain respond to the lack of Oxygen. This is a well known problem for some diving practices, which was that lead me to it, but that’s another topic.
This problem can also happen during high altitude flights (airplanes, balloons, human space exploration…), where the atmosphere is thinner, and it has a lower Oxygen concentration, or there is not atmosphere at all and the breathing relies on artificial respirators.
The study will serve doctors to identify the brain response to the lack of Oxygen, but in presence of another “fuel” which would be creatine. Creatine is a dietary supplement that can protect brain functions during periods of oxygen deprivation by supplying a source of energy that does not require oxygen to burn. In this study, the doctors examine how well an individual can perform a simple card recognition task whilst breathing low levels of oxygen.
The participants are given 4 doses of either creatine or a placebo per day to take during the 6 days prior to the tests. This will run for two separate weeks, allowing 6/7 weeks of washout period between both studies.
I’ve been watching during the previous week, between dose and dose of creatine (or just candy) some old experiments with hypoxic mixes, like the one here, or this where I can actually picture myself doing silly things with the cards.
And here are my “drugs”!! I had the feeling I’ve been boosting myself with candy the whole week, and I actually like them! I actually don’t know what it is (at least just yet). Also, so you’re not biased, the Oxygen concentration that you’re breathing is not revealed, and it will be changed according to your own response.
All the vital signs are monitored during the study, like blood pressure, heart rate and rhythm and electrocardiogram, blood oxygen level, oxygen consumption and CO2 exhalation, etc. Particularly, the blood oxygen level caught my attention, as it is not something that is usually measured: using an instrument clipped to your ear lobe and with a sensor placed on your forehead, use infrared light to measure the oxygen levels in the blood and brain.
I arrived at the medical center at bit before 8 AM, still sleepy, too early in the morning!! The doctors had everything ready, and as an introduction, I watched a video about the experiment, and also I did a training on how to proceed with the test.
When I was done with this, we started the preparations: take your weight, height, put some electrodes on your chest and a pulse meter. Go into the room and get wired on! The earlobe clip to measure blood oxygen, the forehead laser sensor to check O2 in your brain, electrocardiogram, blood pressure, and mask, lots of wires around! They monitor you all the time, so you feel really safe, in case something goes wrong, but, What can possibly go wrong? I had four doctors in the room with me.
First, we did a “baseline” which is going through the cards set breathing normal air, so they make sure you are familiar with the numbers and the cards, and you don’t make many mistakes from the beginning. That lasts for some minutes, and after a couple of minutes rest, you start the actual test.
At the beginning you’re breathing normal air, so you don’t notice anything, there’s a bit of excitement of course! I have never been breathing a mix with less than 0.21 PPO2, which is normal for your brain.
Steadily they start to reduce the concentration of the Oxygen on the air, and you notice it first, because the taste of the air is a little bit different (I have to say that I also notice this when diving, on switching gases), second, you feel a pressure on your head, like when you go down diving and descent on a very fast peace, and third, you just want to laugh. I’m not sure if I wanted to laugh because of all the situation, but on my mind I was just thinking “Oh this is cool, they are reducing the O2 now, let’s see how my mind plays!!” so, inevitably, I had to laugh, it was really exciting! Also, for me, it was a bit of a pressure having 4 doctors, being one of them Simon Mitchell, just looking at me.
When the test finishes, you just need to fill up a questionnaire, with your feelings: numbness, euphoria, headache, all sorts, so they have your first impressions recorded just after the test, and you are not biased by second thoughts, as people use to.
On my mind, I failed a couple of them, but then I corrected myself, just before the next one came. Also, I think I didn’t fail two in a row. I can’t wait to know the results next time!! What I found is that it was difficult to coordinate, thinking and talking. I was thinking slower. There was a bit of euphoria after the tests as well, the same as when you have just been through a really exciting situation and you are decompressing from it!
Some backmind reflections:
Being a technical diver, not yet a CCR, I’ve never experienced on my body the lack of Oxygen. Being able to understand the symptoms and how it feels for me on a safe environment, will be really useful for the future to identify those possible situations, and to identify how my brain and body reacts. Of course, you will never rely on this as a measurement of the O2, as you don’t control it at all, but it is part of the experience to be aware of your own behavior and reactions on a variety of situations.
On human spaceflight, you have as well to rely on artificial respirators, both when you are out of the spaceship and also inside. It is really interesting to understand the consequences to the brain that the lack of Oxygen could cause and what other factors contribute to them.
Any level above the sea!!! See the table below to get some ideas of the Oxygen concentration, and you can realize it’s really a common phenomena!
Altitude above sea level
21% (normal air)
Stay tuned for the next trial!!! I hope to have some videos!!!
All diving courses can be thought as a training for your future dives, or the dives that you would like to be able to do in the future, but what’s this of training before the training?
Some people think practicing is something stupid when it comes to diving, maybe because on their minds, diving is not a demanding sport, although this is quite questionable. Would these people run a marathon, or even a 5K, without any training at all, and only with a few walks in the park on their shoes? Doesn’t that seem somehow… crazy?
If we compare a marathon with technical diving, and a 5K race with recreational diving, everyone would get some kind of preparation for a 5K, at least for a few weeks, but why people don’t do it for diving?
I was getting ready for a GUE Tech 1 diving course, and being aware of the implications of it, specially on how demanding it is, both physically and mentally, I started to freak out a couple of weeks before.
Having the experience of going through a UTD tech diver course and a UTD full cave course, I had an idea of what was going to happen, that air gun that we all had nightmares with. Besides of being mentally hard, if you are not fully prepared physically, this will add a strong bias to your mind, and we all know how our minds play when we are exhausted.
Another handicap that I personally use to have on technical diving, is the size of my body. Yes, it is true that in neutral buoyancy, a twin set on your back should be weightless, but let’s face it, you still need to drag and move through water the equivalent of 90% of your body weight. If you keep on adding stage cylinders as well, it is even harder, as the proportional size of them compared to your body is not the same on every person. Being a quite small woman, this has been always a challenge for me, but… what can I do about that! It’s what I love doing!
On getting ready for this, and to reduce as much as possible the physical demand of the course, I started my training both from the upper and lower body. On that line, I gave everything I could with my Dragon Boat training team, and also I started running every other day (Yay!!). It’s actually a lot of fun!
On the training…
And some racing!
On top of that, you obviously need to train your skills as well, as the first two would only help you with the fitness side, but that doesn’t mean you are fully capable of doing all the drills that that type of course requires, or performing well at depth. Here is the strong mindset!! In order to get the maximum out of the course, your basic skills should be perfect, so during task loading situations, all these weaknesses don’t pile up.
These skills, if not practiced, are also lost with time, as it happens with all training on every aspect of life. It is really important to keep them up, even if you are diving regularly, that doesn’t mean that you are fully efficient if you need to close a valve on you twinset in case you have a valve failure, and successfully assess the problem when you have done it last on you last training a couple of years ago. Here is where the team plays a critical role as well. They need to be strong on your weak moments, and vice versa! It’s all a team work!
A good trick to keep this up to date, if you dive regularly, is to practice one skill or do a drill on each dive that you do, for example, during your safety stop. It will only take a couple of minutes, your safety stop will be over before you notice and you will keep all your skills up to date, both physically and in your mind.
The training for this type of diving is essential, and not all diving is glamorous. To be able to enjoy 100% this diving, you need to be properly fitted with both you skills and level of fitness.
Remember as well, this is a team work, so all pieces must come together. The success is the success of the team!
And after all the above booooring speech, I found that the best advice to the course is: TO HAVE FUN!!!!
Some people may not consider it exploration, as if as I learnt in the last two years, a place that contains a cache, it’s largely already explored in New Zealand. This area is one of those places that there are still complete islands, without one cache! For the geocaching lovers, specially in Europe, that’s a dream!
For those who don’t know what geocaching is, there is a really good description below.
I personally use it to discover new places, and also to learn something about the place I’m at. I’ve discovered really good hidden spots because of this! One of my recent hidden gems is the Pararaha stream. It is not marked on any of the walking/tracking maps by Department of Conservation in New Zealand, because could be a bit tricky sometimes, specially when it has been raining. But it’s not closed to public either! So you don’t have to worry about breaking permissions.
If you look carefully in the map, you it’s quite obvious that there’s a clear defined line of caches, that should follow a route, and it’s not a marked track.
It turned out it was a great day on the Waitakeres, descending the Pararaha stream, with great scenery and a few tricky passes over rocks and waterfalls.
… and there´s something about those islands, that gives you peace, and that peace starts as soon as you switch off your phone and jump into that plane…
Western for some and Eastern for others. Chatham islands, the first to see the sun, have not always been ahead of all other lands in time. They are geographically on the Eastern side of the date line, but by fact, they are now considered to be on the Western side, mainly by practical issues. On either way, the will set a limit for first or last to see the sun.
There are so many histories and articles written by several so-called travellers, bird lover´s or just a random person who likes remote and isolated places, but the intention of this article is to give an overview from an European perspective, or better said, a spaniard perspective, of what Chatham islands are, giving attention to the people who chose or not to live there, and how is the day by day in this place.
By definition, to an European, Chatham Islands are an idyllic place, or at least they are what it has been presented as the paradise to us: a remote Pacific Island, with mostly only local people, isolated from the civilized world, who live from fishing and farming, some volcanic beaches on the East side and some white sand crystal beaches on the other, with a huge lagoon in the center which is 90% of the territory. This can also match the definition of the paradisiac atolls in the dreamed Micronesia or Polynesia, but nothing further from their “sister´s” definition.
Chatham Islands have a personality on their own. Far from “Sunday tourists”, the visitors to the island come for many different reasons that are not sun, beach and blue water. They travel to observe birds, to look for their ancestors who were originally from the island, because they just love the island, or because they love someone on the island, to perform a concert or to watch those who perform a concert, just to fly on the Convair 580 or simply for fishing (not as exciting as the previous one but a legitimate reason as well). You know that behind the question “Why are you travelling to Chathams?” on the plane, there´s always a thrilling story.
Among these romantic traveller stories, there are workers as well, as the islands don´t have enough people to have on-site all professions, that a reasonable settlement of people would need. Some workers are contracted to provide their services for some limited period of time. This is the case of some builders, engineers or accountants.
When you are on the waiting lounge at the airport, that tiny room on the very back end of the corridor reserved only for short domestic flights, you watch around and you can perfectly see who is going to the Chatham. When you board the Convair 580 aircraft, the only plane that flights from mainland New Zealand to Chatham, on the best scenario 6 times a week during summer and only four during winter, a feeling of the eighty´s come into your soul and mind, and, I must say, a fish smelling that proves the great fishing days that the returners just had.
Traveling to the islands is also a travel in time in both ways, the future and the past. Despite they are the “first to see the sun”, the islands could live in the early 60´s, when facilities and technology come into place, and fully happy, which is a potential source of jealousy on these times.
On the writing of these series of articles, special relevance to people is given, who make the islands what they are. It is amazing how many different opinions you can gather while you are in the island, even tho the majority of the people there are there because of their choice, and in one way or another, they just love the island. It is not the intention of this article to be another piece of history but to focus on the personality of this place. But of course, there´s not a personality if there´s not history behind, or remarkable features, that in a manner, justify this personality, even though it´s not the place, it´s the people.
The people living here have their professions: accountants, electricians, technicians, managers, pilots, artists, etc. among many others on the side. When you live in a community with only 600 people, isolated from the world, you need to be handy and know how to do as many tasks as possible.
The main industry in Chatham Islands (if not the only one) is fishing and farming. They live to and for fishing and their farms, either for tourists, by taking them on their boats, or mainly to export the fish, cuttle or wool to New Zealand and other countries like Japan. Chatham islands are rich in Blue Cod, really precious in other parts of the world, and also Paua, whitebait, crayfish, etc. Kingfish is another common bite there as well as marlin. And this is one of their treasures. Another common activity on the island there hunting, but not as a major activity as fishing, guessing is coming from the ancient, when the sea was too rough to fish. The people in the islands have real clear views of the “catching for eating”, as it used to be in former times.
The living on the islands is driven by the climate as well. Despite of being an island, the humidity on the ground is low, as the highest peak is only 294 meters, not enough height to trigger the rainfall from clouds. Nevertheless, it´s common to have thick sea fog and low clouds, reducing the hours of sunlight per year dramatically, with an impact of course on the vegetation, and people, specially people.
What really was a shock when travelling to the islands and what I can say from the Chathams, is that people living there are extremely happy for not being part of the word, but from their own world. Life in Chathams is fully independent, they are self sufficient and almost don´t need anything external, even tho on the last day there, the petrol station (obviously THE only petrol station) run out of the golden liquid as the shipping boat was delayed due to the weather for several days. They refer to the mainland as “New Zealand” as if they were not part of the Kiwi country itself, which make them unique. The lack of phone reception makes as well one of the few places around the world to be lost.
… and there´s something about those islands, that gives you peace, and that peace starts as soon as you switch off your phone and jump into that plane…
It seems that lately, or at least since the last couple of years, people tend to talk about this so called “comfort zone”. Apparently, the cool thing to do now, is to get out of it, and to be proud of that and tell everyone, of course, by publish several Facebook/Instagram/TheXsocialNetwork, to make sure that (not everyone) but most of the people know what they have done. But, is it “comfort zone” a term that has been coined from the social media, just to say, Hey look! I´m out of my comfort zone! (Which it seems to be really difficult to write for a Spanish who always writes comforz, shall we change it?)
For some people, their comfort zone, might not be just being in their environment, maybe for some people the comfort zone, is precisely, moving out of that, and being on the unexplored or in a non-comfy situation.
I´ll just explain a quite simple example: how many of you travellers, have experienced the typical conversation: where are you from? How long have you been here? Do you miss home? How long are you going to stay? Why did you move here? How many places have you visited?
All of us had exactly the same conversation at least….. 100 times. And by us, I mean, people who moved out of what some others call comforz.
Maybe that´s our comfort zone! Why not? But there is a point when you ran out of what to say, and you really need to talk about important stuff, or something maybe, a bit deeper and more personal? If you´re not going into the most recurrent conversation ever on the last 10 years: TV shows. Which I started to watch, true, and I stopped, and now I think I´m out of the times! .
Where I don´t really feel confident, is going beyond those “weather conversations” where you talk about your travels, which one of us is not comfort talking about any random thing with someone who we just met? Who cares? You´re not going to see them again, probably.
So for how many people is this their comfort zone? and for how many others could be just unbearable, and don´t know how to act?
For some other individuals, the comforz is to be inside a cave, lost in the mountain (maybe figuratively), at sixty meters below the sea level or eleven thousand above. For many people, the comforz is the unknown, is where nobody has been before, or is to discover what is there around that corner that is two hours swimming from any point where they can actually breathe. There is where they really relax.
There is an encouragement to go out of the comfort zone, but why do we consider that’s good and also, where is the comfort zone for most of the people?
It seems that these days, the old self helping books, are replaced by all these webs and Facebook pages that have everyday encouragement sentences.
Why is St. Patrick’s day one of the most World Wide celebrations every year? Almost every developed country, has this celebration on the 17th of March, or at least, for bars privilege, the weekends before and after.
I’ve been celebrating St Patricks in every country that I´ve been in for the last few years during this day: US, Germany, Spain, New Zealand, France, … It caught me by surprise today, on the way to “visit” some pacific islands, like I did five years ago.
It seems that this celebration is all about drinking beer, dark, green, yellow, any colour you like, but in fact, in some of the countries, this celebration belongs to the families, and originally, is a catholic celebration, commemorating the death of Saint Patrick, the foremost patron saint of Ireland.
How did the tradition ended up from commemorating a death anniversary to drink beer as crazy? One can link Ireland and beer, as it is a typical beverage from the island, but the reason is quite simple, and it is why most of the Catholic traditions begin or end with some alcohol-related festivity: either going in or out of a lent. Nothing surprising up to now…
But, why is this festivity one of the most extended ones, and everyone keeps an eye on it to celebrate? Irish people must be doing something really right… but actually, the St. Patrick’s celebrations started in North America among the diaspora, rather than in Ireland, that was not extended until the 20th century. Nowadays, as we said, it is celebrated all around the world. The official color of St. Patrick’s is the green, because of the shamrock, a plant that was used to explain the Holly Trinity to the pagan Irish.
Five years apart +/- one day, on each side of the date line and a whole live in between: