An unexpected adventure in South Georgia Island – Ari Van Eysden

grey An unexpected adventure in South Georgia Island   Ari Van Eysden

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grey An unexpected adventure in South Georgia Island   Ari Van Eysden

Imagine a spectacular rocky outcrop of an island almost entirely covered by snow and glaciers and surrounded by pebbled beaches littered with all kinds of seals and penguins, this is South Georgia Island

Now imagine a ship anchored silently in a calm bay nearby an abandoned whaling station. Some passengers are on deck busily capturing the awesome sight with their cameras while others are enjoying a relaxing yoga class on the observation deck.
Then the call comes over the PA system that the zodiacs are ready to take us ashore. We dress in our 3 layers of clothes (the outer layer always being a waterproof layer including the standard issue yellow parkas).
Once on shore we start by photographing the amazing wildlife but there are more things to see here, not the least of which is Shackleton’s track. If you haven’t heard or read about Ernest Shackleton’s miraculous journey of endurance and survival in this part of the world I highly recommend you do so. So off we trudge, weaving our way around penguins nesting and fur seals staring us down. The wind picks up to about 60 knots but grey An unexpected adventure in South Georgia Island   Ari Van Eysdenthat’s ok and we trudge on but grey clouds start rolling down over the mountains. The wind picks up even more and the sun disappears altogether taking with it our desire to retrace Shackleton’s steps, we turn around to head back to the beach. Walking becomes increasingly difficult. We often assume the brace position which we’d been taught earlier but on the odd occasion you are too slow to assume it you literally get blown off your feet, take off uncontrollably and go rolling along the ground much to the amusement of those nearby.
By now we are told the wind has reached a speed of 104 knots (about 196 kms per hour) and as we approach the beach it becomes very clear that we will not be returning to the ship. It is listing badly to one side and the zodiacs on the beach are either airborne or have already landed up side down in the water (5 of them!). Some of the expedition crew are valiantly trying to hold the one remaining zodiac down on the beach with their own weight. We are told to huddle on the beach until the wind dies down. It begins to snow – horizontally – and grey An unexpected adventure in South Georgia Island   Ari Van Eysdeneventually the ship disappears into grey mist. There are about 30 of us and half a dozen expedition staff, the rest (about 100 of them) have earlier made it safely back to the ship. After a while our huddle is moved along to take shelter between 2 very large steel beams abandoned with the old whaling station. We bunker down there but can’t move about much. The snow is beginning to settle on us and people are getting cold fingers and toes. After about an hour a decision is made to disregard the “Danger do not enter” signs around the ruins of the whaling station and we gingerly start to pick our way between rusty sheets of corrugated iron, around huge coils of very thick rope, over snow-filled potholes and past old bits of machinery to a shed with a roof. We now take the brace position on in huddles clinging to each other for support. Inside the shed it’s dark but, without the wind chill factor, a lot more bearable. For almost an hour we stand around trying to dance gangnam style or doing the hokey pokey just to get the blood circulating. Someone tells a weak joke but we all laugh anyway.
grey An unexpected adventure in South Georgia Island   Ari Van EysdenSuddenly the wind drops. We get news that 3 zodiacs have successfully been dispatched from the ship and it’s safe for us to return to the beach. In twilight and snow we find our way back, having trouble discerning the seals from the rocks until we are almost within touching distance and the seals suddenly rear their heads. Eventually we find ourselves safely in the 3 zodiacs and under the guiding light of the ship’s search lights beaming brightly over the water we calmly bob our way back to the ship in total silence. Unbelievable!!
At 8.30 pm we are welcomed back on board with a hot cup of tea and much applause having spent 3 hours in very unusual conditions. The captain tells us that wind speeds exceeded 110 knots (that’s well over 200kms!) That night we sleep like babies and the next morning we line up again to catch a zodiac back to shore where a whole new adventure awaits…but that’s another story.



Jette Gudiksen – Bucket List

Here is my lovely wife with her bucket list ideas I will be sure to keep you updated as we cross things off together!

  1. Climb a mountain higher than 4000 meters
  2. Run 5km in less than 30 minutes
  3. Learn to speak Spanish (well enough to get me through #7 without needing English…)
  4. Learn to waterski (criteria of success being crossing the wake 3 times without falling on my a..)
  5. Have kids
  6. Take my kids to the Galapagos Islands
  7. Spend a few weeks or more in Mexico
  8. Have an authentic Lebanese meal in Lebanon
  9. Spend Christmas Eve with my entire (close) Danish family and Ben and watch Ben dance around the Christmas tree singing Danish Christmas carols
  10. Do a tandem paraglide with Ben as the pilot
  11. Lecture at an Australian University
  12. Run 5km in less than 29 minutes
  13. Do a big (as in more than 3 week long) road trip in Australia with Ben
  14. Go skiing in New Zealand
  15. Drive across America, check out Yosemite and Grand Canyon etc…
  16. Get over my fear of spiders

Return to Your bucket list

Great Ocean road Australia – Lorne to Port Fairy

grey Great Ocean road Australia    Lorne to Port Fairy

If someone asked you what the largest war memorial in Australia and possibly the world is, no doubt you will start remembering childhood memories of being dragged through big dusty buildings with perspex displays of a tobacco tin that stopped a bullet or heart felt, tea stained letters posted to loved ones. You would remember parents telling you in hushed tones that this history is very important and that these men fought for your freedom (stand up straight!) all the while wishing you could run outside to climb on top of that rusting tank outside.

This history is important for sure but one thing that most people do not realize is that the biggest war memorial in Australia is not based in Canberra or Sydney, it is right here in Melbourne…with its very own nudist beach. The Great Ocean Road Australia is a road and war memorial that I was lucky enough to ride my motorbike along last weekend with my fiancee Jette.

grey Great Ocean road Australia    Lorne to Port Fairy We left Melbourne’s centre mid afternoon on Friday and rode towards Geelong straight into a stinging rain storm. Soaked and shivering we continued under a big wooden sign outside of Torquay welcoming us to one of the worlds most scenic coastal roads.

The Great Ocean Road runs for 243 Kilometres from Torquay to Warmambool. A beautifully curvaceous road it hugs the coast allowing for magnificent scenery and great ‘boy-I-wish-I was-a-motorbike-racer’ moments. The road was added to the World Heritage list in 2011 and quiet rightly so.

It is obvious that this road is often driven by tourists straight off the plane as every ten kilometres of so we saw signs reminding us to ‘Please drive on the left hand side of the road’.

Despite expecting to smash into a rented van full of European holiday makers around every turn we finally made it to Lorne. As we were completely busted after a big week at work and a cold ride we immediately showered, did the grotty hotel room thing for a while** and fell asleep without exploring Lorne properly.

grey Great Ocean road Australia    Lorne to Port Fairy The following morning at breakfast I reached the conclusion that Lorne is where the rich and famous from Melbourne come for the weekend to pretend they are laid back surf bums. The street is lined with Audis and Porches, even a new Ferrari was parked just over from our breakfast table. Once a bored looking policeman pulled me over to check my license we were out of Lorne and on the ocean road proper.

This road was started in 1918 and finished in late 1932. William Calder, then road minister, was the driving force behind the road. William wanted to connect isolated fishing and foresting communities along the coastline while helping to employ returned servicemen. A private company was set up which funded the road, upon completion a fee was charged for anyone wanting to drive the road. Once the construction costs were cleared the entire road was gifted to the state. It was made free for all to use and declared a war memorial.



grey Great Ocean road Australia    Lorne to Port Fairy The Great Ocean Road is marvelously built and perfectly windy for tight corner aficionados such as myself. Every time I started to get my groove on (read ‘go too fast’) we would catch up with a plodding camper van. Eventually I resigned myself to just relax and enjoy the cruise.

The road just before the Twelve Apostles needs some serious loving with numerous potholes and hasty repairs forming a patchwork over the tarmac. Bumpy as it was I am sure it is better than the road traveled by construction workers in the early 1900‘s. Back then workers used to rest explosive detonators on their knees throughout the long, bumpy drive to work as this was the smoothest place to transport this dangerous cargo.




grey Great Ocean road Australia    Lorne to Port Fairy grey Great Ocean road Australia    Lorne to Port Fairy The Twelve apostles are so named because the original name sucked. They were originally known as the Sow and Piglets until sometime in 1922. A passerby realized that this name was not biblical enough for such an impressive geological feat. A petition was signed and the name changed to The Twelve Apostles, despite only ever having nine stacks.

The Twelve (actually eight now after one collapsed in 2005) Apostles are massive limestone stacks formed by erosion, if you want to see them you had best hurry though as they are eroding at a rate of 2cm per year. The stacks begin life as caves in the tall limestone cliffs that erode to form arches. The arches collapse leaving the stacks we see today. Despite the impressive panorama in front of me all I could think about was how cool it would be to fly a paraglider around this area…




Nearing Port Fairy we pass the spot where construction on the road was halted for two weeks back in 1924. Neither weather, strikes nor an act of God is the explanation for this unscheduled hiatus. What happened is far more Australian. The Steamboat Casino got stranded on rocks near Cape Patton. No doubt the captain started frantically tooting his whistle in the hope that some kindly road workers would come over with a trolley jack and help him out. Upon seeing the stricken boat workers rushed out to help…

…And help they did. They helped themselves to 500 beer barrels and 120 barrels of spirits. This little windfall resulted in a two week unscheduled drinking binge which completely halted road works. This may just be the explanation as to  why the last bit is so damn bendy.

grey Great Ocean road Australia    Lorne to Port Fairy









**Grotty hotel thing I hear you ask! This is not what you think! The grotty hotel room thing that Jette and I do is to buy a heap of junk food or room service chips and lounge about watching pay TV documentaries. We sit the junk food on our bellies and stuff ourselves as we learn about ‘American Auctioneers’, ‘How bridges are built’ and ‘Storm Chasers’. We first did this in Indonesia on a beautiful sunny day, we really should have been outside enjoying the beach but we simply could not be bothered. Recharge days like this are crucial to fully experience a place I believe but maybe I am just trying to justify laziness. Whilst ordering our second room service meal in Indonesia I exclaimed guiltily, “it is bloody grotty to be inside on a day like this’ the name has stuck and we love doing the grotty hotel thing on occasion.

Coughing for CF – Cystic fibrosis inspiration

grey Coughing for CF   Cystic fibrosis inspiration I first met Walter Van Praag in 2008 when I owned my own pharmacy. Wal came in to pick up a huge basket of medicines, antibiotics, puffers, nebulised medicines and pancreatic enzymes. We chatted for some time about adventures past and planned, since that day we have stayed in touch. Wal is an inspiration to me, I hope his story about cystic fibrosis inspiration will also maybe make you think, “What is stopping me then?”

You see Walter has a life threatening genetic disease called cystic fibrosis or CF. CF causes mucous secretions to be really thick and to block up certain organs of the body, mainly the lungs ad pancreas. Suffers of CF fight a constant battle with lung infection and poor nutrient absorption, they have to regularly take pancreatic enzymes for gastric health and nebulised and oral medication to maintain proper lung function. Often sufferers progress to diabetes (due to pancreatic damage), it is not uncommon for sufferers to run out of antibiotic options that work for their lung infections.

Life expectancy of a CF sufferer is somewhere in the mid-thirties.

Why am I telling you all this about Walter’s condition?

When I met first Wal I figured he was something of an adventurer when he told me all about his bicycle ride from Istanbul to Paris to raise funds and awareness for CF. The book he wrote called “Coughing the distance” ( and the documentary of the same name ( were massive inspirations to me. I mean if a bloke with such a serious illness can do this stuff, why can’t I?

Wal has just returned from another epic adventure, he along with some friends, rode 5000km from Hanoi through Vietnam, through Cambodia to Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and onwards to Singapore, again to raise funds and awareness for CF.

Walter is 47, statistically speaking he should be dead.
grey Coughing for CF   Cystic fibrosis inspiration I caught up with Wal mid-way through his journey after he had finished a hard days riding on the Ho Chi Min trail. Here is what he had to say:

You’ve done had some grand adventures whilst raising money for CF, most notably your ride from Melbourne to Sydney, your attempt on Mt Kinabalu in Borneo and your epic ride from Paris to Istanbul, now this, riding 5000kms from Hanoi up to Singapore what inspires you to keep going?

Other people’s enthusiasm and willingness of friends and acquaintances to participate keeps me going as well as the support I get from the international CF community. Being a bit older than the average survivor with CF I have many worried eyes upon me. The words ‘you can’t do that’ inspire me to do whatever is being referred to! Also, don’t forget the world isn’t going to end if I need to catch a bus somewhere! I am always cautious and don’t take unnecessary risks… Well, that is debatable isn’t it.

Your last few fundraising adventures have been on bicycles yet you are active in your local running club the Hash House Harriers. Why not a fundraising trek to mix things up?

Hash House Harriers is a lifestyle and family for me, I have been running with them for 20+ years, and many of us old Hashers don’t necessarily run on Monday nights… A lot of us walk too. I try to run, but it is very hard for me to run – with only 40% – 45% lung function.

I do enjoy bush walking (trekking), and often go for walks in the Tasmanian wilderness. Occasionally I backpack or go snowshoeing, but with my slow pace I have trouble finding friends to join me, so I do it with visitors to the state and people who don’t normally do that sort of thing. Friends that do it regularly are in clubs that are too serious and fast for me and I would slow them down.

Having said that, I am planning to do the El Camino de Santiago de Compostella pilgrimage in Spain sometime soon too! Maybe next year when I’ve recovered from this ride!

grey Coughing for CF   Cystic fibrosis inspiration  You embark on adventures which many people, even without CF, would consider epic. Why did you decide to cycle 5000kms from Hanoi to Singapore rather than simply holding a fundraising auction for CF?

People with CF shouldn’t plan holidays to places with pollution or plan indoors holidays (museums). The flights to destinations are enough of a challenge for our lungs. We need exercise. All my holidays always included exercise and outdoors activities. When I planned to cycle across Europe in 2007 my then doctor Reid said I should do it for CF… Ever since I’ve done bigger and more outrageous holidays (for someone with CF) as I discovered I could raise awareness and inspiration for people with disabilities.

Your goal is admirable, how difficult is it to make potential sponsors believe that you are genuine and to get them on board?

Getting sponsors is nigh impossible. Most of my sponsor requests are unanswered because so many people do so many wonderful things for so many worthwhile causes, large organizations get flooded with sponsor requests. After being presented with an order of Australia medal for international CF awareness raising and being featured on CNN I have become a little more credible to sponsors, but still they are extremely hard to find. Many companies also do not want to be involved with someone technically beyond their expiration date going for dangerous adventures. If something were to go seriously wrong they wouldn’t want to be associated with it. One day I hope to get a budget as well as a sponsor! Currently we rely on people’s donations to help with items such as a support vehicles. For this trip we found a kind sponsor who agreed to organize and rent our Vietnamese support vehicle, we only have to cover fuel and drivers food and accommodation expenses. Finding a support vehicle is never easy, but with the mountain of medicine I carry it is necessary. Keep fingers crossed for the other Asian countries we have to go through!

Of course all my adventures are saved up for and cheap airfares bought in advance, friends that join me all save up too. Thanks to social media we can spread the word much easier, and through our website offer people a link to either support the team or to directly support CF. 

grey Coughing for CF   Cystic fibrosis inspiration This time you are using electric cycles, how have they differed to the bikes you rode from Paris to Istanbul in 2007?

Cycling from Paris to Istanbul was sponsored by BATAVUS, a Dutch bike manufacturer. We were so pleased to receive the bikes we didn’t care what they were! They were wonderful mountain bikes, but we had to pedal hard. Not knowing I was diabetic at the time it was extra hard when my sugars went high or low. 

Now I have insulin injections with me and regulate my diet a lot better, but at the same time I am also a little older so I was thinking electric assist. I had experimented with electric assist bicycles at home and thought how cool it would be to put an electric bike through a proper test. I contacted a few bicycle manufacturers and distributors and was grateful to accept a good offer from the Australian Zoco Electric Bike distributor. They gave us fully suspended 200W central drive Zoco Rossas for the expedition. 

The biggest test for the bikes is the waterproof qualities and battery range as charging may be difficult and rains here are tropical. We are now well into the first week and are incredibly impressed!

grey Coughing for CF   Cystic fibrosis inspiration Has the hot, humid climate affected your performance in any way?

My lungs are mostly affected by pollution and stuffiness. I need to limit my pollution exposure especially carefully in Asian capitals. As a precaution I do extra careful nebulising treatments twice a day and take extra expectorants (Medicine to clear the lungs)… 

I have found that my performance in Asia is mostly affected by diet. I require a high GI diet, in Asia everything seems to be processed and sweet. Getting proper muesli and yoghurt breakfast in rural Asia is a difficult ask. Managing diabetes with high activity levels combined with an unusual diet is probably the biggest challenge for me now. Today for instance I ran low on sugars and had to make an emergency stop at a little stall in the mountains. 

I had little money left and bought/devoured a bunch of bananas and an iced tea to boost my sugar levels so I could reach the lunch-spot. I was the last of our four riders and the support vehicle was behind me. Nam the driver thought I was ‘tired’ as I was riding slow and thought he’d ride my bike up the next hill and let me drive! He had no idea my intention is to ride the whole way myself and that I was not tired, just low on sugar and needed lunch! The car was accidentally locked and I had to walk up a hill for 3kms with low sugar levels to find the team. Our driver had good intentions, but doesn’t speak English or understand my condition. I was furious to be left without phone, food etc and left to walk, but how could I be angry with such a well intending man! These are the real challenges I face.

You have to regularly nebulize to maintain lung function, does this put a strain on your riding schedule?

The nebulising time is annoying at any time. When I go to bed I have an extra hour of taking pills and nebulising, lung clearance, checking blood and injecting insulin… It takes an hour at least. The same goes for mornings. This means everyone gets 2 more hours sleep then me. If people say we get up ‘when we wake’, that doesn’t work for me as I need to wake an hour earlier. On my expeditions I feel responsible for communicating with sponsors, doing social media reporting, organising hotels and logistics. I take responsibility for the team members who come along with me and take responsibility for making the ride a success for everyone involved. 

grey Coughing for CF   Cystic fibrosis inspiration Lots of eyes are watching us. 

This sometimes makes my time off the bike a little stressful. 

I live for the moment I can just get on my bike and ride, rain or shine!

You once said in your blog that you are “on the wrong side of the life expectancy bell-curve”. How does your partner feel about you running off to foreign lands and pushing yourself as hard as you do?

Princess Ree is not so happy I do all these scary adventures. She’d much rather go on a holiday to Fiji with me. Ree worries about me and she is left at home for weeks and months at a time while I do my adventures. She is extremely proud of me and helps me organize the trips and help do fund raisers. However, I think if she had her way we’d just do a Club Med holiday together instead. Ree understands disabilities as she has her own problems, namely a few bits of titanium in her spine, chronic pain and nerve damage which stops her from being gainfully employed…and worse still unable to join me. We do manage nice romantic breaks together sometimes! 

grey Coughing for CF   Cystic fibrosis inspiration  How have the locals responded when they find out what you guys are doing?

The Tasmanian North West has completely accepted me as a local hero. Preceding my adventures I have a fundraiser or two and some media exposure. Everyone knows what I do and why. Workman in the street recognize me sometimes…many ask me why I don’t do a local adventure. Doesn’t ring my bell as much!

Finally I wanted to say good luck with raising your $5000 fundraising goal and that I’ll be following your journey with great interest.

Thanks Ben. 


So there you have it. I thought you may be inspired by my friend’s story. I sure am. You can follow Wals ongoing adventures here:

Paragliding Torquay – what a day!

If you were to ask an Aussie “What do you do in Torquay, Geelong?”  most likely you will hear breathless talk of Bells surf beach where the Rip Curl Pro, the worlds longest running surf competition, is held. You will also hear many familiar surf brand names bandied about, names like Rip Curl, Piping Hot and Quiksilver all call this sea side town their home. Torquay is also rather infamous as a favourite ‘Schoolies’ week destination. Schoolies week is an annual debacle where the kids finishing year 12 all meet up to camp, relax, drink and in some cases void the warranty on their political aspirations. Big waves, bikini clad women flaunting their silicone and wetsuit-clad muscle men with bleach blond hair…y’know, basically the perfect Australia stereotype. However, there is another thing to do here, something which is way more fun than getting sand in your speedos…Paragliding

“3, 2, 1, we got a lift off…”

This text message on Saturday morning from my good mate Fabio sends me into a sandwich-making-gear-sorting frenzy of don’t forget the sunscreen and “I love you babe, yeah I’ll be safe…”

I shove my big paraglider bag into the back of Fabio’s car and jump in the front to my customary welcome, “Hi Kakadu face, right to go” Fabio is an exceptional pilot who has just moved here from Switzerland, he is revelling in everything Australia. Leaving Melbourne behind we drive through Torquay, past all the surf shops and soon are standing on a cliff beside a “BEWARE! crumbling edges” sign.

The wind is too strong for my experience and I am not one to push it too hard. I watch a fellow ‘restricted pilot’ launch with help from his friends, they encourage him to go despite his pale face and knocking knees. The pilot looks uncomfortable throughout the launch.


I am extremely glad that Fab is a zero pressure mate. He never, ever puts any kind of pressure on me to fly if I am not ‘feeling it’ as he puts it.

“Mate, this is above my pay grade, I’ll hang here and do some ground practice.” I say, not displeased for the chance to practice this critical skill.

“No dramas, you can never have too much of that. I think I’ll get out the small acro wing for a play” Fab says with a wide grin. After an hour working on smoothly rising and lowering my wing I pack up and sit on the edge of the cliff to watch Fabio play. Fabio’s flying resume reads like an old school encyclopaedia. He is a member of the ‘U-Turn Swiss Acrobatics team’, a professional flight instructor and a very well respected tandem pilot. No doubt his biggest achievement in the sport  was being one of the crazy bastards who played Tandem Paintball Paragliding with me in Chile a few years back. Watching him play in the strong wind is no chore whatsoever.


Two hours later almost all the other pilots have worn themselves out and gone home. Fabio is still going hard at it on the small wing, while I chat to a friendly pilot (whose name sadly went in one ear and out the other…thankfully in Australia everyone calls each other ‘mate’ so any awkwardness was avoided). The wind drops to around my comfort level so friendly  pilot offers to stand nearby, watch and give help if needed. My launch is really good but my harness definitely not. Currently I am using an old borrowed harness with adjustable straps that hold up the seat plate. This allows you to adjust the pitch of the seat for comfort, much like a lazy-boy recliner. I didn’t think to check the straps prior to launch and they are fully released. This leaves the seat flapping against my ass like a doggy door in a hurricane and me hanging uncomfortably from leg straps that are trying to pinch my scrotum out of existence (hence the language warning on this next video). I let go of the brakes numerous times to try and get seated but give up in the name of safety and fly down to the beach to land and be greeted by a friendly surfer.


Immediately I pack my wing and run back up the hill. After ensuring my testicles still have a home and adjusting that bloody seat I launch again, . It is simply amazing to be flying around with one friend in a silky smooth afternoon breeze. I am grinning like a madman and thinking that this day could not get any better.


Fab flys close by and yells at me “Want to go paragliding on the other side Ben?” I yell back, “YUP” . Turning away he says to follow his line closely along the ridge. Leaving familiar ground and, feeling like a duckling following mum, I trust my leader despite a rapidly closing gap between feet and treetops. If I was alone I would have turned back long ago. The trees are getting closer and closer but I hang in there following my silhouetted leader. Trusting Fab pays off as I knew it would and soon we are back over a line of small red cliffs which are producing spectacularly reliable lift.

On the way to the big cliffs Fabio flips himself upside down to check on me and wave. We soon make the 2km trip to the big cliffs and spend a long time paragliding higher and increasingly closer to a setting sun. The breeze has settled and we are playing in a silky, laminar 3D river of air. This is higher and further than I have ever flown before and I am beside myself with excitement. The views are breathtaking. Below my feet are waves which once seemed so big and powerful, now they are simply small folds in the ocean’s azure fabric. My cheeks start to ache and I realise that I have been grinning widely for over forty minutes.


Much, much later we decide to make the long commute home into the headwind. It is almost surreal to be paragliding gently forward high over the world suspended by nothing more that glorified clothes line. Back at the familiar cliff where we started we fly a few times over the launch area, mucking about and delaying the end of this incredible day. I decide to be bold and try my first ever top landing. I know that the approach is crucial, coming in too high is not such an issue as you just overshoot the landing and try again. However if you come in too low there is a risk of being blown into rotoring air or back into the trees. I line myself up  and apply smooth brake pressure. The wind is holding me exactly where I want to be and soon I am gently reunited with earth. Fabio comes over to celebrate, he knows how excited I will be with this flight. I love the fact that, despite his vast experience, Fab is as excited as I am about our jaunt.

I live for moments like this, perfect conditions, great company and the universe conspiring in my favour.


Happy feet and blue skies to you.

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