Witteberg – Maiden Flight

Some photographs from the first PPG flight in the Witteberg Private Nature Reserve.  I sneaked in the flight at sunset as the gusty daytime winds died off.  By the time it came to launch, there was not a breath of wind.  This was a serious test for my new Ozone Speedster – zero wind reverse launch at 3000ft ASL.  The pictures tell the story.  Credit to John Roos for the shots of me flying:

The old farmhouse, where a PPG-suitable take-off area is located
The old farmhouse, where a PPG-suitable take-off area is located
Preparing the paramotor in the evening light
Preparing the paramotor in the evening light
Dressed for flight
Dressed for flight
Helmet and comms on
Helmet and comms on

Continue reading Witteberg – Maiden Flight

Witteberg Private Nature Reserve: Part 1 – Wild Karoo Dreams

Witeberg view
View over the valley into the Witteberg Reserve

Tom Lewis and Frik Linde have a dream, and have built a partnership to translate it into reality.  After creating a very successful outdoor experience with 4×4 routes voted into the Top 10 in South Africa at Mont Eco near Montague, they clearly have the necessary skill.  Their passion, however, is to make a true wilderness lifestyle accessible and sustainable to those who share their love of wild open spaces, black night skies lit only by the stars, and air tainted only with the fragrance of fynbos.  The Witteberg Private Nature Reserve is the embodiment of the dream.

The Wittberg Mountains lie near the southern border of the Karoo within the Western Cape Province, South Africa.  Readily accessible from the N1 national highway between Touwsrivier and Matjiesfontein, they are 2.5 hours drive (about 250km) from Cape Town.   Like most of the Karoo, it is a harsh semi-arid area where large scale farming is tough and the terrain precludes expansive infrastructure.  With an average altitude of around 1000m, it is a place of rugged fynbos-covered ridges interspersed with vlaktes, and secret kloofs.  Bitterly cold in winter and scorching in summer, the beauty here is subtle and requires a shift in pace and perspective to appreciate.  Frik’s family have farmed in the area for generations; indeed, the property which is now the nature reserve was once their land.  They cultivated hardy salt bush in the valley to support ubiquitous Karoo sheep and later harvested the indigenous Proteas from the mountains, leaving gravestones, dry-stone wall enclosures and some whitewashed houses now reaching national monument status. Frik, however, joined in the endeavour by Tom, has had a different vision.  Trading the vegetation-depleting sheep for naturally-occurring wildlife and converting the precipitous flower-harvesting trails into 4×4 routes, they have spent the last 5 years turning a farm back into a wilderness… and the result is breath-taking.

Continue reading Witteberg Private Nature Reserve: Part 1 – Wild Karoo Dreams

Hyobanche sanguinea

Hyobanche sanguinea
The Cat’s Claw, Hyobanche sanguinea, photographed in the Witteberg Private Nature Reserve

Although I was mostly taking laid-back ‘holiday photos’ during our trip to the Witteberg Private Nature Reserve this past long weekend, the chance to photograph these two specimens of the fascinating “Cat’s Claw”/”Katnaels” plant Hyobanche sanguinea was too good to ignore.  The small bright red plants are easy to spot along the routes through the Karoo scrub, and their soft ‘furry’ texture really does remind one of a cat’s soft feet.  The lack of anything resembling a normal leaf puzzled me, and I was therefore interested to learn that H. sanguinea is in fact a holoparasitic plant, extending an underground stem which extends dendrites that tap into the vasculature of host plant roots, allowing the parasite to extract water, minerals and substrate.  A single Cat’s Claw can grow to 15cm (most we saw were less than 5cm) and can tap into many different host plants.  More info on the plant and related species here.  Like so much in nature, beauty hides the savage truth…

Witteberg teaser

Wow…what a weekend away at the Witteberg Private Nature Reserve.  I’m filled with experiences, thoughts, views, fresh air and photos waiting to be published.  I’m also completely bushed.  Here, therefore, is a photographic teaser (courtesy of the camera of John Roos):

Sunset flight in the Witteberg Private Nature Reserve

Some regional anaesthesia resources

Very brief post – I was giving an informal tutorial on practical aspects of regional blocks to a group of interns today, and I promised to forward them a few of my favourite online resources.  I thought I’d share them here and tip my metaphorical hat to the organisations behind these great sites.  In no order of preference:

  • NYSORA – the New York School of Regional Anaesthesia – has a fantastic collection of articles on specific nerve blocks, guidance techniques (including ultrasound), general pointers and other links.  There very well illustrated step-by-step guides to many of the blocks are brilliant adjuncts to learning new techniques and brushing up on doing a block you haven’t used in a while.  I’ve never looked back after I adopted some of their tips and tricks.  Highly recommended.  They also sell a hard-cover book that covers lots of the material, if you prefer to read with something in your hand.
  • The US National Library of Medicine’s Visible Human Project provides access to colour 2D and 3D images of real human anatomy, and is the next best thing to having a cadaver laboratory at your fingertips.  To get the most of this data/imagery, you’ll need to use a viewer or browser of sorts.  The Ecole Polytechnique Federale du Lausanne’s Visible Human Web Server allows you to do specific slices, 3D reconstructions and more.  You’ll need to create a (free) login.
  • For quick, three-dimensional and completely interactive study of anatomy, you have to check out the BioDigital Human site.  It offers a zoomable, rotatable, layerable, disectable, labelable, x-rayable and cross-sectionable 3D anatomy model for you to explore.  I have just begun to tap the advantages and of this for personal learning and teaching; my favourite so far is dissecting off one or two neck structures to show the interscalene approach to the brachial plexus and then using the search function to switch to X-ray view highlighting the phrenic nerve.  Pure awesome.

I’ll try to keep on posting sites that I enjoy.  Please feed back any info you think worth sharing, or pass this on!

Western Cape Paragliding XC League – First Task

The weather didn’t co-operate and allow a task to be set this last weekend, so we’ve set one for the rest of the month.  It’s a classic route and the best time of year to do it: a flight along the Twelve Apostles on the Cape Peninsula, with awesome views of Table Mountain and the western seaboard…if you can do it 😉  In order to make it accessible to both junior and senior pilots, we’re allowing takeoff from three different sites.  The top pilots can launch at Signal Hill and fly an out-and-return, entering the start cylinder from the air, while pilots without a Sport license can launch at Llandudno for a shorter but also challenging flight, scoring the same points.

All the info is on the WCPGXC League page right here on the blog.  You can link directly to the task on the LiveTrack24 site here.

Click here to see a list of participating pilots and provisional scores as they are uploaded!

Other useful resources are the waypoint file and printable map:

Cape Town Waypoints

Cape Waypoints - Map
Cape Waypoints – Map

On Gliders and the Ozone Speedster – First Flights

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Avid blog-readers who have already realised that I will likely name my future children after paraglider brands will also know that I’ve recently completely refreshed my stable. The wonderful and capable Swing Mistral 4 that has served me since 2006 went into hibernation last year when I acquired a MacPara Eden 4 for paramotoring, which (embarrassingly) outperformed the former glider in unpowered flight as well – no doubt due to a 5-year advantage in newer technology. The Eden is a great wing, and deserves its accolades as an ideal single wing for flying with and without power, but over the course of a year of paramotoring I came to realise that (like in free flying) I love long cross-countries and exploration, and the reflex paramotor wing technology has proven itself to be ideal for fast, stable, efficient flying. I began to research PPG wings, and test-fly everything I could. My desires: a wing capable of good top speeds (65km/h or more), which is still easy enough to launch that I can get away at altitude (5000’) carrying a full fuel load, DSLR camera and emergency supplies, and is fuel efficient. If possible, I wanted a wing that can be flown free (without motor) on occasion, so that I only have to take one wing on trips where packing space is an issue.

Continue reading On Gliders and the Ozone Speedster – First Flights

Ozone Speedster – First Flights – Teaser

After more than a week of desperately wanting to fly my brand new Ozone Speedster paramotor wing, I finally got the chance! Fitted in an evening soaring free flight (sans motor) at Signal Hill last yesterday and then a great motorized flight at Muizenberg today, made more special by the fact that I could fly with a friend who also owns a Speedster.

The stories will follow soon – I’m on call at the moment – but here’s a teaser picture to whet your appetite…

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Clinical Ultrasound – Collection of links

The basis for this list came out of a post on the Critical Care Mailing List (CCM-L), and I don’t have info on who originally created it, but it’s too good not to share.  Most of these are orientated toward emergency medicine, but will be appreciated by all disciplines.  (Ok, maybe not dermatology, but you never know…)  I’ll try to update it when I stumble across more, so if you know of others, forward them to me or comment below.  Enjoy!

  • ACEP US Section – for all the needs of emergency physicians who perform US, credential others, direct US programs and much more!
  • SAEM US Academy – is a community within the Society of Academic Emergency Medicine. AEUS provides an international forum bringing together bedside clinician sonologists with the common goal of advancing patient care
  • Bedside US and the Stanford 25 – The Stanford 25 is a list of 25 dependent physical diagnosis maneuvers to help with the physical exam and medical education, one of which is bedside US
  • Society of US in Medical Education – this link takes you to the learning modules, but if you press “Home” you will see how amazing this society is for enhancing US education.
  • Emergency Ultrasonography – this site is a great go-to for providing the foundation for a basic understanding of Emergency Ultrasound through lectures, modules, testing
  • EMSono – a great site which is a comprehensive emergency ultrasound education website that also provides you with free teaching modules through the SonoBridge. It also provides the ACEP test for bedside US.
  • iTunes Podcasts on Emergency Ultrasound – Great notes on a broad range of topics by J. Christian Fox, MD.
  • SonoGuide – An excellent free online site to learn all that there is to know with regard to bedside US
  • SonoSpot – Topics in bedside ultrasound
  • SoundBytes – a great CME download and set of lectures !
  • Ultrasound Podcast – a very fun and cool way to learn bedside US through two very funny guys!
  • Ultrasound SHARE – a great site for a library for all the US videos/images you ever want to see!
  • US Guided Nerve Blocks – a complete source for all you want to know in regard to US guided Nerve blocks.
  • ViewSono – great video tutorials (short format case based), reviews of core ultrasound procedures in emergency medicine, critical care and regional anesthesia
  • Vimeo US images and videos – an awesome site to see every US related video you’ll ever want to see!

There are quite a few smart phone apps and iTunes videos that can help while you are on the run, train, plane, or riding in the back of a Harley:

If you’re the original creator of this list, please let me know so I can credit you!