Last weekend I attended the Strongest Man contest in Vroomshoop. Even as a complete outsider, I even think I was the only one there who’s never been to a gym, it was very entertaining. The twelve competitors had to complete seven events, varying from the dead lift to pulling a truck. The local favorite and five-time champion Jarno Hams was injured so he couldn’t defend his title in front of his home crowd. Without him the competition turned out to be a lot more exciting, because all the other athletes were quite evenly matched. Not in size though, one poor fellow couldn’t even reach the highest platform of the stone challenge, while others almost bumped their head on the Hercules hold. Everyone had a weak event, but was also capable of winning the next, so it was very hard to predict the overall winner. The speaker didn’t help much either. He was far too busy with himself than to give updates about the competition. And he when he did announce some scores, he regularly messed up. In between events and attempts the crew took a long time to get everything ready again. A nice break for the athletes, but a bit dull for the crowd, as there was hardly any entertainment. Just a dance cd from a decade ago and a very brave dance crew. We’d expected the event to be completed around 6 pm, but it wasn’t decided until 7.30 pm. We then quickly left during the victory ceremony so we’d be able to get some food on the road.
I’m knackered, but musically satisfied. Four days is just too long for a festival. Especially if there are only two decent acts on the last day of the (otherwise excellent) bill. But I really wanted to see Metallica so leaving earlier wasn’t an option. And the festival opened with Eagles of Death Metal, Lily Allen and the Dave Matthews Band, so arriving later would have been a shame as well. In that regard it was a good thing that we didn’t check the route before we left, because while we took the long way around Leuven after missing the exit, the long row of cars that did follow the right route would take four or five hours to reach Werchter. In that time we set up our tent, inflated our beds and queued for a long time to get our wristbands. Eagles of Death Metal had already started playing when we entered the festival site, but we were just in time for their small hit ‘Wannabe in LA’.
The rock in Rock Werchter has significantly lost value over the years. Sure, with bands like Metallica, Mastodon, Mars Volta and Nine Inch Nails there were a plethora of amplifiers that could go to 11, but the line-up also featured many pop artists like Lily Allen, Katy Perry, Black Eyed Peas and Lady Gaga. The headliners are somewhere in between of those categories on the musical spectrum: Coldplay, Oasis, Kings of Leon and The Killers. Fans of dance music also had lots to cheer about, with The Prodigy, Tiga, Boyz Noise and 2ManyDJ’s amongst others. And the young people could easily bring their folks, because there were also some old favorites on stage, like Grace Jones and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds.
My own favorites were Elbow, Mogwai, Nick Cave, Nine Inch Nails and Metallica. It was also nice to see the Dave Matthews Band, but a festival isn’t the right setting for them. Kings of Leon, Placebo and The Killers were a lot better than the last time I saw them. Especially Placebo was rather disappointing a couple of years ago, but this time they played with much more energy and also included more old songs in the set list. Kings of Leon was also a lot more convincing, their recent success has obviously lifted their self-esteem. Biggest disappointment was Limp Bizkit. Not that I had high expectations, but I have to admit I quite like some of their songs and they failed to deliver those live with the vigour I’d expected. Just like me, they’re probably getting too old for this shit. :)
This may come as a surprise to some of you, but I like to read. I just never really took the time to read books. This year I’ve gotten the hang of it though.
And what a better way to start a book section than with a book called ‘De ereronde van de eland’ (victory lap of the moose). It’s written by a former professional cyclist, Thijs Zonneveld and describes the thoughts of a rider who’s escaped from the main bunch in the Tour de France, but still has a long way to go. Unfortunately the book is a bit short, but it does give a nice insight in the life of a cyclist.
My sister introduced me to Douglas Coupland, a Canadian author who writes about everyday life in corporate environments. This may sound boring, but he presents it in an incredibly funny way. Not much later I noticed his name on the cover of another book: The End of Mr. Y by Scarlett Thomas. It looked interesting, with the edges of the pages painted black and because of his recommendation I decided to buy it. The plot was even more mysterious and exciting than the title and artwork. So I also got her previous novel, Popco, which was even more interesting as it deals with marketing and mathematical puzzles.
And what better time to read than on holiday. I took four novels to Egypt and finished them all. I started with A Fraction of the Whole by Steve Toltz, about a disrupted Australian family. On the road to Cairo and back I read The Cairo Diary by Maxim Chattam. An ingenious thriller about a woman who has to take refuge in Mount St. Michel and discovers the diary of an English detective stationed in 1928 Cairo in which he describes his investigations into a serial killer. Back on the beach I raced through Motor Mouth by Janet Evanovich, where a Nascar-driver and his spotter get involved in some criminal activities and a fast-paced romance. Finally, I read Slam by Nick Hornby, a very funny description of the life of a teenage boy who knocks up his girlfriend and turns to a Tony Hawk poster for advice.
After relatives had told good stories about Egypt, it was time to go check it out myself. I hadn't been on a proper summer holiday in about ten years, so it was nice to be able to just lie in the sun on the beach for a day or ten. We stayed at the Maritim Jolie Ville Resort & Casino in Sharm el Sheik. A fine hotel, but next time I'll probably chose one with a shorter name, because you have to fill in a dozen cards to get into the country. We also had to stand in front of heat cameras to make sure we weren't infected by the Mexican flu (or some other kind of illness). We didn't suntan all the time however. At night we also did some other activities. Like going out for supper (and not just to the KFC either), playing pool, enjoying the streetlife from a cosy cafe and karting.
Indeed, Sharm el Sheikh has a kart track. And not a crappy one either, but a world class facility, where also official FIA races are held. We had to wait awhile before we could drive, because first a private group of Russian ladies had a race. This was entertaining to watch however, because they crashed out of the track left and right. I was starting to get a little worried, but once I got in the kart myself it was obvious that the karts and the track weren't the problem of all the spins and collisions.
Before we got in the kart, we had a briefing sessions, we were helped in our overalls and helmets (including taking care of our glasses) and we got our photograph taken. Not just once, but like true paparazzi we were followed around all the time. The pictures would be burned on a cd which we could buy afterwards. It was ridiciously expensive, but a nice souvenir. The track wasn't very difficult, but had some challenging corners. Especially the first one after start/finish, which could be taken full-throttle. And with all the speed gained braking for the next bend was interesting as well. Once I missed a braking point (a palm tree alongside the track), but I just managed to avoid the barrier. It was also fun to drive over the kerbstones, although there wasn't really any need to do so. In the end I was way faster than the Russians and also beat my fellow competitor, but more importantly I had enjoyed it immensely. It was a nice conclusion to a great holiday.
If you're going to Egypt, you might as well go see the Pyramids. However, this meant we had to take a seven hour bus ride from Sharm el Sheikh to Cairo. The bus drove at night (we left at 1 am), so we would have all day in the city. We started at the citadel with a visit to the Muhamed Ali mosque, where our fuhrer, I mean guide, explained everything about the Islam. According to him we knew nothing about this religion, because the media gave a distorted view. We couldn't disagree more, but didn't feel like going into a discussion, especially since our German was as bad as his English.
When he was done with his rant, we had about five seconds to look at the mosque itself and the view over the city and then we continued our journey to the old market. Because there had been attacks on tourists there earlies this year we were escorted by a bodyguard, equiped with a Kalashnikov, so that made us feel really safe... We had to follow a certain route and most of the shops weren't even open yet, so it was a little disappointing. Not that I reaaly felt like shopping and haggling over low prices of cheap stuff anyways.
We had lunch on a boat on the Nile. It was a buffet with a wide array of terrible food. Already half of our group (which consisted of only five people) was feeling sick and soon the others lost their appetite as well. The rest of the afternoon we spent at the Egyptian Museum. Here our guide really wanted to prove that he was a scholared archeologists and gave us a grand tour. We were lucky to escape into the Tutanchamon room for a while, where guides weren't allowed. After some free time at the museum, we went to the hotel to get some rest. We stayed at the Movenpick Resort near Giza and from the Roof Café we had a nice view of the great pyrimads (and a very busy street). The dinner buffet at the hotel was as bad as the lunch however. Cairo is a great city, just don't eat there.
Breakfast was alright though, although not as good as at our 'own' hotel in Sharm el Sheikh. The bus was fifteen minutes late, apparantly the bus driver and guide got lost on a new 'digital' roundabout, and they made up lost time by removing a visit to the new market from the program. Again, I'm not the shopping kind of person, but they could have at least consulted us. There were still a lot of other things to do though. We started at the Great Pyramids, where we wandered around and got sucked in by some sham who wanted to take our picture for free and then lured us onto his camels and started begging for money. Oh well, at least the pictures were nice. Then we went into one of the smaller pyramids, which was very hot and empty. We didn't go in any of the big ones, because we had to pay extra and our guide assured us we went to a much nicer one later today for free.
And indeed in the afternoon we went to the pyramid of Titi, which from the outside looked like a big pile of rubble, but on the inside was nicely preserved. I bumped my head on the way out, but despite having to walk in the blistering sun I survived. We also went into some other kind of tomb, where the guide started to explain the meaning of every single kind of hieroglyphic. So besided history, geography, German, politics and religion we also learned a 'new' language. And it was supposed to be a holiday trip. Between the visits to the different pyramids (and Sphinx), we went to Memphis (obviously not the city where Elvis is from) and looked at some statues and other remnants from ancient times. We had lunch alongside one of the dirty canals that transport water from the Nile to the other regions of Cairo. It was a bit bitter than the day before, but most of us were still feeling rotten so weren't very hungry. After being stuck in traffic for a while, we then got on the road back to Sharm el Sheikh were we arrived around 10 pm.
In the middle of the Sinai desert lies Moses Mountain, the second highest mountain of Egypt and supposedly the place where Moses received the Ten Commandments from God. Historically and geographically it's very unlikely that this is indeed true, but is has more a symbolic meaning. At the base of the mountain is the very old St. Catherine's Monastry, which is still in use. It's build on the place where Moses saw the burning bush and talked to God (or something like that, I was never very good in religion and history and the German-speaking guide didn't help much either).
Anyways, we arrived at the monastry around 2 am, so we could climb the mountain at night, when it wasn't as hot and see the 'magical' sunrise from the top. Although I certainly didn't expect it to be an easy stroll, I was still a bit surprised by how tough it was on the first stretch. But once we got going in a solid pace and I saw more and more people struggling, while I was feeling quite alright, my spirit was lifted. We kept the right pace to experience the sunrise from the summit. The last bit was the most difficult, with 750 'steps' made out of rocks. This was also the trickiest part going down, but we took our time and because the sun had come up in the meanwhile it was much easier to see what was coming. After the steps it was a relatively easy downhill, but because of the heat and fatigue it was still challenging.
Finally we arrived back at the monastry, where we could enjoy our breakfast boxes we got from the hotel and had to wait for the official tour around the facility. For an atheist like me, there wasn't all that much to see. Just a little chapel, a lush bush and some other artifacts. So went to the cafetaria and had a fruit juice until we could get on the bus to go back to our hotel.
Apologies for the lack of updates. But as a famous blogger once said: if I’ve got something interesting to write about, I’m too busy to post it and when I’ve got time to update my blog I’ve got nothing to report. Anyways, I’m going to try to post more often. Starting with a runthrough of the things that have occupied me the last couple of weeks. Besides all the regular sports, music, movies and games, I’ve also been to two comedy shows (Theo Maassen and Wim Helsen), was a volunteer at a rally of classic cars in Apeldoorn and went a weekend away to Groet with friends from my former track and field club in Tilburg.
I’ve been watching sports. My favorite ice hockey team, the Pittsburgh Penguins, have overcome adversity during the regular season, hired a new coach (Dan Bylsma) and some new players and still reached the play-offs. In the first round they eliminated their state rivals Philadelphia Flyers and then they were matched up against the Washington Capitals with their star player Alex Ovechkin, who doesn’t get along too great with Penguins superstars Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby. I got to see two games of this seven game series. One of them live at 1 am in the morning, but it was no trouble at all to stay awake during the intense action on the ice (the commercials on the other hand…). Besides the two games I saw the Penguins also won two others, including Game 7 and thus advanced to the Conference Finals.
They had the Carolina Hurricanes beaten before I could even make arrangements to watch a game, but because of this I did get a chance to see a couple of games of the Stanley Cup Finals. The Detroit Red Wings also had little trouble with the Chicago Black Hawks and finished the series in five games. Because both conference finals were done so quickly the real final was pushed forward by almost a week. Good news for me, because in the original schedule all games were during my holiday (and I don’t think they show much hockey in the Sinai desert).
The Stanley Cup Finals 2009 is a rematch of last year, when Detroit beat Pittsburgh in six games. But with more experience and less injured players the Penguins should have a better chance this time. In Game 1 they proved to be evenly matched, but unfortunately the Red Wings had more lucky bounced and won 3-1. However, the series is far from over. I’m currently downloading Game 2 and hope to be able to watch it before I leave. Game 3 is on Tuesday night and I might be able to watch Game 4 live Thursday night. Then I’m off to Egypt and have to wait til after my holiday to discover the outcome of the series. Go Pens!
At more convenient hours I followed the Giro d’Italia, the cyling tour of Italy. It was more exciting than ever, with almost all big names present (Armstrong, Basso, Menchov, Di Luca, Cunego, Leipheimer to name a few) and a challenging route, including finishes at Block House, the Vesuvius and the ancient city centre of Rome. It came down to a battle between local favorite Di Luca and blant Russian Menchov, who proved to have some fire in him when he eventually crossed the final finish line as the winner (he almost lost it with a fall on the final kilometre of the slippery Roman roads). Canadian rider Michael Barry did a good job for his team mates, who won more stages than any other team. Canadian sponsored team Cervelo also had a lot of succes with four stage wins. It could have been five if sporting director Van Poppel wouldn’t have told Serge Pauwels to wait for team leader Carlos Sastre while he was on the decisive break.
Read the introduction. Links Portfolio LinkedIn Hyves Facebook Last FM Idiomag My Movies (IMDb) Moose Top 97 Tracks (Jan 2008) Albums (Dec 2008) Movies (Jan 2009) In Dutch: Moose werkte vroeger bij McDonald's. Daar voelde hij zich echter niet meer thuis en daarom is hij voor zichzelf begonnen. Van zijn grote passie, schrijven, heeft hij zijn beroep gemaakt, al verdient hij er geen cent mee. In zijn vrije tijd houdt Moose zich vooral bezig met muziek, films, sport en reizen. Moose heeft een nogal eclectische smaak. Daarom schrijft hij ook over het beste van alles. Maar natuurlijk ook over minder goede dingen, wat dat is vaak wel zo leuk.
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