The Adventures of John Tait

John Tait at The Stratosphere

John Tait at The Stratosphere

John Tait is a 41-year-old bungee jumping and skydiving enthusiast. All his adult life John has had a fear and fascination with heights. To confront these fears he engaged the services of WildPlay Adventures, Pacific Airsports, and The Stratosphere. At the tender age of 19 John took his first bungee jump off the bridge at WildPlay in Nanaimo, BC, and it has now become an annual birthday tradition. John was reassured by the negligible bungee jumping accident rate, joking that one has a higher chance of being injured on their way to a bungee jump than during the jump itself. Bungee jumping is a thrill which pits the instinctive against the logical.

As you stand on the platform, your ankles restrained by a cord, loud music echoing across the valley, the sun in your face, and the wind in your hair; you feel quite alone. You take one last glance down as your feet shuffle the last few inches to the edge of the platform. Then there’s a muffled, “Three, two, one…BUNGEE!” With arms outstretched as if to catch a cloud, you feel the blood rushing through your body. The tingling begins in the fingertips, twists through your belly, touches your toes; and you’re off! The wind whips against your face. The cheers of well wishers become white noise as you see the river rushing toward you at a hundred kilometers an hour. The cord around your ankles snaps taut as your body stretches out. Your fingertips touch for the river as you are suddenly rebound weightlessly, halfway back up. In a few minutes the safety team is lowering your energized soul into a waiting raft and you reach a steep metallic staircase back to ground level.

In search of an even greater challenge, Tait decided to give skydiving a try. His mother couldn’t understand why he would want to jump out of a ‘perfectly fine airplane’ from 10,000 feet. “Because I can,” was the only answer John could give. He signed up at Pacific Airsports in Campbell River and took their full day safety and communication class. Since John was new to skydiving, he would be doing a tandem jump with an instructor attached. After safety drills and waiver signing it was time to board a snug four-person plane. The aircraft took 20 minutes to reach 10,000 feet. The sweeping views of emerald forests, finger-like islands, and pristine waters were a plus. When the plane had reached its target altitude, the door opened to a deafening roar and a minute later they were out on the wing. One quick thumbs-up was followed by a quick lean forward and the sound of the plane was just a memory.

During a skydive freefall, the only sound you hear is the wind rushing by at 200 kilometers an hour as your flight suit whips and snaps. You are higher than birds fly and the horizon is endless. The parachute deploys at 5,000 feet about fifteen seconds into the dive and the second half of the decent is a panoramic paradise. Swinging left or veering right, you catch the updrafts; the closest words to describe the experience would be awe inspiring. A few metres from the ground you pull hard on the parachute cords and get a little lift which cushions your landing. You disentangle from the tandem rigging, slip out of your flight suit, and collect your skydiving certificate. Henceforth, the memory of such a wonderful experience will always etch a toothy grin to your face.

This year John Tait decided to include a new challenge in a routine Las Vegas vacation. He was on a ‘search and destroy’ mission to have as much fun as possible within his four-day time frame. Before leaving Nanaimo, John had heard about the Sky Jump, the world’s tallest jump: 108 stories or 885 feet from The Stratosphere tower. And at 10 am on Saturday, June 1, 2013, John took the plunge. After being weighed and fitted with the proper safety rigging, a private elevator shot John to the top of the tower. As pictures were being taken, a final safety check was performed. The John stepped out onto the platform, the desert air tickling his hair and the heat rolling by in waves. A glance down at the cement landing platform and John let go of the guard rails. The drop took only eight seconds but each second seemed to take 10. The endless colours, shapes, and sounds of the Las Vegas strip were too much to take in. Upon landing, John was momentarily breathless. An employee helped him you out of his rigging and asked how his experience was. “Glorious! Only in Vegas!” was John’s response.

Why does John Tait do such things? Simply put, because they terrify him and he refuses to be beaten by silly mind over matter challenges. John challenges everyone reading this to overcome their personal limitations this summer and confront what scares then. Run a little faster, jump a little higher, sing a little louder. salutes John Tait, the humanist with the outstretched arms. You can tweet John at @IsleFreeThinker

My Trip to Iran

Azadi Tower

Azadi Tower, Tehran, Iran

Last week my travel article Iran: time for travelers to return? was published on CNN Travel. There were 502 comments on the article and they’re fun to read. I’m grateful to Jim Louth, founder of Undiscovered Destinations who booked my visit, the Interests Section of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Washington, DC, who issued my visa, Lufthansa who flew me there via Frankfurt, and Mohammad Mahani who showed me around his country.

I’ve posted 117 of my Iran travel photos on Google Plus. Follow me through Iran’s capital Tehran, along the Silk Road from Qom to Yazd, to lovely Shiraz and ancient Persepolis, and finally to Iran’s most monumental city, Isfahan. Shown here is the Azadi Tower in Tehran, erected in 1973 to commemorate the 2500th anniversary of first Persian empire.

I’ve been to 185 of the 193 United Nation member countries and Iran is one of my favorites. I recommend it to you as a travel destination.

Cape Mudge Lighthouse

Cape Mudge Lighthouse

The Cape Mudge Lighthouse on Quadra Island, British Columbia, Canada, overlooks the southern entrance to Discovery Channel. Erected in 1916, it’s one of the most distinctive features of the island, visible from all cruise ships plying between Vancouver and Alaska.

Matt James Photography

Nanaimo Museum

Matt James is showing off his Photoshop and printing talents with a free exhibit at the Nanaimo Museum. The restoration of old torn and faded images of scenes in and around Nanaimo is a specialty of Matt’s. The choice of quality of antique photographs and real photo postcards has become very slim and expensive as the collecting craze has been promoted by some TV shows. Matt shares his collection openly by restoring and reprinting the images on quality papers and inks. He also does some restoration work on antique frames and refreshes them with new prints. Many of the surfaces are hand embellished with fonts and scrolls that match the period of each image. The exhibitors are hoping that they can see many faces show up for the exhibit which is displayed at the back of the museum’s store. Many of the framed items are from Matt’s private gallery collection. James has decided that the exhibit items along with many others will be liquidated with a portion of the funds going to salmon enhancement projects on Vancouver Island. There will be a silent auction of many valuable works at the museum on Thursday, June 6, 2013, for 10:00 am to 8:00 pm. Some great door crasher items will be offered.

Four Healthy Living Tips

Maintaining good health doesn’t mean you have to make dramatic changes to your lifestyle. Making healthy food choices, being physically active, and taking the right prescriptions regularly and consistently can go a long way in maintaining good health and keeping you away from problems and long-term diseases. Most Canadians can follow these simple tips to maintain their general well-being:

1. Eat a healthy diet
Eating a healthy diet is important. Foods that contain empty calories should be cut down or eliminated from daily meal plans. Empty calorie foods don’t have any nutritional value. Examples include soda, chips etc. Foods that are rich in nutrition and provide valuable calories should be incorporated in the diet. You can try to go as organic as possible because organic is the best way to maintain good health. Foods such as whole grain cereal or bread, free-range eggs, lentils, and wild salmon should be included. It’s also recommended to eat five servings of fruits and vegetables per day as they’re loaded with vitamins and minerals.

2. Be physically active
Being physically active is also plays a vital role in being healthy. From work-at-home Canadian moms to the individuals working nine to five at software companies, being physically active is possible, despite the excuses that you can’t take out time for the purpose. Keep in mind that being physically active doesn’t mean sweating and spending long hours at the gym lifting weights, as physical activity can come in any form. Fun outdoor activities with family and friends are a good option to carry out physical activity. Summers are coming up, and it’s one of the seasons cherished by Canadians. The outdoor activities in this season are a great way to get the heart pumping and have fun. There’s a whole list to choose from: surfing, mountain biking, horse riding, cycling, fishing, deep-bay-marine-field-station ballooning, scuba diving, bungee jumping, rock climbing, sky diving, and much more.

3. Be careful with prescriptions
The rise of internet marketing has made it easy for pharmaceutical companies to get their products out there to the masses, but the products that are floating on the online market also include those that have unproven claims, are not made by a recognized brand, and do more harm than good. However, individuals suffering from certain conditions are still tempted to make a purchase, and even brands backed by unknown companies are sold, perhaps due to marketing hype and some known figures that make them look credible and real.

4. Sleep properly and cut down on alcohol and smoke
Alcohol and smoke are two things that affect both the mind and the body. Smoking can result in chronic diseases in the long, while alcohol can negatively affect the liver. The consumption of either by females also gives rise to the risk of breast cancer. It’s recommended to cut down on consumption of both or eliminate them if possible. Sleeping properly is also necessary as the body recovers from stress. Energy is replenished during the rest period to prepare the body for the next day.

Nanaimo Harbour Privatization

Nanaimo HarborThe Save Our Harbour coalition is engaged in a struggle with the Nanaimo Port Authority / Pacific Northwest Marine Group over the pending arrangement to privatize Nanaimo’s most valuable asset, its working harbour. They feel this harbour take-over deal — to be signed soon — is an important story, in the way that issues of recurring interest to all Canadians are converging here.

Briefly, the Pacific Northwest Marine Group, owned by American entrepreneur Craig McCaw,  has made a very private deal with the Nanaimo Harbour Authority, a federal agency, to convert Nanaimo’s historic, working harbour into what will essentially become a secure parking lot and point of departure for the super yachts of faraway owners. There was no consultation with local stakeholders. This deal will disrupt the local economy by displacing Nanaimo’s fishing fleets, island commuters, visiting vessels, etc.

Visit Save Our Harbour for details of the proposed marina, economic impact analysis, arguments against, and new ideas by all stakeholders.

Eritrea Photos


On my recent visit to Eritrea in northeast Africa I took this photos of an artist preparing a patriotic mural by the road between Asmara and Keren. Memories of the long war of independence against Ethiopia are still fresh in Eritrea. For more photos of mine from Eritrea and around the world, visit my photostream.