Published: January 21st 2007December 12th 2006
Jamaican Bobsleigh Team consisting of citizens from Latvia, Ireland, Australia and America... how does that even work?
Some people say you know you can't believe, Jamaica we have a boblseigh team.
We have a-one Derice and a-one Junior, and a...... Sanka.
The fastest of the fastest of Jamaican sprinters, go to Olympics to fight for Jamaica!
I and my confident, elite and highly trained teammates Annya and Stephen could not help but recite this uplifting chant repeatedly (check the video) as we eagerly anticipated our date with destiny. We were standing at the top of a hill overlooking a valley covered with trees; just like most valleys. But unlike most valleys, this one contained a massive tube of ice snaking down steeply along the hill, with turns jutting out randomly and sharply in all directions. The four of us are in Sigulda in Latvia, at an Olympic-grade bobsleigh track, and we were minutes away from imitating our childhood "Cool Runnings" heroes in propelling ourselves down those aforementioned tubes of ice in a 4-man bobsleigh.
Only three of us could go in at one time since the 4th person had to be a driver. And he was not any old driver; he was a former driver of the Latvian Olympic bobsleigh team! So we knew he was A) very fast, B) very good, and most importantly C) very fast... ("safe" was not an attribute we were thinking about at the time). We all donned our helmets and once again sung our proud team theme song
(substituting our names for Derice, Junior and Sanka... I took Sanka's name thanks to the uncanny resemeblances between our hairstyles). Our slick bobsleigh arrived on the course and we all jumped inside (unfortunatley we can't push the bobsleigh ourselves... a minor setback). We were waiting patiently but the adrenalin was already starting to form and we were all getting excited. Annya in particular was beginning to freak out since this would be the first adrenalin rush for her, and I was very excited that she was starting to descend down that very slippery slope of pursuing adrenalin rushes of which I am well stuck into. We waved goodbye to Fenna standing on the sidelines, maybe the last goodbye as we were inches away from hurtling down these steep ice tunnels, reaching speeds of over 100km/hr!
The bobsleigh ride was INTENSE! The adrenalin was surely there. This is no simple luge or toboggan ride, this is the real deal. Imagine sitting in a big sled, propelling down a tunnel of ice so fast that the wind forces ripples in your cheeks. Your eyes cry not because of sadness or fear but merely because of the cold and sheer speed of
the air hitting your eyes. You can't even turn your head to look at the tubes on either side; the G-force is too strong. You see a turn ahead; it looks like a turn on a highway that you can take smoothly. Wrong. There is no such thing as a smooth turn in bobsledding. The turn comes closer and closer and closer and then BANG! You jerk suddenly to the right... then BANG! You jerk suddenly to the left. Each turn is a sudden shift in one direction. Your neck starts to hurt because you move so very fast. Sometimes you dont even know which way you are turning since you would have taken a series of such turns. You are completely disconbobulated jerking in all directions sliding down this tunnel but you don't care... the rush is incredible! You go so fast that your continuous joyful laughter turns out like girlish giggles thanks to the fast-moving air. 100km/hr! It's pretty fast for a sled. Then suddenly without any warning it is all over and you screech to a halt. You sit and pause in the bobsleigh. You check your mind, your neck, your eyes and then you check that
the good-luck-egg you stuck down your crotch before the race is still in tact. It is, and you kiss it. Riga
During my trip to the remaining Baltic states of Latvia and Lithuania, that was by far the most memorable experience for me. How many people can say they've been on a bobsled? A real bobsled! The adrenalin was intense; the speeds you reach are incredible. It seems like a rollercoaster, but one should not make such a comparison. The human control of the bobsled should not be underestimated; it makes the ride so much more adventurous and authentic... and this was one more adrenalin rush I won't forget soon. Other than bobsledding, we didn't really do too many original and unique things. Mainly the touristy things of walking around seeing the old town, which is not a bad thing since it is ornately beautiful with elaborate facades on many of its buildings.
Riga's nightlife is pretty good, my favourite was this really cosy jazz bar with an excellent atmosphere and totally groovy funk/jazz music... it was awesome!!! But the best thing about the jazz bar was that we did not pay! Yeah, we did a runner
:P They kicked us off our table to make room for a DJ, so if we thought that if we are less important than a "D" "J", then we are not important enough to pay (OK so it is not a logical conclusion, but don't question it). So we walked out, except for poor Annya who was a bit inexperienced in the act of "Running", because she actually ran
when we stepped outside. It is often a fatal mistake to run
during a runner
because you raise suspicion. Haha poor Annya, you rock girl!
Anyway, what was not overly awesome was our hostel. We had big expectations of Friendly Franks Fun Backpacker Hostel since it was apparently voted the best hostel worldwide for 2005... monumental claim! But it was a bit of a let down... it was far far too big, the kitchen was effectively non-existent, and it just did not provide an environment for ppl to meet new ppl, it was just a place for groups to hang out. Stupid Frank, he let us down! Though he did give us free beer... at that time I really did think it was the best hostel in the world!
Choose from all arrays of meat... including pig's head for those that fancy it (look at the right side)
Initially I did not want to go to Vilnius. The others wanted to see it because it had a very pretty old town and etc, but I've seen enough pretty old towns but they didn't believe they were all the same; I'd have rather stayed in Riga and got to know the town better, but I lost my case and so went along to Vilnius. It did not disappoint; Vilnius is definitely a beautiful town, cheap and best of all not as touristy as Riga (confounded English stag nights). Stephen, a Brit trying his luck at teaching English in the Baltics, joined us for the day trip and I really had a good time with him enjoying his dry British wit and sarcasm; two comic traits I really missed in Turku!
But yeah... enough about Vilnius and walking around old towns; it's time for snow, sauna and snowboarding!
There are more photos below