Heading Back to the UK After Four Months

After four months away with occasional trips back I am heading home to the UK tomorrow. In this stint I have been away for over 50 days. I didn't really plan to be away for so long and it has presented some problems like I had to upgrade my travel insurance as it stopped at 45 days.

Due to the fever I had over the last week or so I haven't had the opportunity to do many of the things I needed to before heading back like arranging somewhere to live. Small point I know :-)

The thing about breaking a leg that you don't realise at first is that you are going to have to rely on others for practically everything. The main challenge is shopping which presents a real problems when on crutches. In the UK there are food delivery companies but depending how / where they deposit the food it could take hours to put it all away.


When I said I was in need of a break I didn't mean a bone!

Unfortunately a couple of days into my second week in Mauritius I broke my right leg kite surfing. I had said in my previous post that I was "much in need of a break": was this the god of grammar getting back at me or something?!

The problem was that as you can kind of see the bones weren't really lined up so I needed surgery. I realise that for many people surgery is just another hobby, especially if you are seeking the costly help of 'plastic' surgeons.

For me the experience was that I was alone in a fairly stressful hospital situation (we aren't talking about the UK here) and some fairly questionable bed side manners.

"Don't worry, you aren't leaving anyone behind so it doesn't matter if something happens" - says the nurse....
"It matters to me!" I say back.
 Unfortunately the surgery took longer than expected and the effects of the (insert name of drug related to morphine) were quite severe. I am still not sure if I hallucinated waking up with no underwear. I asked the nurses later but no-one had any idea what I was talking about. I also picked up some good bruises it seems, again no idea why and no information to explain it.

Other things I still don't know include how much the operation cost as I was anaesthetised before the surgeon arrived; I assume my insurance company knows :-/ I am always concerned about the way these kinds of companies write blank cheques as I have had a number of bad experiences with insurance companies trying to recover loses in the past.

The extreme beauty of Mauritius and the kind nature of the locals go a long way to making you feel better but this is still a pain; just about two thirds of my stay I was about to spend on crutches but it was about to get a little worse!

 Post operation I had four days in hospital being prodded in what I assume were the normal ways. The private hospitals here are allegedly far better than the public ones and certainly mine had a sea view and beach front balcony!

As a western visitor it is easy to appreciate the huge difference in experience, with a minimum wage of around $0.50USD per hour it is easy to see why. I heard many stories from nurses in the hospital of their, often very different experience of accidents. The same theme kept coming up, families would take people out of hospital as soon as they were allowed to in many cases. Healthcare is expensive and seems to be charged by the hour.

After leaving the hospital I had a very high fever, I think caused by a stomach bug. After 9 days on a mix of Oroken, Voltarene and Rabezol I just couldn't take normal food. My fever went over 38,5'C and I nearly went back to hospital. I decided on the great advice of a friend to move to a spa resort where at the very least I could get room service and basic food that would hopefully not bother my stomach so much.

The staff at the Hilton Mauritius were really some of the best I have ever stayed with, I would like to say a special thanks to Shyma for keeping an eye on me! It was money very well spent indeed and I was soon feeling nearly normal again. Normal that is for someone with a broken leg and the associated issues.

With two days to go I am now really looking forward to being back in the UK. I can't think of anywhere else in the world I would rather call home.

The usual question I am asked is 'how long will it take to heal' and the best guess I have heard so far is 12 week if the bone sets correctly, during which time I can't put any weight on the foot. After that there is more surgery to remove the hardware, then another 4-6 weeks for the bone to heal from all of the 5 holes in my fibia and tibia which will need to heal in order to strengthen the bone before I can carry out basic tasks like walking again. I'm guessing that 20 weeks means a lot of physiotherapy but I have no idea how much is offered on the NHS.

My final check up went well and I had the staples removed, 25 of them in the end! Removing the staples seemed to cause a bit of bleeding but that was all, there wasn't much pain at all thankfully.


After a Week in Maruitius

After a week in Mauritius I have still only managed to see about half of the island and haven't made a dint in my to-do list. I wanted to share a few photos from the last few days.

This is the view from the bench I often seem to sit on in the evening and ponder life.

 The sunsets here are something else. Many people head to the beach and watch it; the local beach gets particularly busy on a Sunday.

The national forest is one of the Mauritius represents the last relatively untouched habitat.

How good are your eyes? Can you see the little guy?

I'm guessing that these are termite mounds?

When the wind drops the kite surfing spots take on a totally different feeling.

This is my new favourite food: boulle which is a soup with various balls of what I assume are fish and meat. Bottom line is that it tastes great!

There has been quite a lot going on over the last few days; watch this space.


Mauritius Day 6: Much In Need Of a Break

Over the last few days I have earned a few bruises and some aches to boot so decided that today I would take it easy. I spent most of the day snorkelling on my local beach where I saw far too many types of fish (and one that looked like a coral snake) to mention. The highlights were an anemone of about 20CM diameter, a needle fish at least 50CM long and what ever it was that resembled a snake!

As well as being on holiday I am also here to try and ponder a few things; one of which is some business strategy; I broke out a business model canvas on the beach. Not sure it worked, pictures in the sand are OK but it would need to be a lot bigger for my terrible writing to be legible. On the plus side, the local coconuts are very sweet, much better for you than a double espresso I will bet too...

As I wasn't doing much I took the time to plan things to do while I am here:
  • Canyoning down the tamarind falls (7 waterfalls, largest 40M!).
  • Day sailing trip on an old ship from Mallorca (lots of snorkelling).
  • Speed boat tour around the east coast (including some bays, caves and other such stuff).
  • Hiking up the highest mountain on the island, around 850 metres.
  • My first surfing lesson.
  • Exploring the markets of Port Lois.
  • Hiking the black river park trail.
  • Snorkelling at blue bay.
  • Get my IKO level 1 kite surfing certificate.
Today though I have discovered a very real limit to travelling alone: I have sunburn resembling angels wings on my back because there are a few places I couldn't reach with sun lotion. Full marks to Garnier for their Ambre Solaire 30+ which completely prevented me getting sun burned in the areas I can reach :-/ Perhaps the new generation of solo travellers need a suncream swap to go with the selfie stick...


Mauritius: Day 5 - Kite Lesson #3 and Snorkelling

Today the wind was much better than forecast, reaching over 20knots and giving me more than enough power to get myself into trouble on today's lesson. Yesterday I spent the day breathing water and went home feeling like I hadn't progressed. I thought and thought about what I was doing wrong, what my instructor had said and how today I wanted to actually 'surf' the damned board. 

As well as great wind today there was a lot of rain, as there are a lot of Jamaican influences here, I thought that people would have heard of the phrase 'liquid sunshine' but apparently not! You heard it here first...

Feeling great about getting up on the board I drove home early today to snorkel and was treated to the sun coming out and I just had to stop and take a picture of one of the mountains here, I am planning to walk up it at some point. It is the highest point in the island and forms part of the caldera called Piton De La Petite Riviere.

On the beach I decided to snorkel as it is supposed to be one of the best spots on the island I was really happy to see I still had the light. These photos are actually from after my swim at around 6PM. There really is something about this place...

On a somewhat related note; while driving around here I couldn't help compare the island to Fuertaventura which has suffered serious issues with it's climate. The basic problem is deforestation. A challenge for Mauritius too. Here the depletion of the mangrove swamps to make way for holiday resorts has lead to a reduction in coral and an increase in soil erosion into the sea.


Estimating API / Web Traffic Load

One of the challenges facing anyone trying to capacity plan  is how to estimate immediate concurrent  load on the system. This is more important in a way than the average number of requests per second over a day, it is the maximum concurrent work being carried out at the same time. This information lets you plan peak memory and CPU in a way that means your service can remain responsive according to your needs.

I wanted to share some insight into the very bursty nature of the traffic I see on the upgrade.digital API by way of an example which may surprise you:

Let's assume you have been told your site will receive 200K hits per day (let's just assume a single request here for argument sake). Sounds OK right? Even the slowest web server would be able to handle ~140 requests per minute right? Nope...

In the real world of e-commerce all of your traffic comes in the peak 8 hours of the day ramping up, typically as the day goes on, looking at it this way you are going to be seeing about 400 requests per minute. Starting to sound a bit more interesting right?

Beyond that we get to the true 'peak' concurrent minute where we are seeing around 2000 requests. This gives us some indication of how far we need to scale out and also gives a nice ratio:

Given a daily traffic estimate of T per day, the average per minute traffic over 24 hours would be X, assume typical load is 3X and assume peak minute load is 15X.

Now lets assume that your traffic arrives uniformly inside that second and is dispatched without hitting any kind of queueing limit, for simplicity let's say you are seeing a peak of 1800 requests per minute, that is 30 Queries Per Second (QPS). For our systems, most requests resolve in around 100 - 500 milliseconds, one arrives every 33 milliseconds and three more arrive before it completes, giving us around 4-15 concurrent requests depending on the traffic class.

The fun starts when you get good enough at your tracking to notice when you stop getting linear scaling in your current architecture. Typically you are looking for a breakdown in requests / throughput where your assumptions about request time start to break down. Monitoring AWS ELB response time against requests is a good way to understand this load factor.


Mauritius Day 4: Adding Surfing to Flying a Kite

Having pretty much gotten over the jet lag (and exhaustion) I woke a little earlier today so that I could go for a swim. I am going to call it a brisk swim because although the air temperature is pleasant, the water in the pool was rather chilly! Apparently cold showers are good for you so 10 lengths in a cold pool should be great right?...

On the up side, there was the view when heading one way:

After my clearly insane idea to follow in the footsteps of currently trendy young entrepreneurs (and a few other people I guess) to do the 'cold' thing it was time to head to the beach (though I may have headed past more than one of the fine beaches on coast which is "330 km long and nearly everywhere you can find the nice sandy beaches"

The forecast wind for today wasn't supposed to be good but it was better than yesterday, on top of that I had a bump in kite size from 7M to 9M. I can hardly describe the varied and colourful ways I found to fly through the air and submarine to the point of flooding my lungs. While yesterday I was feeling like a (if bruised and beaten) hero for my aggressive kite control; today I was feeling quite the opposite as I failed to find the balance between flying and surfing.

After a little over an hour of a combination of flying and drowning I was let off the hook when my co-pupil managed to said half way out to see and our instructor 'Alba' had to go and help him find his way back.

Legs and arms feeling like lead again I headed north to find somewhere to relax and enjoy the rain! Wow did I find a nice spot, The Bay hotel has a really nice veranda where they have a very nice bar and restaurant with very nice staff to boot!

Time for a much needed early night!


Mauritius Day 3: Kite Surfing Refresher

Today I had my first kite surfing lesson here in Mauritius, the goal was to review everything I know and get a bit of confidence and practice before the next step (technically covered three steps, basic kite control, body dragging and one handed 'superman' body drag up wind).

Before I went out I decided to try and learn a new song, one that I have always loved but hadn't thought to learn it: Is This Love: Bob Marley which the band played on Saturday night. It is relatively simple but not totally sure that that the Saxophone is the best instrument to play it on...

On my way I was 'lucky' enough to experience one of the many cultural differences here in Mauritius: a couple of, like guys, like, putting up a new power line. Yup, you do see cars parked right beside the cable hanging over the road. Cars are basically Farraday cages so what ever!

You might be able to see that the team attaching the new cable were just hoisting it up between two poles over the road. While I am sure it wasn't live, I was surprised that the locals were driving under the new cable while it was still being hoisted up!

On the up side, major electrical works here require a fraction of the time an engineering team would take in the UK. Did you hear how long Kings Road in London was out due to a single cable burning out?

Arriving at the beach there was a decent amount of wind, what makes for good sun bathing weather usually doesn't make for good wind sports so those clouds were more than welcome!

The instructor I had today was only working with me as it is off season, that is him jumping on a north 12M kite.

After my lesson I decided to take it easy and headed to the west coast of island where I noticed a different crowd of kite surfers. These guys all used the surf board style board and for a reason. The waves you can see in the distance were a few metres tall breaking on the reef. There were also a good number of windsurfers out enjoying what looked like big waves even for a surfer!

Tomorrow more kite surfing, hopefully this time getting up on the board, after that I think I may need a chiropractor to sort my back out!


Mauritius Day 2: Discovering Kite Surfing Nirvarna and Testing Snorkelling Kit

I learned from Fuerteventura that kite surfing lessons can be hard to book due to demand so I thought I should probably get myself along to sort out some lessons. I was a bit surprised by what I found...

The lagoon was just as big as the map suggests it is with waist high water across a wide region making it perfect to learn and explained the number of kites in the air...

After booking up a week worth of lessons I took a stroll along a nearby beach which is next door to the aptly named resort 'paradise'...

The opportunity was too good to miss so I tried out my snorkelling kit that I bought in Stockholm. One of the locals had said that it was a bad day to snorkel due to the currents and they weren't kidding! I was working hard just to keep my ground but the kit worked like a dream. Every other time I have been snorkelling I have ended up with a nose full of salt water, this time I was able to focus on the fish, though they were few it was a good work out!

As I was there I decided to take in the sunset sitting on the beach on the west shore of Le Morne peninsular:

Le Morne certainly is imposing and with the light of the setting sun seemed to turn a deep red brown colour, the trees in the foreground throw off the perspective, the hill is around 500 metres high and around 500 metres away! I doubt I will be hiking up there!

Seen from further up the bay the profile of Le Morne is quite startk but suggests there may be a way for a scrambler to approach the eastern side: more investigation is needed!


Welcome to Mauritius

From the moment you arrive in Mauritius you are aware just how stunning a place it is, even the airport seemed to help frame the mountains in the south west of the island.

Mauritius historically relied on sugar exports to Europe but it's economy has now diversified into other things like textiles and more focus on tourism. The sugar plantations are still apparent throughout the island though.

This is my local beach for my stay, I intentionally picked a spot that had long beaches and enough coral to keep me interested snorkelling. Looking forward to my first swim, today I was too tired to do much other than sleep!

One of the nice things I noticed here is that there is still a small fishing community; it is time to figure out where those fish are going and discover some local seafood!

After sleeping for much of the day I had to go and find some live music to finish off the day.

Very glad to be here for the next few weeks!