Year: 2020

A time for thinking and thanking

Sitting here, on Scarborough beach, I started to ponder. I thought about whether my cat is getting pudgy, how I’ve been wearing the same flip-flops all week, about the smell of the sea when the air is cool and misty, and then, as passers-by smiled and winked and nodded over at me, I had a thought about journalism. Journalism has transmuted tremendously since my childhood nights and lecture days spent hungrily dissecting Rolling Stone and National Geographic articles that made me feel as though I was a member of The Doors or a remote tribe in the Amazon). In all its forms, the media has such a poignant way of connecting us even when we aren’t on the same continent, in the same tribe or band. There are many things haywirey and soul-crushing about it. Journalists have been called terrible names, not only by Hunter S and my own writery father. Many of them get things wrong, they sensationalise, they invent fake realities. But the good ones, they’re what pulled me. I’ve never seen the …

Leave wildlife alone. Eat berries. Wash your hands.

We live in a world starved for solitude, silence, and privacy (to quote C.S. Lewis), and therefore starved for meditation and true friendship. I’ve never known a time like this, of enforced solitude, silence and privacy. But I’ve known the joys of it when chosen. Sometimes the things we don’t ask for have a way of teaching us lessons we need most. Maybe all the time. I’ve never known a time like this where a revolution of global consciousness felt so possible and so widespread (I wasn’t around in the 70s and South Africa wasn’t particularly woke then anyway). I’ve only read about this kind of chaos, perhaps even the word anarchy could apply, in books. I’ve never lived through war or rations or curfews but I’ve felt my own war, my own rations, my own curfews. Having the world hand these over, having our grip on the future and present so drastically shaken, is terrifying and annoying and saddening, but in some way, and it feels blasphemous to admit, it’s also resurrecting. It feels …

Mom, Dad, I’m Hiking an Extinct Volcano!

Tales To Write Home About “To those who are enthralled by mountains their wonder is beyond all dispute. To those who are not, their allure is a kind of madness. What is this strange force that drives us upwards? This silent song of the summit…” – Mountain, Documentary on Netflix All the mountains I had ever explored before had started with an ascent, a path leading up, up, up. But that day, standing on the rim of Cirque de Mafate, on Réunion Island, looking into a great crater below, our first steps would lead down. Down a steep and intimidating decline. For those enticed by the some 1000 kilometres of hiking trail on Réunion, the immense volcanic amphitheatre of Mafate is perhaps the pinnacle of a hiker’s visit. We stood on a cliff knitted with plants clinging to rocks, looking over an expanse that felt much more like Machu Picchu or the Himalayas. On and on the range of peaks went.     Mafate was formed when the magma chamber of Piton des Neiges, a …

Nourishment for a Nation on the Rise ~ Zimbabwe’s Mpala Jena Camp

  The flames swayed and swirled in a drum beside us. Hippos went about their evening romp, on the grass on the Zambezi’s riverbank below. Golden hour had slipped past and storytelling had taken over. We had spent the first day of our safari at Mpala Jena Camp, in a private concession in the Zambezi National Park in Zimbabwe, taking it all in: the giant baobab we stopped the vehicle for so that I could slip out the wide lens to capture the tree’s mammoth girth. The giraffes we sat with for longer than usual, watching them devour natural salt licks, legs splayed in their awkward downward-giraffe pose, tongues flopping between mud and nostril. The skinny baby baboons, scuttering up and down stumps and flinging their bodies courageously from branch to branch in the tallest heights of the mopane trees, sausage trees, marula trees and ilala palms.     We’d spent the last hours of the day’s light following jostling elephants and their calves kicking up dust across the dirt paths of the reserve like line-dancers at …

Wellness Lessons from the Wild ~ Great Plains Conservation

  Sitting with Lara Delafield, Wellness Consultant for the Great Plains Conservation’s beautiful camps and lodges across Africa, I watch the words fall from her lips like petals from a wildflower in the wind. Petals so beautiful and intricate and complex that I gaze at each one, rapt by their individual and united beauty. Listening to her words as she talks about what wellness means to her, something in me changes. Our discussion about the philosophy of Zarafa Camp and Duba Plains Camp in Botswana, Mpala Jena Camp in Zimbabwe, and Mara Plains Camp and ol Donyo Lodge in Kenya, leads us into the woods, the wild woods, and I feel as though I am sitting on my deck watching the curious waterbuck and peculiar topi, the wildebeest herds and hippo pods, the swimming elephants and tree-climbing leopards.     Our discussion turns quickly to ourselves, because Lara’s words are universal. They apply as much to a guest in a lodge in the Okavango as to two women in a city coffee shop or a …

We Found Love in a Pink-Walled Boulangerie ~ Reunion Island

  It’s said that the trick to getting a sleepy, reluctant mind ready for a run or hike is to put on your socks and shoes and tie up the laces, nice and tight. This simple activity fools the body into thinking it’s ready. It’s a sort of rubbing of the lamp to bring out the genie. It’s not wishes it grants you, but oomph, vigour, a love and eagerness for life. Joie de vivre! There’s another trick to sparking that go-get-’em vivacity, we discovered on our way into the mountains of Réunion Island, and it lies in the sweet caress of a French patisserie. It’s the effect of delicious goods lined up behind glass windows, ready for the picking, that triggers something in the brain. The excitement centre lights up.     With Frederic of Blue Margouillat, in the town of Cilaos, in the centre of the island, our day’s hike began in a pink-walled boulangerie – our tightly-tied hiking shoes surrounded by rows of eclairs, feuilleté à la crème, mille-feuille vanille, baguettes, croissants, flan, …

The Deep Peace of a Place Called Epako ~ A Namibian Safari

  “The first thing I hope to do as a guide is get guests to understand the importance of animals,” Hendrik says as we walk through the reserve on an April morning at Epako Safari Lodge. This is my first time in Namibia. I say it on the first day, the second, the third and the fourth, and I’ll say it now: I have never known such peace in a wildlife reserve. There are many reasons for the feeling of calm and stillness here, at the foot of the red cliffs of the Erongo Mountains, in Omaruru, and one of them is guide, Hendrik Adams. His nature, his kindness, his mindfulness.     We continue walking, looking at our feet, at the gravel passing beneath them, the odd track of an animal that has walked the path before us, and looking out at the immense openness between the low mountain slopes. The occasional giraffe neck calls our attention. “I want guests to leave Epako with that awareness of the importance of animals, to take it …

A Night of Song & Storytelling with Zolani

  After the sun has set and the sky has fallen dark over our tables on the terrace, a low call, like a mother lion crying out to her lost cub on a still night in the wild, sounds from somewhere in the distance. We follow it and the beat of a drum that echoes with our steps to the Wine Gallery at Ellerman House. Inside stands a woman dressed in white from head to toe, a skirt cast out over her lower body like a lampshade. Famed South African musician, Zolani. To her left, a woman sitting over an African drum, Sky, moves her hands to pick up another instrument, adding rhythmic shakes, the sound of beans being sorted in a sieve.     To the right, a girl is wrapped around a double bass guitar much longer and wider than herself, almost completely obscuring her. Sarah. When she begins to play all you see is her, as though her presence takes over the instrument completely, like a lion stepping out from behind a …

A Chitenge Love Story ~ Royal Chundu

  What I remember first is the warm voice of Brinah and the shaking of hands with Godwill, the Royal Chundu car picking me up and carrying us off to the market. I remember the words: Tina has organised something special for you. The scenes out the window as we arrived at the market in Livingstone, Zambia: the beans and vegetables and grains piled up on tables in stalls, men and women hiding from the afternoon heat, a boy walking up to me with one hand in a peace sign and a tyre held up with the other. The beat-up Landrover that intersected us and the winding dirt path leading to a dark corner lit up with every pattern and colour of chitenge possible.     I remember the chitenge! And Brinah saying, please take a look; me already eyes and elbows deep into fabric, camera trying to catch up to the motions of my excitement. Brinah saying, pick some of your favourites. For a dress. I tried to understand what was happening, a shopping …