Author: TW

What People Mean When They Say Madagascar is Beyond Words

As written for the Relais & Châteaux Africa blog. Anything I have ever said about Madagascar before this was just words. Before I boarded a plane and flew over her curves and glimpsed her rugged red hills separated by winding rivers gold with the reflection of sunlight. Before I came to meet her, slipping through her narrow roads, past a world where time seems to have stood still, with its French cars from the 60s and 70s sharing the road with man-drawn and pushed carts, past rice paddies, past man, woman and child all out with somewhere to go or someone to share going nowhere with. I feel foolish for ever thinking I could write or talk about the country in any real way before. I hope to I remember this the next time I try to write about a place I have never been. The truth of a place, its spirit, is lost on you until you see it in person. On my first night at a hotel in the capital of Antananarivo, the Ibis Hotel, …

The Jungles of Jonkershoek

As published on my personal project over at Mountains Creatures. It went by the name Waterfall One. But it was clear to us that this was not the kind of waterfall you could belittle with a number. This was an individual. This was something otherworldly, a space out of The Lost World, which would make me Julianne Moore, the video documentarian and paleontologist, descending into the jungles of a deserted world, to play with dinosaurs… Dream job, right there. And it would make the man I call both Dad and Mr Standing on One Leg, the mathematician and chaos theorist. As in, Jeff Goldblum, which would make Dad very happy I believe, on account of a crush on the film, The Fly. We had done a fair amount of adventuring to get here, to this cavernous corner of the Jonkershoek Nature Reserve, where water gushed down from the cliff face above, into a cool pool below. It’s not that the trail leading to the waterfall was arduous, just that we had gotten lost. We had attempted to drive …

The Secret to Travelling and Travelling Well

Published on the Relais & Châteaux Africa blog. There have been two significant moments on my yoga journey. Two occasions that made my myriad attempts to stand on one leg, one arm, one toe, a journey at all. There have been two teachers and two destinations. After those moments, that was it, my body and mind found the rhythm, entered the flow. After years of falling around, of furious shaking (ok, I still shake), and having teachers give me that look, I finally, simply, instantly, understood what all the fuss was about. Perhaps all those former failures weren’t failures, but rather the first cobblestones of my yoga path. Perhaps, I just hadn’t found the right teacher. It happened first in a quiet corner of the lawn, beneath trees that hid the sky, at AtholPlace Hotel & Villa in Johannesburg. I sat beside Julia Geffers, a yogi much further along on her journey, but a runner, like myself. We had a connection. It was just the two of us. And not once did she give me that look. …

The Beauty of Solitude at Sunrise

First published on the Relais & Châteaux Africa blog. I want to tell you about the sunrise, because you weren’t there. You were 5000 kilometres away and I was alone on Paje beach on the east coast of Zanzibar, still expecting you to take your place next to me. I waited for the sun to peep out of the darkness before I stood up and decided to take the step forward, to explore, by myself. If you weren’t going to join me, I would enjoy it for the both of us. I would explore everything. I know that it is often that which first appears quiet or dark that holds the greatest mystery. And it did. The stillness of sunrise revealed a whole other world to me. People always say that sunrise and sunset stand like bookends on the tale of a day, but I realised that they hold stories of their own, if you take the time to look closely. Sunrise is a different story across Africa, but on a beach in the Indian Ocean, …

Travelling is not like riding a bicycle

My latest article in the Sunday Times Travel section… Published 15 October 2017 Haven’t had a holiday in ages? Travelling is nothing like riding a bicycle, writes Tamlin Wightman. We hadn’t travelled all year. Not as a family or individually. Cabin fever had been setting in for months. During times like this, my aptitude for adventuring doesn’t just take a leave of absence. It goes to meet its maker. So as the nomad of the family, I was of no help as we headed, Mother, Father, Only Child, from Cape Town to the Grahamstown Arts Festival. As the organiser of the trip, Mom was even more lost. For one, she thought that overnighting in a backpackers was a good idea. And a closed one at that, because booking the right date is only something the frequent traveller does. The entrance hall of the Mossel Bay Backpackers taunted us with bright lights through a locked, bolted, security-barred door. It was 11 pm, the sky was black and the air cold. We paced the empty parking lot, wrapped in …

How I got over the hill

Published in the Sunday Times 13 June 2017 / Image: Piet Grobler Accidental Tourist Tamlin Wightman tried to mark her 30th birthday with a daring excursion – and got way more than she bargained for. What I did on my 30th birthday and what I should have done are very different things. Much like when I told people, “I’m totally buzzed to be turning the big 3-0. How great to grow old and wise,” – when what I really meant, deep inside my aging heart, right down to my fast-fossilising sinew, was, “!@£$%^&”. Time is an illusion. Resist the hour. Yes, yes, I too uttered such proclamations. But I was still 20-bound then, on top of the hill with nowhere to go but down. And so, for the big day, in sympathy for myself, I decided to throw myself off the hill (attached to a cable while ziplining, yes, but do not dismiss the danger of a little steel in a lightning storm). The Cape, allegedly amid a dry spell, turned dark and damp, very damp, within minutes, as …

Imagine All the People, Living Life in Peace

“Imagine there’s no countries / It isn’t hard to do / Nothing to kill or die for / And no religion, too / Imagine all the people / Living life in peace.” – John Lennon I wasn’t there when it happened. I was at home, an ocean away. But I saw the images, I heard the words, I felt the sorrow, and I did what we all do. I put myself in the scene. I went back a year and a few months to that Christmas trip, when we danced along the pavement of Tower Bridge and photographed the grand beams leading up to a castle in the sky, as the sun’s own beams cast flares across our camera lenses. I was there for a moment, oblivious again to any movement around us. Londoners went about their day, like any day, as I imagine they did that night the Tower, one of London’s busiest river crossings, and its pedestrians and oglers and out-of-towners and lovers and nightowls and late workers… were hit. At home in Cape Town, the Tower Bridge often appeared …

This Must Be The Place. This Must Be The Zambezi.

First published on the Relais & Châteaux Africa blog. Home, is where I want to be But I guess I’m already there I come home, she lifted up her wings I guess that this must be the place – Talking Heads We all have a place. A simple name on a map that we have traced with our fingers more often than any other name. A place in the country or city, the sea or river, jungle or forest, a place of snow or sand, water or rock. A place that has, over the years and the holidays, taken on a sort of humanity, an intimacy, a nature beyond how most of us see, well, nature. It’s not uncommon, either, for such places, these special enclaves that pull on our hearts a little more than others, to be seen as something living, something more like a friend, like family. The Whanganui River in New Zealand and the Yamuna and Ganges rivers in India, for instance, were granted human status and named “living entities” this year. By law. But it …

The Scared Heart of Madagascar

In moments like this, I can never tell whether my heart is beating faster, wilder, its doof doof doof building dizzily, or whether it has stopped. What I do know is that it is not rested in the in-between. And it is not on terra-firma, wherever it is, whatever it’s up to. Moments like this are the culmination of coming across something never before seen – not by me at least, and not by many – and seeing it with strangers, locals here in Madagascar, three people who have already made their way into my heart. This confused heart. This heart that finds itself in unknown territory, a territory so powerful that reacting in any simple way is just not possible. You made it more powerful, fellow explorers, leading me to that sacred space in the Lost World of Antafiamohara – past the tall wooden sculptures carved by local hands that call this region of and around Anjajavy in Madagascar home. The faces of those sculptures that stared back at me as we entered the …

The Art of the Heart-to-Heart in the Winelands

First published on the Relais & Châteaux Africa blog. conversation noun, a talk between two or more people, in which news and ideas are exchanged. synonyms: discussion, talk, tête-à-tête, heart-to-heart, head-to-head, exchange, dialogue, parley, powwow, chit-chat, chinwag, natter. Walking along a mountain path with Autumn’s colours spanning out from our feet and across the vines, we find ourselves falling into conversation with the people at our side as naturally as we fall into step with them. Identity seems to dissolve, while we focus more on the words and ideas (the glances and silences) playing between us. While we watch our feet, as they guide us. Conversations aren’t inherently like this. Very often we are rudely aware of ourselves, but perhaps it’s the effect of being in nature and the effect of genuine understanding – talking with someone who just gets you, whom you get. So much so that you feel as though you’re talking to yourself. But a self adding new ideas and stories to the developing tale between you all. Word of mouth, things spread, things grow and …