Author: TW

The Art of Embracing Life – and the Sea

Header image: 20 Degres Sud, Mauritius. First published on the Relais & Châteaux Africa blog. The Indian Ocean… it sinks beneath your skin and starts to alter the very ways you define yourself, the way you see life. I’ve never considered myself much of a sea person, opting for the mountains and forests instead, but perhaps the things we love most are simply the things we’ve given more of our attention to. In the name of embracing life, in all its intricacies and dimensions, my mission has been to learn more about that which I don’t know, that which I sometimes even fear.  For instance, the ocean. There have been a few muses on my escapade. The first was an ocean unlike any I was used to. One much warmer and with several islands to hop to and from. The Indian Ocean. Starting with Madagascar… At Anjajavy le Lodge on the north-west coast of the island, a new world of sea life I’d never before glimpsed showed itself to me. And, beside my guide, heading down, down, …

Grin, Bear and Other Mountain Creatures – Ziplining in Africa

Some chuckles were recently had at my expense. I’m not blaming anyone. In fact, I encourage chuckles. Chuckling is good for everyone – even the butts of the chuckles. It only helps to break down our egos. And our self-esteem. But who needs self-esteem? I would just like to remind the chucklers, but mostly myself, of if not my bravery, then at least my potential for bravery. The source of the scoffing was a quote I posted on Instagram… a quote from trailrunning god, Kilian Jornet. “The secret isn’t in your legs,” Kilian writes in his book, Run or Die, “but in your strength of mind. You need to go for a run when it is raining, windy, and snowing, when lightning sets trees on fire as you pass them, when snowflakes or hailstones strike your legs and body in the storm and make you weep, and in order to keep running, you have to wipe away the tears to see the stones, walls, or sky.” The scoffing followed me having a (if you ever repeat …

The Land of Mountainous Mountains

I wouldn’t say that I led us astray on purpose, but I’m sure that, in the realm of Freudian slips, I directed us to Sir Richard Branson’s Mont Rochelle winery instead of the Mont Rochelle Nature Reserve (Land of Mountainous Mountains) in Franschhoek, accidentally, unconsciously. Not because I wasn’t up to hill training, and not because I like wine. But because I just like vineyards. Obviously. The thing about fathers, though, is that they’re very forgiving, and very quick to turn the wheel back en route to the intended daunting destination. They’re helpful like that. For my father and I, one of the best things in the world is to arrive at a new mountain – the quieter the better – with hours ahead to explore. (Seriously, I do like hills.) We’ve become better at this hiking thing with age. When before we would take nothing but our uncharged cellphones and the car key, these days we carry backpacks packed with cameras, lenses, sunglasses, reading glasses, prescription glasses, powerbanks, toilet paper, pepper spray, hot water …

The Infinite Intrigue of Bushman Rock Art

Once a year, do something you’ve never done before, people will tell you. Just as good, though, is doing something you’ve done many times, but with people who haven’t. Because just when you think you have seen, thought, felt and captured all there is to see, think, feel and capture about a place, a young girl or a grown man come along and offer you a world through different eyes. When it comes to viewing rock art in the ancient caves of the Cederberg, there is no end to new and contrary views… Pointing to a series of painted dots winding across the rock face of the cave we were gathered in, in the heart of Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve & Wellness Retreat, the girl excitedly shouted, “It’s a snake! A looong snake!” Her voice echoed in the enclosure. She frowned and interrupted herself, revealing the difficulty of the task at hand, “Or it’s a whole lot of people standing in a line…” I had never noticed it before – the snake or the queue. (Or …

A Safari Morning

In the early morning, mine is the only voice I hear. You might think this odd. You’ll think, ok, this girl talks to herself. But it also has to do with reflexes. Tap my elbow and see my arm shoot out. Stand on my toe and hear me shout. Show me a sunrise from a treehouse in the wild, the sound of elephants and that coo coo of a distant dove and listen for my woahs and wows. My unbelievables and you’re kidding me’s. There’s the voice inside my head too, when the peace and quiet feels too good to disturb. This is how a morning in my villa at Londolozi Private Game Reserve in South Africa begins. This is a morning in Africa, the wilderness. Without anyone around, my hands dance from white duvet to coffee cup, slipper to nightgown, as I slip out through the sliding doors, closing them to keep the monkeys out (I’d much rather they played in the trees). I take my place in the moving gold light as it spreads over …

The Sweetness of the Solo Safari

It wasn’t merely that the animals were all out, on this early morning in the Nambiti wilderness. Not simply that we didn’t have to search too hard to find the rhinos and buffalo, the giraffe and lions, the wildebeest and waterbuck. What made the drive something special was what was not there. That is, other people. I know, sharing is caring. But have you ever been on a game drive through the African bush, alone, just you and your guide? No voices disturb the peace. No movement interrupts the stillness. And there’s the matter of time… of being in the wild, with its animal life, its birds and plants, sounds and scents, and having no need to leave before you’re ready. There’s also the fact that I really like to take photographs. Lots of them. From all kinds of angles and with all kinds of lenses. I need time. I photograph best in silence, too, as a ranger tracks best in a quiet of his or her own. Even with the camera down, resting in …

The girl in the doorway

There are some scenes that are a little uncomfortable to photograph. Sometimes even write about. For different reasons, I find the Darajani Market in Stonetown, Zanzibar one of those scenes. The writing comes more easily, but the process, the moment of capturing it all on camera not so much… There is the dead fish problem. This is not a metaphor. It’s not that people with vegan-leanings shouldn’t go to fish markets; it’s just that photographing the departed is never easy. Whatever they are. There is also the matter of people. Photographing people who haven’t offered themselves up for photographing feels sneaky. Wrong. I can feel it in my blood and bones. This probably is a metaphor. The point is to take some kind of “natural” photo, not posed, but the minute permission is requested, the subject stiffens or smiles or shows off. There’s also the problem of why. Why am I taking this person’s image? What am I saying in the image? What am I saying about the person I’ve photographed to the person who …

You Never Forget the First Tree You Plant

As published on the Relais & Châteaux Africa blog The mountain stretched out its path before us. “Follow me,” the winding red clay road said. Small rocks, like unruly tortoises, scattered the trail. With each roll of the tyres, down the declines, along the flats, up the climbs, I saw the drop beside us grow. We were headed up into the mountain but it’s never really as simple as that. When it comes to climbing mountains, when it comes to getting to the top most peaks of the Cederberg, one must go down too. Up and down, up and down. I watched the cliff, the sun and the clouds, the ups and the downs, the tyres on the left of the vehicle – Bushmans Kloof’s game vehicle – like an eagle getting the lay of the land. We weren’t here to see animals, we were on our way to plant the endangered and endemic Clanwilliam cedar tree (Widdringtonia cedarbergensis) in the mountains named after them. The Cederberg. But there is something about a game vehicle – an …

“Music melts all the separate parts of our bodies together.” ― Anaïs Nin

One Night With The Parlotones As written for the Relais & Châteaux Africa blog   Musicians are just like us. They too are travellers. Adventurers. Their sunshine and starry nights are also often seen in new towns, with new people, while drinking in the unfamiliar. Like us, it’s not uncommon for them to fall asleep in one time zone and wake up in another. Sometimes, there’s no sleep at all. For us both, there are always new minds to encounter around tables, in the clear light of breakfast and the dizzy daze of dinner. There are always strangers who feel a lot like home, and strangers who get stranger. Every trip, every gig, is different from the next. Each one finds a way to open your mind a little more. Sometimes, with the right combination of thrill and soul, one day, one night, can feel like a lifetime. It can fill the heart with all the spirit it needs to go on. On every trip, every gig, there are moments you can’t shake, moments that linger …