Author: TW

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 …

Things I Didn’t Know I Didn’t Want to Know

Published first in the Sunday Times’ Accidental Tourist – 13 May 2018 They say there are things we know we don’t know and things we don’t know we don’t know. The unknown unknowns. Before going to the Seychelles, I knew there would be blue sea and white sand and coconuts and I had heard talk of bats and turtles. Other than that, I knew I was going in blind. And that excited me. I like not being a know-it-all. Perhaps I have no choice in the matter, but the surprise element was very appealing. I wasn’t prepared, though, for the things I discovered that I didn’t know I didn’t know. The best case of this came one evening on a beach on a private island in the archipelago – the remote North Island that had taken three planes and two boats to access from Cape Town. We had been hiking through the jungle terrain of one of the island’s peaks, slipping down fallen palm fronds and scrambling up giant black boulders. The guide led the way …

Safaris & the Art of Being Yourself

First published in the Relais & Châteaux Africa blog. “To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.” – e e cummings This is not a topic that concerns animals, but it is one that they so naturally teach – the art of being yourself. It is a topic that separates us little bipeds from the wild world of our animal brothers and sisters. Sure, who knows really what a woodpecker mum gets up to when hidden inside her nest. But I doubt she is worrying about whether she is being a good enough mother, or if her feathers still have their youthful lustre. She is beyond even the stage of acceptance – she simply does not think about it. Sure, she doesn’t quite have the brain structure for such neuroticism. And we do, which gives us the task of overcoming self-doubt and learning to accept and embrace, all through life. On the subject of neuroticism, let’s take my morning face, for instance. …

The Peculiar Virtues of a Cactus Garden

When we speak of gardens, we all imagine different things. Some of us conjure up images of wild jungle-like spaces with towering palm trees and human-size ferns taking over ponds, or secret paths winding under pockets of cool shade from giant oaks and dappled light created by ancient cedar trees. These kinds of garden lovers are the dreamers and adventurers of the horticultural world and, like their gardens, they prefer not to be tamed. Their fingernails, toe nails, nostrils and brows are all marked with the soil they excitedly embrace with a whole heart. They are easily distracted by the call of a bird – one wonders if they have not created their garden solely for the enjoyment of these winged vagabonds. As a place for the birds to enjoy and for the garden lover to enjoy the birds. You can detect this with the countless bird baths, handmade suet balls and seed feeders scattered around the greenery. And the chairs set up beside them. Some of us settle on an image of a prim …

In the land of lions and leopards

As published first in Instants, the Relais & Châteaux magazine. “You know you are truly alive when you’re living among lions.” ― Karen Blixen, Out of Africa. Once you have had a taste of life, real life, as Out of Africa author, Karen Blixen saw it, it is impossible to turn your back on it. It holds onto the deepest parts of yourself and starts you on a journey to even greater depths. More than 80 years after Karen published her tales of life in the Ngong Hills of Kenya, I ventured to the Great Plains Conservation’s Ol Donyo Lodge, where the Chyulu Hills stretch out and touch the plains of Kenya’s Amboseli, and to Mara Plains Camp, in the private Olare Motorogi Conservancy, on the edge of the Maasai Mara. And those tracks Karen wrote of, the trails left by our safari vehicle moving across the land in search of wildlife, they still continue to wind themselves through my mind, long after I have returned home. Because to live, for a moment, among lions and …

Cycling with the Wild Things of Kenya

First published on the Relais & Châteaux Africa blog. No matter how many times I get on a bicycle and head out on city streets or country roads or mountains trails, it is always Einstein I see. With his big lawless mop of white hair and his goofy “spent too much time in the lab” smile. And I hear his words about how cycling is just like life. “To keep your balance, you must keep moving,” the great physicist said. It’s useful advice should you ever forget how to ride a bicycle, or, simply, how to do life. How to keep your balance in the continuous play. You truly feel this balance when you’ve conquered something, like incline after incline, and when the smooth ride of the flats leads into a fast and glorious downward soar. It’s a feeling that is all the stronger when out in the wilderness, in big sky country like Kenya’s Chyulu Hills at ol Donyo Lodge. Here, vast stretches of uninterrupted land surround you in every direction. Wild animals roam beside …

The Bandit’s Way of Winemaking

An Interview with Craig Hawkins By Tamlin Wightman As published in ICC magazine Craig Hawkins is the biggest advocate of natural wine in South Africa. Together with wife, Carla, he left the Swartland winery, Lammershoek, to follow his dreams and pursue his TESTALONGA brand of wines at their new farm, Bandits Kloof. Meet the man behind some of South Africa’s most exciting wines.   He doesn’t mention Bob Marley. But there the dreadlocked reggae singer sits, smiling in his frame on the cabinet. This is Craig Hawkins’ office, but really, Craig says, it’s just where his music is, here and reverberating through the speakers of the wine cellar. He doesn’t mention Marley, as we catch up over the telephone connecting us between his and his significant other, Carla’s farm, Bandits Kloof, in the countryside of the Swartland, Paardeberg wine region, in South Africa, and me, in Cape Town. But who Craig does have time to mention is Eminem. “I don’t only necessarily get inspiration from the wine world,” the winemaker says. “For instance, I listen to …

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, …