Author: TW

A Wine Gallery Gig with Arno Carstens ~ at Ellerman House

I recently covered the Arno Carstens’ wine gallery gig at Ellerman House for the launch of the hotel’s second year of Ellerman Sessions ~ for the Relais & Châteaux Africa blog published here. I wish you had seen the way he shook his legs about. I wish I had captured it to show you but I couldn’t look away. No one could. No one did. You’d have seen them, those legs, if you were there with us, up close to the stage, with the wine gallery at Ellerman House behind and below us, a few intimate rows of chairs between us. Arno Carstens and his band: front and centre. You’d have seen that crazed Elvis leg shaking that powered the night in short bursts with unexpected energy – between the trumpet, guitar, drums, and that iconic voice once belonging to the South African cult rock band, The Springbok Nude Girls. While you were sleeping I had a vision That gently took the pain away Am I still dreaming I search for meaning You turn my …

Your Helicopter Has Arrived, Ma’am, Sir…

As published on the Relais & Châteaux Africa blog. Three Ultimate Helicopter Rides In even the small events of our lives, the fleeting everyday moments, we are capable of feeling great waves of inspiration, excitement and love. They’re not to be discounted, the simple things. But let’s not deny the overwhelming thrill of the big and grand displays and adventures too. We can find ourselves overwhelmed by the gentle touch of a child’s hand or the silence of wide open African plains.  But in taking daring leaps – into or out of a plane, into wild Cape seas or a boat through the lower Zambezi rapids – there is a deep exhilaration and sense of pride that takes over us. The kind you might imagine a heroic swashbuckler like Don Diego de la Vega to feel, with his sombrero cordobés, as he swipes a stolen locket from a thief to return to his damsel. Or English archaeologist, Lara Croft as she rope-swings into ancient tombs and dangerous ruins around the world.   “A famous explorer …

Do You Ride? – A Horse Safari in Kenya

First published in the Relais & Châteaux Africa blog > Do you ride? People are always asking that. It’s not good enough that we’ve bravely mounted bicycles and game vehicles and slept among roaming lion prides and night-creeping hippos. We need to ride horses too, through the greatest wildernesses in the world. I’ve witnessed many travellers scoff at such a question. I’ve also witnessed pro-riders leap gallantly at the suggestion, heading out on rides as often as time on their safari allows. I’m somewhere in between these two types. To the invite to ride, I scoff and leap at the same time. “Yes, of course I ride! I’ve been on six horses! And I’ve never fallen off! Although I did once contemplate bolting from a spooked horse during his furious downhill dash, one dark and scary night in the countryside.” The Chyulu Hills in Kenya, at ol Donyo Lodge, is no countryside, though. Nor is the Maasai Mara, at Mara Plains Camp. There are all kinds of marvellous animals hiding and seeking. At ol Donyo …

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 …