All posts filed under: Conscious Travel

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 …

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 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. …

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 …

Safaris and the Things That Really Matter in Life

First published on the Relais & Châteaux Africa blog.  We have been inspired this week by a simple sentence. One shared by the Great Plains Conservation, the organisation encompassing a few of our favourite safari lodges and camps in Botswana and Kenya. The image accompanying the sentence, posted on Facebook, showed an elephant in the Selinda area, where Zarafa Camp can be found, lifting its trunk to its mouth for a drink from the river. In the foreground, a few hippos bob, while in the background a swathe of trees, alive and fallen, and bush, hopping a ride on a growing termite mound, fade into a blur. The sentence with it reads: “Maybe the best thing about spending time in the wild and observing the animals who willingly share their space with us, is being reminded of the things in life that really matter.” The words perfectly capture what it is that more and more of us are searching for in life – a feeling of purpose, an experience that goes deeper, that transforms, and that takes us …

Like a Rolling Stone

First published on Relais & Châteaux Africa’s blog. The beauty of going slow when on an adventure is the gift of time, seeing more and seeing it more fully. I read somewhere recently that the smallest moments contain the whole universe if we just slow down enough, are present enough, to recognise them. This is what I love about Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve & Wellness Retreat. On the journey to the lodge, in its remote mountain valley in the Cederberg, travelling by car from Cape Town, my mind can wander through the clouds and the faces of the people we pass and the lyrics of Rodriguez and Bob Dylan that play over my speakers as the city slips away. As the red rocks of this part of the country come into frame through the window of the car. I like things slow. Some of us simply do… our natural rhythms flow to a gentler tune. We get to see the little wonders that connect to the larger ones this way. You don’t have to do more …