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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, …

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 …

The Hunter’s Last Days

Last night I sat next to my grandfather on a bench in his garden while he told me of the ways he planned to kill himself. He said that the pain some days gets too much to bear and he imagines how to end it all. My grandfather is a hunter. His outside shed is filled with guns, bullets, gunpowder and other paraphernalia. In the locked safe are about five rifles and two shotguns. If memory serves me. When I was a child, growing up, he’d show me how to put together a bullet in that shed. A little after-school project. He sat over his tools like an artist over a water painting, lamps arched over his hands to illuminate the small casing and fine, fatal powder. I can’t remember much of what he told me. If I tried to construct my own bullet today in that same shed I’d fall short. I’d create something closer to a birthday cake sparkler. But my grandfather, he was a weapons expert. Is. His guns have been with …