—– Iceland 2013
I enjoy the excitement and anticipation before an event but when the time nears I ease into a quieter calmness. This marker that is just around the corner is where I shall be and I will relish it in all its lessons, surprises, overwhelm and simple joys.
We have turned that corner. My husband and I are just days into living out a monumental dream. Our feet are connecting with the soil of the Northern Hemisphere and will traverse unknown lands across Europe, the UK and elsewhere for 7 months. We are seeking the intimacy of daily life in villages and cities we’ve only read about. We will walk, photograph, eat, converse, create, relax and breathe easily in this magnificent journey down the mysterious road of wonder and growth.
We are where we are meant to be today, and loved ones are wholeheartedly cheering us on. I’m deeply content and privileged to be beside my beloved husband embarking on life’s ordinary and extraordinary moments together.
I look forward to sharing the stories here, my friends.
Winter has been quiet on this blog but immensely fulfilling in person…
Housesat in the hills and trees. Watched the fog wade through the valley. Lay with my dog on the grass. The novelty of hanging washing on a line outside. Long lunches in the backyard. The smell of wood fires from neighbouring chimneys. Started & finished my writing project. Helped and lifted others by listening, caring and talking. My husband & I lived with my mum & stepdad for a month & cherished every precious moment, every giggle, every snuggle on the couch, every cup of tea made for each other. A family reunion to celebrate my grandpa’s 90th birthday. Travelled down memory lane whilst packing boxes. Nursed my friends’ babies & got called a baby whisperer! Thoughtful gifts from beautiful women. Marvelled at precious friendships. Connected & hugged.
Gratitude for one chapter that is closing & the excitement of starting the next.
I believe there is a crucial connection between simplicity and self-acceptance, for simplicity/minimalism is not just about decluttering physical belongings. It is about facing the mirror head on and questioning our attachment to thoughts and habits. The process demands utmost honesty. If we accept traits about ourselves we can move further towards lightness and not be waylaid by the tugs of consumerism to create an alternate identity.
The desire to simplify my hair routine has arisen often over the past years of pursuing minimalism. But it couldn’t be done without first accepting it in its natural state and it was here that I kept hitting my roadblock. My hair has always been an important aspect of taking pride in my appearance and feeling feminine. From the age of 16-29 it was uncoloured for only a couple of years. I always wanted to cover up the underlying hue of warmth and swung between a few foils to dramatic changes from full brunette to full blonde. Each time I left the hairdresser I felt shiny and bright, but with a nagging uneasiness beneath the surface – the unrealised dream to be satisfied with my natural colour and texture. If I could just get around the next corner of self-acceptance. This is not to say that colouring hair is wrong, but for me this was a yearning to feel beautiful in my own shade. Besides, my mum always told me it was beautiful and mums are
always often right about these things! I stopped colouring my hair 4 years ago. I watched it slowly emerge from a shell of artificial colour into its own. Each time more of the old remnants of dye and bleach were cut off I felt closer to my goal of finding out more about me, superficially and internally. As the old feelings of dislike simmered again I changed my self-talk in the mirror, researched what colours would complement it and studied photos of myself with different looks.
The only times I’ve adored my hair all these years was fresh after a blow dry. While I sometimes enjoyed this primping as a form of relaxation, it could also be a chore and weight on my time and spontaneity. I couldn’t get unshackled from the heating instruments at home or in our travels. I experimented for a long time to find what works for me. Dry shampoos irritated my scalp; moose made my hair sticky and using more products was not desirable anyway. I stopped using a hairdryer and straightening iron 5 months ago. Finally, I cracked my formula – a hair cut for my natural texture, a leave-in treatment and air-drying in buns. I travelled to South Africa without any heating tools and did not miss them. (However, when travelling during cold months I will still take a hairdryer to use as needed so as to not get the chills with wet hair.)
At my last appointment the hairdresser was amazed at how healthy it is. And me? I am now in love with my hair. I say that not with ego, but with self-acceptance, with reward for being patient, for letting go of a polished ideal image, and for the relief the simplicity brings me. I literally smile each time I pull my hair out of a bun and let it fall as it wishes.
Ahhh, the freedom and contentment.
Let’s cheer each other on. Is there a way you want to simplify your beauty routine but are held back by a roadblock of self-acceptance?
Before leaving for South Africa I was a little nervous that our tents might be too close to nature. There are certain creatures I don’t want to have intimate encounters with… ahem, snakes. While I did rough camping as a child I have grown into a bit more of a softy you might say, and with my limited vision I would rather not stumble through the dark to relieve myself behind an unknown bush with unidentified creepy crawlies! Well… I am now a glamping convert. This suits me just right, thank you very much! A flushing toilet, warmth for my prone-to-get-cold-before-anyone-else body and electric lights for my eyes. We now travel with hiking head lamps too so I walked around at night and sometimes sat at the dinner table with it strapped on my head. Not my most fashionable moment for sure, but I try to embody cool nonchalance!
My favourite serenity moments were in this Hemingway-inspired tent. The first night we pulled across the bug nets, crawled into our plush bed and turned out the lights. Complete and utter darkness. I slept so soundly. My husband and others were not so lucky that first night, with a very noisy pride of lions in the vicinity making grunting noises for several hours! As the drums chirpily vibrated through the bush for our wake up call, my toes danced and as I stood up my hips were shimmying too. What a way to start the day! Yes, I’m a painfully cheerful morning person, my friends. Within minutes of the drums the vervet monkeys commenced their antics in the trees above us. They plonked onto the tent and scuttled along in such a speedy fashion that it was incredibly comedic to me. Did I mention I’m a morning person?! I got the giggles.
Each day the quiet staff brought us hot drinks to prepare us for the first game drive at sunrise. Thank you I would say imperfectly but earnestly in their language. Each time I was treated to a huge smile beaming back at me in the ray of my head lamp. As we poured our coffee and tea, we had to remain alert. Those cheeky monkeys were there for one thing – to rob us of our sugar, milk and anything else we might have left out of the wooden chest. They were so brazen and were within arm’s reach, waiting for the split second of opportunity. One lifted the corner of our tent and sat there looking at us expectantly, he was so cute! As the light of the day emerged, a mother and her baby sat there waiting too, watching us through the tent screen. Our friends R&E had their milk jug stolen from right under their noses on the first morning. The image in my mind was hilarious as they recounted the story of six monkeys gathered around the jug dipping their hands in to lick the liquid.
After the morning game drive and then a feast of breakfast, I was soothed by showers, gazing up into the trees above me. I hoped to spot a vervet monkey but at the same time felt it would be strange to have one watching me! I adored the open bathroom with polished concrete floors, two showers and a humungous square bath. Feeling all clean and refreshed, I would sink into the couch to gaze at the greenery, listen to animals moving around us, write in my journal and drift into semi-sleep with the breeze caressing my face.
Yep, back in the tent is where I take my heart and mind sometimes now.
To answer some of your questions…
We use a Canon 6D – I love it for the full-frame sensor in a smaller body for my little hands!
The Landrover can be seen in my previous safari post. It had a canvas shade and open sides that we climbed up into. These rugged vehicles are impressive when moving over the terrain. I loved feeling the air around us and seeing the animals so close with no barriers between us. But there are many styles of vehicles so check with your provider before booking if you have specific preferences.
The Honeyguide Camp is in a private game reserve where conservation is a motivation. The wild animals roam freely between the reserve and Kruger National Park. If the staff find an animal such as the leopard who had been caught in a snare the week before, they call in medical professionals. I like to hope they have a better chance of avoiding poachers because of the workers who care and are aware of their movements across the days and seasons.
This adorable rhinoceros Gertjie is being cared for near the area we visited. It is a tear-inducing but heart-warming story of conservation work in practice. I want him to put his head on my lap!
Being smack bang in the middle of a pride of lions was unexpected and perhaps indescribable, but I will do my best to share it with you…
On one evening drive word was received on the radio that a pride was found. Our guide, with a cheeky grin, suggested we hang on and move to the middle of our seats so he could speed up. Moving through the darkness faster was exhilarating, the cold air rushing past, bugs lodging in my mouth, the scraping and slapping of trees against the Landrover and all of us hanging on tight over sharp bumps in the dirt tracks.
As we arrived, a collective gasp was let out. There in our headlights lay a regal lion, four lionesses and two cubs. They were relaxed and lazy in their movements as they stretched, got up and padded their large paws along the dirt trail. As the lionesses disappeared from our light beam the two cubs got up to follow. The cuteness overload began as four more cubs emerged from their hiding spots in the long grass. A procession of six (!) cute cub bums waddled up the track and we slowly followed, our guides always respectful and alert. I was glad when the other half of our group pulled up beside us, knowing we would now all witness this incredible experience. Our tracker’s spotlight followed the male disappearing into the bush on our left. It crossed my mind that he might circle behind us – the tactic used to hunt is one lion holds eye contact while the other circles behind to attack! But I was not too anxious for I had trust in our guides and was quite literally high on the emotion of the encounter.
After a lengthy and privileged stint taking in all that we could, it was time to head back to camp. It is not safe to be out after a certain time when the horrible poachers creep into the land illegally. The quickest track home was in front of us past the lionesses and cubs. As the driver turned around he calmly told us to look behind us. Our group of 13 collectively let out stifled sounds of shock. It was quite an achievement to be subdued and controlled in our noise and movements, when there, standing in the glow of our rear lights was the male. Right behind us. Just there. He was not posing aggressively, but it was as if he was patiently waiting his chance to go past and return to the pride. He calmly overtook the other truck so insanely close, the movement of the air around him surely felt by my father-in-law as my mother-in-law whispered "he’s right beside you!".
Our driver veered into the bushes for a bit of hard grinding over tree stumps, long grass and hidden holes in order to overtake the pride and emerge in front of them on the road. Unbeknown to us, they continued to move through the darkness and we came back onto the track to find our headlights reflecting off their glorious eyes again. We were literally surrounded by a pride of lions, oh what a moment!! The kind where apprehension and excitement collide in the most heart-filling surge of energy and yet you must be calm in your movements. My beautiful sister-in-law told me to look down to my left. Within arm’s reach, without a single blade of grass or barrier between us, stood a lioness looking at us. I think I stopped breathing, trying to take in the intimacy of this moment with her, electric as I tried to capture it in my whole body. This wild, skilled predator and mother of cubs was so close.
As we all gathered again at camp the chatter was animated and loud. Everyone was enthusiastically sharing their perspective of the events, playing the moments over and over again, utter enchantment written on all our faces. I sat there quietly hoping I could digest it enough, cement it in my mind from pieces in the darkness, the adrenaline rush and my husband’s photos. That close meeting with these beautiful creatures. The honour of their trust in us. The face-to-face encounter with a wild, real, pragmatic, harsh and sometimes magical life.
*Photos by my husband. I was right beside him with my mouth gaping!
Our time at Honeyguide Mantobeni Camp was unforgettable. There were 13 of us, family and friends from Australia, London, USA and South Africa, gathered to enjoy the safari. We were there to celebrate my in-laws’ 60th birthdays and there was no place they would rather be. We were incredibly lucky to have the whole camp to ourselves too. Meeting in the communal area for meals and relaxation and photo ogling between drives, we only shared the space with the wonderful staff and the animals roaming the grass or visiting the waterhole nearby.
Just as when I drink rooibos tea, now every time I hear drums I am transported back to this tranquil camp. The deep, cheerful, rhythmic sound spread through the trees to our tents to signal wake up and meal times. Every meal was a feast of courses on a gorgeous communal wooden table with the dishes announced by the beautiful head woman. Our two waiters were shy but when I spoke a few words of their tribal language to them, the biggest smile came across their faces and filled my heart. They taught me more words when we relaxed in the lounges in the heat of the day. It was on one of these easy days that we sat talking to one of the guides and I was enthralled with everything he told us. I thanked him for sharing about his family, life and tribal history. I seek to understand how others live and to see or hear it for myself penetrates the information into my mind more than reading about it.
One night we had the official celebratory birthday dinner under the trees and next to a comfortable fire. As we sat talking, the sound of singing came gently through the night. Slowly it got closer and the gentle faces of the staff emerged, singing and swaying in a line. They sung a couple of songs, my favourite being one with stamping on the soil. The head woman’s shapely traditional African figure moved so beautifully that I was mesmerised and I wanted them to sing all night. The night held more music for us though, as my husband’s musician cousin played the guitar and we all sang a few Beatles and classic tunes.
On the day we left, I sought out and found most of the 10 staff, sneaking into the kitchen to say goodbye to those behind the scenes too. The arms wrapped around me were warm and held on meaningfully. I am a people person who values connection, I relish these moments. To share this adventure with family and friends made the experience all the more rich. As we sadly left the wild behind us and headed towards the small airport, one dear family friend and I spoke of our sadness to leave. We decided that should we feel the need, we would remind each other to get back in the tent in our hearts and feel the soothing balm slip into our bodies at the memories of our time here.
writing table in our Hemingway-inspired safari tent, South Africa 2014
I am honoured that Rebecca of Think Big, Live Simply nominated me for this blog hop, a series of questions about our writing. I don’t often participate in blog events, but this was timely and a great reflective exercise.
~~~ on writing ~~~
What am I working on?
I have just finished my blog posts of our safari in South Africa in April. Writing these and pulling together the visual story of my photos is the most exquisite process as I relive the smallest details of our holiday all over again. When I first started this blog it was purely for my other form of storytelling – photography. But over time my lifetime love and need to scribble notes pushed me to collate them into prose.
This weekend past we moved out of our inner-city unit for a few months of housesitting in the suburbs. Here I have less internet access but I do have a delightful home and garden from which to cast my eyes over the greenery, hillside, foggy mornings and winter sunsets. I have declared this time to be a writer’s retreat and hope to feel inspired to knuckle down on a personal memoir of sorts for my family and friends. If I ever decide to make it public, I will be sure to let you know.
My Grandpa will be 90 years old (!) in August and I want to write the letter I would read at his funeral – the one that reiterates all I am thankful for and admire in him. I will give it to him on his birthday rather than wait for his funeral when he wouldn’t hear it. With the recent diagnosis of a serious health condition for him, this idea has been at the forefront of my mind – not in a morbid way, but because I want to celebrate him, with him, and with my dearest people. I’m the kind of person who never leaves love unsaid and that gives me peace of mind for when the inevitable will eventuate.
How does my writing/work differ from others in its genre?
I’m not an overly technical person, so I’ve never tried to classify my writing. I dance between short staccato-type posts full of random points of goodness in my life, to long pieces that wind through the story or feelings. I sometimes write very personal posts on an emotional level, but I’m very vague on identifiable details. This juxtaposition of being open but so private too, makes for occasionally mysterious prose that is not meant to alienate but hopefully is still strong enough to connect.
Why do I write what I do?
To process my own emotions. It is the most cathartic ritual to detangle the scattered thoughts and form them into a cohesive narrative. It helps me to work through issues such as changes in my eyes, on planning to not have kids, dealing with dementia in a loved one, and redefining success. Not everything I write ends up published, but the act is still very powerful.
To understand and be understood. To connect. I like that writing for an audience forces me to find the core sentiments so that it can be understood by others. It is so meaningful when people are moved by my words, universalities are pondered, and their hearts are lighter, inspired or feeling less alone. To know my words sometimes do that is something I don’t take for granted. I communicate not for sympathy but to foster greater understanding of my challenges and perhaps others who are facing their own. The dear friends I have made from this space bring so much to my life and I hope that they know just how much they mean to me.
To share and celebrate love and gratitude. The best valentine’s day or birthday presents are when my husband and I write a love letter to each other – no roses or chocolates will ever trump that. Before we travel overseas, or even just because, I write my mum a letter to tell her how much I love and appreciate her. Focusing on the good is my natural inclination, and doing so makes me feel like I’m not so vision-impaired, that I’m seeing what really matters anyway.
To lock in the memories. I opt to celebrate the little moments with my words (and photography). It cements them in my heart and makes them grow stronger. I do this to rejoice in the now, but I do wonder if these creative pursuits will embed the memories that much deeper, so that as my vision continues to deteriorate I will have a treasure chest of detailed memories to light up my eyes instead.
How does my writing process work?
I don’t like strict rituals because then I feel the energy would turn to maintaining that, rather than my creative juices. But of course I can say that without the constriction of deadlines to work to, so perhaps I would be more habitual in that scenario. However, I do set my writing times as reward – I say to myself that when I complete “x,y,z” jobs or errands then I can ease into a chair with my laptop and allow my heart and mind to wander.
Firstly, if I don’t feel like writing, I don’t. I go through phases where I’m just not enthusiastic for it. I never worry during those times, because I know that it always returns when there has been enough quietness.
I find that a germ of an idea simmers to the surface of my mind and I know when I’m ready to transfer them through the keyboard. Sometimes I jot handwritten notes down first so that I can abate concerns of losing the essence of the message. Often I will be out walking my dog, doing housework or having a shower, and suddenly it all bursts forth with clarity and I’m ready to sit down and blurt it out as fast as my fingers will allow. If it is a more emotional piece I will always withhold from publishing for a while and return later with a clear mind and some distance. If I re-read it and am still comfortable sharing it, then I will publish. Occasionally I will set up in a café for a little romantic date of playing a writer in a café. It gives an extra element that is fun and invigorating.
Conversely, my new year’s resolution in 2013 was to just let go of some of these deep and meaningful thoughts and not worry about getting them down. I have found relaxation in that conscious decision to pull back, knowing that not everything needs to be recorded, even if it’s profound in my life. While their beauty and transformative power is ever-present, sometimes I just feel, live and act the words instead.
~~~ passing the baton ~~~
Thank you to my host Rebecca for asking me! I was so delighted. While we live geographically different lives, we seem to share a love of simplicity, honesty and authenticity. Thank you for the beauty you embrace and share.
My nominated guests both write of their journey to simplicity and minimalism. Often they write exactly what I’m thinking or have been through personally, and I love the commonality. Please visit these two lovely wordy friends as I pass the baton to them…
Kali of The Nife en l’Air.
Kali is a 28 year-old communication professional and off-time blogger and writer, who writes the nose up in the air to catch up on all the details of life. The Nife en l’Air, “the nose up in the air”, is an English spin-off of la Nife en l’Air, a French blog sharing Kali’s writings and musings. Taking its own course, the Nife reflects all kinds of thoughts and inspirations, books, travel experiences… Over time, the Nife also involuntarily became a log for Kali’s life simplification journey, from questioning consumerism to self discovery. The goal of this very ordinary blog is to bring a touch of slowness and simplicity, create a debate, or maybe inspiration?
Claire of Just a Little Less
Claire is a forty something year old, married with two teenage boys living in Staffordshire in the UK. She started writing her blog after becoming interested in minimalism and simple living. Just a little less blog was launched in September 2012 as a minimalist blog for the UK. As well as writing about minimalism, Claire likes to celebrate the simple pleasures and adventures of life through her writing and photography. As Claire tracks her minimalist journey she hopes to inspire others to gain freedom from possessions and find more time for themselves and to give to others.
Not everyone I asked was able to participate, and I respect that. But I would love to have some more fun with this – if you would like to participate, please leave me a comment and I will email you the instructions.
Continuing our South Africa adventures…
For me, being on safari was less about capturing the best photographs and more about absorbing it into my whole body. The smells, sounds, emotions, the knowledge of our guides and the proximity to these wild animals.
I sat relaxed in the high, open Landrover, breathed in the rush of air on my face, let my eyes fall gently over the landscape and felt such privilege and joy to be there. Rather than hurting my eyes trying to spot everything, I let those with good eyesight do the searching. I felt immense gratitude for the loved ones around me who explained where to look when animals were spotted. This saved my eyes for the most important moments – the ones where I leaned forward, or turned around and curled up like a kid in my seat, my mouth hanging open or in a child-like grin, sounds of awe escaping my lips. As our group sat quietly talking and taking photos, I would try to take in the details, thinking to myself "I’m legally blind and losing more vision each year, and this is what I’m filling my memory bank with. I am so lucky!". Sometimes I still didn’t find what was pointed out to me, but I was so bowled over by how much I did see that I didn’t mind. I was warned not to expect to see everything, or indeed The Big 5. With my vision, I lowered my expectations even further, with a calm acceptance that whatever I did see would be wonderful.
I saw the Big 5 (Buffalo, Elephant, Lion, Rhinoceros and Leopard) with my own eyes!!! Memorable moments…
Danced in my seat and sang (badly) Hakuna Matata when our small plane landed on the unfenced airstrip and a family of warthogs ran along beside us. Laughed the loudest at the joke that we had reached a zebra crossing when a herd strode across the track in front of us. Relaxing moments on the African soil as we stopped for sunset drinks on our drives. Marvelled at the impala’s ability to spring so gracefully from a stand still. The look of contentment on the lions’ faces as they rested on full bellies from the day’s kill. The cracked grey skin, hairy chins and worn tusks on the old elephants and being almost close enough to touch them. Entertained by the antics, guttural noises and yawning prowess of hippopotamuses swimming in a waterhole at sunset. Choked up when our thoughtful guide took my shoulders to turn me in the right direction to face the hill over which his village was – to know he had figured out how to help me meant the world. The cute giraffes and their ungainly gait – the one that stood calmly watching us while he chewed his food, always moving his jaw to the same side. Seeing the elusive leopard and its nose twitching as he raised his head to the breeze. Sadness at the cruelty of an animal trap that had caught the leopard the week before, but relief that the work of the rangers had saved it. Symbiotic relationships between small and large animals. The groovy chameleon as he appeared to dance on our guide’s hand. The wildebeest that bucked around happily in front of us after apparently "scoring with the ladies". Correctly naming different antelopes. Fascination with the prevalence of poor eyesight among mammals and how they compensate or behave as a result. Admiration for the guides’ knowledge of animal behaviour and respect for them when a female elephant started to charge at us, and his noises stopped it.
Many times I thought to myself. This is what we live for. Travel. Love. Experiences. I’m so very grateful.
Mexican potluck with wonderful friends (who are all wonderful cooks too!). Tea for the cooler temperatures. Green food, juices & smoothies. Timberland boots at a great sale price & the cutest Kalahari wood salt spoon from South Africa. Cute cafes and yummy breakfasts. Even cuter cafe dogs to befriend. The beautiful colours of a bakery. Creating nutritious meals. Mother’s Day flowers & family time. The quaint airport in remote South Africa on our way to safari. Meeting pretty blog friend P for the first time. Grey skies and greenery, my favourite.
A friend who stood hugging me in the street for the longest time after I faced an unexpected reminder of January’s event. So many medical appointments but feeling like we’re getting somewhere. My mum and stepdad rearranging their days to help me when I was sick. Sleeping with the windows open. Fresh, cool mornings. Caught in a rain shower and realising the unrestrained giggle I heard was mine. Lying in bed with one leg touching my husband’s and the other hanging over the bed to touch my dog. A d&m with a gorgeous girlfriend. Hearing Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat Pray Love speak on her Australian tour. Roast potatoes. Friends falling pregnant after a really long battle. Mother-Daughter double date with J&T whom we’ve known for 28 years. Sitting on the grass, giggling with my mum, husband and grandparents. Making my mum laugh with my impersonations of animals. Watching the new season of River Cottage Australia. Family meals. Flattering words from an elegant lady. Going to lie down for a few minutes and falling into the most satisfying, deep afternoon nap. Reading the whole series of The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency set in Botswana. The National Geographic documentaries on Zambezi River. This funny animation of wildebeest and crocodiles. Waiting outside the library with other strangers and wondering about everyone’s story or purpose to be there researching. Even in the sadness of recent cancer diagnosis in my family, being grateful that they have had such a long, healthy run to date. Helping my mum with jobs related to these loved ones and knowing how much she appreciates it. Admiring the carer that my mum is. Digging holes & lifting rocks in my mum & stepdad’s backyard & lying in the sun with tired muscles afterwards. Staying at their house & watching the morning fog in the valley. An awesome new hairdresser that I want to kidnap! Juice dates with a gorgeous girlfriend. My husband looking so handsome and cuddly in his street sneakers, jeans and a dark jumper. Sharing our commitment to goals. The satisfaction of ticking things off a list that moves us closer to them. Getting annoying errands done, done, done! Pulling out my cosy, comfortable and classic woollen Uniqlo jumpers I bought in London last October.
Oh Erinvale Estate.
I fell in love with this place hard and fast. As we arrived through an avenue of autumn-speckled trees and the Cape Dutch architecture was unveiled, my husband and I immediately started seeing imagery. As we only took one camera on this trip, we were practically pacing, waiting for the other to finish… ooh ooh, can I have the camera again?!. We laughed at our enthusiasm. We were just so enraptured with the visual beauty around us. With beautiful manicured and tranquil gardens, friendly staff, and an adorable thatched-roof attic overlooking the courtyard and trees, (and a beautiful email from my mum), I was a very happy girl. After roaming the grounds we settled into our cosy room for a relaxed night of munching on snacks. Those nights where we settle in to relish a gorgeous hotel room are just precious too.
While I don’t drink wine, I still love visiting wineries for the scenery, gardens, vines, architecture, animals, good food, photography and slow walks. I had one on my must-do list for South Africa – Babylonstoren. It certainly pleased me, my husband and his parents with its Cape Dutch architecture, expansive kitchen garden, farm shop and garden cafe under oak trees. A beautiful afternoon of fresh food from the garden and leaving our footprints on the orange-tinted African soil.
The historic centre of this wealthy university town envelopes you in a charming village of cafes, boutique stores and art galleries. The streets are framed by oak trees dating back to 1760, climbing greenery and an array of architectural beauties that are declared historical monuments. To add to the feel of history of this European-influenced town (and hazards for a vision-impaired wanderer!), open stone drains run down the streets, setting off a meander of autumn leaves on the first wave of clear water. The enjoyment of alfresco dining is evident by the constant presence of well-dressed locals spread across the pathway, including the occasional handsome dog to complete the image. Artisan bread, handmade chocolates and South African coffee fill the nose and taste buds. African wooden homewares and ornaments, hand spun yarn throws and paintings tempt the souvenir or gift seeker. We wandered to De Volkskombuis for traditional South African fare served on white tablecloths, with soothing music playing and copper cooking ware hanging from the walls. Our home for the two nights Coopmanhuijs Hotel, built in 1713, was nestled in the middle of this beautiful area. It was a delight all of its own and a welcome retreat when my eyes needed rest from the bright sun. Our room looked over the pool and outdoor breakfast area – the wooden door pictured with the greenery wrapping our verandah was a favourite sight for me. What a delight.
A family holiday – this destination with my husband, sister-in-law, her husband and my parents-in-law. The first day that lived up to its Windy City reputation followed by warm, comfortable days. My hair blowing in the wind. Varied and colourful architecture. A rich, turbulent history, huge steps forward, and today’s hope. Wealth and poverty as neighbours. So much barbed wire. Striking hills dropping down to white sands and clear blue waters. Lawhill Apartments with beautiful views and conveniently located next to the V & A Waterfront. 6 of us in one apartment and 1 bathroom per couple – yay! Sitting on our high verandah to watch the sunrise. Relaxing in the lounge room chatting. V & A Market where we had delicious Origin coffee and biltong from Stokkiesdraai. Drinking baobab, hemp seed and moranica leaf in drinks from Dr Juice. Delicious butternut and naartjie (citrus) soup at Karibu Restaurant. Breakfast with my father-in-law’s cousin. Dinner with very dear family friends at Balducci’s. The clusters of trees with only branches up high. On top of Table Mountain, cheering on athlete AJ Calitz as he set a new Guinness World Record. The phenomenon of clouds being sucked down over Table Mountain like a tablecloth. Seeing the face of the lion depicted in the rocks of Lion’s Head. The coastal beauty of Clifton’s Beach and Chapman’s Peak. Delicious locally caught seafood from Mariner’s Wharf in Hout Bay. A private joke between the waiter and I that made us both laugh freely. The horse-country pocket in Noordhoek. Sunset drinks and a walk with family friends on Milnerton Beach. Watching dogs on the beach – always.
* Photo of me looking to the sea by my husband.
Friends, we have been travelling again.
I’ve drunk rooibos tea before, but it is now firmly entrenched in my sentimental sensory memory bank as South Africa – being woken by drums reaching through the darkest bush and into my toes that danced happily; a hot teapot delivered to our tent with a wide smile and a shy greeting; the sun rising as I sipped my tea and watched the silhouette of trees come into my vision; the vervet monkeys stirring in the trees above us and making me giggle; the first safari drive of the day about to begin so that we may watch more beautiful wild animals in awe. It feels like we were away for months. It was the most luscious freezing of time, our only indicators being the drums and sunlight. I’ve seen, smelt and felt more than I could have wished for.
I feel so very rich in love, lessons and life. To have such triggers to the moments that have shaped me. Now I will drink rooibos tea and be transported right back there to that tent, my mind sinking blissfully into the simplicity, my eyes glazed over in the greenery and my body feeling the breezes and movement of wildlife.
More to share with you of our safari and other South African adventures soon.
*Photo by my husband. Me wearing our group safari shirt, drinking rooibos tea outside our tent at sunrise.