Cinnamon Island

Half way between Galle and Welligama along the southern coast of Sri Lanka lies a lake of islands.

On an afternoon of small swell and easterly winds sweet Kalana took a break from his Nokia and loaded us into his beloved tuk- tuk to brave the coastal highway traffic.

Passing colonial ruins, fishermen on poles, coconut groves and surf spots,

we arrive to a boatman waiting along the bank, in hope of trade. We provided him with his afternoon’s income and he provided us with a gentle ride across the expanse of water, past Temple Island, Spice Island and Bird Island,

to the docking point at Cinnamon Island.

If the mood takes, a fish pedicure is on offer at a makeshift cleaning station on a  raft floating at the waters edge. Declining we head up a clove- tree lined path to the shelter at the top, where the Island Keeper and his family live.

The welcome is hospitable and seating provided under the shelter of the homestead stoep with Cinnamon tea served as we await the demonstration. The Cinnamon Man’s smile is shy but firmly consensual when I ask if I may take pictures.

With the confidence of a showman that contradicts his shy demeanor he assures me that this is no problem. His photo has traveled far and wide…

I have no doubt it has…. tourists flow steadily through this lovely space over the seasonal months.

It is easy to understand why. The tea is delicious and the atmosphere  gently hypnotic.


Calmly we watch as The Cinnamon Man works his tools to remove one curled layer of cinnamon bark from a branch – to be dried in the sun.His wife smashes and sieves dried cinnamon out in front of us, leaving swirls of pungent and exotic aromas floating in the air, which we carry away with us as we head back down the path to the waters edge…….


First Quarter, 2016 – Celebrating the Spices of Life… Lanka Style!


The Making of Watermen


Close on five years ago the Unstressed Surf School was formed. It was named after a young surfer who died in a car crash. He went by the name of ‘Unstressed Erik’. No matter the conditions, according to Erik the surf was always on and the waves ‘cooking’. This positive energy was the grounding of the Unstressed and continues even today.


The Unstressed Surf School is a youth development programme. It has many agendas as these types of programmes do. It is also one of a number in our area attempting to address issues around inequality, health, poverty, education and living conditions, all of which add value.


But this one has stolen my heart.


Perhaps it is the innocence of the kids that holds me captive –

their energy and continual resilience despite circumstance. These kids have never known the bright sparkle of a chlorinated swimming pool nor had access to water wings, pool parties and the season’s latest swim wear.

Perhaps it is the joy of watching the teaching process kick in as splashes, kickers and sinkers become swimmers, paddlers and surfers.


Or perhaps my attachment is grounded in my personal fears and desperate hope for the future of our area and country,

and my belief that cross-cultural engagement is fundamental to the healing process and that sport has no borders.

Certainly all of these ideals play a role but at the end of the day,

another agenda is met, one that allows me to spend hours on end in a beautiful place,

with fabulous, energized kids, doing cool stuff relating to the ocean.

And I get to watch as these kids grow into fine, strong watermen.

 Celebrating the Success of the Unstressed – Dec 2014 /Jan 2015

Current Unstressed Update:  Over the summer the Unstressed Seniors spent time on Chintsa Beach under the supervision of Marc Fennell: Surf Photographer, Instructor, Life Guard Trainer and Superb Waterman. They assisted the Wild Coast Life-guards as a means of introducing these young men to Life-guarding as a potential career. They trained hard, learnt how to use surf ski’s, knee boards and other life-guard equipment and grew in stamina and confidence. This year we plan to continue with this and assist them as they start working towards obtaining their SPA’s (Surf Proficiency Award) – This will allow them to pursue careers related to water safety and training.  















Romeo and Juliet

My friend Leigh says our funny old house is like one big bird hide…surrounded by bush and river we have an abundance of indigenous birdlife. So imagine our surprise when a bit over a year back a pair of peacocks came prancing down our garden path.

South Africa is not peacock territory although these creatures have graced our fair land since the way back when’s – brought over from India at some point, no doubt to decorate the lawns of early Cape Town’s ‘well-to-do’.

Now they are listed as an ‘exotic nuisance species’ and apparently have been known to eat the eggs of sea birds. Certainly they are not fussy eaters and gobbled up everything from lentils to cat-food pellets, including my ‘nice’ muesli, all depending on what the girls could get their hands into first when ever the two arrived for a snack.

According to my Bird Book, peacocks in South Africa are widely domesticated with the exception of a few who have broken away and are found living the wild life in small pockets of the Eastern and Western Cape!

We were deeply excited. Perhaps here before our very eyes was the beginnings of a flock of wild peacocks on the make…..

And so we waited for the flock to arrive… through autumn, through winter and with much anticipation….through spring. The two would come and go but surely spring would bring babies? But when summer arrived and past we could only assume that any eggs that might have been laid had long been turned into monkey breakfasts and there would be no further generations to follow…

until one blissful autumn morning as I stepped out onto the stoep with my morning cup of tea I watched Juliet arrive out of the undergrowth with three baba-chicks in tow ready for their ‘first viewing’  -displaying them proudly across the jungle gym.

 Oh the joy!  For the next six weeks we spent most of our time feeding and counting peachicks…

The littlest, the most adventurous of the crew, was always a nerve-wrecking few steps behind or wandering off in another direction,

causing us multiple heart palpitations as we would wait for the threesome to dutifully line up for counting at each break of day – allowing us to go about our business at peace, knowing that all was well in peacock world.

And then one day they where gone. Heartbreaking but true. We mourned over our loss having anticipated watching them grow into the beautiful beasties that they are…proud invaders of the local bush, harassers of  monkeys and rulers of stray village pigs…but it was not to be.

During this time a cottage had been built behind us and with our new neighbours came  their Labrador pup – a chaser of anything that moves as lab pups are. More than once we watched feathers fly as the fowl family sashayed unsuspectingly into the pup’s range. But with each advance the birds simply moved up – because although flight distance doesn’t seem to be a strength peacocks seem to have no issue gaining height. We held little hope for the long term though and assumed that if they had survived the last assault they had now taken flight to safer grounds.

Fortunately the village rumour mill finally kicked in and all was revealed from Claire, who heard it from Sarah who heard it from…

Turns out that this beautiful couple had been earmarked for the palacial lawns of a local Guest House by the Grand Dame in residence. Funny enough the cultivated lawns and mock-rock didn’t appeal as much as the bushy surrounds of the river shack down at the back-side of the village, an area lacking in cultivation but rich in character. The distressed owner, it is said, went to great lengths to keep her new garden guests on her lawns, holding one captive for a spell in order to persuade the other to stay – but these two chose freedom. She did however come back to claim the young. And although we would have preferred that they stuck around our side, we rest easier knowing that they are still alive.

Romeo and Juliet are not around at the moment but their screeching can still be heard on occasion in the distance. Hopefully they followed the chicks home and are now all together, living it up at The Palace.

And now we wait, in anticipation…for  spring, summer, autumn……

Celebrating Bird Life -Indigenous and Exotic Nuisance.  Chintsa Autumn 2014

Cold Hands and Warm Hearts


Each year the children of Chintsa gather together to celebrate the Winter Solstice.

Local teachers help little hands to craft colourful lanterns and these are lit as the moon begins to rise.

Together, lanterns as a guide – they walk around the park together singing into the starry sky.


A simple celebration led by soulful folk with warm hearts.


An experience lacking in hype but running deep in richness and meaning.

A celebration of simple blessings – the passing of time, candle light, children’s voices, crisp winter air….

and togetherness.

Celebrating Chilly Winter Nights and Children together Under an African Sky. Chintsa: June 2014


Fish Tales II

As the fishermen of Tofo Beach head out to sea in their wooden boats, just around the corner at firing Tofino Point,  the swell is small on this winter morning and the sea calm – perfect for the youngsters to venture out at this legendary spot for the first time. While they do that, three local fishermen appear on the beach. They too are keen to take advantage of the low tide and gentle conditions.

From my perch on the hillside I watch as they strategize and arrange their net.

Heading out onto the rocks they slip into the water with confidence and ease.

The lead pulls the net around the selected area,

while the ‘fish flapper’ swims, slapping the water with his arms and legs in an attempt to get the fish into a confused tis which will hopefully result in their capture.

Once the slapping and flapping is done the net is dragged ashore.

Slippery, silvery fish – shimmering in the net,

from which they are gathered and bagged for the trip back up the beach towards The Market.

Celebrating more of the Magic of Mozambique – Winter 2013


A surprising gust of winter wind had me hauling the kites onto the beach in late June. It had been a while. The summer east winds transform into calming westerlies over the winter months, soothing the sea – great for surfing but useless for kiteboarding. Gear, usually dumped by the door ready to be grabbed at pace gets folded and packed away for a while.

Having not flown for sometime, these surprise re-entries into the sport can be a tad disconcerting and I have to remind myself what to do….I find that the rituals of the set up process help me manage my adrenalin. I don’t like to rush – launching a 9 square power kite in 20 knots of wind, only to find that your safety line isn’t connected can distract from the fun.

My hardcore wingmen find my pace a bit tiresome at times, but they cope;) Being the only girl on the water seems to have created an obligation on their part to ‘keep an eye’, further entrenched by their ongoing need to have rescued either myself or my gear at times during various learning curves. I guess letting me drown just wouldn’t do really… bless them.

A winter kiting session wakes up your stomach muscles. For days after I cringe in pain every time I get a ‘mommy hug’ around the middle.  All worth it.

Wind was never my favourite thing. I have enough noise in my head without the additional distraction. But over the last few years my view has changed….An afternoon of 16-25 knots of steady east is fantastic and because we are not endowed with the regularity of the monsoons, when it does blow all else is put aside because there is no guarantee when it will blow again, no matter what promises…. Kiters completely get this.

Eric taught me to fly. He has given me some cool gifts in our time, but this one is ‘The Bomb’. Hours and hours of commitment and sacrifice. It takes a strong man to drag his wife around by the scruff of her harness along a lagoon bank, tolerating her stream of fear-induced verbal abuse for an extensive period of time while his buds are in the ocean kiting giants along the backline….but them he is one of the best.

Eric Kitesurfing

I am by no means a good kiter but am gradually becoming more competent, braving the water, even when Eric is away- although I do get major support from my backup wing-man also known as ‘High’ 😉 which I do appreciate!

Nowadays when I crash the kite and get dragged back to shore by size swell, gasping for air each time I get hammered by another set pushing me through the impact zone, Eric stands on the beach with his hands in the air and a ‘what are you doing ???’ look on his face – as opposed to rushing into the water to rescue me like before – I have chosen to understand this as progress…I think?!

I am deeply grateful to Eric for taking the time and having the patience to teach me. It has enriched my 40’s immensely in many ways – but it is a shared gift.

He no longer has a wife, waiting at home, frustrated at his long kiting absences, and what to get me for my next birthday? Seriously – no issues there either….

Thanks Baby!

Celebrating Winter Kiting Sessions and Special Gifts – Chintsa June 2013

The School Life of an Angel

“This is a school that is all about the kids”,says Lou, my Aussie friend who started African Angels after getting ‘lost’ in our little village while backpacking around the world in her early 30’s.

African Angels has just held its second Open Day and the school and students are shining like the brightest stars!

Nutritious porridge fills hungry tummies each morning on arrival,

and learning takes place in warm, bright and organised surrounds.

It is not an easy task, building and administrating a school from scratch, but the support roles in thick and strong. Local businesses, South African and International donors and volunteers from all over the world who operate through African Heartland Journey’s Volunteer Africa programme   in conjunction with local NPO, Friends of Chintsa, give, build, paint, dig, and at times teach – helping to grow the school along with the kids.

And the results are well worth the sweat and tears!

“There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.”   –   Nelson Mandela

I have no doubt that Tata Madiba would approve of Angels School.

Congratulations Lou and your amazing team.

Celebrating The Second Open Day of African Angels Independent School. Chintsa, June 2013

Rich Kids

Warm up run

Steady rain throughout the Easter Weekend,challenged those of us spoilt by the amazing autumn weather that we have been having this year.

All over it!

However when one lives amid the poverty of an informal settlement like many of the kids of The Unstressed Surf School this level of rain can result in general unpleasantness, disorder and chaos.


But then yesterday, the last saturday of the Easter holidays, broke out balmy and bright –

The full wrap

a perfect autumn morning on Chintsa Beach.


Ready for a bit of sunshine  and with still wind and small waves the conditions were just right for a boat ride and perhaps a dolphin sighting or two.

Warm up yoga with Ash

THis isn’t the first time that the kids have been taken out on the boat and they are starting to become familiar with the wrap as their exposure to the sea and its vessels expands.

Girl TeamWhile teams of three went for a cruise,

Big Jump

others took to the surf,

Wave hunting

rounding off the morning,

Girls Back

with a spat of beach touch rudgy in true South African style.

Beach Touch

As Mike of AHJ, Surf School project co-ordinator and leader said to me this morning while reflecting on yesterday’s session – ‘It was a rich day for kids’. And indeed it was. It is good to be reminded that wealth comes in many disguises.

Celebrating Wealth – Easter Holidays in Chintsa April 2013

Baby Angels Earn Their Wings

Back in March this year I wrote a post about my Aussie friend Lou who relocated to South Africa and along with her teaching team has started A School for Angels.

A year of toil, fun, laughter and tears has come to an end resulting in the first class of Angels of African Angels Independent School ‘gaining their wings’.

The setting was heavenly – a beautiful summer’s eve in the African country side. The old farm barn provided a perfect venue for the ceremony and the event was accompanied by a family of Starlings nesting above, adding a dramatic and vocal touch to the stable theme and nativity scene.

Proud mothers danced with delight at the achievements of their kiddo’s as each and every child received recognition for their individual talents.

Joy came to visit –

accompanied by Hope and supported by Peace.

There was no better place to be that night, confirmed by our bursting hearts and joy-felt tears, cheering on the Angels as they gained their wings.


Chintsa – South Africa. Year-end 2012. Celebrating a Year of Wonderful Education at the School for Angels.