Behind The Wall

The well seasoned walls of Galle Fort wrap around 52 hectares of Sri Lankan community, unique in historical context and cultural diversity. The walls encase a place of intense atmosphere and architectural beauty, and one that features high on my list of all time favourites …

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, this citadel, built by the Portuguese in the 16th Century, was later taken by the Dutch, Sinhalese and British – all of whom have left reflections in the corners and alleys of the quaint cobbled streets.

The combination of history, multiculturalism and everyday life, underlined by beautiful ocean is perhaps what I am drawn to.

Clearly, I am not unique as this is Sri Lanka’s most popular tourist destination.

During the week the pulse of fort life beats to the rhythm of daily routine as residents and relocated expats get on with their lives,

joined by the constant trail of tourists flowing through the gates,

seeking out a night or two of exploration and sapphire shopping before heading into the hill country,

in search of elephants, to tramp through tea plantations or ride the Ella Train or perhaps head South East on a surf quest.

As the weekend approaches the gates are flooded.

School tours, weddings, Instagram opportunists, more tourists, travelers, local cricket squads, masseuses, photographers, missionaries and ministries;

Buddhists and Ayurveda healers,

antique dealers and food critiques,

fashionistas and street performers-

all seeking to administer their gifts and enjoy the vibe.

Incense curls around the call to pray from the Meera Mosque and the sound of the Groot Kerk organ, orange clad monks at the Buddhist Temple and hymns of worship peeling out of All Saints testify to the tolerance and diversity embodied here.

This is a place, unconventional in its sharing, where families have lived, traded and worshiped for many years and now in one form or another, benefit from the fiscal flow of tourism – a sharing that has lead to reward.

And as life goes on in this village in a fort, its wall seem to harbor a containment,

drawing you in whilst collaborating with a deep welcome that requests one to relax, enjoy and explore.

Celebrating fabulous historic locations and the beauty of travel – Spring 2017

Gone Tribal……

Mark Twain wrote:

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

People need to travel – for the sake of those they share their space with,

because it opens up our world,

and helps build confidence,

enriching our interpersonal relationships through shared experiences.

For the record, these bags contained all personal items, school books and musical instruments for an extended stay. Still tough for Eric though who always travels with carry-on only no matter the distance – to be fair to ourselves we did follow suite when we traveled from the Middle East to Sri-Lanka – showing huge restraint, mind you!

My personal preference, when it comes to exploring the planet has always been to plant a few roots, rather than take a 7 in 7 style tour…..Sharing a space in the village provides a hands on experience that I believe cannot happen on a ‘back-pack/fly-by’.

Whether attending junior high in Texas, packing fish in Iceland, counselling kids in the Catskill’s, serving cocktails on the Greek Isles or playing ‘house’ along the shores of East Africa, my travel experiences have helped mold me.

And now back ‘on the road’ my style – I am immersed in yet another set of cultures, different from my own – and far from the place I call home.

It has been an amazing experience to travel again and share the experience of travel with my kids and through it I have watched them grow in many positive ways, as they have had to cope with saying goodbye and saying hello – dealt with international arrivals and departures, overnight flights, odd looking cuisine, the fluidity of expat culture and very different currencies, cultural beliefs and rituals..and they are, I believe, open-minded, nonprejudicial and are certainly not bigots –

But don’t for a moment be fooled into believing that it is all happy, fun, glam filled days of games, travel-play, sight seeing and smooth sailing…

Packing up and saying goodbye to those you love and the space you consider home is no easy task.

And while I am grateful each and every day (although deeply heart-sore that the situation exists) that we are not being forced into traveling on foot with whatever we can manage to carry on our backs – as ours is a privileged and protected experience – it still has aspects of physical but mostly emotional rigor and it takes courage to walk into a new environment with your happy-face on, your head held high and your hand outstretched – and if you don’t, the result is real loneliness…

So there are plenty of positives that result from experiencing beautiful, interesting and different places, and tapping into the tantalizing taste of something new, along with the momentary escape from one’s current reality: and who doesn’t need a piece of that every once in awhile??

But there is perhaps the biggest positive of all…

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and that is the deep appreciation of what you have left behind – which perhaps is only realized through distancing oneself for a while,

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and the joy felt when you return to your people, whoever they might be..and realize that you, too, have a tribe……

October 2016: Celebrating the rigor of travel and the love of home.

Waves and Wonder

Packing up the books and heading out on an adventure is an integral part of our mission to ‘un-school’ our girls.

Serving a dual purpose, these escapades provide us with time out from the daily grind and feed our ‘experience bank’…..

Inevitably, we head for waves… ..Time constraints demand a certain amount of planning, but we try keep this to a minimal,

choosing rather to embrace the turns and twists along the path as the discovery process unfolds around us….

Travel of course is an educational experience in itself, opening the mind to different  ‘ways of being’ while providing clearer insight and understanding of ‘other’.

Keeping things simple enriches this process; opening doors to spaces and experiences that one might miss out on in a resort like setting with all the standard amenities…..

Sri Lanka contrasts starkly against our current island of residence.

Colorful saris, around free flowing, fleshy mid-drifts, replace deeply modest, monotone abayas. Lush green jungle replace desert dust – creeping along, covering everything in its path.

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Sinhalese and spice curl off local tongues and roll into the thick , moist air……opulent in sensory offerings.

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It took a moment to adjust to the chaos of the traffic on this teardrop Island.

Brightly painted buses tear along winding coastal roads, dicing tuk-tuks and scooters laden with surfboards and driven by inked youths living ‘travel-freedom’ like only twenty-something year old’s can….

Large, wild water monitors lurk in garden crevices under pungent, dripping orchids and the daily bread van drags one from an afternoon’s shaded siesta with its blaringly inappropriate rendition of  – ‘Santa is Coming To Town’, offering tantalizing delights – spicy and sweet.

The Sri Lanka we experienced also came with regular power cuts, water shortages and at times, exposed sewers underlined by a limited if not defunct refuse collection system. But at every turn the forgiving jungle creeps along, covering up…..

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We made our way past rice paddies and water buffalo,

Buddhist temples and tea-plantations.

We explored ancient forts with cobble-stone streets where historic communities continue to honour the practices of their past behind decorative doors.

Lace makers, snake charmers and sun worshipers, cinnamon farmers and fisherman. Easy traveling with friendly, welcoming people,

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and at every turn,

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the jungle….the ocean….the jungle….the ocean….the jungle.

1st Quarter 2016 – Celebrating Family Travel Adventure and the Tropical Island of Sri Lanka, its Ocean, its Jungle like setting and its friendly people.

 

 

The Scene

Langebaan was once a sleepy fishing village resting in a protected part of the extensive Langebaan Lagoon on the West Coast of South Africa. This is a part of our coastline that has a distinct Mediterranean feel.

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Fynbos creeps towards the water and cottages along the beach cling to their old-world charm, family treasures – handed down from one generation to the next.

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The once quiet village has now grown into a popular holiday location for Capetonians  and the traditional ‘fishing village’ part of town has been contained behind quaint shale walls which in return are surrounded by holiday mansions and golf developments. Langebaan also has wind and has become a destination for international travelers to South Africa in search of kitesurfing skills – drawn to the weather conditions, gorgeous landscape and our ever weakening currency.

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While no longer a village, Langebaan still alludes to a quiet demeanor when the weather is calm…. but when the wind blows, the tempo rises a notch or two…

IMG_3512and the kite surfers come out to play.

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This happens pretty much every day…during the windy season.

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To catch Shark Bay looking like this you need to hit it early because by 15 knots around Noon this kite crèche is filled with white horses and beginners.

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But even Shark Bay at its busiest cannot compare to ‘The Scene’ going on at Main Beach!IMG_3425

With the wind come the vehicles loaded with students and gear from every kitesurfing school in the area, and with the students come the instructors with their foreign accents and mouth pieces. They strut militantly along the waters edge, in a stressful fashion yelling instructions to their students,

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who try desperately to listen, remain untangled and out of the rip, while fighting ‘the fear’. In addition there is the added accessory of the ‘dedicated boat guy’ ready and waiting to come to your rescue – for a fee of course which is definitely not calculated in South African Rands… IMG_3442

And all of this is on a quiet day. Over one hundred kites are said to be in the air at any given moment over season’s peak.

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And when you are done for the day you simply retire to one of the restaurants that line the shore, or better yet, settle in at a trendy singles-style Flash Packer Venue and hang around the pool with gorgeous internationals lounging on colourful, giant bean bags in tiny swim wear..Langebaan is an experience worth checking out…

But while That Scene continues,

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we head on home to Our Scene, along a wilder part of the coast line,

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where you find cows on the beach instead of fancy vehicles and smart restaurants.

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And there is no boat rescue crew in sight.

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Where the Papa is the instructor, and the lagoon small, but uncrowded,

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and the mood…….well it’s simply chillaxed.

Celebrating Sleepy Chintsa, its Uncrowded Scene and kite lessons for the girls. Late 2014 / Early 2015

 

The Road To Pomene

For Pomene you travel North along the coastal highway of Mozambique and over the Tropic of Capricorn. A right turn takes you onto the Red Road that leads towards the Pomene National Reserve.

The lodge rests on the other side,  liberally spread across a sand spit at the mouth of the Pomene Estuary: on one side the lagoon and on the other, the sea.

We were introduced to Pomene by a South African Champion Angler. An amazing woman who can cast a penn reel into a swirl of ocean with such elegance that one may be forgiven for thinking that she is using a fly rod.

Just before the lodge one passes through the hamlet of Pomene City which provides freshly baked, warm and smoky bread rolls, cold beer, onions, tomatoes, fish and a curio or two.

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Oh yes – and coconuts. Always coconuts.

If the sea has been rough the lodge’s culinary offerings are in line with those of the little village, minus the fish, although fresh crab seems to be fairly consistent.

This is a remote destination,

of excessive beauty.

Flamingoes abound and dugongs are said to live in the estuary waters along with a variety of other birdlife living off the offerings of the mangroves and the critters that take shelter in their shadows.

We didn’t see any dugongs but then the wind was blowing so we were a little distracted,

launching on the low tide next to our water chalet, while our ‘kiting orphans’ looked on.

And when the wind switched direction we headed to the ocean side,

in search of waves…

and rock pools,

while taking time out to explore the abandoned Portuguese hotel laying in ruins on the hill,

now occupied by a wonderer who has taken up residence in a room with a view:

Nothing to disturb him except the odd tourist, turtle, egret or fisherman.

This is a place one longs to return to,

and once there,

never leave.

Celebrating our return to Pomene: Mid 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MonkeyintheHouse!

When I was a kid I went to school in Texas for a year. On my first day while grappling with my locker a sweet boy stopped to help. My strange accent drew attention to my nationality and was followed with the stereotypical question that I was to hear over and over again that year: “Do y’all have lion in your yard?”

Now years later and settled into domestic bliss in the sleepy coastal village of Chintsa East, I can confirm that as a rule there are still no lion in the back-yards of South Africa, even out here in the sticks. But there are other forms of wild-life, in particular – monkeys.

Monkeys that cause constant mischief, sneaking in through open windows, setting off house alarms, stealing fruit or bread that isn’t packed away, and making a general  nuisance of themselves leaving behind a trail of monkey mess.

Managing to get in at times they have trashed the kitchen, breaking glass bottles and ripping open bags of pasta and flour. In their panic to escape they have smashed through glass window panes – like in the movies!

They are not shy these Chintsa monkeys. They know our weakness’ and smell our fear. Soon after my first baby girl was born my brave hubby had a stand-off in the kitchen with an alpha male – both of them in their birthday suits, one of them a lot bigger and wielding a broom – a scary sight indeed. The monkey was far less impressed than I.

As painful as they can be, we still love having them around. Hours are spent watching as they frolic in the garden and lounge around on our stoep, and their presence helps us feel like we still live in the wild. The troops are deeply territorial and they were here first. Having invaded their space, sharing it is the very least we can do. And in the spring the babies come. Ohh the beautiful little babies…….making up for the sins of their parents.

Read more about vervet monkeys here:

Spring in Chintsa East, South Africa 2012

Go Fish! Mozambique Calling…

While swimming in pools of water left behind by the backing tide at Pomene –  Mozambique, we noticed large patches of darkness contrasted against the crystal clear water. Thinking these were a type of sea-weed we ventured closer and as we did so the patches moved on – millions and billions of tiny fish. Not long after, a little white box vessel came along crewed by three Mozambique fishermen, on the hunt. Further along the beach later in the day, amid the  pansy shells and coral stones we noticed large areas of sand marked off with sticks and small glass Coke-a-Cola bottles. On the sand lay millions of tiny fish drying in the sun, bringing to mind mopani worms and other tiny packets of protein that sustain people all over Africa and the world.

It is starting to feel like time for a bit more Mozambique….

Pomene, Mozambique July 2011