I’ve been doing a lot of soul searching since starting the Bucket List blog series. So instead of this blog post being about the top 10 places in the world I really still want to visit (which was the original aim), its going to be about my immediate future plans. Writing this series made me realise that there were a few things I wanted to do when I was married that I was really passionate about, and that I would still like to do. Going through all the photos and memories and my journal, reignited some smoldering fires that have clearly not gone out!
Two things spring to mind first and foremost. I wanted to go and save turtles in Costa Rica and I wanted to become a teacher. Saving turtles in Costa Rica was a ‘I need to find myself’ cry for help when the stresses and strains of being a mom and a wife and a go-between was all getting too much for me. But of course that idea didn’t sit well with anyone and volunteer work such as that, requires you as the volunteer to actually pay to do the work. But now, this is something I could potentially do.
The other thing I wanted to do was become a teacher. But changing careers and studying and then becoming a low paid teacher in South Africa was not really feasible either.
BUT NOW, the world is my oyster and so the plan is to do a TEFL course, learn Spanish and then go and teach English as a foreign language (hopefully in Costa Rica so that I can save some turtles too) but if not there, anywhere in South America.
And that dear readers, is my next quest. It probably means that I am not going to have too much new material for the next while as I settle down to studying on the weekends and save every last cent I have in order to fund my time away, but I do have a few holidays that I have not blogged about yet (Daniel in London and Amsterdam) and a few things on my mind that I wish to share … so don’t panic as the drought is not imminent. 🙂
This would be my first overseas road trip and what a trip it was! It had all the elements of a Thelma and Louise experience, except we didn’t kill anyone, including ourselves – oh ok, the only similarity was that it was two women in a top down convertible, going on a road trip to get away from it all.
The trip started in France – actually, no, the trip started in the UK. I sneakily booked my ticket to the UK so that I could spend a couple of nights with Dan (only did Dan this time, not London as well) and then headed off to Gatwick where I met Annabel. We flew to Toulouse and that is where all the fun started. First of all, even though we had been told that no-one speaks English in France, we didn’t really believe it, I mean after all, everyone speaks English right. Wrong! Not even the people at the airport. So there was an issue with the deposit for the car, and we also needed to hire a satnav and all of this contributed to it getting later and later, with the worry that we would arrive at our destination in the dark. Anyway, we finally get the car, and head out onto the freeway, but everything is on the wrong side of the road. Annabel is driving in what she thinks is the slow lane, but everyone is hooting at us and pulling the middle finger. It took us a while to realise that because everything was done in reverse, so too was the fast lane! We got hopelessly lost on our way there and had to stop at a farmhouse in the middle of nowhere to ask for directions – so mainly hand gestures were used. I cannot even remember how we actually managed to find the place, but we did, and as I recall it was dusk, so we made it just in time.
We spent a few lovely days in Mauvezin with my family, eating, swimming, drinking and generally just having a chilled time. Photos here under to prove it!
After 3 days we were on our way to Barcelona. We decided to take the scenic route over the Pyrenees which took us about 6 hours. We had every type of weather on that trip. One minute we had the top down of the car, the next we were being attacked by hail. There were cows in the road and at some points we couldn’t even see the weather was so bad. All on the wrong side of the road – nail biting stuff I tell ya! Anyway, we clearly lived to tell the tale as here we are.
We spent a week in Barcelona which was amazing, a must see city! We did the hop on, hop off bus tour which is a really good way to get around the city and get a feel for where everything is. We didn’t do this because we only did the bus a few days in, but a good idea would be to do the bus on the first day, don’t get off but get a feel for the areas and then use it to hop on, hop off when you know exactly where you want to go. From tanning naked on the beach, to exploring the food market, to the best wine tasting experience of my life, Barcelona was a blast! Colourful, exciting and busy. Here are some pics in no particular order.
All in all a fun and educational holiday experience. In keeping with what I want to take away from holidays it had all the elements I desire. Sun, sea, fun, good food, good drink, with a wee bit of culture in the mix!
It would be four years before my next overseas trip – which took place in April 2014. A lot had happened in those four years. I eventually got out of a very acrimonious relationship with ex-husband No. 2, we sold the house we had bought together and I bought my own little matchbox of a place. By this time I had my British Passport and one child out of school. But with two to go and trying to build myself up again to a place where I knew who I was, travelling was not first and foremost on my mind. Then I met Daniel and 14 months after we got together, he moved to the UK. His grandfather was dying (albeit slowly) and he wanted to be there to spend as much time as he could with his grandfather before he got too ill. And so Daniel left South Africa without an end date for returning and so the epic saga of our long distance relationship started.
At about the same time my mothers side of the family were planning a family holiday in France over June/July and because the sale of my house was about to come through I decided to join them. And then in the style that has clearly permeated all my previous holidays, my friend Annabel and I decided to join that holiday with a holiday to Spain. (But more about that in my next post).
Sometimes I do things spontaneously and because I knew I had the money from the sale of my house, and because I was missing the boyfriend so much, on a whim, I decided to go over in April too, over Easter, and do London with Daniel – or was it do Daniel in London?? I think it was both! 😉 It was the best spontaneous decision of my life. It came at a time when we really needed it. So within the space of two months I did another two trips in quick succession. I think that this was the start of the plan that was eventually going to lead me to where I am today. I really felt an affinity with London and knew very quickly, that I could move and live there. The more I think about it the more I think its because English blood runs through my veins. My mother was born in England and all her family before her for as many generations as our family history goes back, lived here so it stands to reason that I feel like I belong here. We have a family Bible that shows the family tree going back to my great, great great-grandfather so there is history here!
Daniel lived in Central London and for the purposes of my holiday that was great! For the purposes of having a life besides paying rent, it was not great, but that story is far too long to get into here. He lived in Marble Arch and was literally a minute’s walk from Hyde Park – that’s how central we were. Besides for 2 days when I went to the Cotswolds to visit Annabel we spent every single day out and about exploring London.
Four years went by before we travelled again in August 2010. We bought a house and carried on partying in the beautiful surrounds of Cape Town. However, when it became known that a trance festival was being organised on Mafia Island, just off the coast of Tanzania (so just around the corner really) our ears perked up. The party was organised months in advance and was so far along in the preparation – so far along that people we knew had been living on the island for a few months, building the set and the rig for the party. Tickets to the party were bought and tickets to the island were bought, leave from work was scheduled; we were amped and ready.
Then everything fell through. The party organisers could not get the correct permissions from the government despite trying every possible avenue – and the party was shut down. I can’t remember how close to the date of the party this all happened, but it was pretty close. So all of a sudden there was a crew of a couple of hundred people from Cape Town who had tickets to this party and to the island but no party to go to. The travel agent who was doing the bookings for all the party goers managed to change our bookings so that instead of going to Mafia Island we would go to Zanzibar. Over a couple of days she managed to book our accommodation on Zanzibar instead. And in hindsight, again, if we had just gone to Mafia Island (which is a tiny island where nothing much happens) all we would have seen was a tiny bit of a tiny island and a great big party.
In the end Zanzibar turned out to be more of a party than an actual party would have been I think. We spent our days on the beach, playing frisbee, drinking margaritas, chatting and laughing. I will never forget the time we were lying on the beach in our lounge chairs at around 11am and we ordered Margaritas from the waiter. A while later he came back with Margarita pizzas! I guess at 11 in the morning one should specify what kind of Margarita one wants! 😉 In the end we ate the Margaritas to line our stomachs and specified that the next few rounds needed to be drinks!
That holiday epitomised for me what a holiday should be. The Turkish holiday was amazing on so many levels but was also hard work. This holiday, first and foremost, was enjoyed with my closest friends in the world. The only grey part of it was that ex-husband No. 2 and I were already not seeing eye to eye on things and the excessive partying was not conducive to things moving along in a respectful and calm manner. We also lost our camera to the tides that holiday. We left all of our belongings on a sandbank that was completely dry and took a very short walk only to come back to see that the tide had turned and where once there was sand, were now waves. Everything was lost including all our photos. 😦 So all photos here courtesy of best friend Tania.
As mentioned in my Bazaruto Island post there is another diving story to tell and that happened on this trip. To be honest, I cannot rightly say why I thought it was a good idea to dive again but I guess it was because we were in Zanzibar, one of the most beautiful places in the world to dive. Remember I said that after not diving for a while one needs to do a refresher course. So we duly went about doing this. It entailed diving in the shallows – literally – we were on our stomachs and could feel the sand beneath, breathing underwater with our tanks for about 10 minutes and the dive master said that was refresher course training done.
I will never forget how nervous I was going out on the boat that day. I had not dived in five years and so was technically a severely nervous, neurotic novice. The day was grey and not really a good day for diving but I seem to recall it was the only day we could do it – it was probably the only day we were half sober enough to do it more than likely. Trying to remember the event is quite hazy – I think its because my brain has tried to block it out of my memory as it was pretty traumatic. Anyway, eventually our guide chose a place to anchor the boat. He said that we would need to go down and then swim towards the pretty part – again I’m not entirely sure why. So when we went down it was literally just sea and sand. There was nothing pretty to see at all. When you dive, you have to always have a buddy so that if anything goes wrong they can help you. I was buddied up with the dive master or maybe I chose to be with him because I didn’t want to slow anyone else up. Anyway, we went really far down, I want to say 18 m but maybe it wasn’t that far – however, if you looked up, you could not see the surface, that’s how far down we were. I started lagging behind and all of a sudden I was alone in the water. Everyone had swum ahead and I was all alone!! Thanks buddy! I was losing air so fast because I was hyperventilating and started panicking that I would run out of air all the way down there and then proceeded to have a full blown panic attack, the first and last one I’ve ever had!
So, I did the only thing I could think of and swam for the surface! Anyone who knows anything about diving knows that if you are so far down you cannot just swim to the surface as you get the benz because it doesn’t give your body enough time to acclimatise to the change in pressure. I knew this and I thought about this at the time but I didn’t care. My life literally flashed before my eyes. I saw my kids, I saw my life, all in quick snapshot motion. That was the only time in my life where I really did think that I might die. Scary stuff!!! That swim to the top felt like it took 5 minutes but was probably 30 seconds. When I emerged at the top I was pretty far from the boat and was in complete panic mode. Luckily the dive master was obviously not as far away from me as I thought as he came up quite quickly after me to find out how I was. So in hindsight I’m wondering if because we had not been down under for very long, that was what allowed us to surface so quickly with no ill effects. He helped me back to the boat and I spent the next hour in the boat, very cold and very traumatised lying in the fetal position waiting for the others to complete the dive.
Luckily the next day we went on a boat trip and we FINALLY snorkelled and it was amazing! I doubt very much that I will ever don a wet-suit and diving gear in my life again.
We went into Stone Town on one of the days which is a must do – again, to get a feel for the culture and people of the place you are visiting. Like most African cities, Stone Town is busy and vibrant and colourful and cheap. We hired a scooter to get around the town which was amazing and we picked up some awesome crafted wooden photo frames. (Because that was all we could fit in our suitcases). The craftsmanship there is second to none and very reasonably priced.
We did also spend a couple of nights on Mafia Island but like I said before, it’s a tiny little island with not much happening. But again, in the spirit of seeing as much as we could we were happy to be there. We also spent a night in the capital of Tanzania, Dar-es-Salaam. Not a good place to spend the night if you want to drink alcohol. There was none, anywhere! Not sure if things have changed since then but there was literally not a drop to be found, not even in the nice hotel we were staying at. We were not impressed!!!
If living in South Africa, Zanzibar is a relatively cheap holiday destination. Pretty much ALL the places to stay are right on the beach and you can get really good, cheap accommodation. You can see from the photos just how close we were to the beach – we were literally ON the beach and it didn’t cost us an arm and a leg.
The next adventure was overseas! And not long after the first time – in March/April 2006. As I said the bug had bit and we were amped. There were two factors to the next trip. Ex-husband No. 2’s mom lived in London and she had been wanting us to visit for a while, and, well, more importantly to us at the time, there was to be a full solar eclipse in Turkey. At the time we were avid trance heads, going to as many parties as we could with a small child and limited cash. But as most people know, if you have a passion for something, you generally make a plan. So when it became known that a trance festival was being held in Turkey for the solar eclipse we thought it the perfect opportunity to attend a massive SEVEN DAY festival, see the solar eclipse and see a bit of London. The plan evolved into taking our son with us, who was three at the time, dropping him off in London with his nana while we went and partied hard for seven days.
Unfortunately all the photos I have of that trip are actual photos and if there are digital copies, I don’t know where they are. Said actual photos being somewhere in a box in South Africa. So I will need to regale you, avid readers, through imagination and wit. And a little help from the video below.
We spent 4 days in London before leaving for Turkey and had an amazing time. That was my very first time in the UK and I was hooked the moment I arrived. It was late March and all the blossoms were out as were the daffodils and it was just so different to South Africa. I suddenly realised that I had an affinity with old buildings and architecture, something I didn’t realise before. We did all the touristy things you can do with a three year old. So it was the Natural History Museum where we saw the life-size, life-like dinosaurs – I will never forget Nic’s face when he saw the dinosaurs move. It was a boat ride on the Thames, it was Trafalgar Square to look at the pigeons. It was the Science Museum for a ride in the rocket shuttle and we even managed to go and see a play at the West End (Les Mis), which was obviously without the three old. We packed a lot into those few days but finally we were off on our festival holiday and we could not wait.
After a 3 hour flight and a bus ride, we arrived at the venue, where we had to complete the last leg of the journey in an open air truck – think woollen scarves and hats and frozen faces and smiles by the time we got there – it was late March in Europe after all, not that warm! Dawn was breaking when we were dropped off with our tents and backpacks and as romantic as that sounds you must remember that we had been doing trance parties for a fair amount of years now so sunrise was a time of day we were quite used to 😉 Dawn in Turkey looked exactly like dawn in Elgin or Grabouw or Stanford or Caledon. I felt like I had travelled 6 000 miles to a place that looked exactly like every other trance party I had ever gone to. It was a let down to say the least. I think it’s because the entire travel had been done in the dark so there was no sense of looking out of the plane onto foreign landscape; it literally felt like we had been transported back to a party in our backyard. Then, to make matters worse, about three hours after we arrived, and erected the tent and were just getting into the party vibe, the heavens opened and the entire party flooded, not just rain but hail the size of grapes nogal! (If you have three minutes to spare, please watch the first three minutes of this video which gives a graphic, blow by blow account of how bad this flash flood was). It was so bad that the main stage was completely destroyed and for the first four days of the party a smaller rig and set up was used while they fixed it.
See what I mean? As you can imagine, this did not put me in the best of spirits. The rest of the party remained muddy and no amount of party essentials could really completely take me away from the fact that I was living in a soggy tent, all my clothes were wet and I was going to be there for the next seven days. To top it off, the toilets were disgusting and the queues for everything were long.
The piece de resistance and what made the whole party was the amazing solar eclipse and to be there for that made the whole journey worth it. (Minutes 7 to 8 on the video although I don’t feel this video really captures the essence of what was such an amazing celestial happening). Some solar eclipses, even though they are full, can be very quick and can also occur towards the beginning or the end of the day when the light is not at its fullest anyway. This eclipse was at around 1 pm and the full eclipse lasted about 4 minutes with the entire process taking a couple of hours. The music was stopped when the eclipse took place and the birds started chirping as the ‘sun went down’. It was such an amazing experience and to be surrounded by thousands of like minded people was mind blowing. After the eclipse was over the music was mental – the whole South African crew that went to the party, all converged at the river for an afternoon of connection, love and light.
The eclipse was on day 2 of the seven day experience. I lasted 4 days and tried really hard to enjoy it and lose my mind but when the drugs stopped working (and I had had enough of the filthy toilets and the freezing cold nights) and started thinking about the fact that here I am in Turkey and I am not going to see anything except this forest, I told ex-husband No. 2 that if he didn’t get me out of there and into the City to see some sights, there would be huge issues. He must have been feeling the same way because soon we were on a bus to Antalya where we found a cheapish hotel which was all inclusive. I have NEVER been so happy to see a proper toilet in my life. And NEVER been so happy to have food in my belly. That experience had been harrowing. Thank god there is a solar eclipse experience as a reason to have done an international trance party because if there wasn’t I would feel very foolish to have made that journey just for a party.
We had three days left and we made the most of them. We hired a car and went to all sorts of ruins. We found a really cool cheap apartment and wondered around, going into shops and drinking apple tea with the proprietors. We went on a tour to a leather factory and a diamond factory and I swam in the Mediterranean. The memories are a bit hazy after 10 years but I know I felt relieved and grateful that we had managed to see a bit of the city we were so close to and so close to not actually seeing.
I feel very fortunate to have travelled as much as I have in the twelve years since I first travelled out of South Africa. While it might not seem like a lot to some, having a house, mortgage, kids and all the trappings that come with that i.e. school fees, home maintenance etc., I feel like I did rather well. While I was younger and raising my children, the thought of an overseas trip was incomprehensible. It wasn’t even on my radar as something I particularly wanted to do. Now, it’s first and foremost in my mind as to what trip and which country I want to see and do next. My next few posts are going to be about travel I have already done and then the finale will be my bucket list of where I still want to go.
My first trip out of South Africa was when I was already 32 years old in 2005. My youngest child was only 2 years old but ex-husband No. 2’s oldest friend was getting married on Bazaruto Island and it was important that we attend as he was one of the best men – Andrew couldn’t choose so he had three best men! Because the couple were dive instructors and diving was their passion, going to the wedding also meant getting PADI certified so we could go diving every day. Sounds like a holiday straight from heaven right? WRONG! First of all, the wedding was in May so we had to do the dive preparation in Cape Town in April. This entailed getting into freezing cold water Atlantic seaboard water in order to get the certification – there was no way around it. Hours and hours of this plus an exam had to be passed. This all with a very challenging 2 year old who never slept. Looking back if I had to do it all again I would have put my foot down and demanded that snorkeling was good enough for me. I did not take well to diving. The whole process just seemed like too much effort for something you could see anyway, with a snorkel.
Anyway, the week we spent there, bar the diving, was magical. And to be fair, on the one day we dived we got up close and personal with a whale shark which was just surreal and probably one of the most tranquil, otherworldly experiences of my life. It’s very rare to see one whilst diving so even I, with all my bitching and moaning about the diving, was suitably awe-inspired with that experience.
The resort we stayed at was right on the beach and every day we were there was luxurious, chilled and fun.
The wedding itself was also the most magical, amazing wedding I have ever attended. The best part was that everyone was barefoot! We partied hard into the night and I am sad to say that a whole day on the island was wasted the next day due to the most severest of hangovers. 😦
The wedding party was there for two weeks but we couldn’t afford to stay for that long because of money and also because we had 3 kids at home so we had to leave before everyone else, which was horrible. We did however, manage to spend a night on the mainland, in a little Mozambican village called Vilanculous. We stayed in a tiny rondavel (hut) for the night, covered in a mosquito net with a bucket to pee in because well, to get to the nearest toilet was a challenge at best. I’m not sure if it was the greatest idea to end our resort holiday like that but it was definitely the beginning of my travel bug and my realisation that to go to a resort for a holiday and not experience anything else of the culture of the country you are visiting, was not a good idea and a bit of a waste of money. Vilanculous showed us the real Mocambique with a taste of the real people. Very poor, very friendly and the cashew nuts could be bought for a steal!
Before Portugal I went back to Cape Town for 2 weeks to visit my boyfriend, family and friends. It was my first trip back since I left in July last year (except for that one hectic week when I went back for my dad’s funeral) so was looking forward to seeing everyone and catching up. So for starters, two weeks was not enough! You need one week to get settled, then another week to actually start enjoying yourself and get into the Cape Town vibe and then another week to be at one with it all. So next time, definitely three weeks or more! 🙂
I crammed so much into that time! First of all, the boyfriend had acquired a motorbike since the last time I was there and was very excited for me to ride with him. I, on the other hand was slightly nervous and had all sorts of scenarios flashing through my mind, not least of them was that I have no medical aid in South Africa anymore so if something happened …. Anyway, I bit the bullet and feel like I gave off a very unanxious vibe throughout the holiday. I’m sure the boyfriend would tell you otherwise. But seriously, by the end of the holiday I was not squeezing his midriff so tight he could hardly breath and was able to hold onto the handles on the side quite comfortably without feeling like I was going to fall off. And truth be told we did some amazing rides. On the one Saturday we did the entire Peninsula. Started in Glencairn, went up through the Navy barracks; I sat on a cannon. We found Just Nuisance’s grave and went for a long walk there – saw Simon’s Town from an angle I have never seen it from before which was actually amazing. You live in a place your whole life and you think you have seen everything so it’s uber cool when you discover something new! Then we went all the way around Cape Point and ended up at the 2’6 for a pint (half a pint for Dan as he was driving). Then we went back through Scarborough, down to the beach and then to the Jolly Skollie (Camel Rock Restaurant) for a bite to eat. That was the best bike day. We also went to Hout Bay which was the day we went the fastest we ever went (on the M3). 160kmph and weaving through the cars!!!!! Let’s just say that I preferred the sedate coastal drive. 😉
Other highlights of the holiday include:
Staying at Monkey Valley for 2 nights. I’ve spent a bit of time there and got married there once upon a time; yet I never get over its beauty. That view is just one of the best you will ever see in the world. It was extra special that I got to invite all my special peeps over for a braai on one of the nights. However, it was far too short and if we go again, 3 nights or more is a must (Dan, take note!).
My besties birthday – we drank champagne from morning until night non-stop and we didn’t even get drunk! Still not quite sure how that happened. Now that I think about it, Cathy was making the mixes in the beginning, hmmmmm, maybe the key was that not much champers was going into those first mixes. That would explain things!!! 😉 Anyway, whatever happened it worked, because it was just a fun, chilled, awesome day, hanging with good people and good vibes.
My get-together at the Glencairn Hotel – another fun-filled afternoon seeing people I haven’t seen in ages and managing to see family too (thank you for coming, you know who you are). (Did not take one picture there, silly me). However, afterwards went back for 2 nights at an absolutely stunning home in Glencairn courtesy of a friend who could not make it to my get-together as she was away. Thank you so much Adrian and OMG did the threesome have fun that night braaiing and played Heads Up. I want to choke with laughter every time I think about it.
The Farmhouse – watching Grassy Spark – one of our favourite SA bands! Going there was probably the most nostalgic I felt during my holiday. Have had such good times there and this time was no different. The vibe was excellent, and the bands all put on such a good show. The energy was top notch and I got to dance and jump and go mad with the sun on my face, my whole body energised. Then afterwards, a divine braai with friends, which ended late and resulted in hangovers but totally worth it!!
Family nights with the kids – we had so many fun nights playing board games, eating sushi and braaiing (and yes, I believe one night was sushi and braai – why not!). Nothing quite like having a braai, with your nearest and dearest, just chatting and catching up.
We even had a cultural evening and went to the theatre. Kalk Bay Theatre is a must do if visiting the Deep South. It is intimate and cosy (the complete opposite to most theatre experiences you would have in London). There is a restaurant at which you can eat beforehand with lovely (but not spoilt for choice) 3-course meals and of course as much tipple as you like. You can even take it in with you to watch the show. The show we went to see featured the gorgeous Liam McDermott (Khaya’s boyfriend) and because the audience really is so very small we took up a 10th of the entire audience so you can imagine how much clapping and cheering was coming from our section.
As suspected, I did not do everything I would have liked to do while there. I missed going up Lions Head – but my ex-colleague wanted to do the usual mission and go at 5:30am before work. I somehow could not get my head around doing that! I missed seeing some of my friends that while we are not close, I would have loved to have seen. I’m just grateful that I did get to spend time with my nearest and dearest.
Had some hilarious restaurant experiences where the service was just so awful you felt that surely there was a hidden camera somewhere playing a joke. On the whole though the food was amazing. We ate out a lot and ate a lot of calamari and seafood. Hands down though, the best food we ate was at the Chapmans Peak Hotel in Hout Bay. Baracuda’s in Fish Hoek was not bad either. And the waffles, egg and bacon with syrup at Fish Hoek beach was top notch.
I do not feel drawn to South Africa at this time. Especially after Portugal and the realisation that there is so much of this beautiful world to see. Yes, my kids are there but I’d rather see them over here or plan a trip to another country than go back to Fish Hoek again for a very long time. Fish Hoek/Deep South in general, you are truly magnificent and I appreciate your beauty but you will be just as beautiful as you are now next time I visit. Actually more beautiful because by then hopefully all the vegetation and mountainside ravaged by the recent fires and the pending rain will have fallen (Please Universe, let it fall).