All my life, since I was a teenager and watched a reel to reel documentary
on New Zealand, I have wanted to visit this far away country.
I have just spent a full 6 weeks exploring this relatively young and incredibly beautiful country in the most remarkable way,
with a loved one who has lived and worked there for 33 years and understands and connects to every aspect of this complex and most wonderful place on this, our planet.
It will not be possible to share all of the experiences of this adventure in one blog page but I would like to give an essence of the time spent in the North Island because it was extraordinary.
Visually, there is no comparison in my experience, this is a country filled with “Pinch me” reactions, around every bend in the road is another crazy response,
until one starts to sound like a stuck record, but you don’t even hear you own repetitive reactions, so overwhelming are the views.
With regard to the community, I have never known such hospitality, so much kindness and so much sharing.
So much peacefulness, mindfulness
and so much freedom.
People work hard, there is no litter, everyone recycles their used goods,
and water is the favourite beverage…
(Below coffee I must admit, they makes the best flat white’s I have ever tasted!)
4 seasons in a day, rainbows stretching across the horizon,
I would love to take a year out to explore this extraordinary and unique country.
With museums, galleries, exhibitions, libraries, botanical gardens,
ferries,ferneries,islands,history and endless beautiful beaches and azure blue seas,
bays with indigenous trees rolling into the oceans.
Fat delicious wood pigeons, and tiny owls called more porks!
Volcanic mountains and islands, geysers and hot springs, all beckoning and enticingly spectacular,
I had to tear myself away.
Back home, to life on another continent.
How my vision has changed, my world just got bigger a new vision and a different understanding of mindful trust,
from a community that is exercising that right to life on this earth,
in a most conscientious and thoughtful way.
Amidst green, grey and very blue.
With a frequent rainbow thrown in for pure joy!
Thank you New Zealand, What a wonderland you have displayed for me.
Like that little coquettish Fantail, you have pulled me into your world,
Life will always be a bit different for me now.
It is the middle of March…
Where did I put January and February?
Ive looked for them but there is little evidence to be found,
so I suspect my alter ego swept them under the carpet with her broom
before escaping for a breather on it,
husky dog perched and ready to choose the flight path.
The past few months have been extraordinary.
Loads of varied work.
I have placed more flowers in vases in the past 3 months
than I have had cappuccino’s in my lifetime (almost!)
Weddings, Birthdays, exotic locations and even more exotic stems.
At the same time I have been working on my own range of
“Bottled in the Cape” which has been selling well.
This started slowly and is growing happily.
Jewelry in tiny bottles…
Bottled submersible lights as vases,
inspired by our power outages.
Solar jars with interest and all things(inedible)
that can be bottled and packaged under my label
have been up for consideration.
(just not the Husky pup, or the broom!)
We have had 4 massive fires in the Southern Cape
that have created havoc and devastation.
The airways have been choked with both smoke and helicopters…
(no room up there for broomsticks)
We are blessed in this province to have the most dedicated team
of firemen and women, and many volunteers who have worked tirelessly
for 10 days in the most extreme conditions, to bring each separate
disaster under control.
The communities also came up trumps, with donations of
food and drinks and medical supplies for people and animals too.
There was also a substantial amount of money raised through
local media to start a fund for necessary equipment for the
ongoing problem of fires in this region at all times.
Imagine opening up your laptop after a long day and finding an e-ticket
sitting quietly waiting in your inbox.
A return ticket to Amsterdam for a week…
This was not a goosebumps moment, this was a grand swan day…
Courtesy Rijks Museum.
Thank you, thank you Christopher, I said
as I quietly had a large emo’s moment,
what an indulged mum am I?
I spent the next few nights not able to find sleep easily.
So excited was I at this fabulous prospect,
that in my mind I packed a thousand times, for a week of adventures
of the historical and cultural kind.
I flew into Hamburg at mid-day
and was collected there by Christopher and Silje,
and as we drove through the beautiful green and abundant
European countryside to our destination ‘Port’,
memories of a Jaques Brel song came flooding back..
‘The port of Amsterdam’.
Suddenly I was transported back to a time
when my family was based in Belgium, all the sights smells
and shadows set off a myriad happy recognition sparks…dare I say it
but a sense of home-coming, just in a different time warp,
then, I was there with my parents, now I was there with my children.
Wow! Awesome…(Our first auto bahn stop.)
And so it was that we left the car at a parkade outside the city centre
and at 9.00 pm, in broad sunlight,
arrived at Amsterdam central station.
Coming out of the building I was rendered speechless!
The sight in front of us was extraordinary…
And thus the adventure began, although I admit
that I was too chicken to ride one and resolved to spend my week
on my two legs, the city of cycles was wonderful to watch,
they seemed to be coming from all sides and directions,
with all manner of extensions and add on bits.
Dog carriers, grannies grandpa’s children,
talking on cell-phones and cycling around corners?
Everything and anything goes with cycling in Amsterdam.
Arriving at my nephew and his partner’s home
we were greeted by gentle David (Val was away on business)
and homemade lemonade, with a hint of raspberries… Aah, what can I say!
After a wonderful vegetarian dinner,
( David makes the best food I have ever tasted!)
exhaustion set in, and with a glimmer of light still in the sky
at 11 pm. we all passed out, exhausted but so happy.
Colour, community and vibrant life.
There is such a sense of acceptance,
nurture and cosmopolitan family in this liberal city,
where churches are turned into contemporary Art galleries, or concert halls.
(An exhibition in the High church)
Anne Frank’s secret hiding place, preserved in the most beautiful
and sensitive manner, a dreadful story told with discretion and care.
All the waves of emotion that well documented history
can produce in me welled high and spilled over with this multi-facetted
gem of a week, not to mention rich and irreplaceable time spent with
Whilst there, family time was cemented when James, my firstborn called
to tell us that he and his wonderful Sofia are getting married.
Yay, more family, so we popped a cork, in Fam sterdam.
I fell in love too,
David and Val have a 10 month old child,
Quentin… well what can I say?
He won my heart,especially when in his bak-fiets,
a bicycle adapted for parenting in this cycle city.
He sits, smiling to all he sees as he journeys
with his Pops to creche, to picnic or to market.
What a week, filled to the brim with memories and extraordinary times,
Thank you Christopher, Silje David, Val and Quentin…
Oh and thank you Amsterdam, I hope I see you again.
Soon, I think I fell in love with you too!
This morning we were meant to be on the road before the birds woke up,
to start our much anticipated trip to the Kgalagadi,
No matter how prepared for life we believe we have tried to be,
there will always be a little ‘God-humour’ to sober us up and remind
us that we really are not in charge here.
Yesterday it was John’s health at stake, that had been temporarily
patched with a band-aid but now we are addressing another band aid moment,
although our vehicle has been totally overhauled and serviced for
this exciting bush-wacking trip, seemingly it also needs a new heart valve,
in the form of a starter motor.
Having packed the tent, water bottles, food and general equipment,
Like an obstinate child refusing to get out of his p.j ‘s
the car, dressed in all his finery refused to start.
Life is a funny thing…we just have to remember to keep smiling;
and maybe send up a few deeply respectful prayers and an SOS for good measure.
Imagine doing a rainbow tour in KZN Natal, South Africa…
Imagine observing the full spectrum and more in their natural environments.
Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet, ‘singing’ in their respective choirs.
The claws of swamp crabs, living in the mangroves.
Red Duiker, a beautiful but very shy little buck.
A wild cotton flower, after it falls to ground.
Red runways, created by termites on tree and palm trunks.
Orange Fungi deep in a shady forest,
Mangoes, gold and dripping with juice.
Markings on the Gold banded forester, a forest butterfly.
Leaves, orange, even though it is nearly mid-summer.
Strips of orange bark on a rainbow eucalyptus.
Green, a million variations for as far as the eye can see.
Water, green as it combines with the blue of the water and the yellow of the sand.
Green pigeon, truly bright green.
The bark of a Fever tree.
The longest green leaves in the world, those of the Raffia Palm tree. A cathedral of magnificent proportions.
Indigo seeds, from a plant that I cannot identify…any suggestions?Indigo circles on a Blue pansy butterfly wings.
Indigo on the carapace of a red clawed swamp crab.(We found armies of them in the Mangrove swamps.)
Indigo night skies.
Violet hydrangeas, or Christmas roses as they are know in South Africa.
Violet Deadly-nightshade flowers next to an orange fungi.(Natural complimentary opposite colours, just harmonizing together.)
Purple crested Lourie.
The tip of the rainbow at the Howick waterfalls.
Violet skies as the sun sinks in Africa.
And then, to top it all a rainbow yarn bombed Jacaranda tree,
decorated for world Aids day, the tree has been covered with squares created by many locals,
who have been taught the craft of crochet work by volunteers in the region,
specifically for this superb instillation.
This wonderful sight in Hillcrest KZN is Woza Moya,
the home of an amazing AIDS centre,
where the people, the ethos and the beadwork are all remarkable.
( a tree agama, in all his finery!)
This takes ‘Natural home birth’ to a new level!
Guess who has produced a multitude of little darlings in our garden?
We have been watching and waiting, as the mama has patiently stayed
and not strayed from her duties.
She has only removed her beady eyes for a few hours daily over the past few weeks,
but yesterday nothing was going to budge her robust frame.
Due date had arrived and she was watching eagerly as her young started to hatch and emerge, the hatchlings promptly shedding
their silky ghost-like skins and then… they disappeared!
What miracles and mysteries so intertwined and right here, in our own back yard!
No need to go anywhere really, with our own beady eyes opened
who knows what we might find at the bottom of our homespun Christmas stockings?
Tip-toe up the water way on smooth stepping stones, under an archway of dense ferns and towering Yellowwood trees until…
You get to a bird shaped pool filling constantly with spring water, Colonel Bird’s bath, a green oasis which looked so inviting on a steaming summer’s day.
Meet ‘Rambo’ the angry head-butting 20cm long tortoise, with a long neck and attitude.
Clamber into the enveloping branches of a 350 year old wild almond tree or
find the palm tree with one of the longest leaves in the world.
Take a winding walk along the ‘smelly’ path, and find the lemon scented pelargonium.
Watch the lazy Acraea butterfly, it’s body toxic to birds so it flirts with life.
Wink at a spotted eagle owl juvenile chilling in a paper bark thorn tree, or play hide and seek with it’s parents.
Paddle in the water ways with tadpoles or splash in ground level fountains.
Why not give your child, grandchild or even your inner child a present to remember?
Or better still a year long membership if it is right on your doorstep!
I didn’t know what to expect when our flight touched down in King Shaka International Airport about 35 kms north of Durban, in my home country of South Africa.
We were off to explore a region I have never been to, northern KwaZulu-Natal, a mecca for bird and nature lovers and paradise for anyone seeking to escape the chaos of city life, in the company of creatures great and small and extraordinary plants and trees.
We arrived late afternoon in Ndumo, on the Mozambique border, having stopped for provisions en route and settled into our little thatched cottage equipped with all the basics. And mosquito nets… They were the only unwelcome locals,
(66 recorded species!) but with candles and spray, nets and garlic, (everything is worth a try!) we still were able to sit outside over a welcome meal and listen to the sounds of the bush, with owls, frogs and later bush babies heralding the start of two wonderful weeks in some of the wildlife sanctuaries of this magnificent land.
We drove, walked, sat in hides and watched both parents of European swallow family frantically feed their “ready to fly” young. Their devotion to duty was awesome.
We watched crocodiles glide across the pan, leaving a thin silver line on the otherwise mirror-like water surface, heard hippo roaring and grunting just meters away from us, examined fever trees, watched male weaver birds building nests, only to have them rejected by their partners and waited with baited breath as a group of 6 pelicans landed precariously in the fever tree canopy.
We listened as the fish eagle cried and tracked the movement of a goliath heron. It was baby season in all departments and a three week old giraffe nuzzling its mother will remain in my memory bank forever.
We moved countless tortoises off the road and watched a gorgeous bush shrike (and it is!)quietly cruise into view.
All this in the first full day in Ndumo.
Peace and calm settles in quickly in this quiet and beautiful temporary home, the stars are brighter, the nights are still and the quiet is addictive.
As are the flora and fauna of our most spectacular country.