Category Archives: Travel

To The Hills

I am so incredibly lucky to be in beautiful New Zealand right now.

2020 has seen many disappointed hopes of travel and adventure. But what a privilege to wander in our own backyard. So much magic to discover.

We stopped at Hamilton Gardens on the way down. I highly recommend a meander around these gorgeous gardens.

This particular travels-with-mom adventure turned into a real retreat into the hills above Waitomo. We stayed at Rock Retreat cottage and besides a few walks into the forested hills and gullies, I switched off completely…. bliss…. I could sit and stare at that view forever.

There is such Middle Earth magic in this part of the country. The karst landscape and limestone dolines on the hilltops speak of standing stones. Celtic wisdom would know the veil is thin in these pure spaces and you cannot help but pause to soak in this communion with Nature.

The same rock in the forest is covered in moss and tiny ferns and speaks of Elven ruins from the First Age of Middle Earth when the world was young.

I will post photos knowing they are woefully inadequate in capturing this magic…. round each corner you gasp audibly at some new marvel of Mother Earth, close your eyes and breathe in the birdsong.

We did venture out one evening to try a touristy cave adventure that the region is known for. Footwhistle glowworm cave tour was an unexpected find. I enjoyed it despite myself but perhaps it was just the benefit of the kawakawa tea we enjoyed at the beginning of the tour?

Our last day we visited the stunning Marakopa Falls and had the place all to ourselves.

Much needed respite for the soul…

All too soon, our sojourn into the hills was done. But some consolation to be had in the excellent coffee stop on the way home…. Origin Coffee in Otorohanga is a must. It is at the railway station…. ☕️☕️☕️

Wild October

Mid-October. I am a couple of weeks into my strange sabbatical. Lots of taking stock and reflection.

It seems someone decided it was wild-for-nature October too, which I appreciate. This was my #wildoctoberart contribution. The art prompt that inspired this sketch and colour was misunderstood 😀

So this wild heart has an #inktober story to share. The meaning behind the new ink on my arm and how Dragonfly Travelling come to be…

I was probably about 14 or 15 years old. It was one of our family wanderings around South Africa. This time into the Drakensberg Mountains and a place called Injisuthi.

There are no words that really capture the grandeur of this place. It is truly wild and the magic of Mama Africa sparkles across the fast flowing streams and flits through the dells and gullys, then soars up and over the grass covered hills, along the cliffs and into the caves. Here the evidence of early human wanderers lingers.

Dad and I intended to try a 4 to 5 hour hike up into the mountains. A couple of hours in we lost the trail completely. Even retracing our steps didn’t work and we were soon well and truly lost. As the afternoon drew in so did the black storm clouds. We could see the river in the valley below that we would have to get down to and cross to find the road that would take us back to camp. Contouring along the ridges trying to find a path down to the river proved challenging as most the dells were thick with thorny brambles. We pushed through and eventually came to a shallow enough spot to cross the river. As we were crossing the heavens opened and the storm broke over us, thunder and lightning lending even more drama to our predicament. I had removed my hiking boots to cross barefoot. Once across I sat on a large flat granite rock to put my boots back on. The boots were new and had given me blisters. I was so tired by this point and pretty wobbly from feeling the concern of being lost in the mountains. We had been away from camp 6 or 7 hours by now and I knew my Mom would be worrying. So I sat on the rock trying to put those boots back on my broken feet. The rain stopped in those few minutes and the sun shone through a small break in the cloud. It shone down on my rock and in that moment two crimson dragonflies alighted onto the rock beside me. They weren’t there more than a few seconds and they were gone, the sun disappeared and the rain came back. We hiked to the road as the storm continued and a passing vehicle offered us a ride back to camp. We accepted gratefully, returning 8 hours after our departure to the relief of everyone.

That moment on the rock with those two dragonflies has left an indelible imprint on my soul. It has taken me years to find ways to express and articulate its significance. The fact I was with my Dad. The fact it was a challenging situation. The fact that it was in those magical mountains of my homeland. The fact it was dragonflies. So much symbolism…. I am an Enneagram Type 4 and we love us some symbolism 😀

It might seem strange to say but the dragonfly moment has become the expression of my sense of place in this world – my deep connection with Nature, with my family, with my roots, with my purpose. It turns out there is an African proverb that expresses this idea too. Ubuntu – I am because we are. For me we includes all of Nature. This has been grounding, particularly in the past couple of years as I have moved towards living my purpose.

And so I began to articulate the significance of this moment. It started with an email address, then a simple tattoo on my wrist. Now in the completed ink story on my wrist including all the colour possible with the African daisies! And this blog…. which still freaks me out every time I am compelled to post! Like I say in my little bio – an act of vulnerability for this wandering introvert. But as a lovely kindred spirit of mine says “growth through discomfort”.

Do you have a significant moment with Nature you can draw on? A moment that grounds you in who you are in the grand scheme of things and how you want to live on this Earth? What kind of legacy do you want to leave for your children and their children?

As the incomparable Sir David Attenborough says in his latest doco (a must watch!), we need “to move from being apart from nature to become a part of nature once again”.

I encourage you to find your Nature moment 🖤

Breathing

Back to level three lockdown here in Auckland as we grapple with our first outbreak of Covid-19 since flattening the curve.

Another chance to pause and reflect. Another reminder that nothing will be as it was before….

What do you do when you can’t go anywhere or plan your usual travel adventures?….. Relive my weekend just gone… much time on the couch attending a virtual elephant radio collaring project in South Africa followed by a virtual concert also live from South Africa – my favourite band, Prime Circle.

I re-watched the concert today…. So good as always! Prime Circle rocks!

They played one of my most favourite songs – Breathing. Then I remembered lockdown a few months ago…. Listening to that song while painting. The ellie painting in the pic above came out of that session and so I added some of the lyrics to a digital version of the artwork… this version on my visionboard.

So, it turns out a few months ago I was putting creative energy into a moment that would make complete sense in my August is for Elephants 2020.

And now I am reminded that in amongst all this chaos and uncertainty, strangely there is pattern, there is connection… even if it is just to remember to breathe, to let go and be on the journey, guided in the flow.

The universe is unfolding exactly as it should…. Trying to find stillness to tune into the intuitions and nudges of this unfolding and not get in my own way.

“I know we’ll breathe again.”

Prime Circle

Wanderings Day 30

We have arrived at the last day of this challenge to self – wander travel memory lane all through April 2020. A way of travelling virtually while in my lockdown bubble. Dreams of travelling again when this too has passed. An exercise in gratitude for all I have been given in this life already.

Going to finish with Kruger memories part two.

No more stories…. Just some Johnny Clegg wisdom… from the Johnny Clegg & Savuka song Great Heart

There’s a highway of stars across the heavens
There’s a whispering song of the wind in the grass
There’s the rolling thunder across the savanna
A hope and dream at the edge of the sky
And your life is a story like the wind
Your life is a story like the wind
I’m searching for the spirit of the great heart
To hold and stand me by
I’m searching for the spirit of the great heart
Under African sky

Guka ‘mzimba (body grow old)

Sala ‘nhliziyo (but heart remain behind)

Wanderings Day 29

Only two more posts to go for this virtual wander down my travel memory lane.

Two days of Kruger National Park memories… this is part one.

I was just looking down the list of rest camps in Kruger. It turns out over the many adventures there since childhood I have stayed at all but two.

My favourite area to wander would be from Satara northwards.

Pafuri is particularly magical with all those fever trees and glimpses of nyala in the shadows by the Luvuvhu River. That brings to mind the Nyala Walking Trail – sublime!

Actually any of Kruger’s walking trails are a fabulous experience. Lucky enough to have walked a few of these over the years too.

Kruger visits were so formative for me. I learned so much about ecology and how ecosystems work simply from soaking up all the info I could get my hands on. Here is where I fell in love with birds and took up birding under my wonderful Dad’s guidance.

Kruger has a distinct spirit of place. The air crackles with its magic as you arrive at the gate (any of the gates). I thought this might change over the years, grow dim somehow as I aged. But no. I got to visit again last year briefly and the magic is still there.

Now I probably need to say at this point that I am fully aware of Kruger’s history. Not all decisions made in regard to its management both for wildlife and for the surrounding communities have been sound or just over the years.

All I want to focus on right at this moment in time is the gratitude I feel for having had so many opportunities to pass through Kruger’s gates and get swallowed up in that bushveld magic.