here are a few of my favourite images
Alicia and WP chose Drakensberg Gardens as their wedding venue. A perfect country venue situated right in the heart of the southern Drakensberg. Never before have I worried so much about the weather! Summer thunderstorms appear literally within minutes suddenly changing into thick mist or glorious sunshine. It was a gamble but thankfully on the day the weather held out. I do have to congratulate the wedding party for their bravery. I was determined to shoot them on the other side of the river bank but seeing as we were in the middle of summer, the river was pumping! My very-clever-other-half constructed a somewhat rickety ladder cum walkway for everyone to cross the water. There was no way I would have been able to do it! But my bride, dressed in gumboots and her long white dress made a plan! Thank you guys, I owe you!
Flowers and decor by Natural Nostalgia
Marie and Joos are pretty crazy! Not only did an umbrella nearly whisk Marie away the first time I met her, she also decided to arrive in a glider at her wedding! They appropriately chose the airstrip in Underberg on the Bushman’s Nek Rd as their ceremony spot and then everyone made their way to Penwarn Country Estate for the reception picnic. They are two of the most genuine and easy going people I have ever worked with, it was a pleasure shooting their wedding. Thomis Sweet also accompanied me as my assistant on this wedding and it looks like we have some exciting times ahead of us
I was very fortunate to be part of this special day. Please click below to watch Kita & Brett’s wedding video
And so too, with the passing of Reg Strauss, we have seen the end of an era. Reg died on Tuesday afternoon, 19th July 2016. He is fondly remembered by all those he leaves behind.
Perhaps, it is that little frown he gets, when he is concentrating on the computer
Or that boyish grin that stretches across his face
Silently missioning in his room, he’s busy unscrewing bottles and measuring fluids
An alchemist of the night
No, actually often
Staring into the screen of his phone as if it holds some hidden clue
I sit on his couch
Getting high on this charm that seems to ooze
Out of him
Oh god! I hope I am not getting Sharon, Chunky, Shirley, Claire disease!
It seems to be very infectious
Or at least he is…
The moody 5 year old who is at times quite devious, slipping
Past me on the stairs, trying to be invisible
Sweetly, he asks me if I can use another computer
Playing with my ponytail as he passes me in the passage
He is quite scary when he is mad
I have to try very hard not to want to fix it
There is something vulnerable about this little tough guy
That makes me want to rush out and save him
(As if I could!)
I laugh at the idea of him in pyjamas
I worry if he eats
My heart feels sore when I hear he is saving money for the dentist
He knows much by way of pain
Later, recounting the story of David, I cry for the first time
He makes sharing my sore bits easy
Suddenly excited, he flaps his arms
His camp mannerisms seem so incongruous with the bad boy image he projects
I come to realise this “Marky Mark” wears his heart on his sleeve
Chunky doesn’t think he will stay here long
A story I am beginning to know so well
I haven’t had enough time with him
In retrospect, no one actually has
That day we spent together walking in the park
All talked out after hours of catch-up
Still dressed as though we had just left the club
Are etched so clearly in my mind
I get a warm fuzzy feeling when I think about it
It’s all I have left of him now…
Warm fuzz and photographs
I spend the night waiting for him to walk in the door
But he doesn’t
The reality of this hangs over all of us
I will be honest; it is terrible here without him
A massive hole
An empty space
I have no idea how they will fill it
Or for how long they will hold it together
Feels like trouble coming — a big gust of change blowing through the house
Pevensey Place was opened by Round Table South Africa in a joint-venture with the Natal Cerebral Palsy Association in 1972. Situated on a farm on the foothills of the Southern Drakensberg Mountains near Underberg, KZN, the establishment of Pevensey was in response to the urgent need for a settlement caring for cerebral palsied adults.
Over the years, Pevensey Place has become more than just a caring facility or institution. It has become a home, a real home for all its 76 residents who range in ages from 23 to 84 years old. At Pevensey, they are encouraged to receive and give care, make friends, help others and work – each resident having a job to do within their capabilities.
This film was made to illustrate the essential role played by Pevensey Place in the hope that it will generate awareness and much-needed financial support. It highlights the invaluable work Round Table does not only for the lives of all who live and work at Pevensey Place, but also the entire KwaSani community.
It is a graphic message of the value that young men and women can contribute to their communities when they pull together.
Please watch, share and support this amazing venture.
Calan Watts is a singer songwriter. His songs are created for the souls who live for music.
Recently featured on Radio Algoa with one of his latest tracks Love me Calan is creating quite a stir in the Eastern Cape.
This 20-something white boy from East London has been making his way through bars, pubs, parties and radio waves across the country. If someone wants to listen, he’s there doing his thing – armed only with guitar and loop station at his feet. He prides himself on being distinctly old school, Johnny Cash usually playing in his car stereo. An engineer by day and muso by night, Calan’s experiences of working in places like Mthatha to East London come through in his music. African Sky his latest track available on Soundcloud.com captures all the distinct cultures that make up South Africa. He’s the new kid on the block and I’d even go so far to say that this is what 21 years of democracy sounds like. He always reminds me of Ladysmith Black Mambaso when he plays. I think it’s the shoes – those little white takkies.
Being an explorer is a lot harder than it was 50 years ago. It’s not enough now that you cross an ocean singlehandedly in the smallest boat in the world, battling the elements and yourself. Someone else already did that, like a 100 years ago. In the modern age, we’ve had to come up with rules for explorers to make things a little more exciting, separating the bold from the weak. The authority on the subject, the Guinness World Book of Records has formulated the Explorers Web Regulations, which stipulate that if you want to be famous for your daring feat your route must cross all lines of longitude and latitude, four antipodal points (east to west and Pole to Pole) and cross the equator at four separate points. Oh and yes, you can only use human power. In other words, it’s a very long walk. The last guy to do it was Erden Eru (his name even sounds like he belongs in the mountains) It took him 5 years and 95 days.
And then out of the blue, this chap pops out of nowhere, well Pietermaritzburg more specifically and decides he can give Erden a run for his money. He’s going round the world not once, but twice!
Meet Angelo Wilkie-Page.
I had to chuckle to myself when I read Angelo’s bio on expedition720degrees Under a little introduction they had listed his relevant achievements, a cv for Superman if you will – Comrades Marathon runner, Iron Man, cycling from here to there. One gets left with the impression this guy must be the fittest, toughest dude in the world. And then he walks into my photography studio in his city clothes; skinny jeans, brogues… and I’m thinking how is this sensitive 90’s man going to round the world. Twice…
Yet, he says his hardest challenge will be spending so much time on his own. He estimates his journey will take at least 8 years to complete.
However, all adventures need a mission. And as I listen to the purpose behind Angelo’s venture I suddenly have visions of a lonely cyclist speeding through villages with a banner flapping behind him in the wind “help is on the way”
He will in fact be playing a sort of Pied Piper role for the organisations that are backing him, such as Heifer International who are particularly interested in how the world feeds itself. So while he’s pedalling his life away they plan to undertake an inquiry into the state of food security worldwide with the hope of putting some food into the hands of the poor.
We ease into conversation. He has a cigarette. Turns out Superman smokes! He begins unpacking all of his gear. All 100kgs of it. He is the epitome of a snail. His whole house fits onto his bike! 3 pairs of underwear, a sack of vitamins, food in sachets that look like they belong in space. He’s obviously had to enlist the help of some serious big business to fund his trip so most of his cycling clothes read like a billboard. And even though I know its necessary, no one looks good with a bicycle helmet on.
I strip him of all of his gear, the branding, bright colours, the lycra and special gadgets that will be his only allies in the Alaskan winter, and suddenly notice him standing there, barefoot, in my white space. He’s really just a boy (well, a man I suppose) with big ideas. And a knack at selling them to the world. He unashamedly admits it’s his own selfishness drives that have made this trip happen. He runs on pure enthusiasm and a determination not to give up.
The thought that all of this could really end in a disaster hangs over us. I am amazed at how calmly he approaches the subject of failure. His predecessor for the Artic leg of his trip failed twice before finally getting it right the third time. He fully understands the daunting task that lies ahead of him, the Artic cold, the exhaustion, the space… but it almost feels like a bit of divine intervention here, as though fate is propelling him forward on a path that is only his own.
And so I could not help but photograph him as he is, just some boy who didn’t give up on his dreams. And who knows, they might even put his name in a book for it!
Four generations of my family have owned and run country hotels. The hospitality trade, filled with the comings and goings of people – the liveliness of the pub, where my father inherited the name Jokie, after all his storytelling to captivated listeners hugging their lagers, to all the mouths to feed in the dinning room – all of this is part of us. It’s in our blood.
It is not surprising then that when the holidays where over and everyone returned to work in the cities, that my family would choose the loneliest places on earth and our ideal holiday destination.
“Away from the maddening crowd” my dad would say and he’d whisk his girls (he only had daughters) off to a small speck of beach down some forgotten road that cars had long since stopped using. And here, after hours of being pulled and pushed around by potholes and overgrown bush, we would arrive to – nothing!
Water always had to be nearby – my dad loves fishing and we liked playing mermaids in amongst the rock pools. This was always coupled with a massive expanse of wilderness, untouched and feral-like and just waiting to be explored and conquered by three prima donnas in bikinis armed with a bucket and spade.
I imagine my dad used this time to let his mind wander and to relish how simple things, like just being yourself with the sand beneath your toes and the spray of the waves on your skin can yield such pleasure. Some things money can’t buy…
It is this trait that I’d like to think he has passed onto me. Bear in mind, it is not the type of holiday for everyone. It requires a certain kind of strength, both externally and internally. Externally, one has to battle the elements – the sun, the wind, the rain, the bugs and lack of resources. And internally, one has to deal with the calm. The lack of external distractions can sometimes be a little unsettling. As if one’s ego decided to have a little afternoon snooze.
But don’t misread this as proof of having nothing to do. There’s loads of activities from swimming, fishing, walking, eating, exploring and snorkeling but all of this is done with the understanding that you are alone in the universe making your little journey through life.
Most of these sorts of trips were spent on the Wild Coast, which when I was younger was still remote enough to feel wild. But over the years, the tarring of roads has made it accessible to the outside world. Today, Mozambique is like the Wild Coast of yesteryears. And it’s right on South Africa’s doorstep. Furthermore, the years of civil unrest that plagued the country until 1994 has left many undiscovered treasures at the end of a zigzag of dirt tracks.
And now I am going to spill the beans…
650 kms north of Maputo, past the Barra’s and Tofo’s and Ponto’s, lies Pomene, in the Macachula province. After Massinga, one turns onto a dirt road of red sand that disappears into the bush. Very quickly this turns into a treacherous and slow moving journey, the road punctuated with the remnants of what was a concrete-surfaced road many years ago, now only craters and rocky ledges. Eventually this even disintegrates into nothing but beach sand and faint tyre marks leading the way. In short, you have to have a 4×4.
On our way, we came upon a truck filled with ladies on their way to Massinga. They had blocked the narrow road after getting stuck. A few cars could not pass and they now waited patiently for someone who could help. They had all been waiting for quite some time when we arrived. So a tow rope is a good idea too.
Our host for our stay, Dale, was also the navigator and without him, we would have been totally lost. There aren’t any signs and not many locals around either.
Dale’s family have been coming to Pomene for many years. They are now in the final stages of building their own little place on the waters edge. Dale has many stories to tell about the mammoth task of building his dad’s dream home and retirement plan. Its taken well over 3 years to complete – from a camping spot to 4 fully functional free-standing bedrooms with bathroom en suite all connected by a wooden walkway that leads to a main kitchen/dinning area. Sadly, his dad died of cancer earlier this year and was not able to see the project’s completion. But, perhaps his job was just to have the vision…
After two hours of driving, you suddenly rise up onto a ridge and the earth in front of you drops away to reveal aqua blues to the left and a marshy green to the right. The North bank in Pomene is sheltered from the sea by an estuary that stretches out like a never-ending swimming pool, completely protected. It’s like a harbour for small boats.
Three bodies of water mark the terrain of the North bank – sea, estuary and swamp. The majority of the locals live up on the top of the ridge overlooking this vista. But for those staying below along the waters edge you begin to familiarise yourself with the unique challenges and charming mystique of this idyllic paradise.
Firstly, like so many other places in Southern Mozambique, the tide plays a pivotal role in shaping the landscape and prohibiting or aiding movement. Islands appear or are swallowed up with the approaching tide whilst boats lie marooned on the sand at low tide.
The swamp is mosquito heaven and February is the worst month. Thankfully, I arrive in July and do not spot even one! The sand flies are the next culprits, or “no-see-ems” as my dad calls them. They are so small that you cant see ‘em but in the summer months, unless you are prepared with Dettol and Savlon, big angry welts begin appearing on your ankles and knees. It’s as itchy as all hell and takes a few days to settle.
Everything in Pomene has to be bought in. Absolutely everything. Food, water, diesel and all your garbage has to go back out with you. There is no power, so unless you have a generator or have installed solar, there is no running water or electricity.
But none of this seems to matter as we arrive and are greeted by a beautiful wooden floor with thick beams rising up to support a low-slung thatch roof. Like a dog with shaggy hair, the thatch hangs down over the sides of the building, acting as a sort of wall blocking out the wind but not stopping the breeze. I marvel at the workmanship and different textures.
None of this would be possible without the help of Sergio – our right-hand-make-any-plan man. A local to the area he has amazingly learnt Fanagalor. I watch amused as the boys I have arrived with banter in Zulu and English and Sergio chats back to them. The relationship between Dale and Sergio is most interesting because it relies on a fundamental understanding of respect. There is a mutual need that exists between this white man from another country and the Mozambican who lives with paradise on his doorstep. They both cannot exist in this landscape in their current form without each other, both having different skills they bring to the table.
We spend days just soaking it all in. The smells, the warm balmy air, the food – Matapa and coconut rice prepared in the kitchen so we can all watch how its done. A very lengthy and time consuming process for Mozambican women, our chef makes grinding cassava leaves look like a piece of cake. I marvel at all the boys in our group (I am the only woman) sampling the local flavours and experiencing the different cultures. It is an experience, which sadly many South Africans miss out on when they come to Mozambique.
We walk along the beach discovering treasures on the ocean floor once the tide is out – starfish, cucumbers, puffer fish, shells and crabs. I begin to feel like Wendy in Peter Pan, mothering her lost boys.
On my last morning, I awake before sunrise and shuffle everyone out of their safe mosquito net cocoons. I am in search of flamingos. We jump into the boat and head towards the mouth of the estuary – a bubbling cauldron of currents and churning water. The water is so clear you can see the bottom metres below. Finally, just as the sun is peeking through the clouds we find a flamboyance of flamingos wading in the shallow waters. They always remind me of liquid eyeliner. Their dainty pink legs and shocking pink plumage alongside a very definite bold line of charcoal black – the femme fatale of the sky.
Packing up later, I take a few minutes to watch the world around me, taking in its imprint so I can carry it around inside of me everywhere. My boyfriend and I stew on the idea of getting married here… (He still has to ask me though!)
Dale’s family are on their way from South Africa. They plan to scatter their father’s ashes in the place he loved the most. They have named their place Drift Sands – a little piece of heaven on the sand. Sounds like the right place to spend eternity.
Two recent articles published in Moz magazine
I meet him as an old man in a chair
A small blanket covering his legs
Our conversation is brief
He apologises for not being able to get up and say goodbye properly
And then we leave a little while later
My boyfriend’s uncle
The old man in the chair
Today, it’s a few weeks later
Everyone is out doing shopping when we arrive
A hospice notice is tacked to the cabinet near the front door
It hangs in mid-air, where it can’t be missed
It feels like an announcement
This is no ordinary family lunch
Perhaps even the last one.
The dining room table is decorated with cutlery, plates, eats and cakes
I realise we are not the only ones who have come through these doors doing the last respects march
The old man in the chair has been replaced by the metal frame of a hospital bed
A crumpled form lying beneath its sheets
Its unexpected and I’m unprepared
I enter with Grant and we sidle up to the bed to say our hellos when
Quite suddenly this man who I hardly know
Who I only met for a few minutes takes both my hands in his and grasps them tightly
“Hello Rowena,” he says “its so nice to see you”
I have to fight to hold back the tears
He is half the size he was before
His skin is pulled tightly around his skeletal structure
Comforted now only by the bones that lie beneath
But still he holds my hands
Complaining about medicine schedules, bring the next round of pills and ooh yes, don’t forget the morphine
And so, I’m having my hand held by Uncle Binks in a room surrounded by memories and old furniture when suddenly my head is reeling with questions it needs to ask
Or rather answers it must have in order to understand
What does it feel like to be hanging on?
To be waiting to die?
Why doesn’t the body just give up?
I am struck by how the living are so poorly equipped to deal with death
I realise, I too one day, will be a sibling like his brother next to me watching life loosening its grip on one of my sisters
All I want to do is get out my camera and somehow document what’s happening because it’s all so raw and so real
Funnily enough, Uncle Binks has a few tricks up his sleeve
He perks up a bit and sips his medicines
And despite the hollow colour of his cheeks, his hair is curly and alive. Full of energy!
I watch him and find comfort in his ability to laugh at himself
He notices a cupboard that was next to him is missing
He could have sworn it was there a few days ago
He tells me stories of crabs in the house and shopping with his wife until I am laughing out load
By now the gang has arrived bringing with them the noise of lives that are just beginning
I am touched by the generosity of a family I am just starting to get to know
They let me take photos of what remains of their little family and give me a box of old photos so that I may immortalise all they have left
On our way out, I sneak into the lounge to say goodbye
Uncle Binks is curled up on his side
In front of him the wall is decorated with beautiful old black and white photographs
All the lives that have come before him
Outside I hear the chatter of all those that will come after
It’s safe and warm in there with him and I think to myself that this is how I’d like to go one day
Surrounded by people that love me in the faint afterglow of the afternoon sun
I am in the kitchen packing food for our camping trip when I suddenly realise why I have not been on holiday with my family since the age of 12. My mum gives it away. She is at the sink washing dishes, splashing the water for extra emphasis as her voice begins to rise dramatically.
– I have to do everything. Now I must wash the dishes and I haven’t even packed my toiletries yet! Olive oil! Why are you packing that?
Despite having her back to us, I think she has eyes in the back of her head. I hastily put the olive oil back in the cupboard and signal to my younger sister, Jamie. We’ll have to decant some of the oil out whilst mum is not watching.
– 10 days is too long. What will the animals do?
She continues, unfortunately at the same volume. Years of practise behind us, my sisters and I are pretty good at tuning out this frequency when it gets to this stage. But today, I find myself 20 years out of practise. And this is not just any family holiday. We are going camping – in another country! This is passport control, foreign currency, another language…
I bite my bottom lip and soldier on. As mum leaves the kitchen for 2 minutes, I swig on an open bottle of wine
– To family holiday!
My dad, affectionately called Baba by his daughters, which means father in Zulu, calls at this point – should he play another 9 holes of golf or come home now?
Golf? How did he manage to organise that whilst us three girls are stuck packing with mum? I tell him to come home, its his turn to be shat on.
Kate, my middle sister, floats through the kitchen wearing sunglasses and a floppy hat.
– Anyone need help? And out she floats before I can answer yes
Jamie returns holding our secret glass jar for the olive oil. We pour it in quickly, careful not to be caught. Oil in, I screw on the lid and jam it into the crate, palming off my heavy cargo onto my dad who has finally appeared. He whisks it off. He’s as eager as I am to leave. My dad and I are very similar in this regard. The lure of distant lands is an adventure to good to pass up. My mum and Kate, on the other hand, are the complete opposite. Panic kicks in and when its time to go, Jamie plays the happy medium sticking plasters on any potential arguments that might derail the whole process.
Finally the car is packed. The engine starts, we’re driving out the gate. Here we go! We’re ten minutes into our journey when I realise I hate the book I have chosen for my holiday. Great! Swamped beneath my dad’s fishing gear, extra bedding and all our luggage, I realise I am stuck in a car full of Gemini’s. At least this leg of the journey should be easy. First stop is the Ladysmith Home for Men. Oh well, its good practise for getting all the way to Mozambique.
A bigger Pietermaritzburg tinged with a bit of Graaf-Reniet. We arrive late afternoon after 100mm of rain. Someone has even organised us sunshine as we drive through deserted streets. It’s very much a public holiday here today allowing what I imagine usually jostling streets to have an almost quaint feel. The town itself is steeped in history, famous for being under siege during the Boer war. One B&B is even called “Boer and Brit B&B.” Brooke lace and Victorian balconies line the main road in-between Russels and Pick n Pay.
We turn into a property surrounded by houses. In the middle stands a massive boat – the showpiece – “Velapi” proudly written in red along her side. Yeah, I think, where the fuck are you going? (I later learn “velapi” actually means where have you come from)
We meet Jeff – my dad’s best man from his wedding. Jeff and my dad have been friends from high school and in-between meeting the rest of Jeff’s family (he also only had daughters) we are entertained by their stories of boarding school and later their service in the South African navy. The air is balmy so we eat dinner in the garden next to Velapi, drinking wine and talking about our trip whilst mosquitoes get drunk on our blood. I sus out my companions rattling off their birthdays – lots of September babies, should be challenging. The pack disperses quickly after dinner much to my dismay; I was just beginning to get warmed up. Before bed, I sit on my balcony, Christmas beetles humming in my ears. Below me, the cars wait, packed, ready to depart at first light. I suddenly remember my phone was disconnected earlier today. I am amused by my lack of concern. So no-one can reach me. See if I care, a haughty grin spreading across my face. This time, I want to keep moving…
ON THE ROAD:
The morning comes with a bang!
Lack of sleep from fighting with mosquitoes in the night and wrestling with my demons don’t help when Jeff’s voice booms from below
– Right let’s go!
Of course, Kate wakes up much annoyed – a lethal combination. We are rushing now, running to keep up with Jeff, the impatient ringmaster. And so Kate goes slower. Temperatures rise as the car becomes a dangerous warzone. One-liners, bitchy remarks and defence mechanisms fly around the car making it a game, round and round we go.
Vryheid finally comes into view. We waste time as families do when they are trying to get to somewhere else. Pep, Wimpy, Spar. I dash around madly, trying to locate some film for my camera. Each shop I ask at I am met with blank stares.
– We haven’t sold film since 2001. Why don’t you go and buy yourself a nice digital camera?
I smile sweetly realising I am dealing with the Middle America mentality of South Africa. In typical Aldous family fashion, I begin making my problems everyone else’s.
– Hi, I’m a photographer and I forgot to buy film. Can you help me?
I realise I am beginning to look foolish. Am I supposed to be learning something here? Please God, help me find a roll of film. And then Jeff phones and my dad asks him to look for film without me having to prompt him. Bless him
We drive slowly because towing a boat, I begin to realise, is no easy business. Despite our lack of speed, we still seem to arrive at places. Our journey is punctuated with border posts, sudden pockets of people milling around filling out paperwork – a last reminder of normal life.
Jeff makes us stop just past the Goba border post, on the border of Swaziland and Mozambique, at a small broken down Vodacom building. It looks like a product of the civil war that ravaged Mozambique from 1977 to 1992. A woman, overweight and drowsy from the heat, welcomes us. She sits under a makeshift cover of grapevines and plastic sheeting. Jeff’s been here before so she doesn’t seem too perturbed by his rooster-like performance. Well, it’s either a rooster or a bull. Ritchie, Jeff’s youngest daughter’s boyfriend, and our resident go-for runs inside the dilapidated shack and returns with 2M and sprite – juice for alcoholics. We could be in Italy were it not for decay and rubble around us – Africa’s telltale sign.
We’re drunk now. Jeff reminds us how much fun we are having and with that the holiday is officially declared on!
Somehow, just as Maputo is within reach, the two cars we are travelling in get separated. Luckily, I am in Jeff’s car by this stage, having given up on dealing with the family dynamics in my car. Jeff knows where he’s going, unfortunately my dad does not. As a result of my recent trip to Tofo, just weeks previously, I feel like a local as we cruise through the streets of Maputo. I point out all my favourite spots to my companions who have only one destination in mind, the yacht club. And despite Jeff’s clever idea of using walkie-talkie’s between my dad’s car and his, I learn they only work within a 1-kilometre radius. My dad and the rest of my family are now totally lost. I try not to panic realising my dad is in a car with 3 highly-strung women. I hope they don’t yell at him too much.
Thankfully, we leave the boat at the yacht club, ready for our early morning departure and manage to locate my dad and the rest of my family just down the road from where we are. That night, after dinner and a small family domestic, I take my sisters on a quick tour of Maputo. I am desperate to find the Pizza House on Mao Tse Tung Avenue, just up the road from Fatima’s Nest. The Pizza House, introduced to me by two lovely German girls I met on my previous trip has the best cuppachino and pastries in Maputo. Stubbornly I refuse to use the GPS, preferring to see a point in getting lost in a foreign country where police roadblocks are common. We drive up and down the city, using the MCEL skyscraper as my reference. As luck would have it, we get pulled over. I swallow hard knowing this could be highly dangerous for 3 girls, and seeing I am the oldest I make a point of refusing to show my sisters how nervous I am as the police official with an AK-47 draped casually at his side approaches our car. I smile sweetly at the officer who thankfully only speaks broken English.
– Hi, good evening officer. We are on our way back to our hotel
He pages through our passports, stopping occasionally to glance back up at us. We are all very quiet in the car as he does so. Eventually he waves us on. I breathe a huge sigh of relief, silently of course, so my sisters don’t realise how lucky we just were. We never find the pastry shop, instead I find one similar to the Pizza House and we enjoy our last bit of civilisation. The three of us playing grown-ups in a foreign country.
My family learns quickly that travelling with the Richmond’s is not an easy business. Rule 1. We leave at the designated time. If you’re late, you get left behind. Rule 2. When the sun rises, so do you. When it sets, bedtime is not far behind. Rule 3. You sleep when you’re dead. While you’re awake, keep up.
Jeff decides that we leave the yacht club at 3am, that way the sea shouldn’t be so rough. I dress for the occasion thinking I am off on a cruise up the Nile with sunglasses and scarf draped around my head like Faye Dunaway in Chinatown. Two minutes into our boat ride and I realise I am not dressed correctly. Water crashes over the front of the boat, spraying my mum, my sister and I, as we plough through the water, setting off for Inhaca island, at this stage a small speck on the horizon. It takes us an hour and a half across Maputo Bay to Inhaca and when we arrive, I do not mind the fact that I am sleeping in an army tent without a door and windows in the middle of nowhere. I am just glad to be alive.
I have never really understood the point of camping. It’s a bit like the white man’s dream of getting dirty in Africa. I find myself sitting under a blue tarpaulin that flaps loudly above my head. I keep waiting for it to take off but somehow the bits of tethered rope at its corners hold it down. Despite my concern, I am thankful for the gusts of wind, without which the midday heat would be unbearable – a pregnant blanket under which me and my three Mozambican compadres sit.
Inhaca, a small island just off the coast of Maputo feels like one of the places God forgot about. It has this sense of forelorn or sadness that just hangs in the air, unable to escape and trapped by the muggy heat. Perhaps it is because the island was used by the British to control the slave trade during colonialism.
Most of Inhaca’s visitors come by boat. It’s the only way to get around the island. Petrol has to come from the mainland making a car a luxury. Unfortunately, the ferry from Maputo has doubled in price within the last two years due to rising fuel costs causing fewer tourists to frequent the island. A once booming tourism industry now long gone, the empty buildings littered along the only main road in the town square serving as reminders of better days.
In our case, we have our own boat. But this has its own set of problems too. Inhaca bay and Maputo bay are fed with water through a small deep channel called Hell’s Gate. The volume of water that moves through this small space within the space of six hours has a dramatic effect on the coastline. Hell’s Gate is a bit like a plughole for the ocean. At high tide, our boat waits patiently for us at the bottom of some sandy steps just below the campsite. However, at low tide, one has to walk almost a kilometre out across the bay to get to the boat. The bay then resembles a marshy wasteland punctuated with treasures that lie on the ocean floor. In amongst the sea cucumbers (snake-like worms that are harmless), starfish, sea urchins and sea snails one finds razor clams; mussel type clams that stand upright in the sand. Their shells are razor sharp – hence the name — and can easily slice through your foot. Shoes are therefore a must. At high tide, they lie metres below you, safely concealed amongst the seaweed.
Several sandbanks also transform the coastline into a sea desert, rising out of nowhere, making smaller islands that disappear later when the water returns. Maybe this is what makes Inhaca appear even more neglected. Dhows and fishing boats lie abandoned, marooned on a sandy floor. Two men walk, silhouetted by the skyline and ocean, resembling Arabs in the Middle East and not fishermen in search of fish. In some places, the water disappears from view completely making boats in the distance appear as though they are sailing on a sea of sand.
My three new friends are our “butlers” I suppose, living on the island permanently. The eldest of the three spends a great deal of time staring into the distance. He’s very quiet, almost sad. Later I suspect, unfortunately whilst firecrackers are going off on New Year that he has Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. The crackers remind him of the civil war and as they spray into the black sky overhead, he dives for the floor terrified for his life.
One of the younger men wears the same style sunglasses I bought for Anthony on our last holiday together in Paternoster. The lime green arms and black lenses are like a dim reminder of happier days, now lost in the present.
Later, as the sun is just beginning to set, we sit around our campfire, with plastic chairs and G and T’s. Ritchie has lit a fire so it keeps catching the light making golden wands through the bush protecting our little camp. My sisters and I have just been on the little sand track behind the camp that runs the length of the island connecting all the properties together. We pass a reed house where our “butlers” live. One of them, Adriano, is showering in his open air shower as we pass. Something glints in the sunlight as we walk passed catching my eye. Glancing to my left, I feast, much to my horror, on black skin glistening in the running water, golden and glowing. I then realise, it’s a man, he’s naked and I know him. My English roots kick in and I am suddenly overcome with embarrassment. My sister, also panicking at this stage whispers
– Turn back, turn back
But we are too far and I refuse to let this be awkward. I press on, covering my eyes to afford him some privacy and hurry along. I wander afterwards if Mozambicans behave in the same fashion, or if it’s only us ridiculous English folk.
When we return, I discover my mataba (wild spinach grown on the island) has arrived. Everyone remarks it looks like dagga. I am embarrassed to admit I have no idea how to cook it and rush off to find Paulo, who agrees to help me. Unfortunately, the rest of my group is not too keen on the idea of local food, much to my disappointment.
The New Year comes and goes. Thankfully, not without a raucous party which leaves our neighbours in a bit of disgruntlement. It’s never a good idea to send three gorgeous women onto the next door property, especially when its inhabitants are all happily involved. Lets just say, we caused a bit of a disturbance and were eventually escorted off the property by one of the unhappy girlfriends.
New Years day begins with a downpour that lasts most of the day. We are all quite happy though as it gives us time to sleep off our hangovers.
Eventually we run out of food and drink and realise its time to leave. By this stage however, most of us have broken out in some type of rash so perhaps it’s a good time to go. In usual Richmond style, departure time is at the crack of dawn. We pack up the camp and this time I dress appropriately, covered from head to toe in waterproof material. The crossing, however, is quite peaceful that morning. We even spot a few dolphins swimming in the bay on our way out. I realise my Faye Dunaway outfit would have been just fine.
– I met an incredibly kind man whom I only know as Carlos from the Pestana Inhaca Lodge dive centre. Unsuccessful in my search for a spool he gave me his only roll of film that he had already loaded into his underwater camera. I am indebted to his kindness.
Perhaps its because we are standing in the dark
That it’s easier to talk
Or to hide
We’re both drunk and stumbling, standing on a wooden walkway
Your mum just keeps repeating the same thing over and over
– I can’t believe he’s dead
Accepting where you’ve gone has come surprisingly easily to me
I have no other choice
I have to find a way out of this mess because my heart is still beating
I am still stuck here in this place where I have to feel
Your mum keeps asking me if I loved you
The question always takes me aback
As though how I answer will ultimately determine the truth
That what I say might give me away
The words themselves mean nothing really
They just waft out my mouth
And when I say them, I am left feeling so empty
I am left wondering what really proves ones love.
How do we know for sure, that what we profess is love, is really love at all?
Is real love the ability to be vulnerable?
Is it a stubborn refusal to let your memory go?
Is it dreaming about you?
I think this proves your love more than mine, as you have not forgotten to visit me whilst I sleep
Instead, I am taken back to Graaf- Reniet
Lying in bed next to you in that funny brown and white room
And suddenly a little voice, my voice, spurred on by a fear deep inside of me asks you
– Do you love me?
Knowing our days were numbered
Much later, you confide in me that my silly question broke your heart
– Of course I do
Hugging me tight, just like you do now in my dreams
And then my tears, hot and urgent
Spilling out, trying to find the place where I suspected your heart lay
And afterwards you thinking
– I’ll miss her when she’s gone
From your perspective, I suppose I am gone
Yet, we all sit here thinking you are
Grief, I am learning, is selfish and blind
It’s a blue mosquito net that looks down on me from where you should be
In a room that’s hot and sticky.
It battles to explain to others where you are and resorts to theories I would even roll my eyes at were they offered to me
Later, I am standing on a beach at midnight taking pictures in the dark
Crabs scuttle past my feet, letting me know they are there in the shadows
They remind me of you now
So after everything, all I have is knowing that you are still here with me
Even if I can’t see you
Perhaps that’s what real love is –
It requires no outside approval, display or proof
My baby sister has this wonderful habit of leaving doodles or letters she has written to me in any one of my hundreds of notebooks that are littered about my room. Quite often, her words lie there, undiscovered, waiting for me to stumble upon them. It makes me think of unwrapping a present I wasn’t expecting, but without the pressure of the person who is giving the gift looking back at me saying
“DO YOU LIKE IT?”
Instead, I get to read her words in private and it really is so much more of a gift, because they’re just for me. And somehow, the timing of when they are discovered is always a little uncanny.
For example – I have just returned from 10 days in Tofo, Mozambique. Anthony’s family and I decided to go and cry our tears on the beach together, to heal, celebrate, laugh and begin moving on. As it is with most “in laws,” Anthony’s mother and I have never really been on good terms. In fact, he often told me she would have liked my heart in a box!
So with his sudden departure from our lives, and this massive hole he left behind, I suppose it makes sense that we would hold on to each other. It’s all we have left.
Funnily enough, we’re quite similar. Perhaps too similar… which is why, with only 12 hours notice, 3 hours of sleep and a lot of strings pulled, I found myself on the Vamos de Durban bound for Maputo.
Had Anthony still been here he would have been most proud of me. Firstly, I managed to fit all my clothes into one small bag. Secondly, I am taking public transport all the way to our destination. And oh yes, the hotel room on the first night has no en suite bathroom. I failed to do any of these things whilst Anthony was alive, and as the bus pulls out from the Pavillion Hotel in downtown Durban at 6:36am, I feel like shouting out to the world
– Eat, pray, love. Here we come!
(For some reason this feels apt despite me not having read neither the book nor watching the film)
After what feels like a forever, we arrive in Maputo. It’s a bit like travelling back in time to a place full of relics of a past gone by – ornate statues, tumbled down buildings, overgrown gardens in between skyscrapers with MCEL logos towering overhead. Maputo always reminds me of South America – but a black version. Perhaps its because Mozambique was colonised by the Portuguese and South America by the Spanish and the French. They are not too dissimilar.
I take another risk and order a local dish, food I don’t know. Generally, I never order food I don’t eat, which I suppose is silly because how then do you know that you don’t eat something you don’t know. A green soupy bowl of mush arrives at the table and I begin to panic. Matapa, a local dish, made of wild spinach and crab lands up being one of the best things I have ever eaten. Being brave is beginning to pay off.
We spend the night at Fatima’s Nest- a local backpackers on Mao Tse Tung Avenue. A small hippy-styled backpackers that seems to attract people from just about everywhere. Brigette and I get drunk, lounging on couches, smoking cigarettes and drinking the local tequila – Paradise. It reminds me of fuel with lemon afterwards. We stumble to bed sometime after 2am and I spend a few minutes under my blue mosquito net writing to Anthony as I watch Brigette next to me, on her back, clothes still on, snoring, finally content that sleep has enveloped her. Sleep is heaven for sore people. You can’t feel anything there.
A bad dream wrenches me from sleep just in time to get all of us onto the shuttle Fatima’s runs daily from Maputo to Tofo. At 5:36am we pull away from Fatima’s with almost 26 people on board a small yellow bus. We are packed like sardines inside, our luggage packed on top of each other, along the walkway making getting out of the bus rather interesting and reminiscent of a mine field.
We drive for hours. Hours and hours through city, vegetation, swamp and eventually palms. Occasionally, the bus stops to collect or drop other passengers – locals travelling at half the price the tourists are paying. A couple in front of me must still be in the honeymoon phase of their relationship. They ‘suck face’ and stare longingly into each other’s eyes until I feel nauseous and can’t look anymore – the cynic in me finding it all too sickenly sweet.
Eventually after I can’t take the heat, the plastic seats sticking to the back of my legs and being so uncomfortable, Tofo begins to take shape in front of me. From the outset, it really does not look very impressive or different from any other coastal town in Mozambique. And to be honest, it took me quite a while to figure out what exactly Tofo has that nowhere else does.
The sea reminds me of Ponto d’Ouro, the restaurants, shops and bars remind me of Ponto Mamaoli. The beach is idyllic and wide like any other place in Mozambique. Instead, after much deliberation and probing, I realise Tofo’s secret is the people who live there. The expats from the Netherlands, France, UK, South Africa, Canada and America make Tofo into one of the most cosmopolitan, progressive and unique destinations on the east coast. Perhaps its because all these people are from somewhere else that they are more tolerant, accepting, welcoming and eager than other communities. They are humble in some ways because they know what life is like without Tofo. I find myself wondering why they all came here in the first place. But then Vincent, owner of Blend coffee shop reminds me that he never goes on holiday anymore because one does not need to when they live in Tofo. Vincent, a once upon owner of gourmet burger restaurants in Amsterdam has relocated almost his entire family to Tofo. It’s hard to imagine him in Amsterdam as he saws wood behind his shop, brown, barefoot and unshaven.
As most Europeans would do, we spend the first 3 days getting sunburnt. Now, finally, red and in pain we are officially on holiday. We spend hours in the ocean that somehow in Mozambique is always just the right temperature. Young local boys selling bracelets and reed mats are frequent visitors. They are most persistent and very good practise for those of us with weak boundaries. Learning to say ‘no thank you’ becomes quite challenging, as they are quite persuasive and not easily deterred. In the end, not having any cash on me I land up swapping my towel for four bracelets.
News travels fast in Tofo and we come to hear of a foam party being hosted by one of the lodges on the weekend. The last time I went to one of those, I was in high school at the beginning of the rave scene in South Africa. I don’t need extra encouragement – I’m in!
I find myself in a car with four rather boisterous, and did I mention gorgeous men, destined for foam heaven. Unfortunately, the foam party lands up being a bit of a let down. A small marquee generates foam that we all dive into for 5 minutes, emerging like Santa Clauses covered in snow. Something seems to give inside of me and I follow the others from the foam tent to the swimming pool. We jump in with our clothes still on. My dress wafts up around my hips and I find myself being pinned against the edge of the swimming pool by one of my charming companions from earlier. I can’t remember having this much fun since I was in high school. There’s something totally adolescent and rebellious about it all. Dare I say it, exciting!
The next morning my new friends climb a coconut tree, barefoot, careful not to slip on their way up. The bark from the palm tree is incredibly rough and leaves agitated cuts along their arms. Judging from their roasties, the art of climbing these trees takes some time to perfect. We drink coconut and mango smoothies for breakfast in between chuffing on Pall Mall cigarettes. A local brand that much to my snobbish horror, I am beginning to enjoy.
The market in the village offers an array of equally interesting and horrific smells from the ripe hot stench of fish to freshly baked pow. There is even a soft serve machine selling ice cream. It seems oddly out of place in this vibrant multicoloured market full of local produce and bottles of Laurentinos – the local beer. Yet, the soft serve place is quite popular. Numerous GP number plated 4x4s pulling up alongside it as though it’s the local drive through.
Away from the crazy parties and dancing at a local club, Dino’s, where its not unusual to find locals joining in with the music on bongo drums as everyone gyrates into the night, I spend time walking along the coastline. There is something strangely comforting about the constant ebb and flow of the ocean. The continual back and forth is almost meditative. There seems to be some security in its predictable and unrelenting movement that’s soothing for a broken heart. I spend a great deal of time walking alongside the waves, talking to Anthony in my head, and when I am alone, even out aloud. Otherwise, I walk along in silence. Me and the crabs…
As it is with most holidays, ours begins to draw to a close and I begin to panic, feeling it all slipping through my fingers. The thought of leaving the rat race, the mad crazy rush of life that when compared to life in Tofo seems almost idiotic. There is something to be said for being uncontactable. I wonder if my therapist would think I was running away. Then, I wonder, does it matter?
Some days there is no power and the Internet is slow. The heat, sun and tide appear to be the only constants. Some little part of me wants to take the plunge. To do it. Move to Tofo. And then that little other part says
– Oh really Rowena, will you manage?
Thankfully the holiday was not without a little drama, some romance, loads of adventure and I even got a bit of growing up chucked in there too. So today, when I open my little notebook next to my bed, a familiar scribble greets me
– The individual
The responsibility of learning and growing lies within the individual itself – we foster our own development and the chief resource at our disposal for this daunting task is – an interest. In here, lies the drive and enthusiasm to do, to be, to live.
To carry on…
May 20 babies are reminded, constantly, to observe themselves living. It is not something we do naturally because we usually are so into what we’re doing (what we like to do, we like to do a lot!) that we can loose focus and stop asking the question
– What does what I do say about me?
We hopefully meet people on the way that remind us, hurt us, love us, and force us to really look in that abstract mirror –
Georgie and his guitar who’s not afraid to sing, Vincent and his “little brother” who play like children disappearing in the foam of a soap-sudded sea. Lauren who’s pregnant and glowing next to Eric who bites if you stroke too hard, Rosetta who reminds me that there is still time for anything and Rowan with his ducklings on the beach teaching them how to swim.
All these characters and more somehow shook me out of a deep slumber, opened my eyes, in between smells of Dettol and sunscreen, chlorine and salt. For the first time in ages, my head is full of daydreams and fantasies, whirlwinds of ideas and distant places. So who knows, with the right amount of luck and just the right timing, anything could happen.
And as my baby sister writes at the end of her note
-You got it winnie!
there is an expression (well, its either an expression, a truism or a proverb) that goes something along the lines of “your first million is the hardest to make, thereafter its easy…”
i completely disagree.
i applied the theory to my blog posts. i wrote my first post fairly easily. some creative spurge from somewhere deep inside of me unleashed itself on my keyboard and a few minutes before bed there it was. BAH!
the second post has taken quite some time to write. in fact, i have battled so much, i am now writing about how difficult it was for me to find something to say (well at least it’s giving us something to talk about)
i think it all really comes down to that rather nasty word – expectation, the “a belief that someone will or should achieve something”, according to the F12 key on my keyboard. my expectation of what i thought this blog should be and what it’s humanly possible to deliver appear to be at odds with one another. my biggest fear is that this beautiful sacred cyberspace i have staked out as my own is going to turn into white noise — too much information about nothing. the idea that you should keep your mouth shut if you dont have anything interesting to say does not really feature in cyberspace. and even as i write these insecure ramblings i am aware that i am doing the very thing of which i was afraid… i wonder if there is such a thing as information pollution?
my dilemma has been where to go from post 1? it must be meaningful, interesting, relevant and preferably not too much ego. i always find the latter a chore, especially when its someone else’s ego. in true rowena style, i have yo-yoed from one topic to the next. i have been at my computer for days now torturing myself — and unfortunately those around me – in search of the perfect subject matter, like a dog chasing after its own tail. in a moment of desperation, i pulled out all my old boxes filled with diaries and letters, small mementos from the past. anything that might give me a clue and as luck would have it, two fortunate things happened.
firstly, i was accused of being a spectator in cyberspace by my ex’s mother. to be fair, i said the words before she did. but the more i thought about it, the more the shoe seemed to fit. in my opinion, this is probably the worst thing i could possibly be labeled as online, because the only person here now is me (and my computer). in fact until yesterday, i had never actually clicked “Like “under anyone’s post. I cant actually believe i am admitting this on the internet! I should be telling my therapist this, definitely not all you millions of people who will hopefully come and read this ridiculous confession.
my ex’s mom felt neglected because i never comment or like anything on her page. in some respects, it just never occurred to me to even click the “Like” box. yet, when i upload a new album to my photo galleries, the most exciting part is waiting for my notifications from people liking or commenting on my pictures. hmmm, ex’s mom was definitely onto something here…
i think my failure to “Like” things on facebook is similar to the way i am in real life. i never compliment anyone unless i really think someone deserves it. and i am very weary of those who offer compliments too quickly or too often, even when they apparently REALLY mean it. at least i am a sure bet! if i “Like” it, it must be fuckin’ amazing!
the second thing that happened was my sister having to watch me in the middle of this mental mess. she facetimed me from england and eventually, unable to listen or watch me change my mind yet again, she suggested I pretend that my blog is just for me. in other words, kid myself into thinking the rest of the world is not out there. oooh, i love things like that! i am a specialist in self-deception. i often pretend something is not the way it really is and then when i discover the truth i am amazed i did not see it earlier. her small adjustments to my view of “reality” helped me drop the expectation of what I should, could and have posted about. in the end, i have now written blog post 2. it’s not brilliant. it’s not fancy either, but it’s done.
oh, one last thing.
i had to go back to the beginning, as usual, and remind myself why i even started this blog in the first place – i want to show people my pictures. for some bizarre reason people born on the 20th of may have a strange fascination with bodies, their own and that of others. i thought it apt to start with a small collection of images on this very subject. i have no real idea why i am fascinated by “the body” itself. perhaps because we are all so different and in some ways the body can be seen as a separate entity to a person. if i took the me out of me, i would have this shell where me used to be. a bit like a snail… i think that’s what it is. their home is on their back so they never really live anywhere, except where they are. that’s me in a nutshell.
blog post 3 here we come!