Africa, South Africa, Travel

Gently Down the Stream

The dawning of the Winter Solstice comes slowly to the Vaal River. Where shafts of sunlight would already be falling in the summer months, parallel headlights now cut the mist into a crisscross maze of light and dark.

Black shapes, more reminiscent of Yaks than people with their layers upon layers of clothing, stumble blearily over the wet grass, occasionally treading on each other’s toes or elbowing eye sockets. Stiff, numb fingers work in frozen silence until the last bolt has been tightened, the last footboard adjusted, the last forgotten slide remembered and pinched from a neighbouring trailer.

And then the 5am stillness is shattered in every direction by the creak of boats, the soft thwack of blades hitting water, and shouts of “heads,” “take a side!” and “who’s motherloving idea was this?” Continue reading “Gently Down the Stream”

Africa, South Africa

Planes, Manes and Bad Decisions

The key to my nothing-like-home away from home is already in the lock, when the phone rings.

“Mmm?” I manage, squishing my phone between shoulder and face, three bags in two hands, hat unnecessarily on head, and a piece of toast wedged into the corner of my mouth.

“Hey you!” yells Stephen, offensively happy for four o’clock in the morning.

“Shhh,” I splutter, having just choked on the toast in fright.

“Happy Anniversary, wife!” he shouts.

“I’m not your wife,” I say, piling one suitcase onto the other and holding the phone a little further away from my ear.

“We’re going horse riding,” Stephen announces, clearly delighted by his own sense of exquisite romance.

“I don’t want to go horse riding.”

“On Table Mountain,” he continues. “You’ll love it.”

“No I won’t.”

“It’ll be very romantic.”

“No it won’t.”

“Pack your horse riding pants.” Continue reading “Planes, Manes and Bad Decisions”

Africa, Travel

Luna(tic) Row

The sun is setting spectacularly over Victoria Lake, turning the lapping water gold and giving the garish green shirt in Bif’s outstretched hand a horrific, Disneyfied hue.

“Come on Abby,” she says, smiling menacingly at me. “Put it on.”

“I will not,” I insist, mulishly.

“Please Abby!”

“No.”

“But Abby,” Bif insists, through gritted teeth, “we’re the Lumo Ladies. We have to wear lumo.”

“I’m not a Lumo lady. I’m a jean pants kind of lady.”

“Not today,” Bif says, almost crying in desperation now.

“I’ll wear a Lumo hat,” I offer, partly looking for compromise, partly because I can see that I am about to be Sparta kicked off of the jetty and into the freezing water.

“You can’t wear a hat,” Bif says, suspiciously nervous. “It’ll cover up the blue wig.”

Sorry, what? Continue reading “Luna(tic) Row”

Asia, Travel

Rock On, Sister

When I slam into the cliff face with the full weight of my body behind me, splaying out and splattering like an unlucky mosquito, I start to think that this may have been a bad idea. My legs are shaking uncontrollably, a fact which I am desperately hoping is not visible from the ground, although I definitely have more pressing things to worry about.

Like not dying Continue reading “Rock On, Sister”

Asia

Flying Hanuman… or, Flying Cinderella (patent pending)

Stand on Patong beach, facing the sea. Turn 180 degrees. Spit as far as you can.

Did you hit a tree? Of course you did. That’s how close ocean and rainforest really are in Thailand, and it’s seriously cool. Now, obviously, you shouldn’t really spit as a means of measuring this. That would be very inaccurate. And also, very gross. The spit is figurative. The following advice is not.  Continue reading “Flying Hanuman… or, Flying Cinderella (patent pending)”

Asia

Life Lessons from a German Tour Operator

We’re bobbing along on the bright turquoise waters surrounding Koh Phi Phi, on a double story party boat. The rest of my tour group is standing waist deep in water a few hundred yards away, looking at monkeys. I am not looking at monkeys because my foot is a) the size of a coconut, and b) purple. Fortunately, an explanation of that isn’t relevant to this story.

Continue reading “Life Lessons from a German Tour Operator”

Europe, Uncategorized

Why Nuclear Bunkers Don’t Make Good Nightclubs

What do you do when you’ve invested millions in an underground bunker system, only to have the Cold War fizzle out without even a sniff of nuclear attack? Open a museum and offer guided tours to the public? Eventually, yes. But only after trying (unsuccessfully) to get the nation drunk enough to forget that the whole thing ever happened. Continue reading “Why Nuclear Bunkers Don’t Make Good Nightclubs”

Europe

How to Have Fun in a Nuclear Bunker

You’re in Prague. You’ve crossed the Charles Bridge, taken a cruise along the Vltava river, and watched the orloj chime the hour. If the Communism and Nuclear Bunker Tour isn’t next on your to-do list, put it there immediately.
Continue reading “How to Have Fun in a Nuclear Bunker”

Europe

Europe by Light

It’s a freezing midwinter night when our bus pulls into Munich. Some people poke their heads eagerly out of the window, waiting for the first glimpse of the city. Most people sink lower in their seats, pull blankets up to their chins and start asking around for Compral. (Life tip: if you ever spend a night out in Prague, make sure that the next day or three can be spent in a predominantly horizontal position.)
Continue reading “Europe by Light”