In the Woods..

The first opportunity to get hiking outside the city was granted, I grabbed it with two hands! There was no way I could let that pass, no matter how exhausted I am. Since I have arrived in Harbin, I have made a deal with myself to travel as much as I can. Even if it means that I live like a peasant. I have planned a number of big trips in the coming months so I am finally getting to live my dream.

It all started with a small Moon Cake and a cup of coffee. I packed a light backpack with all the essentials for a day trip: sun screen, wet wipes, tissue, water (!!), a rain jacket, lp balm, a spare plastic packet, lunch and snacks for the trek up.

Destination? Xiang Lu Shan. To get there, we had to take a train to the end of the line (Hadongzhan) then two buses thereafter. It gets rather rural and the air becomes cleaner and fresher! Score!

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I thought this would be a walk in the walk, really. It started off really well with stunning Buddhist prayer rooms and flat walks with trickling streams. After the iron swing path way, it all went uphill from there.

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I honestly thought I was relatively fit. Halfway up, I was sweating and panting and asking myself why I do this to myself.  Why?

To put it quite simply, that is the reason. The challenge, the fresh air, the forests and appreciating mother nature. I resembled a tortoise walking uphill. Eventually, I caught up with the gang. The final battle going uphill was worth it. The view from the top was breathtaking – it was worth every curse I said under my breath. Note to self: Anele, cut down on the Harbin beer, noodles and rice. 

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Aaaaah.

If you ever make it to Harbin, I would recommend that you spend a day Xiang Lu Shan for a day hike. If you are coming in the winter months, then you can ski down the mountain after trekking up.

A day well spent. I love sore thigh muscles after a good work out!

With love, x

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Hello, Harbin..

After a year of plotting and pondering, I am finally in China. Harbin, to be exact. Leaving Durban was a bittersweet moment – you know, knowing that you finally did it. But, leaving the people you love behind. It doesn’t make it easier that I am not quite a fan of flying. I often choose the window seat closest to the emergency exit. Then, I drink at least 3 glasses of red wine to help me sleep. It was comforting to sit next to another cryer (she was leaving her husband and daughter to teach in Dubai) so both of us had our tissues in hand as we took off.

I was a little silly to buy the cheapest ticket to Harbin; it was the longest 3 days yet. Arriving in Beijing was madness – that’s when the culture shock started. No queues. There were thousands of people at the airport yet it was way after 23:00. Then getting the taxi was even more daunting. I had the address written on my phone in characters yet no one wanted to take me to my hotel (I needed to rest on a bed and shower as I had a 9 hour lay over). It was time to use some Bing Translate. I asked a young gentleman to help me get a taxi to the hotel. To find that the reason why the drivers would not take me: the hotel was too close. Eventually, I made it. And, passed out straight after a much needed shower.

I went in to a restaurant at the Beijing Airport and asked for breakfast. I got noodles with an egg. Even though I asked for a vegetarian option, I still got a chunk of something meaty. I took the China Southern Airline to Harbin which was small and rattle-y. Thank goodness, I was so tired that I passed out. The food: a dry bread roll and milk and one dried prune. I am not even joking. As the pilot announced that we are descending in to Harbin, I looked out the window. Beautifully green.

Two hours later: what a warm welcome. Theo and Sara were waiting at the arrivals gate with huge smiles and somewhat, sighs of relief. With the stares and at times, the outright racism, I am glad I have come here for an adventure.

I have finally sorted my VPN and internet connection so I can write regularly.

With love,

xIMG_1668

 

 

Road trip to Bush Fire..

What a magical weekend.

Right, let us get the background first. I have been interested in attending the MTN Bush Fire Festival for the last three years. It seemed so worldly and care-free. But, I could never really afford it – very common issue, I’d say. This year (27-29 May 2016), the universe was on my side. In the shape of a very kind and fun soul, of course.

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This meant, R-O-A-D-T-R-I-P!! It is a little odd but I take them seriously. Snacks, a BOX of CDs to suit every mood, checking and double checking documents, more snacks and an endless amount of water. Also, a really annoying sing-a-long happy-go-lucky voice. I must sound like Donkey from Shrek. Oef…

After over six hours, buying an assortment of alcopops and getting a new stamp on my very bare passport, we were ready to set up camp in Mahlanya Market, Malkerns, Swaziland!

We arrived quite late in the evening but I had a smooth gin and tonic sippy cup to keep me warm in the long queue of campers. The music was pumping and boy, we were getting super excited to get in to it all.

The entire set up was absolutely phenomenal. Africa, you beaut! If you had to walk around the camp blindfolded, you would have no idea where you were – the languages, accent, diverse music! This is where my heart belongs.

Saturday morning. The one thing I never miss about festivals is the shower queue. After standing in a snaking queue to jump in to a cold shower but what’s worse is the cold water running out then having to dry your soapy body with a dry towel. Half loaf is better than no loaf, they say. Half clean and ready to eat, drink and dance through the festival.

 

A beautiful atmosphere, incredible talent and one of the best that I have attended with the absolute gem company.

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The image that captures the weekend: fun, colourful and just dance
Warmth fills my soul when I think about this amazing weekend.

With happiness & love,

x

Day Dreaming..

Day dreaming of the endless possibilities, personal growth and adventures. It is quite an exciting start to the year with so many avenues lighting up almost simultaneously.

So, it’s finally happening. A little bit of determination goes a l o n g way.

Never stop dreaming. Then, never stop pursuing your dreams. No matter who tries to talk you out of the ‘silly’ ones.

With love, x

PS: no such thing as a silly dream. pfft..

Leopard Print..

The thing is, I try to not get attached to material possessions. But, this is not mine. So, I am allowed to enjoy its quirkiness without feeling odd about it.

When you are having a rather below average day, this metal box can put a spring right back to your step. When you’re driving the car, you feel like something wonderful is about to happen. Seriously.

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Many laughs in this old school Mercedes. It breaks down quite often, but that also ends in laughs. It’s the splendid, hilarious memories we will not forget. It is has been strangely temperamental lately; it has been with the mechanic for a week.

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Collecting these memories is way better than collecting things. I shan’t forget this anytime soon. I write this as I make plans for the next chapter. It is never easy. I have become attached to this lively environment that I am afraid that life out there won’t be as colourful. However, in my life, change and adventure are always welcome! Always!

Upwards and onward.

With love, x

 

Good Deed: Surfers Not Street Children..

I love being a good Samaritan. I love listening to peoples’ stories. I love seeing people change their lives for the better. So, I just love seeing human beings practicing ubuntu.

I have been involving myself in numerous projects. Great projects, where both parties benefit. Recently, I have become more drawn to the skating and surfing (board-riding) world. I mean, I grew up with friends that surfed but I could never afford the gear. So, I immersed myself in reading about the chilled board-riding culture.

Then, we found a unique organisation in Durban that gets children off the streets by teaching them how to surf. This is, of course, the extremely simplified version. Surfers Not Street Children is an organisation that exudes stoke! I have met young men that have gone through a tough upbringing that lead them to drugs and living on the streets but today, they always have smiles on their faces, travelling through surfing and have become quite the young gentlemen.

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I have been making visits to the Surf House (where the former street children stay) and I must say, if looks and feels like a large family house. The lads are all welcoming and so is their resident puppy!

I went there again recently with the Entrepreneurs Organisation to listen to Tom Hewitt talk about his organisation. He is really laid back and surely can talk for hours (we tease him about this).

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The great story is that these are former street children, they are black and they have changed their lives around! You have qualified surfing instructors, coffee barristers, trainee chefs and pro surfers representing South Africa all living under one roof! The phenomenal part is that they are making waves, inspiring other street children!

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I will be on the beach a lot more with the team. Such rad ous!

Feel free to drop me a mail if you would like to know more about the organisation.

With love,

x

Let’s Go Skate..

If you’re not skating for fun, what are you skating for?

A dearly beloved and I had a lunch catch up at the beach on a splendid Saturday afternoon. It started off a little strange with Marc Jacobs’ Promo Girls surrounding me asking to take a photo and asking some questions. That was fun. Then I had people staring at me; I am not quite sure why.

It sounds a little strange but I normally park my car about 2 or 3 km away from where I will be having lunch. I build up an appetite by walking to the location and digest the food on my way back to the parking lot. Also, I fit in a bit of exercise that way 🙂 s n e a k y

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I enjoyed a ridiculously delicious mushroom burger with heaps of rocket. I could not take photos. I ate everything; messy, with a cheese sauce all over my face and hands. Ah! Worth it. With my americano in hand, we enjoyed good conversation and a bit of people watching. It was a hilarious kind of windy – where everything blows away. The little milk container (because we drink coffee all day, everyday) blew on to Nick’s crotch so it looked a little dodgy. Someone’s rocket blew off their pizza and on to my face. All of the serviettes blew off our table that I had to sit on one just to save it for later. Then, I was distracted by a little charmer.

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He looks tough but he was the sweetest little dog. He even posed beautifully for this photo.

I went back to the windy table. The bill blew away. A side note, Surf Riders has a rad DJ set on the first Saturday of each month. If you love beer (or cocktails), burgers and electronic music; you would really enjoy it. Actually, who wouldn’t enjoy such a happy, vibey afternoon.

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I bailed on our way back. Laughed on the floor. Gravity prevails sometimes. Carried on. We took turns.

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Look at the show-off 🙂 What a stunning day!

With Love,

x

Istanbul: View from the Galata Tower and Sultanahmet

As you may have gathered, this was my favourite spot. I stopped by around the vibrant galata tower or walked passed it every day! This time, I decided to give up that 25 TL and take a trip to the top of the tower to see the breathtaking panoramic view of the city. It was worth it. Getting in to a tizz with the security officer because he didn’t hand me over my ticket and he claimed that he did and he was calling someone for confirmation? Uhm? I suppose it was the guy in the camera room? For a ticket. Anyway, I smiled and waved when he gave me my ticket and he sure felt like a noob after that.

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Sultanahmet was an absolute treat. My airbnb host took me there; lovely lad. I suppose it was great that I ventured out with a local because I did not spend four hours trying to find the place. You know, I am normally amazing with maps but, the tiny roads and alley ways… I got a little confused. This was by pure luck and I am so glad it happened: we arrived at the Blue Mosque just before the 13:00 prayer time. The azan (call to prayer) in front of the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia gave me goosebumps. It was breathtaking! There are just some moments in life that restore your inner peace.

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Walkabouts with Levent — Old Istanbul on our way to Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque.

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The mighty Hagia Sophia.

We took a walk around the Grand Bazaar. So many glittery stores that look like they are made of gold and glass. Walking through the Bazaar sounded like recordings of men saying, “Sorry ma’am, this way..” You would almost think you’re going the wrong way. But, it’s to get you in to their shop. Also, every second person was asking me where I am from. Well, the thing is, I am black and I pretty much stick out like a sore thumb in Istanbul.

I also thought it would be a great idea to stop by at the Sultan Family Grave Site. I mean, the area is named after the family, they had lived in the Topkapi Palace. Most of the history of the area revolves around this family. Creepy enough, there were so many stray cats gaiting about. A black cat was on one of the tomb stones and I won’t lie, I was a little creeped out. These tombs date back to the 1500s!

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Entrance to the Topkapi Castle
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Gulhane Park

We decided to take a little breather at the Gulhane Park. Many happy little faces playing about and couples taking a stroll. I was busy taking a photo above when a woman rushed to me, happily shouting, “Photo! Photo! Photo!” Well, naturally, I thought she wanted me to take a photo of her and her family. Alas, she wanted me to be in the photo WITH them. They touched my arm and my hair and were quite delighted that I agreed to take the photo with them. We got some curious looks from the people around us. They may have thought I was a famous person. Haha! Or, not…

On our way back, I had finally decided, “When in Istanbul…” I am vegetarian but I have been seeing these stuffed mussels everywhere! Popular street food. I decided to try it out! It was a m a z i n g 🙂 These mussels stuffed with spicy rice and a dash of lemon juice are known as midye. Great treat after a long day of walking!

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What an absolute treat! Walked until my feet were ready to give up.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.” — Mark Twain

More to come.

With Love,

x

Not All Those Who Wander are Lost: Turkey

My first international trip. I decided to spend two weeks in Istanbul, Turkey. I am travelling alone and everyone I have met has told me that I am brave, or absolutely mental. It has been great either way.

It took a lot of planning for me to get here. With a minimal budget and hopes to have a mellow yet memorable time away, I made it.

IMG_0872All packed and ready to go. I left Durban on Thursday evening (11 June 2015). I was excited with fluttering and spasms all over my body. Oh, my poor nerves. I may have checked whether I had my passport, e-visa and plane tickets about 500 times. I honestly had no idea what to expect and I forgot to ask the avid travellers for advice. The Durbanite that I am, I was “winging it”.

It was a first for many things. My first Gautrain experience to take me to the OR Tambo International airport. Escalators with a 20kg suitcase was a bit of a mission. Why did I pack five pairs of shoes?! I am only taking a backpack with me on my next trip!

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The gladdest moment in human life, me thinks, is a departure to unknown lands. This! No one will ever understand the happiness the moment I received my boarding pass. I cannot describe it to you but a moment I will always hold dear to me forever.

IMG_0892 I sat next to a friendly South African girl (my age) that was travelling to London to meet up with her friends. Her boyfriend was also in London and she lived in Johannesburg and her parents in Zambia but grew up in Zimbabwe. I felt pretty average after that! haha.. There were some drunken Saudi Arabian guys that barely spoke English but they annoyed the stewardesses immensely. Shame. We drank red wine until we could fall asleep. I will do the same upon my return. Hah!

IMG_0895Doha Hamad International Airport! I mean, I have not been exposed to many airports but wow! Was this even built by humans? It’s like walking in to the future. Or, I am just from Africa…

Naturally, with a 9 hour lay over, I picked a bench to rest on. It was cold and I didn’t have my luggage with me so I curled myself up in to a ball and slept on my laptop backpack.

IMG_0901I could not pass out between Doha and Istanbul. The view from the plane was just too breathtaking. Flying over Qatar and the deserts of Saudi Arabia. Perfect!

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IMG_0902Adventure is worthwhile. All of it. I arrived at Sabiha Gocken International airport at 14:00 on the 13 June 2015. Hot. Humid. Sticky. I sat next to yet another friendly South African, Dilnaaz, engaged to a Turkish gentleman who helped me get the Havatas bus that would take me to Taksim. This is when the real adventure began.

I should have learnt more Turkish.

More to come.

With Love, x

“No place is ever as bad as they tell you it’s going to be.”