Namibia

The dust is a part of us now. We have literally become the dust the guy sings about in that ‘Dust in the wind’ song. It layers on to you and your belongings throughout the day so I have given up on showering. No point. I know I am just going to get dusty again. I love it though. It feels as if with each dust off of clothes, or anything else for that matter, I breathe Africa in. Our food is seasoned with dust and I don’t mind it one bit because with each bite I find nourishment, the dry dust stilling a hunger – a hunger to be a part of my continent. African grime and dust from changing flat tires and setting up camp every night give character to my hands while the dry desert winds make my hair go disheveled, just the way I like it.

Africa does that to you, it makes you go wild.

I have exchanged my Chanel Allure au de toilet for the smell of Namibian hardwood fire scent on my clothes, and I much prefer the smell of the latter. As I watch the flames of the evening fire lick the dark African sky, I hear a hyena laugh in the distance. No fence here, just acacia trees providing lots of hiding places for predators. I feel like a predator when I chew on a piece of Springbok biltong. The full moon that is slowly rising up behind me makes my shadow grow taller. I am human and I am strong. But then I look up and the billions of stars make feel small, really small – almost invisible. I am just a fragment of a fragment of a tiny speck of dust making my way around the sun. I realize this is why the hyena is laughing. He is laughing at me for being such a fool. Fooled by my own shadow. In its sinister laugh I can hear the message. “ All is not always what it seems”.

Africa does that to you. It brings you back to Earth.

Here in Namibia I see things in eyes of all kinds that I cannot explain. I see my own reflection in a small Himba child’s dark eyes, holding my camera, capturing a moment. What does he see when he looks at me? I see the golden morning light in the eyes of a black main Kalahari lion and even though it is so incredibly beautiful, I cannot look for long. It is too powerful. I see my fear in its eyes, and it scares me. I get lost in a matriarch elephant’s cautious stare, her big and wise sand colored eye observing my every move. It is a beautiful moment shared between the eyes of two very different sizes of specks of dust. The elephant and me locked in a gaze, her giant presence absolutely still, my tiny human heart beating like an African drum in my chest.

Africa can do that to you, it makes you respect.

I find myself in a dilemma every time I go on long African road trips like this. With each kilometer that I travel on her dirt roads I shed the worldly things off of me. I want less and less of what makes the world go round, and more and more of what gives the dark African nights its mystery. I want to live like a nomadic Himba man. Like the Wildebeest migrating towards water, I want to continually criss – cross the continent. I want to hear the nothingness in the night, every night, and I want to smell the fresh rain like it can only smell in Africa. Forever. Although I have not been everywhere, I have been to many ‘wheres’ and when I am in Africa I want to be nowhere else. The freedom, the beauty and the solitude. The people, the wildlife and the sun. These are the things that I love the most. My dilemma is that at some point we have to go back to ‘reality’. At some point the empty spaces become overcrowded places, and city light and other noise replace the starlight. For this reason I am continuously savoring moments. I live in them like each is the last, and try to remember them like each was the best.

Africa does that to you, it makes you appreciate.

We are just dust. We are little specks on something bigger that in turn is smaller than whatever you would like to classify space as. Most people are just holding on, trying not to be blown away by the winds of change, happy to be in one place alone. I like being a dusty speck that is unlike the ones sitting on top of a cupboard, forgotten and never disturbed. I want to be blown from here to there in no specific pattern, taken from one extreme to another. On our last day of our eight thousand kilometer trip, on top of the tallest sand dune in the Namib Desert, I get completely naked and I spread my arms and pretend I am bird. The wind lifts me up and gives wings to my thoughts and dreams. Don’t think of me as crazy.

Africa can do that to you; it makes you feel free.

gemsbok

rooikat

moringa elephants

african wildcat

African Wildcat

zeebs

timon

roller

Lilac Breasted Roller

honey badger

Honey Badger

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standoff

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standoff3

standoff4

A pretty close call. Even though this Gemsbok got away we did find a pride of Cheeta further down the same road with a Gemsbok kill.

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ele in the dust

dustbull

jackel

fisheagle

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wildebeest at dawn

elephant tracks in mud

Elephant tracks in the dry Etosha Pan

sunset

spitzkoppe startrail

Spitzkoppe

tree

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Sousousvlei Dunes

reflection of rhino

This lone Rhino and his reflection had me in tears. In as little as ten years all we will see are the reflections of these magnificent creatures.

palwag wreck

Palmwag scene

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The Matriarch

moon tree

Moonrise through the African bush

caked mud etosha pan

Etosha Pan

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Deadvlei at Sousousvlei

africa tree fairytale forrest copy

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The Himba culture

standing in the dust

himba walking away

himba mother and child

himba hair

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himba girl3

himba girl2

himba brothers 2

himba girl

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himba baba 2 copy

my lion

Male lion, Etosha National Park

 

The Ancient Mayan Ruin of Tikal

Oh the questions we ask ourselves back and forth about what to do when we don’t know what to do. Should we fly in the smallest plane on Earth or take a sketchy bus? Should we book one more night or should we only stay for one? Some questions should take priority such as should I bring more insect repellent or should we just buy it there? Two heads are better than one especially if one of them thinks ultra logically. Tam is super organized and if it wasn’t for her neatly systematized file with maps and other important stuff, then I would probably still have been in some jungle in Vanuatu. We choose not to buy more insect spray and to take the bus to save some cash. One of them ends up being the inferior choice but I guess that soon the little red dots will disappear.

Main area

Ballgame area

They used to play a kind of ball game on these steps, a game that resulted in the death of the loser.

We wait for a couple of hours in a bus station in the center of Guatemala City to catch our ride to Santa Elena, in the Peten province of the country. There are mostly local people waiting around and it seems that screaming children is something you find across all cultures. I notice that we are the only foreigners in the waiting room. I have observed the following chain of events, that usually occur, when another foreigner walks into a room where you have been the only one of for a while – and been wondering if you are at the right place because you don’t notice other foreign faces. You lock eyes, but just for a short split second. There is a lot that you can tell about the unspoken words in that short amount of time. I could read from the Aussie’s eyes that he felt relieved there are other foreigners there. What I wait for next is the conversation opener. This can range from basic questions like “Where are you guys from?” to more useful questions regarding your worries about if you are in the right place such as “ Are you guys also going to…..(insert destination here)? Sometimes nothing is said until the very end of your time together, whatever the pursuit was in the time spent together. Traveling is about meeting interesting people along the way, and most often you end up listening to their stories and then share yours. People, albeit some, are awesome. Our 8-hour bus ride is trumped by some of the other travellers’ 16-hour trips. The ride and trying to sleep is about as comfortable as it is to try and balance and plug in your South African plugs in an electricity socket from other countries- eventually you get it right, but its not perfect.

 

The heat in this place sticks to you like peanut butter sticks to the roof of your mouth when you have the droogies. It is like the earth is sweating underneath and around you. It is so hot here that not even the normal ants work in the day, only the leaf-cutters. I left some sugar out to test it and not one ant came out. I feel happy about the fact that even the locals have sweat beads building on their foreheads.

monkeys

We are in the middle of a beautiful jungle and the calls of howler monkeys in the canopies actually sound like jaguars roaring and growling. There are jaguars here too and there are no fences. This place is wild, with leafcutter ants crawling all over the place and tropical birds calling out. I’m in my element when I notice all the insects being insecty. Wasps big enough to make you think it’s a bird flying by and lizards falling out of trees. Highly venomous snakes chilling in the shadows of the footpath and spider monkeys throwing forest fruit at you from above. The place is magical, and we haven’t even seen the ruins yet.

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hoppper

leafcutter

lizzy eye

Some of the critters

The first temple we saw towered high above the treetops and at first sight of the moss covered ruin, the magnificence vibrates through you in the same way howler monkeys’ calls resonate through the air.

 

in the sun

 

At the dawn of the Maya Classic era, Tikal was one of the most important cities in the Maya region. In the year 378, representatives of the mighty northern city of Teotihuacan replaced the ruling Tikal dynasty. This could have been military or politically motivated. Tikal was the dominant city in the region, controlling several other smaller city-states. Warfare was as common as beheadings, and sometime in the late sixth century, Calakmul defeated Tikal. Tikal bounced back, however, once again becoming a great power.

Like other ancient super civilizations, the Maya civilization eventually began to crumble and it is speculated it may have been due to famine, disease, warfare, climate change or any combination of those factors. So, pretty much the same as what is going on in the world today. Historians believe that by 950 A.D. the city was abandoned. That leaves a long time for some moss to grow and for the jungle to take over.

in the shadows

We do a sunset and a sunrise-guided tour through the ruins and go to different sections of the site each time. Alfredo, our guide, has a vast knowledge about the ruins. He expresses himself well and loves showing us the things we would never have found on our own. The walls of these ruins have seen centuries of change. Some temples are completely covered and swallowed by the jungle, hiding in the shadows completely covered with moss and tree roots. The foxes have claimed it as their dens and monkeys clamber and call from the steps of the beautiful dilapidating ruin. Alfredo thinks he has dengue fever and that makes us worry about the mosquito bites we have. There is nothing you can do about dengue fever. He shows us a fruit that the monkeys will only eat when they get ill. The orange coloured fruit looks potent and I give it a miss, opting for a couple of Gallo cervezas instead.

from temple 4

Temple One and Four viewed from Temple five with vast jungle all around

At the end of our sunrise tour we sit at Temple five for an hour to meditate. It is 5am and the living breathing jungle is slowly waking up, with mist still covering the mysterious sacred temples. Sounds of all kinds of insects and monkeys start filling the air and with eyes closed we wait for the sun to break through. I know there is still so much to see and experience in life but I can truthfully say that this is one of the most special experiences of my life. There are certain feelings and emotions that you experience in this life only by being in that moment, such as pulling into a glassy clean blue barrel in Indonesia while looking at the colorful reef underneath you or, like in this case, sitting on an ancient temple in the jungle in the mist waiting for the sun to start a new day in a place older than the Mayan calendar. Life is fascinating and the cycles of it is very visible here.

The Mayans must have been very patient people and mathematically, extremely precise. The sun will rise over a specific spot above one temple and through the year it moves to another carefully calculated spot. With most mornings covered in fog it is estimated that it must have taken them thirty to fifty years to build just one of these temples in order to get the sun to rise over that one precise spot. I can’t help but think of other possibilities. What if the weather was different back then and there was no mist in the mornings? It could have taken quicker to build. I like having friendly arguments such as these with Alfredo and he is very open to discussing them. The big question everyone asks: “ Why did the Mayan civilization really crumble?” I am glad I am not the one having to find the answers to that one. It’s a question deeper than the sinkhole in Guatemala City. It makes me realise that if one of the wisest civilizations of all time collapsed for whatever reason, it could happen to us pretty soon if you think about the state of our planet. Who knows what kind of animal will sit on your doorstep in the future, having claimed it as its own when the earth starts taking back what is hers.

stairway to heaven

Stairway to heaven.

Tikal is magical. It is real and it is unreal at the same time. It draws you in as if under an enigmatic spell of an ancient Mayan priest. I close my eyes and touch one of the moss-covered walls and as I do so I can’t help but think how a human being from another period in time could probably have done the same at the same spot. I then do a handstand in the middle of the main plaza and wonder if some one did the same a thousand years ago… Probably not as this area used to be only for Rulers and dignitaries.

 tikal2

Archaeologists are uncovering new tombs and buildings here all the time and the only way to do it is to hack away at the lush jungle. My shoes still have mud from Tikal stuck to it. I tried washing it off to no avail. In the same way that the surreptitious jungle has taken over the ruin, the mud will stay on my shoes until I have used it enough to disappear. I don’t mind having it there though because each time I walk in a new place I carry a piece of mysterious ancient history with me.

fox

I can guarantee you that the ancient Maya did not think a fox will be the eventual inhabitant of this temple. What animal is going to claim your house as its own when it all comes to an end?

templs 4

Even though it is still standing, the Sun now sets a few meters to the right of this timeworn temple. I wonder how the clever ancient architects of this wonder will feel about that.

temple 4

South Pacific Adventures in Fiji, Vanuatu & New Caledonia

 

They warned me about the drink. Locals say it helps to clear your mind before you say things you might regret and that it is mostly used during ceremonies. Indulgence can cause euphoria, but this legal root has been used in traditional ceremonies for thousands of years. Incredibly ripped men whose faces are painted black in symmetrical patterns sit with me in the circle, legs crossed. My mind is as clear as day from the peppery drink but my mouth feels numb. I forget how to say halo and that I am supposed to clap only once when the elder passes the communal cup to me. The worn out coconut cup is touching my anesthetized lips for the third time around and the main pot that holds the rest of the ground up watery pulp still looks pretty full. It is only when I notice the man walking on coals that I start questioning myself for coming here. Is my mind playing tricks on me or have I been hit by the Kava?

Kava

The Yaqona (Kava) plant has an important place in ceremonies and is used widely as a token of goodwill and respect amongst the South Pacific people

Kava Root

Kava root

There are some three hundred islands dotted like jewels in the Fiji chain, but only about a hundred are inhabited. We only get to visit the island of Viti Levu, and Suva is our first port of call. It is hot, incredibly humid and the town is bustling with activities. For a moment it seemed as though we might have arrived in Mumbai, as the majority of the faces I see are Indian. From what I can remember, the first proper Fijian welcome I receive comes from a beautifully dressed big mama with an Afro the size of the Jackson fives’ combined. “Bula!” I like the sound of the word and how she spontaneously shouts it at me, I say it back to her and she smiles a wide white one. I start noticing more and more Fijians and unlike the Indian folk who are more interested in selling ‘authentic’ Fijian artifacts, the Fijians happily greet anyone by means of saying Bula. There are bands of old men playing on guitars and Ukuleles, singing in rustic harmonizing voices and the music from open -air buses passing by add to the sounds of the busy town in their own unique way.

To see the places you see on postcards you have to make missions. It annoys me when people give a place a bad reputation when all they have experienced was a busy shop full of tourists. Get in a cab or take a bus and go explore! I take an open-air bus ride and go through the villages of Na Vasi and Navua on the way to the Pacific Harbor region. Locals wave and say Bula all the way. Although there are some of the best beaches close-by, I choose to watch a traditional Fire Walking ceremony in a village. According to myth, a young warrior was given the exceptional power to withstand fire when he caught the Eel Spirit, and so to prove his power to his chief he walked on fire heated river stones. I enjoy how an elderly man narrates the happenings and some more myths come up. In those days a chief could have anything up to forty wives, but only one of them was his queen. When he died, she had the choice to be buried alive with him or to be clubbed to death and then buried with him. Cannibalism was rife and the practicing of polygamy seemed to have caused many inter-tribal wars.

firewalking 1

 

 

firewalker

Firewalker

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In Port Denarau on the East coast of Viti Levu, I jump on a catamaran and lay back on the deck as the wind blow us toward an island called Savala. With white beach islands scattered all around me in water alive with all shades of blue, I feel like a sea gypsy hopping from one reality into another. The catamaran anchors just off the beach. I swim past some black tipped reef sharks and parrot fish and before I even set foot on this island I know that it is going to be a sad moment when I have to leave again. I grab a cold Fiji Bitter from the rustic beach bar and find a spot to sit at the far side of the island looking out into nothing but absolute serene tropical Nirvana. The local brew along with the view is the catalyst that starts my questioning of things. Why do I have to leave? Why cant I just stay? The local guys also only have their guitars to keep them company and I don’t care about handheld devices other than my one with six strings. I would be happy spending the rest of my life here in this ramshackle hut under its palm roof. Who came up with the saying anyways that some novelties will eventually wear off?

Fiji bitter

One is enough to get you thinking who is really living the dream

I snap out of the fantasy and get back onto the catamaran, saying goodbye to an island that I will never forget. There are new memories to be made in places just as intriguing and beautiful. I find enough comfort in that.

Mars

I notice so many reflections here in Fiji. Some come from the shiny smiles of the people and others come from the beautiful landscape.

along queens rd

Along Queens road on the southern coast of Viti Levu

reflection4

Fire walking ceremony

reflection3

If views like this cant make you want to stay then I don’t know what will

reflection 1

Palms above and below

reflection2

Parallel dream

It is red yellow green everywhere when I walk past the minibus taxis in Port Vila on the Island of Efate in Vanuatu. There is a heavy police presence and this is the first place, after Puntarenas in Costa Rica, where it seems that things might turn volatile if there were no cops around. For a moment it feels like I have walked into a taxi rank in Khayalitsha. It turns out the police is only there to make sure that no one gets ripped off with taxi fares.

Vanuatu ukulele

Music is everywhere

I jump in a taxi with two elderly locals and they ask the smiling, giggling most happy go lucky cabdriver to get dropped off on the way to town. I wanted to get off further down so when they get out the clearly stoned cab driver asks if I mind him going past his house first to fetch a friend. I feel no need to be scared since cannibalism does not exist here anymore. We drive through nooks and crannies and side streets and dirt roads dodging dogs and chicken while he puffs on the spliff he just rolled while driving. Red yellow green. On this occasion I do not partake in the use of the herb except for inhaling the sweet fumes filling the cab. We fetch his friend who must have been growing his dreadlocks since the 1960’s and when we leave his shack he turns on the tinny boombox he carries on his shoulder. It is a one-way dialogue between the Irie and I. I’d say something and he just smiles. I get dropped off where I want to be and exchange some $ for Vatu.

We meet up with some mates and take a different taxi this time to a stunning beach. There is a boy playing with a broken surfboard on the beach and looking at the reef to the right I can see the potential.

Breakers resort

Port Vila beach, Efate Island – Vanuatu

I knew it with an inexplicable certainty the second I stepped onto the white sand. To say it is white sand is not correct either. If it is any finer, it will evaporate. The sand is unbelievable, but the water has got me talking to myself in gibberish, trying to fathom the beauty and serenity of it. With not a ripple on the water as the dreamy indigo bay lay before me, I conclude that this place is going to be my new favourite spot in the world. On a beach on the Isle of Pines, just south of New Caledonia, I have myself the second best day of my life – second only to the day I got married. For the entire day I was on a pure natural high from the gift our senses give us. I swam in the perfect miniature waves as if I am a fish, getting images with my fisheye camera. I rolled around in the soft white sand like nobody is watching. I sang and whistled out loud like nobody is listening. I jumped and danced on the deserted beach like a golly wok. Not that I wouldn’t usually do things like that though. I have what I’d like to refer to as a no strings attached affair with this beautiful beach. The fact that it is a French island makes the affair even sexier. On this occasion I am truly the only person on the beach- for the entire day.

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Even the drops of water out of place looks in place

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I wish I could spend a year in this place, waiting for the day it is big enough to surf

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While I float in the turquoise ocean I feel completely disconnected from the world and I feel at peace with everything in my life. I feel so alive and connected to the beautiful surroundings that I almost start crying when I have to walk away from my beach at the end of the day. I soon realize that the strings from this day will tug at my heart for as long as I am alive for there is no such thing as a no strings attached affair to start out with. I don’t know when, but I will find my way back to this piece of paradise in the future. It wont be hard to find for I have mapped the way there into the back of my mind and sealed the secret by sacrificially drinking a sip of the blue seawater while I carry some of the sand in my bag wherever I go. Some people carry medic- alert bracelets that can help save their lives in emergencies. From this day onward I have mine too. It simply reads “ Take me to the Isle of Pines”.

Ile des Pins3

I can’t find the name of this beach anywhere, so will refer to it as My Beach

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My beach smiling for the camera

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Ile des Pins 8

 

Ile des Pins

Ile des Pins 7

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The reef around the sacred rock teems with life and is also a breeding ground for coral snakes

 Ile des Pins 1        

Ile des Pins local

Ile des Pins 5

buds

The next time I went back to My beach I had some new friends, still with no one in sight.

Jump!

 

A perfect place to jump for joy

Ile des Pins sunset1

New Caledonia sunset

 

 

Polynèsie Française

I’ve been watching the flying fish closely. At any given moment, throughout the day, you can watch them as they try get out of the way of the wake that the ship throws. To be more specific, they graciously glide out of the water with a swoosh motion of the body and ferociously flap their adapted fins until airborne. The longest flight I have timed lasted eight seconds with a distance of more than thirty meters. Some only go as far as a meter. They might also be trying to get away from predator fish, but my ultimate conclusion about their goings about is that they are always on the move to get to some place more desirable. It begs the question in my mind about our own destinations in life. Where is it that we are going and what drives us to get there?

Moorea3

Moorea, French Polynesia

I rub the sleep out of my eyes and the first thing I notice when I look out of the porthole is a beautiful blue and white yacht next to the ship. The deck hands on the yacht have no shoes on while they carefully maneuver around on the immaculate wooden deck. I wonder where those sails have taken them and where it will take them next. It is a beautiful day in Tahiti. We have an overnight in Papeete and as soon as Tam finishes her shift we jump on a bus and make our way into the lush valley of Papenoo.

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Vaimahuta Falls, Papenoo Valley Tahiti

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Forrest in the valley

It is a beautiful drive along the coast but all I can think about is how to get to that wave. It is a wave that will tear you apart if you don’t know what you’re doing, or for that matter even if you do. It is a wave that I would love to observe… from the safety of a boat in the channel. If you watch the YouTube clip of Code Red you will understand why. Just days before our arrival they held the final of the Billabong pro at Teahupoo. Even though we are staying for the night, there is no way we will make it to the spot. Some views are better left to the imagination I suppose.

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We watch the sun set over the island of Moorea in the near distance. We have seen a fair amount of amazing sunsets in the Pacific, but I can honestly say that this one allows my soul to travel to a place I never knew existed. With every second that ticks by, the clouds and the sunrays transform the sky into a kaleidoscope of magnificent colors. It is a kind of sunset that makes you sit down and watch some more when you decide to get up and leave. It makes me realize that sometimes you don’t have to travel far at all to get somewhere really far away.

sunset over moorea

Sitting in Tahiti watching the sunset over Moorea

French Polynesia, as a whole, is an extremely beautiful place. It is somewhat sad though that this beauty is also very exclusive. Apparently, second to Norway, this is the most expensive place on the planet. I can’t afford to buy a souvenir from here so when I accidentally cut my foot on a rock at the beach on Motu Isle, I don’t curse. The scar will become my memento. A shiny black pearl on a necklace might fall off, but I can always look at my scar to be reminded of a time I travelled to absolute paradise.

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Everyone’s ultimate dream…only those who can afford $1200 a night’s reality

Before I go for a scuba dive, I find myself doing backflips with some local kids in the harbor of Bora Bora. It is a Thursday morning and I wonder why they are not in school. I remember days of skipping school to go surfing and I was always on the lookout for someone who might bust me. All these kids were looking out for were passing boats into the harbor. Their bright white smiles help settle my questions about the inevitable destination at the end of our lives. I stop worrying and take it all in.

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Bora Bora harbor

My French Polynesian visa takes up one more precious page of the last few blank pages left in my passport. Just like the many stickers on my guitar case, the immigration stamps in my passport have become evidence of the many beautiful places I have been to. What is it that drives us to get where we want to be? Where will my shoes be walking in a year’s time? I don’t know the answers. But I think, perhaps just maybe, it is the excitement of not knowing that is the catalyst that keeps me going.

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Above and below the pristine waters of French Polynesia you can find enough evidence that this is in fact, Heaven on Earth.

Tonga

After a day in yet another magical place, I take a good look around our cabin. It is starting to look like a souvenir shop with bits of handicrafts from all over. When I look at my photography folder it is filled with names of places that are hard to pronounce and the pictures of where we have been reminds me how fortunate we are. I upload the photos from the day into an empty folder named Tongatapu and the first photo makes me wish I was still standing where it was taken from.

beach

Usually I take note of the landscape of a new place first but the thing that grabs my attention first is a group of ripped tattooed men, wearing traditional warrior attire, and beautiful women with leaves around their ankles dancing as I walk towards downtown Nuku’alofa. One of the men holding an intimidating looking war club shouts: “Malolele, heee haaaa!!!” It is clearly directed at me and I don’t know if I should run or say something back in Zulu. Only when he smiles at me I feel ready to carry on. Tongans are very happy people and they frequently express their happiness by giving a loud, high-pitched heeeeeehaaaaaaa shout called the Faka’ulu. In other words, he was just saying halo and that he is happy for me to be there.

   rythmdancing  

I stroll around the Talamahu market and the abundance of local food and Kava root gives the place a distinct aroma. Women sit and weave baskets from palm leaves and men smoke hand rolled tobacco cigarettes while bargaining prices of the Kava root. I see a stall where a man sells beautifully handcrafted wooden flutes. I pick one up and bring it to my lips to play a tune and the man quickly stops me from doing so. At first I thought he is being rude, but when he starts playing the flute using his nostril I understand why he stopped me. He plays a beautiful tune and tells me more about its significance in Tongan culture. From the fishhook necklaces to the patterns on the Tapa cloth, I love how everything has a significant meaning to it.

Kava Root

Kava roots

Patterns & Colours palm basket

Use everything

Tongan elderly

“Mate, if the trade winds weren’t blowing then we would have been surfing perfect waves mate. It’s the wrong time of year mate, I have been waiting three weeks mate.” The Australian surfer I meet on Ha’atafu beach on the western tip of Tonga agrees that if its not the coral that will grind you up it will be the rip that makes you regret paddling out. I keep my board in its bag.

wind

Wind at Ha’atafu beach

Mapu’a’a Vaea. Also known as the Chief’s Whistles, these blowholes are some of the most spectacular in the South Pacific. The waves crash into the ledge with immense force and at times the compressed water blows up to thirty meters into the air.  

blow hole3 blow hole1

Just like Captain Cook took a rest under an ‘Ovava tree when he landed here, I stand at ease under a Banyan tree, mesmerized by the sunset unfolding in front of me. There is a beautiful yacht anchored to the side of the small island I am looking at and in an instant I am in a daydream, living on the island in the summer and sailing on the yacht looking for waves. Not far from me there is a band of old men playing traditional Tongan music and their soul full harmonizing voices carry me to a place far away.

Ultimate dream

Ultimate dream…

shipwreck

…Ultimate dream got stuck

When I drop my last few coins from Tonga in the donation box while the dancers are performing, four of the men shout a massive Faka’ulu, and in Tonga it is custom to reply by Faka’ulu. I love doing things that would be frowned upon in our “normal” lives so I Faka’ulu back to these guys. Sometimes I keep receipts, sometimes I keep a small pebble or piece of driftwood as a reminder of special places, but for my Tongan amulet, I keep the accepting smile I got from one of the girls in the dance group when I showed my appreciation for their culture by means of expressing my happiness the Faka’ulu way.

tripple palm    

Double-branched palm tree       

Beautiful reef to snorkel on… this reef was 10m away from our bearth!                       

Reef at the berth

cold but its hot

Catching hermit crabs

golden island