Join me on a tranquil retreat to South Africa’s very own Sacramento. A place of unspoiled settings, attractive seascapes, and diverse landscapes that leaves you feeling like you just came back from northern Ireland.
The circular trail starts at the bronze cannon at Schoenmakerskop, which points towards the Sacramento, a Portuguese galleon that was wrecked in 1647. It stretches as far as sandy bay, aptly named Cannon Bay where one can find the ruins of a mill, which used to crush seashells are located.
I arrived in Reykjavik, Iceland after a 30-hour flight from South Africa. You could get here in a little under 16 hours on direct flights, however, I opted for the cheaper latter. Long waits at airports meant extra time to meet new people from all corners of the world.
I arrived early evening at The Capital Inn on a night’s board of R280 in a 10-bed dorm. I was welcomed by 2 Moroccan ex-pats (Taha & Walid), One guy from Switzerland (Steven), A South Korean (Kate), A Slovenian girl (Sanja), a British guy (Ben), One American (Gia) & one French girl (Martine). 90 % of solo like-minded travelers looking for their own adventures who were destined to meet. Life-long friendships were forged as meaningful stories and experiences began to be shared.
As the days went on, we encountered a few other people that added to our story. Evenings were spent in the Capital Crowd basement where we cooked our communal dinners and took pleasure in sharing and dancing to our favorite songs from our hometowns. We created unique memories whilst we joined in the celebration and taught each other how to sing Happy Birthday in our home tongues, amongst other rare words we learned from these favorite gypsies. This is rather fun to do, and a first-time experience for all of us. The Happy Birthday song is a universal language we all speak, yet sounds so unique and different amongst all these cultures. I would like to challenge you to try this on your next trip and send me a video recording of all the people you meet on your journey singing this in their home tongue. Let’s start our own cappella group of Happy Birthday Songs.
We formed a diverse team with a pool of travel expertise that collectively made our experiences. We were so tight that Taha created a private Facebook group – Capital Crowd 1012, to post our unique and crazy pictures from our trip. It’s private because it got pretty crazy most nights while everyone expressed his or her individuality.
Drinking in Iceland is a no-go, and can be rarely afforded. Import prices and taxes make it one of the most expensive countries in the world to have a drink in. To put it into perspective, a bottle of Amarula in South Africa would cost around R89 a bottle, and in Iceland over R1200. An R50 bottle of wine from Stellenbosch would cost an average of R400. A pint of beer would cost you anything from R98.00. And that is their local beers – Viking & Polar Beer.
I would highly recommend buying as many drinks as you are allowed at their airports duty-free prior to flying into the country.
Drinks aside, the people you will meet in Iceland, will keep you entertained for hours.
Most nights, as 11 pm approached we suited and geared up for our evenings ahead in Iceland’s extreme weather conditions to chase the northern lights. 9 of us filled our 2 rented cars and headed to mountainous locations out of sight of city lights. Usually, our journeys out of Reykjavik lasted 45 min to an hour but offered the best-untouched views of the northern lights. We stayed out till 4 in the morning most nights.
Steven and Gia were the best coordinators in establishing visibility of the Aurora Borealis and had a good understanding of the factors involved in viewing these like hPa numbers and cloud cover types; lower, middle & high clouds. I took one look at Vendur – Iceland’s preferred website for measuring activity and my lack of a geological understanding and degree thereof was to my disadvantage. My knowledge extended thus far “Does 4 mean we can see the lights?”.
Have a look at this in your effort to understand me on this:
By night 3, we all became pros & tour operators by acquiring Gia & Stevens’s understanding of the Auroras – To the point that I ran my own Northern Lights tours in Northern Norway – a country I was yet to visit. Only on arriving, did I realize I had learned so much from these two incredible jet setters.
Not something on your everyday bucket list – but a definite must-do for the brave. Soweto, South Africa
I was hosting a photographer friend over recently visiting from Spain. He has an adventure-seeking soul, so I wanted to give him a thrilling experience of what life in Johannesburg was really all about. What better way to show him what the traffic was like than by playing Dodge ‘em with Soweto taxis whilst on quad bikes?
Both nervous and excited, I had no idea what to expect.
On arrival, we were greeted by Naledi’s friendly staff and the community who assisted us with all safety checks before departing on our 6-hour journey that was about to turn into the most memorable experience we have had in South Africa.
We thought we would share this sort of experience with you. Pictures do after all communicate 1000 messages!
Photos that will inspire you to travel to Iceland.
I like to refer to Iceland as the postcard country, and when you see some of the images below you will understand why. There is something charming about traveling to a country that is more than 80% uninhibited, although most will be daunted by its lack of civilization. I quite liked the idea of having 9 days of peace and quiet, whilst being spellbound by this country’s astonishing natural beauty.
Whilst locals can make for a better traveling experience, it didn’t seem to bother me that I didn’t bump into any. Over 60 percent of the country’s population of 330 000 people live in the Capital City of Reykjavik. I spent most of my time along the West Coast and the South Coast.
I found contentment in the silence Iceland offers while I forged a deep connection with nature. Its ever-changing weather created some of the most dramatic scenes I have ever witnessed in a land of fire and ice. To give you an idea: on a visit to the Reykjanes Peninsula, I experienced 3 snow storms and sunsets in a period of 30min. Similarly, at the Skogafoss waterfall, I experienced a hail storm, a rainbow, and a gorgeous sunset. So if you are looking to capture that perfect shot, it’s a good idea to wait it out for a little.
Each day offered another opportunity to photograph something new, so no planning was necessary for the trip. I just rented a car and drove, and with only 5 hours of daylight, I managed to rake up a fair amount of photographs in a short amount of time.
What an incredible experience: the snow castle of Kemi in Northern Finland. I visited this unique gem in early February.
This unique castle made of snow and ice, is the biggest snow fort in the world and gets rebuilt every winter. The first snow castle in Kemi in 1996, drew on average 300 000 visitors.
The area covered by the castle has varied from 13 000 to over 20 000 square meters. The highest towers have been over 20 meters high and the longest walls are over 1000 meters long, and the castle has had up to three stories.
Despite its varying configurations, the snow castle has a few recurring elements: a capel a restaurant, and a hotel.
A Unique Dining Experience
Visit The Snow Restaurant for a unique dining experience, with ice tables and seats covered with reindeer fur to keep you warm in this – 5 degrees Celsius setting.
The Snow Hotel
Why not stay the night and live as the Eskimos did back in the day?
This hotel offers you a choice of double rooms and a honeymoon suite, all of which are decorated by local artists using local materials.
Spring day – My absolute favorite day of the year! And there is a very good reason why!
I visited the Limpopo Province in South Africa recently and noticed that the flowers were already in bloom and I couldn’t help but grab my camera and start capturing the essence of everything that was in front of me.
Spring is more than just a season to me. It is a time of self-reflection. A time to remind yourself that although you may be going through some storms in your life, and surrounded by the ugly aspects of winter, life is beautiful, just like you are and those rough times you may be facing are only a season. Your character and personality are shaped during these times and you develop skills that help you stand tall during those moments in your life that God has thrown at you to make you the person you are meant to become!
And isn’t this person just beautiful?
Here are a few of my favorite images from my spring day collection. These are intended to be blurry, soft abstract art pieces to remind you that you are beautiful even when things are a mess.
For most people, a trip to northern Norway, Finland, or Sweden means viewing the famous northern lights, but these Scandinavia countries have so much more on offer than just their spectacular light shows. They house Europe’s northernmost indigenous people and showcase snow-filled landscapes dotted with reindeer.
The Sami people (formally known as Lapps or Laplanders) have dated back to as early as 98 A.D. They can still be today found inhabiting
the northern regions of Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia. It is suggested that the term Lapp in Scandinavian languages refers to “a patch of cloth for mending” which could possibly be descriptive of the Sami’s traditional “gakti” clothing.
Traditionally these Sami people have pursued a variety of livelihoods, including coastal fishing (amongst the Norwegian Sea Sami) and reindeer herding (amongst the mountain Sami).
Despite having been previously discriminated against by these European countries, the Sami people are the only individuals that today can legally herd reindeer due to their cultural lineage. Just over 2800 Samis are considered reindeer nomads for herding on a full-time basis.
Historically, reindeer provided the Sami with a means of transport, a source of food, and fur to keep warm from the bitterly cold weather of the Arctic. Today, it is their main source of income.
To make up for past suppression, the authorities of Norway, Sweden, and Finland now make an effort to promote Sami culture and language. Many Sami artifacts can be found in local museums around these neighboring countries.
Day and evening tours to see the Sami are also on offer. Daytime trips provide you with scenic views of the wild mountains, while on the evening trips, you will be served a traditional hot Sami meal, enjoy Sami storytelling, view cultural artifacts, and take part in the traditional Sami song of junk. Later, go reindeer sledding under the northern lights.
Unlike any other deer species, both the male and female reindeer have antlers. Males lose their antlers in winter or spring, but females shed theirs in the summer. Reindeer antlers grow back in a few months.
#4 Reindeers are adapted to the cold weather
Their fur traps air providing them with excellent insulation. It also keeps them buoyant in the water while migrating across rivers and lakes.
Their noses warm the air they breathe before it enters their lungs keeping their mucous membranes moist.
Sami tents, commonly known as Lavvu, are temporary dwellings used by the Sami people. It is designed similarly to a Native American tipi but is less vertical and more stable in high winds. It consists of three or more forked poles and several straight poles. The forked poles have a two-stem fork at the top end and are interlocked so that they form a tripod. Upon the assembly of the forked poles, the straight poles are laid in a circular fashion.
Inside the lavvu, there is a fireplace in the middle used for heating. The smoke escapes through the smoke hole in the top of the lavvu that is usually left open. Occasionally a rough blanket is wrapped around the smoke hole to make the opening smaller, but not to the point where smoke would be prevented from escaping. In order to prevent smoke from building up inside, proper air circulation is maintained by leaving an opening between the ground and the cover, or leaving the door slightly open. Keeping the fire hot enough to let the heated smoke rise through the smoke hole is necessary.
Traditionally, there was a smaller door in the back of the lavvu, opposite the front door, called the bear door. This was used for ceremonial purposes, such as removing the dead (not appropriately out of the front door) and similar functions.
I recently visited the vervet monkey sanctuary in Limpopo and it reminded me of another place I visited in Bali that had monkeys unique to Southeast Asia. If you are looking for a place to visit that will offer you peace and harmony in a surreal setting then you will just love this Sacred Monkey Forest in Ubud, Bali.
The name written on the welcome board is Padangtegal Mandala Wisata Wanara Wana. What a mouthful! – luckily for us, it is more commonly referred to as the Sacred Monkey Forest of Ubud. (Sounds a whole lot better, hey?)
On arrival, you will be greeted by 600+ crab-eating Macaque monkeys, also known as long-tail macaques. The forest serves a mission of Tri Hita Karana – a philosophy of Hinduism offering three ways to reach spiritual and physical well-being. It seeks to make people live harmoniously throughout their lives, thus creating peace and harmony for all its visitors.
Hidden in the lush green rainforest you can find an array of temples, considered by the Balinese as a means of renewing contact with the spiritual world. Religious rituals are common practice here by the locals, and ancestral spirits, tree spirits, and statues are all given offerings and prayers.
The park consists of 115 tree species. Some trees are considered more holy than others. The Majegan tree is used exclusively for the building of shrines and the Berigin tree leaves are used in cremation ceremonies.
Of special significance is the Pule Bandak, a tree that embodies the spirit of the forest, and is used in the making of powerful masks. These masks are only used inside the temple, and the trees are not killed to make them. An auspicious day is chosen and the Priest asks permission from the tree spirit to cut a small piece of its wood. The spirit will remain embodied in the mask.
One thing that cannot go unnoticed throughout Bali is their daily celebrations of deities. Offerings in the shape of flowers and various decorations are made daily and can be seen in front of people’s houses and outside temples showing their appreciation to deities. Here it is no different and such offerings can be seen at all three temples that are scattered in the forest. These temples are considered to be from the 11 century, having been built in 1350. Balinese Hinduism is very different from Hinduism practiced in other parts of the world and combines aspects of Animism, Ancestor Worship, Buddhism, and Hinduism.
Ancestor worship represents the belief that prosperity is associated with a relationship between the living and the dead. Prosperity is achieved through intense worship and the obtainment of blessings from ancestors. Animism represents the belief that inanimate objects and other elements of the natural landscape can possess souls which help as well as hinder human efforts on earth.
#2 The Pura Beji is used for the worship of Hyang Widhi in the personification of the goddess Ganga. A “Holy Spring” bathing temple, it is a place of spiritual and physical cleansing and purification prior to religious ceremonies.
#3 The Pura Prajapati is used to worship Hyang Widhi in the personification of Prajapati. A cemetery adjacent to this temple receives the bodies of the deceased for temporary burial while they await a mass cremation ceremony, held once every five years.
One of the temples can be accessed by walking across a moss-covered stone bridge high across the stream; long banyan vines hang down above you and below. Veer off down a long flight of slippery steps passing by two large Komodo dragon statues.
Some parts of the temples are not open to view by the public. Sacred areas of the temples are closed to everyone except those willing to pray and wear proper Balinese praying attire.
The monkeys are the star attraction of the forest. Just watching them kept me entertained for hours. There are 5 groups each occupying different territories throughout the park which I find very fascinating. Particularly adorable were the scrawny and hairless black babies that were clinging to their moms and suckling.
Monkeys, in general, are very social and love teasing you by tugging on your belongings or jumping up on you to greet you. There were a few instances when a good few monkeys clambered up on me, which could get pretty overwhelming for those not used to it.