Saturday, March 26, 2011

Day 166 - Into the Wild...

If I were to make a movie of my life this week I could easily give it the title 'Into the Wild...', as it really feels as if we've escaped from real life the last couple of days! We're travelling in the Kruger National Park and every day brings a gift of unrehearsed, unplanned scenes with some of the most incredible roleplayers!

In the last two days we have been up close to elephant, giraffe, wildebeest, hippo, buffalo and baboons - to name but a few! This is one of the most important wildlife conservation areas on our continent and I have been blessed to visit this amazing place since I was a little girl.

What a pleasure to listen to my parents recall the times we spent here while I was growing up! Now it's my turn to treat them and I am treasuring every moment!

Here are a few of our sightings of the last two days - we're about to start the fire for dinner, a good bottle of wine is on ice and I can't wait to spot the Southern Cross in an unpolluted clear sky!

Wish you were here! :)

Friday, March 18, 2011

Day 158 - A heart of stone

Thursday is my hiking day. I get up at the crack of dawn and meet my hiking buddies for a day in the mountains. Unless someone has a really important reason to prevent me from packing my backpack and putting on my boots, you'll find me out there once a week.

Recently there have been a few important events that prevented me from getting out there but thank goodness, yesterday everyone was healthy and happy and I spent a glorious day in the Silvermine Nature Reserve, situated close to the city of Cape Town.

It was one of those perfect days on the mountain. Lovely weather, a great route and a grand finale consisting of layers and layers of cloud rolling in from nowhere. One minute we were sitting in the sun, enjoying our lunch, the next minute we had to scramble for jackets. As I watched the clouds roll in I couldn't help but think of that disastrous summit attempt on Everest in 1996 when eight climbers perished after being caught in a unexpected storm.

Just a reminder that one has to have the utmost respect for nature. You don't make the rules out there and I also made a mental note to double check the contents of my backpack - those little things truly can be lifesavers. Yesterday I was certainly reminded that a whistle is an essential item to have in case one gets lost in the mist.

A while ago I read that a whistle also came in handy when a pilgrim on the Camino found himself in the precarious position of being chased by a bull out in the middle of nowhere. The noise of the whistle was effective enough to stop the creature from flattening the poor fellow - a useful item to pack indeed!

While we were exploring one of the caves on the route I came across the perfect heart shaped little stone in the picture above. I knew I'd found my Camino stone and this is what I'll take with me to Spain next year. I'll add it to the great pile of stones placed at the foot of a cross on the route by so many before me.

There are many theories as to why people have been doing this for centuries and this forum provides a few good possible answers. I'm afraid that if the theory that the stone has to be big enough to represent all your sins is to be believed, I'll probably have to send a shipping container over there, so I choose not to go with that one!

I'm also very happy to report that at least three of my hiking partners are seriously considering walking to Santiago with me next year. That alone will be one of the biggest birthday gifts anyone could possibly give me! I look forward to meeting all the new people who are destined to cross my path but having these truly special people on the road with me is going to add another dimension to my journey.

God has blessed me with some of the most wonderful, sincere people in my life the last couple of years. Not
a day goes by that I'm not thankful for that!

At the beginning of the year, in the spirit of new year's enthusiasm and positive resolutions, I created a blog where I planned to post all my weekly hiking pictures. Well, I've finally posted some pictures and if you'd like to experience a little of yesterday's magic with me, you're very welcome to click here - I'd be very happy to hear your comments!

Do you have any beautiful hikes in your part of the world?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Day 154 - The small things...

Taken on one of my hikes and chosen for this post as the two open flowers somehow represent the old, as they've been open for a while and the new blossom is representative of the new - full of promise, waiting to bask in the sun! The old is still beautiful and worthy of being photographed but the new is associated with so much expectation, promise and beauty! As the old is so much more visible and dominant, one almost overlooks the new that is right there, under your nose!
In the last two days I received two very different messages from different sources but somehow they are so connected and represent such a clear message, that I felt compelled to stitch them together with words and share it with whoever happens to come across this little part of my world.

The first message was this. Scientists have concluded that 'now' consists of exactly five seconds. So every five seconds of our lives we are handed a brand new 'now'. So think about this - in our lifetimes we are handed a gazillion 'now's' and yet, if you are like me, how often do we remain stuck in our past lives?

To just bring this concept home in a very real way, a friend told me about the clock that she has on her wall at home - rather than it being numbered from one to twelve, the word 'now' has been printed on it twelve times instead.

How perfect. And how spot on!

Somehow this got me thinking and I'm going to work very hard at making that my goal in life. Live in the now - all the stuff that we carry along gets so heavy at times, the energy that is needed to deal with old stuff is so much better spent on the 'now' things!

Planning a camino all these months ahead of time certainly is embracing that concept, so I've realised that I am well and truly on my way to living a 'now' life. Planning positive things for one's own future is certainly one way of ensuring that your future 'now's' are indeed worth looking forward to!

This morning another friend forward me the following piece and it made me realize how important the living-in-the-now concept really is. These two messages are indeed connected and has certainly ensured that I for one have taken more than a few minutes to reflect.

Cab Ride

I arrived at the address and honked the horn.
after waiting a few minutes
I walked to the
door and knocked.. 'Just a minute', answered a
frail, elderly voice. I could hear something
being dragged across the floor.

a long pause, the door opened. A small woman in
her 90's stood before me. She was wearing a
print dress and a pillbox hat with a veil pinned
on it, like somebody out of a 1940's

By her side was a small nylon
suitcase. The apartment looked as if no one had
lived in it for years. All the furniture was
covered with sheets.

There were no
clocks on the walls, no knickknacks or utensils
on the counters. In the corner was a cardboard
box filled with photos and

'Would you carry my bag
out to the car?' she said. I took the suitcase
to the cab, then returned to assist the

She took my arm and we walked
slowly toward the curb.

She kept
thanking me for my kindness. 'It's nothing', I
told her.. 'I just try to treat my passengers
the way I would want my mother to be

'Oh, you're such a good
boy, she said. When we got in the cab, she gave
me an address and then asked, 'Could you drive
through downtown?'

'It's not the
shortest way,' I answered

'Oh, I don't mind,' she
said. 'I'm in no hurry. I'm on my way to a

I looked in the rear-view
mirror. Her eyes were glistening. 'I don't have
any family left,' she continued in a soft
voice.. 'The doctor says I
don't have very
long.' I quietly reached over and shut off the

'What route would you like me
to take?' I asked.

For the next two
hours, we drove through the city. She showed me
the building where she had once worked as an
elevator operator.

We drove through the
neighborhood where she and her husband had lived
when they were newlyweds She had me pull up in
front of a furniture warehouse that had once
been a ballroom where she had gone dancing as a

Sometimes she'd ask me to slow
in front of a particular building or corner and
would sit staring into the darkness, saying

As the first hint of sun was
creasing the horizon, she suddenly said, 'I'm
tired. Let's go now'.

We drove in
silence to the address she had given me. It was
a low building, like a small convalescent home,
with a driveway that passed under a

Two orderlies came out to
the cab as soon as we pulled up. They were
Solicitous and intent, watching her every move.
They must have been expecting her.

opened the trunk and took the small suitcase to
the door. The woman was already seated in a

'How much do I owe you?'
She asked, reaching into her

'Nothing,' I

'You have to make a living,' she

'There are other
passengers,' I responded.

without thinking, I bent and gave her a hug. She
held onto me tightly.

'You gave an
old woman a little moment of joy,' she
'Thank you.'

I squeezed her
hand, and then walked into the dim morning
light.. Behind me, a door shut. It was the sound
of the closing of a life..

I didn't
pick up any more passengers that shift. I drove
aimlessly lost in thought. For the rest of that
day, I could hardly talk. What if that woman had
gotten an angry driver, or one who was impatient
to end his shift?
if I had refused to take the run, or had honked
once, then driven away?

On a quick
review, I don't think that I have done anything
more important in my life.

conditioned to think that our lives revolve
around great moments.

But great
moments often catch us unaware-beautifully
wrapped in what others may consider a small


You won't get any big surprise
in 10 days if you send this to ten people. But,
you might help make the world a little kinder
and more compassionate by sending.
it on and
reminding us that often it is the random acts of
kindness that most benefit all of

Thank you, my

may not be the party we hoped for, but while we
are here we might as well dance.

Well, I thought that was food for thought! I hope to be grabbing all those precious 'now's' that I'm being blessed with and live them to the fullest! Anything else would be such a waste!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Day 146 - Back to reality...

Back to reality it is this week. Funny thing about travelling - by the end of the second week away one starts feeling a little homesick and then, once you're home, you wish you were back right where you came from! This was a pretty busy trip, as the main object was to find a little property that we could call home for part of the year, either in Portugal or Madeira.

As there are SO many properties on the market in Portugal, the task was daunting, to say the least. In Lagos, situated in the south of the country in the sunny Algarve, there are 2000 new apartments on the market alone! So for us in the end it boiled down to establishing where it was that we wanted to be and after visiting the centre of Portugal and comparing the life we would have there with what the Algarve has to offer, we have settled on the latter.

We've now made an offer on a little apartment, so here's hoping that if it's meant to be, so be it. If not, well, then we'll continue looking.

Sometimes the biggest obstacle to overcome in life (in my humble opinion anyway) is to actually make a decision about whatever needs to be decided upon!  In our case the decision to have a little place in Portugal has been hovering in the background for years now. We've looked and discussed, looked and discussed  and now we're finally at the place where it is a done deal. No more wondering about what if, should we, shouldn't we - just get on with it now! So there you have it.

Decision made.

Our main base will remain here for many years but once we have a place to call our own on that side, we'll spend a month or two there every year and eventually the plan is to follow the sun for half of every year.

Feels good to say goodbye to procrastination!

This morning in church the minister said something that really struck home. He said: 'All of us are going to die. It's a given. What many of us forget to do, is to live.'

Having made this decision makes me feel that we've decided to live! Nothing is impossible if you really want to make it happen bad enough. So here's hoping that all falls in place as it should, however long it takes!

The other highlight in my week happened yesterday. And as this blog has a lot to do with the Camino, I'm happy to say that this bit of news is as camino related as it gets! The Confraternity of St James of South Africa held a Camino presentation at a church just around the corner from me.

What an amazing morning!

Other than all the amazing information I received, I was in awe of how many people who have already walked several times themselves, attended what essentially was an informative session for people who have never walked! It just brought home to me that the affect that the Camino has on people is undeniable.

More about the presentation in my next post. In the meantime, here are some of the photos I took on our trip. Enjoy!

And finally...

Driving in Madeira is not for the fainthearted! We were in a little Renault Clio here and we decided that we know when we're defeated - a hasty retreat into the nearest little hole we could find, a friendly wave from the busdriver and all was well again!