BeanOn Photography
Morocco’s Tetouan: thirteen years ago and today
Thirteen years ago on the 14th August I visited Morocco for the first time, and fell in love with Tetouan.   From Ceuta we caught a bus to the border of Morocco. Fortunately, our recently acquired Canadian travel-buddy spoke French but he struggled to haggle a cheaper taxi ride to Tetouan. Forty-kilometers later, mostly along the coast, we were dropped off in the middle of Tetouan.    Once we’d found accommodation, we dumped our backpacks and permitted a young man working at the riad to lead us through the nearby ancient medina. Overpowering smells, only a few palatable, caused me to heave and at times I had to pinch my nose. The vibrant spices, the heaps of henna and varieties of olives enticed me to spend money.   Adam’s (aka Omar) family run carpet shop happened to be the next port of call. How did that happen? A good few steps later, we climbed out on to a terrace to admire the magnificent view of the town: thousands of satellite dishes attached to crumbling white buildings, feral cats slinking in alley ways. We were served a glass of melted sugar with mint tea leaves, an instant injection of diabetes, before returning to the carpets below.    Instantly I fell in love […]
Two seasons at Karkloof Nature Reserve, KwaZulu-Natal
Nestled in the ever-green heart of the Umgeni Valley, Karkloof Nature Reserve offers unspoilt trails amidst an undulating plateau – which has an average altitude of approximately one-thousand meters – mistbelt forest, grasslands, wetlands and wildlife – the non predatory type.   I first hiked the reserve in February; as dawn descended and the sun exposed itself the sweltering heat appeared to increase at least five degrees per hour. The lush vegetation, a pulsating green as dense as a nineteenth century novel, kept the giraffe from sight. From the top of the jagged cliff face far in to the distance we spotted the head of a giraffe grazing the tops of acacias. Unfortuntately, we didn’t have the time to get up close and personal and vowed to return in the near future.   Five months later, our pledge met, we returned in persuit of the elusive giraffe. The lush green grasslands moved over for the wintery browns and the blackened grasslands caused by controlled fires. The sun took a little longer to warm my bones, and only increased a degree per hour. As a lone yellow-billed kite, unusual to see at this time of the year, hovered on the thermals overhead, […]
Durban is the warmest place to be
Unequivocally, Durban is the warmest place to be – it is practically summer all year round with its sub-tropical climate and laid-back, friendly people.   Most mornings (when I am home, of course), at first light, I spend at Durban’s vibrant beachfront: running along the soft, golden beach sand; cycling up to thirty kilometres along the promenade, up and down the piers, around Moses Mabhida Stadium, across the Umgeni River and back again; surfing even in winter, mostly with a spring wetsuit; and recently, my new found addiction, yoga with Lauren from SurfSup Yoga. At dawn this morning I warmed up with an hour’s run along the beach sand before enjoying a soothingly stimulating session of yoga at Snake Park Lawns, on the promenade. Exercising alongside the ocean, while watching the sun rise and sharing it with others that were clearly health conscious, was an experience to behold.   A few hours later, mid afternoon, I returned to the beachfront with my camera where I experienced a completely different world compared to the world at dawn. A promenade teeming with people, from diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds, exultant and savouring everything the beachfront had to offer from rickshaw rides to Zulu dancing, […]
Gwahumbe Game Lodge & Spa – a sea of tranquility
Whenever I visit Gwahumbe Game Lodge & Spa it’s as though I’m floating on a sea of tranquillity. One of my favourite little pieces of heaven just over an hour’s drive from Durban. Usually, I am either exploring the reserve by 4×4 or huffing and puffing along the 4×4 track on a mountain bike; however, this time I decide to self-indulge (actually, a friend treated me) in luxurious beauty treatments at the four-star (plus, in my opinion) spa. A decadent treat. As someone once said, resistance is futile…   Before even reaching the main gate to the reserve, I stop a few times to photograph the rolling mountains with the sugar cane fields in the foreground blushing a vibrant green. The light haze from the sun enveloping the peaks make them appear too perfect for this world. Nature at it’s five-star best!   At the main reception, where I announce my arrival, I help myself to a mug of Rooibos tea and take it down with me to the spa, overlooking more perfect peaks now with balls of cloud hovering above them, the sun almost disappearing for good.   My favourite treatment without doubt is the hot stone massage. A […]
A Paris Fling
Welcome back, Europe!   A Paris fling lasting two nights is simply not enough to explore the city’s inspiring grandeur, despite visiting twice previously many years ago. After each visit Paris becomes more appealing, I become more appreciative of its breath-taking architecture and heritage buildings, highlight after highlight – endless intrigue.   Did you know that it’s free (yes, free!) entry in to the Notre-Dame Cathedral? A top tip when faced with a ceaseless queue of overheating bodies trying to penetrate the imposing cathedral. Look for a gap, nonchalantly fill the gap and pretend to be with the people in front of you, not looking over your shoulder, and mind your own business. Obviously this needs to happen as far in front of the queue as possible. And… la magie…   Resistance becomes futile when Paris presents the opening night of Rigoletto at the Opera Bastille. What an exceptionally powerful performances by all, and such artistry and precision of symphony by the orchestra. Three acts later, I still yearned for more. I feel a humming session about to attack… In English, of course.   ‘La donna mobile’ Rigoletto by Verdi   Woman is fickle Like a feather in the wind, She changes […]
From Naughty Nimbin to Sydney, NSW, Australia
From Naughty Nimbin (to Sydney), we returned to Byron Bay for a swim in the calm sea, still not quite able to fathom why this place was again overcrowded with major traffic problems. Yes, it had beautiful beaches but so did most of Sydney’s north coast.   Evans Head At Evans Head, a one-horse town compared to Byron Bay, we spent the night on an island overlooking the quaint harbour, in between where the boats docked. The stunning sunset, silhouetting the moorings, added to the tranquil feel of the place.   Nambucca Heads Waking to heavy rain and wind that rocked the van, we set off early-ish the following morning and enjoyed a lunch over looking the river at Nambucca Heads, where the weather had cleared. Inspecting the 500 meters of rock gallery, we strolled along The Vee Wall to the pristine and uncrowded beaches beyond at Shelly Beach. Surprisingly, I spotted another two aboriginal people!   Hat Head National Park Our next night’s rest landed us at Hat Head National Park. With only three other cars around in the park, and a few wallabies, we almost had the place to ourselves. The heavens opened again which prevented us from […]
Naughty Nimbin, New South Wales
Happily deciding to only lunch at the chaotic Byron Bay instead of spending the night, we headed in to the mountains before experiencing the day at naughty Nimbin, New South Wales.   Recalling the strict instruction, “Only use the campervan on dirt tracks leading to campsites,” from Apollo’s campervan hire assistant, we briefly reconsidered our plight. “What’s the worst that could happen?” “Exactly!” Resistance is futile! Shake, rattle and roll, lasting over an hour, over what should have been termed, or should that be warned, ‘4×4 only track’ where any vehicles are concerned. At least we made it, and even more impressive so did the sleeper van, and surprisingly even so, all the crockery arrived in one piece too.     Exciting, right? Well, wait until you step foot inside a place where not another on this Earth could touch it.   Welcome to Nimbin – “Australia’s weed capital” – a quaint place with psychedelic buildings. People gaudily coated in tie-dye clothing strolled around aimlessly without a care in the world. Cafés filled with all sorts of people, from businessmen to tramps. Anything goes. Outside, at the back of a café we noticed the kites flying high, how everyone was clearly […]
North Coast of Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
The moment we collected the camper van, all singing all dancing home on wheels, from the other side of Sydney, the real adventure began. For ten nights we slept in the van while exploring the North Coast of Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.   Not even thirty minutes after Apollo signed over their beast to us, we’d gently knocked a van’s wing mirror while trying to parallel-park the vehicle near Bondi Beach while stopping off for a bite to eat. Ouch!   Hawks Nest   A few hours later, after taking up most of a shopping’s car park while stocking up on groceries, we arrived at Hawks Nest, our first port of call, many minutes too late. The campsite had locked its boom gate and no one answered the emergency number on the office door. They definitely weren’t open for business. Ah look! The beach with a car park – a perfect spot to spend the night. Without any interruptions, we slept soundly. A forty-minute run along the silky soft sand had me rearing to go first thing the next morning.   Seal Rocks   At the stunning, pristine beaches of Seal Rocks we spent a night at Treachery Camp. […]
Exploring Sydney, Australia
For years I had longed to experience a campervan trip along the north coast of Sydney, Australia and finally I did it!   Two weeks in total, I spent the first two nights at the Sydney Harbour Marriott and the last night at the exceptionally beautiful Park Hyatt Sydney – a well-deserved treat after thirteen nights in a camper van. Talk about a room with a view! From there I relished exploring the spectacular city: the buzzing Circular Quay, along the waterfront to Wharf 2 and the Opera House, around the foreshore to the lush green spaces of the Royal Botanic Gardens, over to the Olympic swimming pool alongside the water’s edge, up to the Art Gallery of New South Wales, back along the waterfront to the western side where the promenade leads to the The Rocks, a pulsating hub of cafes, restaurants, bars and historic architecture. The other side of the iconic Harbour Bridge led me to Dawes Point where a wedding ceremony took place, and people posing for photographs in front of the Luna Park’s Ferris Wheel.   At sunset on the second evening we caught a ferry to Manly Beach, one of Australia’s most famous surfing beaches, and […]
Great Karoo, Matjiesfontein
From Cape Town we drove through some spectacular passes and dramatic landscapes making up the Great Karoo that led us to Plettenberg Bay. The highlight of the journey to our final destination had to be spending the night in Matjiesfontein at the Lord Milner Hotel, lord of the manner more like…   Imagine stepping back in time over a century ago… I’ve always longed to inhabit the Earth when only wild beasts freely roamed, without us humans around to destroy everything precious. Well, Matjiesfontein is a little like how I imagine the Earth to have been after the first set of humans developed in to ‘town’ dwellers, and ceased the beasts from roaming free. Okay, that may be a slight case of imagination running riot… But, excusing the mild digression, one definitely steps back in time at least one-hundred-and-thirty years when visiting Matjiesfontein in the Great Karroo, Western Cape.   Nothing has changed, bar a lick or two of paint perhaps, since 1884. What else could a klein dorpie with this much character ever possibly need? When they refer to it as klein, it truly couldn’t be tinier.  
Feb 20
Cape Town, African Penguins at Boulders Beach
A trip to Cape Town wouldn’t feel complete without visiting the African Penguins at Boulders Beach.   Let’s arrive early, we thought, and enjoy a swim with the penguins at Boulders Beach. Okay, but only after devouring the hotel’s five-star breakfast that started at 7am. Well, early out of season is a lot different to early in season. After discovering that not a space existed at the main car park we ended up parking along a residential road past the second car park.   With the sun beating down in a blemish free sky, already melting the suntan lotion from my body, we discovered hundreds of bodies down on the beach. Families sprawled out on the soft, white sand, up on the impressive granite boulders that naturally protect the beach from the wind and unruly waves. What an idyllic swimming spot, albeit it slightly colder than Durbs’ Indian Ocean. A few penguins, feathers ruffled, languorously basked in the sun, on the sand, on the rocks. Others dipped in to the sea to get away from the larger two-legged creatures. Four or five juvenile birds were moulting on the beach. And a rogue couldn’t resist attacking a sandal: starving little fella. […]
Cape Town, Gugulethu Township Tour
Once upon a time, many many years ago, I desired experiencing life in a township. Longing to spend a weekend with my maid and her family, I had an urge to walk kilometres for water, walk to the shop and carry the supplies on my head, make a fire to cook dinner and heat water, and everything else that encompassed living in a township. What would it feel like to exist without luxury? For some reason my parents prevented me from gaining such an understanding. So, the next best thing had to be the Gugulethu township tour whilst visiting Cape Town.   We chose AWOL to provide us with the Gugulethu walking township tour, known for its importance during the struggle against apartheid, because they are a non-profit organisation and proceeds are put back in to the community, given to the people who make the tour possible.   The knowledgeable and interesting guide, Ncebe, met us at Mzoli’s, a traditional bring and braai true-African-style establishment, and directed us to his home. Noticeably proud, he showed us around, explaining how he’d broken tradition with his renovations by building a bathroom inside the house instead of it being out back where most […]
Cape Town, Hiking Table Mountain and Lion’s Head
After returning to Durban end of November, I spent two and a half weeks in Cape Town during the manic holidays over December and January. I couldn’t resist hiking Table Mountain and Lion’s Head. The day after New Year’s Day, we hiked up Table Mountain first thing at 6:00am. The following evening we hiked up Lion’s Head at sunset and then the next morning we whizzed up Table Mountain again. Resistance utterly futile!   Table Mountain   Both expeditions up Table Mountain (1,086 meters) took place from Kirstenbosch Gardens. I had my camera with me during the first, stopping along the way to capture the ever-changing vistas – one minute the mist rolled in and the next it cleared. We enjoyed a few breaks to refuel with fruit, homemade oat crunchies and fudge, Lindt chilli chocolate and nuts. The second climb I’d left my camera behind – what a difference that made! – and with only a couple of breaks, we knocked off almost forty minutes from our original time of four hours.   Once through Kirstenbosch Gardens, the easy stroll led us to the steeper gorge. Surrounded by indigenous forest, lush green vegetation that kept the heat at bay, […]
Israel, cycling from Jaffa to Tel Aviv
During the Shabbat (Sabbath) on the Saturday we spent eight hours cycling from Jaffa to Tel Aviv. Along the promenade from Old Jaffa Port (also known as Namal Yafo) – which is reputed to being the port from which Jonah set off in the famous Biblical story of Jonah and the Whale – our first port of call (note the pun) we spent strolling along the wall surrounding the Tel Aviv Marina. A couple sat on rocks reading documents together; fishermen competed for the same spot; surfers attempted riding waves just beyond the port’s entrance; another photographer poised hoping a surfer would provide the action; a woman sipping a beer while staring out to sea; a family of four laughing, enjoying each other’s company.   From there we joined the crowds encircling the locals folk dancing on the promenade alongside the beach. Apparently an instructor frolicked in the midst of all the swaying bodies but he or she wasn’t easy to spot. The atmosphere had my foot tapping away and my camera firing. Somehow I stopped myself from joining in. What fun!   Back on our bikes, we ventured to the Old Tel Aviv Port where hundreds of people enjoyed the wide […]