GREECE IS THE WORD The magic of the Mediterranean is in the incredibly diverse cultures nestled on its shores. Nicola Beykirch charts a trip from Malta to the Ionian Islands via Sicily Words & Photography By NICOLA BEYKIRCH Published By SAILING TODAY I couldn’t believe a year had slipped by since ‘A Med Time Story’ and ‘Sailing Safari’, on Bella Rose, our 2017 Oyster 545. It took minutes to decide the outline of our summer sailing 2019 adventure, reinforcing how easy-going both Captain Barry and I are when it comes to exploring together. A true sail and trail team! How about we head from Malta to Sicily to the Ionian Islands to Montenegro to Croatia and then leave Bella Rose in Venice for the winter? Barry didn’t need to hold his breath for my answer. Finally, the day arrived. On a Saturday at 5:30 pm, we bid farewell to Valetta’s Grand Harbour, where Bella Rose had spent the winter. We motored into a blinding sun and 40-degree heat. Fifteen miles from shore the expansive rich blue sea and tranquillity greeted us in every direction: no buildings, no land in sight. The idyllic start to a journey! Soon after dinner of a […]
The blue bells blooming early this year, due to the balmy weather, in Hampstead Heath during lockdown. A treat to see them each day, as long as they lasted, while ‘participating in one form of daily exercise outdoors’, as instructed by Boris. “Moments of solitude with Mother Nature is sunshine to a soul.” — Anthony Douglas Williams
25 JANUARY 2020 A gloomy yet invigorating weekend spent in Venice; busier than expected. 31 JANUARY 2020 Rome confirmed the first two cases of COVID-19. 23 FEBRUARY 2020 The Carnival of Venice was cancelled, result of Coronavirus, two days earlier than scheduled. 29 FEBRUARY 2020 Returned to Venice for another long weekend. NON-CONTACT THERMOMETER CHECKS I counted twenty people on the EasyJet flight. At Venice airport, before reaching passport control, medics checked each passenger’s temperature before permitting us to proceed. GHOST TOWN The carnival always marked the start of Venice’s peak tourist season. Sadly, this year the pandemic chased the revellers away leaving a ghost town in its wake. Surreal yet ingratiating, with most of the shops and restaurants closed. Police patrolled Piazza San Marco and guarded the tightly shut St Mark’s Basilica, museums and theatres. Almost redundant with only a handful of people scattered about. ETHREAL GRANDUER I relished the opportunity of getting up close and personal to the city’s ornate details without having to worry about stepping on anyone’s toes. ABSENT NON-CONTACT THERMOMETER CHECKS Returning to the UK, I counted sixteen people on the flight. At London Luton Airport, we freely entered with no medics to check our temperatures. […]
After settling in at Anvil Bay, we experienced a first sailing trip on a dhow at a nearby lake. Dhow sailing has been a traditional way of travelling around along the East African coast as early as 600AD. Anvil Bay collected their groceries, everything they didn’t grow themselves, from Santa Maria delivered by a dhow from Maputo. Through the Maputo Special Reserve and Machangulo Reserve for almost thirty kilometres, we explored villages, dune forests, mangrove swamps, freshwater lakes and coast before reaching Santa Maria Peninsula on the eastern side of Maputo Bay, near to Inhaca Island. The ‘berth’ place for dhows. Please Note: For copyright purposes, the resolution of each image below is considerably reduced. Dhow Sailing Experience at Anvil Bay The Sailing Dhows ‘berthed’ at Santa Maria
Early breakfast; early getaway. And direct to Maputo Special Reserve, through almost 1 500 km² of agrarian conservation to reach Anvil Bay, the private and exclusive barefoot beach camp. MAPUTO SPECIAL RESERVE Off-roading at its best, we had deflated the tyres and listened to the warning of the angry elephants at the entrance gate to the reserve. ‘They charge vehicles. Not mock, real, deadly charge. Drive forward or reverse as fast possible in opposite direction. They big business. Grande!’ The ranger widened his arms either side of him, reinforcing the “big”. Bring it on. Unfortunately, after spending over three hours exploring the reserve, okay, hunting down the unruly beasts. I’d only ever experienced a mock charge by and elephant. Tut! Now the thought of a real, deadly charge caused my amygdala to fire off every thrilling emotion. We never crossed their path. It was searingly hot, we resigned ourselves to accepting they took cover amid the thick bush, where vehicle tracks weren’t visible. Off-piste? No, respect the rules. The highlight was watching three jackals stalk four adults and two young wildebeest. They’d separated from the larger herd and ungainly tried escaping an ambush. The adults outsmarted the predators by keeping […]
Early breakfast. Early departure. We drove from Tofo Beach, with a couple of stops en route, a total of seven hours, to Maputo. Through the main towns traffic jams, car accidents, wedding parties and livestock greeted us from every direction. Fortunately, the national asphalt roads were well maintained and drivers mostly behaved. Unlike when we first entered Mozambique. GRAND DAME BECKONS After checking into the palatial Grand Dame of African Hotels, known as the Polana Serena, we decided to leave the car behind and walk to Baixa, old town Maputo. Mozambique’s capital city, previously known as Lourenço Marques. After twenty minutes winding through the backstreets, we reached one of the wide main roads leading straight into the town. Suddenly it no longer felt safe and exciting. Many were finishing work and didn’t appear too pleased to see us, the only tourists as far as the eye could wander. FOOT DOWN “Let’s go back and get the car!” This time I put my foot down, defiantly insistent. Being enclosed within a vehicle made all the difference to feeling safer. Still, I felt on edge, keeping my wits about me even when in the car, ensuring the doors were locked and windows rolled […]
On the road again… After breakfast, we left Naara Eco Lodge & Spa and drove off-road as much as possible, a total of five hours to reach Tofo Beach. Our main destination in Mozambique, a place devoid of South African and overseas tourists, unlike Ponta do Ouro. AN ARRESTING EXPERIENCE A friendly laid-back vibe, vibrant people as warm as the beach sand at midday, intimate pulsating nightlife, popular Moz musicians, unique ocean life protected by an arresting bay ebbing and flowing onto a long arced beach, exquisite food, Tofo Beach breathed and oozed Paradise. POINT BREAK The bay dished out perfect ridable waves idyllic for both beginner and intermediate surfers. The pro surfers headed around the point to Tofino (little Tofo) for a ride of their life, where most tourists didn’t venture. During sunrise and low tide, a walk from Tofo Beach around the headland to Tofino made for an energising start to the day. MERRY X-MASS On Christmas day Mozambicans arrived in droves and celebrated as though the world were ending the following day. Police patrolled the market and beach, in case anyone turned too frisky. Fortunately, the people partied in peace and the enforcement was kept at bay. […]
Leaving Motswari Private Game Reserve, Timbavati, South Africa at 11am, it took us over ten hours (five hundred and ninety-two kilometres) to reach Naara Eco Lodge & Spa in Chidenguele, Mozambique. Something I wouldn’t recommend doing: driving anywhere in Mozambique in the dark or even dawn or dusk. Unless you had a death wish. NEVER TRUST GOOGLE MAPS When it comes to border posts between South Africa and Mozambique! Last year we experienced the same issue when Google showed a border post that did not exist. This time the same occurred; however, instead of driving all the way to the post as we had done last time to find it didn’t exist, we asked a staff member at Motswari when checking out. No, Gaza border is not open. You have to drive to Lebombo Border Post (also called the Komatipoort Border). TIME IS (NOT) ON MY SIDE Damn! That added another four hours onto our travel time, provided all went smoothly. Life or death! We had a decision to make. Do we spend the night at Komatipoort and then leave first thing in the morning? Or do we take a chance, hope the border isn’t too busy, take a short cut through […]
FROM ESWATINI BACK TO SOUTH AFRICA Resuming our Southern Africa adventure, we left Piggs Peak, Eswatini and explored as much off-road as possible before reaching the five-star safari experience Motswari Geiger’s Camp in the Timbavati and Umbabat Private Nature Reserve, South Africa in time for the afternoon and evening game drive. JUST THE TWO OF US We had the entire camp, a ranger and a tracker to ourselves, the only two booked in at the main reserve. A novelty, something neither of us had before experienced; as if deliberately arranged, but so happened by sensational chance. MOTSWARI GIRAFFE’S NEST Straight after the afternoon game drive, the ranger dropped us off at Motswari Giraffe’s Nest, so that we could witness the dramatic sunset; well worth cutting the drive short. While enveloped by untamed wilderness, as far as the eye could wander, we spent our first night in a luxurious nest, high above the ground in a treetop overlooking Xanatsi Dam. The chef had prepared our dinner and breakfast, with bowls of snacks and as many soft and alcoholic drinks as desired. Both the food and the drinks would last at least a few days. STAY ALERT – DON’T GET HURT We […]
While exploring off-road through the Free State we stumbled upon Memel. Memel-Zamani now being the official name in recognition of the Zamani township – a settlement adjoining Memel to the west in which several thousand black Africans reside. During the apartheid era, Zamani was separated from Memel by a golf course which acted as a buffer between the two, now however the golf course no longer exists, houses have been built on it and the buffer zone has disappeared. The town and township are now adjacent in one small location. We paid R20 each to visit a tiny museum housing several display cases with artefacts from the Great Trek. Everything else, except a convenience store, was closed, including the hotel on the main street and an art gallery. A ghost town with a few people scattered around. Please Note: For copyright purposes, I have considerably reduced the resolution of each image below. Bulembu, Eswatini From Memel-Zamani, we meandered through Piggs Peak reaching Maguga Lodge in Eswatini just after sunset. Last year we drove through the derelict Havelock Mine in Bulembu, Eswatini, without stopping. This year we made a point of returning, ensuring time was on our side to explore another ghost town, which is now […]
SOUTH AFRICA, LESOTHO, MOZAMBIQUE AND SWAZILAND INDESTRUCTIBLE TOYOTA LAND CRUISER 79 FOR HIRE This time around we added a fourth country to our Southern African feat. Lesotho. Instead of using my 4×4 as we did last year, we hired a Toyota Land Cruiser 79 from https://bushlore.com. A robust and exceptional fully equipped self-contained 4×4 camper that exceeded our expectations. Except for one minor incident that occurred while on tar cruising through Lesotho. DURBAN THE BEST PLACE TO START Our adventure started in sweltering hot Durban, and what should have taken just over 3 hours took us almost 5 hours while driving off-road via Richmond. Through townships and lush KwaZulu-Natal hills and valleys that most people would advise against facing. I know… “Never throw caution to the wind. It could whip back into your eyes and blind you.” SANI PASS NOT YET TARRED We thought this may be the last time we get to experience Sani Pass as its authentic self, with a series of hairpins, twists, dongas, drops and picture-perfect scenery. Sadly, it’s soon going to be all tar from the ruins of the Good Hope trading store to the Lesotho border post. I’ve driven it a few times so had to […]
BELLA ROSE, OYSTER 545, UP FOR SAIL, AN INDELIBLY SENSATIONAL SAILING ADVENTURE FROM MALTA TO SICILY TO THE GREEK ISLANDS TO ALBANIA TO MONTENEGRO TO CROATIA TO VENICE. SUMMER OF 2019. Part 5: SAILING FROM CROATIA TO VENICE We sailed to 13 islands/towns in Croatia –– Cavtat, Dubrovnic, Sanj, Mljet, Lastovo, Hvar, Primosten, Skradin, Kornati Bay, uvala Balvanida, Pula and Rovinj –– before the overnight venture to Venice. Something I had always longed to do was sail up and down the canal in Venice alongside Piazza San Marco, up to the entrance of The Grand Canal. Such magnificence! The last time I’d visited Venice was in 2003, a completely different experience arriving by plane than by yacht, as though a first time visiting the city this time almost 20 years later. We spent a couple of days exploring Venice and the islands before shutting Bella Rose away for the winter. Perhaps we’ll return to her early next year for a skiing adventure over the Dolomites before the summer sailing in 2020. Photography taken in Croatia Photography taken in Venice
BELLA ROSE, OYSTER 545, UP FOR SAIL, AN INDELIBLY SENSATIONAL SAILING ADVENTURE FROM MALTA TO SICILY TO THE GREEK ISLANDS TO ALBANIA TO MONTENEGRO TO CROATIA TO VENICE. SUMMER OF 2019. Part 4: SAILING FROM ALBANIA TO MONTENEGRO Batten down the hatches! A stunning night engulfed my being upon departing Albania for Montenegro; a band of fiery orange exploded along the horizon, beneath a sparkling indigo sky. What a farewell to an enthralling adventure in Albania. Further excitement ensued the moment we dropped anchor at a bay just outside The Bay of Kotor. The police by RIB descended upon us like a honey badger on a swarming beehive. I’d prefer not to refer to the word ‘arrested’… So… with great theatrics, the police escorted us to the nearest customs office. The responsibility fell completely on us, of course. We attempted to push the boundaries but got caught. The consequences dealt by draconian hand! Indeed, I shall share further in the article to be published by the sailing magazine. Please Note: For copyright purposes I have considerably reduced the resolution of each image below.
BELLA ROSE, OYSTER 545, UP FOR SAIL, AN INDELIBLY SENSATIONAL SAILING ADVENTURE FROM MALTA TO SICILY TO THE GREEK ISLANDS TO ALBANIA TO MONTENEGRO TO CROATIA TO VENICE. SUMMER 2019. Splice the mainsail! Part 3: SAILING FROM THE GREEK ISLANDS TO ALBANIA Albania… Yes, Albania! A surprise indeed. Let’s sail to Albania, Captain! Albania? You heard correctly! Okay! Really? Yes, you too heard correctly… I know what! Let’s do the other thing we do best… Remind me, Captain said nudging gently. Trail… Of course, Sail & Trail. We attempted to hire a 4×4; however, ended up with a Fiat Panda. We can’t take this off-road, or can we? Of course we can, but we’ll keep it to ourselves. Well, let’s just say the Panda made it. We almost didn’t and turned back a few times, for dongas the size of the Fish River Canyon and sheer drops along single tracks as high at the Rockies caused a few near-death experiences. Fffff… Formidable! For at least 100 kilometres, we took on rugged terrain. Brave or plain… irresponsible? I really prefer not to judge!
Bella Rose, Oyster 545, Up For Sail, an indelibly sensational sailing adventure from Malta to Sicily to the Greek Islands to Albania to Montenegro to Croatia to Venice. Summer 2019. Shiver me timbers! PART 2: SAILING FROM SICILY TO THE GREEK ISLANDS First stop, Zakynthos. A Greek Island in the Ionian Sea. Navagio beach, aka Shipwreck beach, brings in more tourists, accessed by boat only, than any other tourist attraction in Greece, including Athens. Second, third, etc., stops included: Kefalonia, Poros, Sami, Kisaka, Kioni, Lefkados, Antipaxos, Paxos, Corfu and Erikoussa. However, they are going to have to wait until magazine publication… I know! A killer! The rest of the words in images… Feel the sounds, smells, throbbing heat and rejuvenating tranquillity…
Bella Rose, Oyster 545, Up For Sail, an indelibly sensational sailing adventure from Malta to Sicily to the Greek Islands to Albania to Montenegro to Croatia to Venice. Summer 2019. All aboard! Part 1: Malta to Sicily Whilst relishing writing the magazine articles reflecting my latest sailing adventures, resistance suddenly turned futile… How do I wait for them to be published…? “…Sail away with me honeyI put my heart in your handsSail away with me honey now, now, now…” Again, the futility of resistance when it came to the decadent gelato brioche sandwich smothered in fluffy cream. A very delicious reason for the overnight sail from Malta to Siracusa, Sicily. The evidence will be revealed in the published article… Watch this space… The images below portray the journey from Malta to Siracusa. Words? Are they really necessary?
SAILING SAFARI TO AFRICA West and east are the usual directions sailors turn in the Mediterranean but Nicola Beykirch bucked the trend and headed south instead, to Tunisia Words & Photography By NICOLA BEYKIRCH Published By SAILING TODAY Following on from our trip across the Mediterranean in Bella Rose, an Oyster 545, Captain Barry and myself had left her in Malta (see ST 264). The next leg of the trip was to head to Africa. We couldn’t wait to get the shopping done and the yacht prepared to start our next exploration. For a few hours after leaving Malta, the sea appeared a dirty green, more green than blue. the further we sailed away from the island, the more the sea turned a radiant cobalt blue. The next day was a full day at sea, and with 1m choppy swells, I couldn’t shake the seasickness. despite using a patch, wristbands and taking tablets, I still felt constant nausea…
A thrilling experience to behold, from the top of Tower Bridge on Thursday evening when Oyster launched their new “pocket superyacht”, the evolutionary Oyster 565. Through the dramatic glass floor across the high-level walkways, 42 metres above the River Thames, the bridge below the glass opened and the new Oyster 565 smoothly sailed beneath our feet, after tacking up the river into the wind. Everyone oohing and ahhing with delight; champagne glasses clinking. Chief Executive and Owner Richard Hadida passionately added: “Words cannot describe the excitement I feel to see Oyster enter such an exhilarating phase in its evolution. The 565, fondly known as our “pocket superyacht” is everything an adventurous couple or young family could want.” The Boat International Article here.
My eyes and ears were attracted by the glee two hundred church worshippers clearly experienced on the beach, involved in prayer and baptising ritual. Adorned in white uniforms, blue and green sashes, people were dunked into the waves, held under for a few seconds and came up gasping and chanting in an unrecognisable African language. Some women were veiled, in the background, singing and dancing. Holy staffs with flags dug into the sand around groups of people. In the middle of the action, yellow and white plastic containers were being topped up with sea water and sand, waiting to be taken home after the baptismal and healing ritual. I kept my distance, mesmerised by the simpleness of it all. The joy and rapture each person in the group experienced, from young children enjoying the shoreline and the elderly, the ‘ikhehlas‘ and ‘ugogos‘ relishing the purification ritual.
Overhearing a couple animatedly talking about the best graffiti they’d ever seen near Waterloo, I had to find Leake Street Graffiti Tunnel for myself. Rough and ready, the tunnel sparkled with colour. Artists bending over their cans and preparing themselves for their next masterpiece. A queue of boldly dressed people patiently waited to enter The Vaults, a place that offers everything to those that dare. Once I’d immersed myself in the vibrancy of the art, people and atmosphere I headed the way I came in and noticed two teenage girls playing with hula hoops. Approaching them, I asked if they were practising for a show. “We’re going to be putting on a show, firing up our hoops. Have a butchers,” the one encouraged. With my camera perfectly poised, I eagerly awaited their fire dance… I had no idea Banksy launched Leake Street Graffiti Tunnel to fame in May 2008 with an exhibition called The Cans Festival. With a comical play on The Cannes Film Festival, Banksy invited international street artists to adorn the blanks along Leake Street tunnel with their signature art, as explained further by Leake Street Arches here.