The first few hours of 2017 welcomed me into not only a new year but also a brand new life. I’d just left my previous vocation of pastoral ministry, one that I proudly held for almost 15 years, but had needed a change of scenery. In this new beginning, the anxiety and excitement were equally tangible and ever-present, and little did I know what the year would have in store for me! Writing this has helped remind me what is possible when you have a dream, a family and friendship group who are willing to support you, and more importantly – are willing to work your butt off!
Few quotes have moved me as much as one of Jon Krakauer’s, taken from the book Into the Wild. I used in the opening of this little video introduction, as it has helped capture something of my spirit for a life of experience:
The very basic core of a person’s living spirit is their passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.
Reflecting on the year, i scribbled down what I feel are nine wild experiences that I never would have forseen happening in those early days of 2017. Moving into a space of being a travel writer, social media influencer and tour guide has opened some pretty incredulous doors. Perhaps one important comment before preceeding. This has not bring written as a brag list, but rather the recollections of a person of deep gratitude and awe, wanting to express some of that gratitude for himself, but hopefully in the process, inspire someone else to what may be possible.
A Year of Wild Experiences
1. Living on a Wine Farm for a year
It’s the kind of invitation dreams are made of. Imagine being invited to look after a home on prominent Cape Town wine farm for a year. The offer came in a transition period for me when I had no idea how I’d pay for rent. Yet, I was afforded the privilege of being a custodian of a beautiful home, in one of the most spectacular locations in my city. It was a time for healing, rest, and yes, some exceptionally good wine.
2. Being Published for the First Time
My new season of life gave me the chance to explore writing, and to share more broadly some of my experiences of Cape Town and South Africa. From the start I was presented with several online writing opportunities, but in the latter part of the year I had my first feature print spread, and it’s hardly to describe the sparks of both unbelief and pride that raced up and down my neurons as I held the magazine in hand.
3. A Cheetah Kill
Writing and social media opportunities began to take me to new places in the country, and some of the most breath-taking moments were in the natural world. I’d never seen a wildcat chase or kill before, and whilst in this case I didn’t see the action, I was able to stand near a cheetah, proudly guarding her recent kill at Sanbona Nature Reserve.
4. Sleeping in a Water Cottage
Ever since I first saw pictures of water cottages in travel brochures of the Maldives, I wanted to stay in one. Knowing the Maldives was probably out of the question financially, when I discovered Miniloc Island whilst planning a trip to the Philippines, I realised that my dream might come true. It did, and it’s hard to describe the thrill of sleeping on the ocean, with the water gently lapping at your base of your stilted cottage.
5. Modelling African Designer Wear for Fashion Week
I was approached by an international photographer attending the 2017 Cape Town Fashion Week and asked to model some clothing for 4 or 5 African designers. With pride and joy I was able to model some remarkable clothing, and will not forget the deep pride at arriving for one of the events dressed in Eastern Cape designer Laduma’s Maxhosa range.
6. Stayed in Two National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World
Little did I know that there are three lodges in South Africa that fall under National Geographic’s classification of ‘Unique Lodges of the World,’ and in 2017 I was able to visit two of them: Grootbos Nature Reserve near Hermanus and Bushman’s Kloof Nature Reserve in the Cederberg mountains. Both reserves’ uniqueness is expressed in their commitment to community, culture and sustainability – with an uncompromising luxury that makes the experience almost otherworldly.
7. Kayaked with Whales
None of us knew – not even the whale spotters perched high on the Hermanus cliffs above us – that submerged below us was a mother and calf southern right whale pair. They surfaced only 10 meters from us, most certainly catching us off guard. Their rising spouts reminding us of the powerful life forces that we were sharing the water with.
8. Slept in a Star Suite
Possibly my most memorable night spent on the African continent was in the outdoor Star Suite at Kagga Kamma Nature Reserve. A private wilderness escape that offers you tens of kilometres of privacy, shared only with the stars and craggy mountain ridges. A comfy bed, outdoor bath and shower (with hot water), fire pit and water pool are also all yours for the night.
9. Piano on a Mountain
Since watching a Piano Guys clip years ago that had a grand piano placed high up on a mountain, I had the dream of playing one on a Drakensberg peak, or perhaps Table Mountain. On World Piano day in 2017, a local music store decided to take a grand piano to the top of the Mother City’s famous mountain, and I had a chance to play her there.