voting for change

So elections are under way in Zimbabwe as I write this. Robert Mugabe, who has been in power for 33 years so far, is facing off against Morgan Tsvangirai in a competition that’s heating up.

I don’t really think I ever expected Mugabe to be ousted before he died, and I would hazard a guess that there are many out there who feel the same. However this election is so different from the last one five years ago, in that there has been very little violence this time in the lead up to polling. For a start, Tsvangirai is actually still in the running, unlike last time where violence caused him to withdraw his nomination.

Mugabe has promised to retire should he lose this election and it would be surprising if he genuinely had the people’s blessing to continue his (mis)management of the country. Tsvangirai and his party have accused Mugabe of doctoring the electoral roll in order to win the election, a claim Mugabe has of course denied. What remains to be seen is of course whether Tsvangirai’s claims are true and, if so, whether it worked.

This really could be the dawn of a new era for Zimbabwe, or it could be a blistering disappointment for the international community who will end up waiting another good five years for the opportunity for change. Fingers crossed!

Find out more here:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-23512279

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-07-31/zimbabwe-election—choice-again-between-mugabe-and-tsvangirai/4854826

Election rally in Zimbabwe. Photo courtesy of AP

it’s our nature

As a massive nature lover, I gravitate towards travel experiences that allow me to explore parts of the world where humans are the minority. I’ve been lucky enough to swim in some at some of the world’s best reefs, dive with the great white sharks and view the big five up close, but here’s my list of the top nature travel experiences I’m dying to have. Note: I haven’t included Madagascar in this list because I will be there in four months’ time!

The Fish of Lake Malawi
Lake Malawi is home to over 1000 species of cichlid… a few of which I happen to have in my fish tank at home. To see them in their natural habitat, and to witness the incredible diversity of the lake’s ecosystem, is a major goal of mine. Here’s a bit of information about just how imporant this lake is, especially from an evolutionary standpoint.

Orcas in Alaska or New Zealand
I have a confession to make… since I was a kid, I’ve always been a bit scared of “killer whales. I have no idea where it comes from bt from time to time I’ve even had nightmares about them. That said, they are absolutely beautiful creatures and I would just love to see them in the wild. Where, I don’t know. There are populations of Orcas all over the world. However, I’m thinking either Alaska or southern New Zealand somehwere like Milford Sound – incredible!). It looks like a great spot to see them is in Kaikoura – find out more here.

Northern Lights – Scandinavia
Forgetting the incredible science behind this spectacle, I can’t think of anything more romantic than sitting and watching the Northern Lights. Forget stargazing, I’ll take aurora borealis any day! Visit Norway has some great information about the lights here.

Galapagos Islands
This has always been my number one dream. Charles Darwin is a hero of mine and many hours during my uni days were spent reading his work and I would love to be able to retrace his footsteps. Unfortunately Lonesome George is no longer around but his cousins are there to visit!

Sand Dunes of Sossuvlei, Namibia
Here you will find some of the highest sand dunes in the world, as well as petrified dunes and forests. I love the idea of how remote and inhospitable this place is; where the life cycle of a beautiful sand dune can be seen uninterrupted. There is also a surprising abundance of fauna here which highlights the fascinating survival instincts of many animals.

The Amazon Basin
The Victoria Water Lily. Yep, a water lily. Big deal you might say… but this water lily is massive and one of its leaves can support the weight of a child. Because I live in Adelaide, I’m lucky enough to live close to the beautiful Adelaide Botanic Gardens which has the Victoria Water Lily on display, and I’ve spent lots of time marvelling at them. But to travel through the backwaters of the Amazon in a little boat surrounded by the Victoria Lily… wow!

Pandas in China
China’s endangered Giant Panda population, mainly found in Sichuan Province, are becoming a big drawcard. Unfortunately, the tourism the pandas are bringing in doesn’t seem to be enough to stop things like this happening… so I’d like to head over to see them sooner rather than later.

Dunes of Sossuvlei, Namibia
(photo courtesy of amazingplacesonearth.com)

life in twenties

I saw this BuzzFeed video today; it’s a list of “10 Trips You NEED To Take In Your Twenties”. Some of the moments on the list I have been lucky enough to experience, but some I haven’t.

The video, though, is clearly American and I think that affects some of the points on the list. For example, here in Australia we don’t have Spring Break, but we do have Schoolies. It’s a different premise but something most teenagers are dying to experience.

On the flip side, the video includes “go camping in the middle of nowhere”. In Australia, this is a given and probably not something the average Aussie twenty-something would put on their list.

What would you put on your list? What are the 10 things you think you need to do before you turn 30? And for everyone all over the world, what part does your culture have to play in the different elements of your list?

Our taste of “camping in the middle of nowhere”
 Coffin Bay National Park, South Australia, April 2011

i heart cape town

The view of the clouds rolling over Table Mountain

The colourful houses in the Malay Quarter… I was told they are painted so colourfully so when the men stumbled home after one too many, they knew which house was theirs! (Don’t quote me, it’s just what I heard)

The beautiful dancing African Queens at GOLD restaurant


Taking a stroll along the V&A Waterfront

a blast from the past: Edinburgh

In 2008 (when I was 19) I was lucky enough to visit the beautiful Scottish city of Edinburgh. I had been staying in Paris and travelling around Europe but I was feeling really restless and sick of everything I was doing. In a split-second decision, I booked a train to Edinburgh and checked into a hostel on my own. I’d never done anything like that on my own before, so it was a massive move.

Anyway, for some reason I was trawling through my old myspace the other day (remember those?) and I found a post I’d written while I was there. When reading this, please bear in mind a few things: a) I was 19 and on a bigger adventure than I’d ever had before; b) I had been drinking quite a lot because I’d never had ths kind of freedom before and I probably didn’t quite know how to handle it; and c) I was running very low on internet credit and couldn’t justify another pound to take the time to edit properly, hence the spelling errors.

A quick bit of personal reflection: I look back on this time of my life with nostalgia and a few regrets. I kind of wish I embraced it a bit more and spent more time behaving like this. It was probably the most free and happy I have ever been. I hope one day Fiance and I can do something similar – just drop everything and get on a plane somewhere and figure everything out on the way.

Enjoy!

Current mood: rebellious

have finally found that independent spirit…
a few ups and (break)downs on this trip but finally I’ve found a place where everything just seems right.

Mum, I’m not coming home. and I’m drinking lots of beer and smoking and probably getting a tattoo; it’s all good, classy fun.

No in all seriousness, the feeling of making all my own decisions (however stupid and not-very-well-thought-through they are) is bloody amazing and the idea of going home and back to work and paying bills (that aren’t rediculous hostel nights) is… well I don’t really know the words but I don’t like it. I miss home but this place is just incredible and I’ve barely seen any of it yet. I have absolutely no idea why I like it yet but I just feel so relaxed and at HOME here.

I have no idea where I’m going to sleep tomorrow night!!! Usually that would be the worst thing in the world but right now I just don’t care. I don’t even know if I have the money to PAY for any accomodation tomorrow night but…meh. I’ll get by! Someone here was busking today, I need to discover a hidden talent and exploit it at the train station, perhaps.

Oh, and I love it here so much I’m even in love with the train station and the currency exchange office. Yup, it’s true.

Love to all!

Enjoying a Guinness in the Dunblane pub (we got lost on the way to Stirling)

the countdown is on

So we have just over four months to go until we jet off to Fiji to get married… it’s an exciting yet daunting thought!
It’s stressful putting the whole thing together… Ceremony, reception, decorations, dress, travel arrangements etc, but what has really blown us away is the reaction we’ve had from our friends and family.
We kind of thought no one would really come other than our parents because it’s a bit of a hassle, especially in early December, but the support we’ve had for our decision to marry overseas has been overwhelming. So many of our friends and family are coming over to share this with us and I think this is what makes it so special for us. As well as a wedding, it’s going to be a reunion too!
Most of Fiancé’s family are in New Zealand so he doesn’t get to see them much, and so many of our friends are now living interstate or overseas (everyone’s growing up and getting careers!). Some of our parents’ close friends are coming too, which is not only very exciting for us but also a testament to the effect close friendships have on our lives and a reminder of how important these friendships are.
The Sofitel Resort and Spa in Denarau is the perfect venue and the ceremony and reception are nearly all organised. We have the amazing photographers at Kama Catch Me and the beautiful Liza Emanuele has nearly finished my dress… I feel like a princess. Sarah at Simplethings Press has designed some stunning invitations for us and we can’t wait to send them out in the next few weeks.
I’ve lost 10kg so far – “wedding photos are forever”! If possible I would like to head over with a new bikini for every day and wear them with pride… but of course I need to make sure I’m not burnt to a crisp on the day. Fiancé is looking pretty fine too but hey, he always does (don’t tell him, but that’s why I’m marrying him).

Other than that all I can say is… This really is going to be the best week of our lives.

                                  

Kava Ceremonny and Port Denarau. Images from Sofitel Fiji.

tourism in Egypt

Sitting in the lunch room today, some colleagues and I casually grabbed the local paper. On the front page was a piece on Egypt talking about how the country had descended into “chaos and anarchy” and the government had told everyone to leave the country, paired of course with massive pictures of people holding knives and other weapons. Now, I work for a company that is very heavily involved in Egypt and as you can imagine, this week has been crazy dealing with people who are worried about their future travel to this country.

What frustrates me, first and foremost, is the lack of facts portrayed in such articles. Yes, there is tension. Yes, there have been some violent incidents. Yes, Egypt has been going through some turmoil and isn’t out of the woods just yet. But rather than jumping up and down raving like lunatics, we all need to take a step back and look at the bigger picture.
Would anything that has happened in the last week or so happened if no-one wanted it to? No. You don’t overthrow an elected President just because you have nothing better to do. The articles I saw today focused on the violence yet where were all the photos of hundreds of thousands of Egyptians celebrating the change? In the corner of the page, barely visible.
I do feel like the country in a way has set a worrying precedent, in that their president was elected yet the army still ousted him. That said, however, I don’t live in Egypt so it’s all very well for me to form these opinions from my sofa, but I have no idea what it’s been like to live in Cairo since the revolution (nor indeed before it). And at the end of the day my industry is not foreign affairs, it’s tourism. And tourism is an industry Egypt relies on.
Since the revolution (and before this latest bout of unrest), travellers to Egypt were finding there was no better time to go. The crowds post-revolution are smaller and as such visitors were experiencing all the best Middle Eastern hospitality has to offer.
The revolution, while necessary, really hurt Egypt’s economy. To have come through the other side of the revolution the way it has is a courageous effort, yet the country still faces massive problems in shortages of fuel, electricity and other basic necessities. The newly elected government certainly didn’t help and all this country wants to do is get back on its feet.
After the revolution, it took about a month or so for tours to start running again. Since then there have been no tourism-related issues until now (contrary to popular belief).  And I really think we will see the same again this time. Some operators have cancelled tours but most haven’t as yet, because rather than just jump on the cancellation train, we need to accurately assess the situation at ground level. It isn’t fair to all those people who have booked the trip of a lifetime to cancel their plans on a whim when it isn’t necessary. In most cases, it won’t be. I have clients leaving nearly every week from the end of the month until February and I remain just as excited for them now as I did before this latest issue. Of course, if my clients felt uncomfortable and wanted to cancel I would support their decision 100% – I just hate the idea of them missing out.
I just wish more photos like this had been shown – photo c/o AFP / Khaled Desouki