Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Magical Hamburger.

The most magical day in our travels would also have to be our most frustrating but humbling and enlightening day! We travelled, by boat, from Siem Reap, Cambodia, across Tonle Sap and up the canals to Battambang. 6 hours in searing heat accompanied by the loud monotonous beat and fumes of a noisy outboard motor. Sunburnt, exhausted and thirsty we finally found accommodation, booked in, showered, and headed out to celebrate our 36th wedding anniversary!

Our wedding anniversaries we try and make quite special by planning that we be in some exotic location. Whether that is Marrakesh - didn't get there but Rhonda in southern Spain was more than a compensation - Cappadocia, or just up around East Cape in New Zealand. Yes, been to a few lovely places for 7th January.
In Battambang, we thought, surely there'd be a nice restaurant serving a good meal, and most of all a chilled bottle of wine? But sadly, hardly any restaurants, so we settled for a street corner kitchen, collapsed into our seats on the pavement, and - sorry, no wine! Meantime, my wife's impatience with the day is finally boiling over, because as she now needs go without a nice wine, we guys can find a chilled beer anywhere. But we're easy to please.....

We notice a young local girl who was surreptitiously scrounging leftovers from other diner's tables up and down the street. Not hassling them, nor begging, just removing any scraps off half-finished plates. Clutching a burger a diner had given her, she ran  across the street and handed it to her mother crouched on the pavement edge just beside our table. A baby in arms, and a toddler nearby completed the street-family quartet - some of Battambangs homeless. Cambodia is dealing with the legacy of Aids, that has left many families fatherless or even with both parents lost.
We observed this tender moment of the family sharing this one whole burger. We just couldn't help but get engrossed in this delightful scene unfolding right beside us.

When we look back and remember, we often say we wished we'd videod the event. But right then, my camera and video stayed on the table untouched. There was no way I was going to intrude on that family's dignity as they shared their little meal right beside us. It was so touching. Sometimes it's better to put the camera down.

It hit us both, because we had visited orphanages in Siem Reap and learnt a lot about Cambodia's problems, and why there were homeless, or families without a breadwinner, and so many orphanages.

We'd ordered a meal that we couldn't finish. So, we caught the girl's eye and she, holding her plastic bag, which we'd seen her go around several tables with, scooped the leftovers into it. We thought that would suffice. But, when she then motioned that we should also pour the salad dressings in we both suppressed our surprise at her cheekiness. But good on her! She seemed so proud of herself and how she was feeding her whole family.

But this was not the blatant, arm-tugging begging we tourists so often encounter. She had a style, and always waited until a diner had finished and the dish was about to be cleared away. Yeah, I know one shouldn't encourage begging but somehow this wasn't quite in that league. This was a young school-age kid, taking real pride in the way she could forage and feed her family. There was no pestering of the few tourists.

But for us it was a lesson learnt on that street side that night.
Here we were, after a long, tiring hot day, annoyed over not getting a chilled wine to celebrate our wedding anniversary. But that family group, enjoying the simple pleasure of their leftovers smorgasbord, put it all into context for us. And in doing so gave us such a humbling and magical evening as our wedding anniversary present!

A note-
This is the orphanage we visited in Siem Reap.
Read some of the orphan's stories. And if you do travel to Cambodia, contact them and ask what supplies or aid you can contribute. Often it is best to take just money. For money spent in the local village economy has a twofold beneficial effect.


Monday, April 19, 2010

Reg and Jim's extraordinary taxi ride.2

Gee, this is shaping up to be bigger than expected. Better and brighter, and way more fun than first thought.

 I'm not sure what we both thought when we figured we'd have a go at entering Tourism Western Australia's multi million dollar promotion. A bit of a laugh, a few days away on our own, boy's fun on the road together perhaps. Rather shallow thoughts way back then. And we won it, from out of all the New Zealand entrants!
But as this unfolds, as we begin to learn more about Western Australia, peruse the pictures, read the promo mags, chat on the travel forum, and follow the journey blogs, there's a wonderment building in our minds. This is big!

Windjana Gorge (Windjana Gorge National Park)courtesy Tourism WA

But Western Australia is just that- BIG!
And it's not just big, it's beautiful. This extraordinary taxi ride is opening our minds to just what's up there. And for me it all started with this-
I have had my eye on that project for some time, and turtle watching is kind of my style. Assisting in their protection and conservation while exploring some far off place. That's me alright. And while investigating it further, and that area of Australia, I came across the Extraordinary Taxi Ride in Western Australia.

Sometimes when things come together, perhaps that it is rather uncanny, I stop and think it may be more than just that. It may be that something is guiding me, telling me to give it a go. Now I know I can do it, I've got the skills, the travel experience, I'm not just a tourist who ticks off each place they've been with a camera shot. Let's get into it!
We'll give it a shot.
So we hailed a taxi .... and it stopped for us. How about that?

Leg 10 The Gibb River Road is where we're off to. What a fantastic area to explore.

Windjana National park, wilderness lodges, cattle mustering, helicopter rides, indigenous people experiences, barramundi fishing and more. Much More!

Cable Beach camels, courtesey Tourism WA.

And it's started off with Dayna and Jeremy, first up here at-

With all their energy and enthusiasm, Reg and I are going to find it tough to keep up. They really kicked it off with plenty of thrills and excitement. I think we'll do suave and sophisticated ... and hopefully not fall off those camels up Broome way!

So follow the Extraordinary Taxi Blog everyone. Come along for the ride with Jim and Reg, and our driver Doug the Cabbie. I reckon by the end of this he's going to earn a new name- Doug The Legend.


Thursday, April 15, 2010

Samoa.Why did we wait so long?

Samoa, why did we wait so long to visit you?You were always there, waiting in your beautiful tropical  laid back friendliness.Somewhere, always pushed to the background, while Fiji, New Caledonia then Rarotonga sought precedence.We'd known each other so long since I first worked beside your people dispersed from their villages, apart from their family, seeking a better future in our freezing works,our factories,  building our roads,when we desperately needed your sweat and toil a couple of decades or so ago.
So why did we not go before?
I guess some of that may have been because we have a less than positive perception of Samoa.But that was about to change!
It changed the moment we stepped off the plane and walked through your arrival hall.We stopped and listened to the trio playing for our entertainment, and motioned an appreciation to a singer.What a huge genuine smile in response.And a wave of positivity swung through me.
That change strengthened as we took that taxi ride to Apia.Along the cleanest road of any island we've been to.Where was all the litter, the plastic bags,the rubbish and detritus so common in island or other developing countries we've visited?How come everyone's lawns were so manicured, and their gardens full of carefully  tended multi coloured plants ?We felt we were driving through the best botannical gardens you'd see in the best cities in the world.
A far cry from our friend's description of Apia.Friends who have travelled on several Pacific cruises calling in at umpteen different ports, tried desperately to dissuade us.Perhaps those cruises do Apia a huge disservice in presenting a cruise visitor with your worst side, your port,your (to them)grubby markets, a hurried 6 hours on shore,most of that at Aggies bar , and paint such a poor perception in the minds of those quickie tourists to carry back and  deter other real visitors?
Sometimes I wonder about cruise line travel........
Do they get that welcome you extended to us?Your clean,green , bountiful gardens,multi coloured coleus and croton lined drive from airport to  city.And to top it all off, that whole avenue lined each side with school children exiting your schools wearing a  rainbow of school uniforms,oversung with their gaiety! 
I have to hand it to you.Samoa you welcomed us!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Reg and Jim's Most Extraordinary Taxi Ride!

A favourite song of mine from Aussie rockers James Blundell and James Reyne sums up exactly my feelings today!This is one of the great songs that illustrates the feeling we may all have of just chucking it in, and taking off.
Check this out and sink into this song-

I'm over the moon, lost in the outback, wandering at the edges of my senses,coming to grips with an amazing event that looms on the horizon!Because we are!We're chucking it in and taking off 'Way out West!'Fair dinkum!Bonzer!You beauty!

"Way out West where the rain don't fall, got a job for a company drillin' for oil........."
Check this out-
This has got to be one of the most incredible promotions ever, to promote Western Australia tourism.And the craziest way to travel.What an adventure?!A country we've longed to visit but knew so little about that we'd pushed it further down the list.You know, next year ...or next year..
But this is for real I keep telling myself, trying to convince myself "Yep it's all true Jimmy Boy".
Well Jimmy Boy is taking off, along with mate Reg.On the taxi ride of a lifetime.Now Kay and I have had some pretty hairy taxi rides along our travels.And in fact I was going to present a series of blogs based on our taxi adventures but now this tops them all off.
Reg and I will be exploring,blogging and enjoying the following from1st of June , heading to The Gibb River Road for nine days, starting with an iconic 4WD adventure across the Kimberley - one of the world's last true wilderness areas.If that is anything like our Namibian wilderness experience,it will be a joy to explore .I really love desert wildlife and flora, and wandering the often striking terrain of complete aloneness that is such a rejuvenator for one's soul.

Celebrating an extraordinary opportunity with a rather extraordinary WA Watershed Wines Shiraz of course!

We will be travelling 1,000 kilometres in search of some of the most spectacular and extraordinary sites that Western Australia has to offer.
And that night when I explained to my dear Kay that I'm taking off, a strange conversation went something like this-
"Errr umm Honey, arrr ummm ,I need to go out with Reg"
"That 's fine.Sure you go."
"Well, umm err, could be going for some time."
"That's fine.Don't wake me."
"OK.But going by taxi"
"That's great.You won't have to worry about drinking then."
"So I can go then?"
"That's fine.You go."
"You really mean that?"
"That's fine."
Oh they are so trusting sometimes......
"Could be gone for a while".
"That's fine.How Long?"
"Umm...err..... arr....about 10 days...."
The rest of the conversation shall not be printed.
Needless to say, my wallet shall be emptied of all cash, credit card will be racked up, loans taken, a fortune spent, knees will be calloused , forehead bruised, making it all up to my loved one.
Truth is Kay is a very private person, and wouldn't do such a trip knowing every moment will be filmed.Not her style.And pretty tight at her work taking time off, and as we're already booked for 7 weeks off later for Ethiopia/Scotland, she just can't take more time off.
So not wanting to miss out on such an opportunity, I asked Reg to enter the competition with me, and we both have a Boy's Road Trip by Taxi ,Way out West.....never believing we would win.
Jim and Reg's Extraordinary Taxi ride in Western Australia.
Looks like a great adventure!
Follow the adventure here-

Friday, April 9, 2010

N/a’an ku sê - Why Volunteers Matter.

I have asked N/a’an ku sê to write a piece about the role of volunteers ,and their important contribution to succesfully operating the sanctuary,not just in terms of their monetary contribution, but also in the skills and physical effort they contribute.When I spent time at Naankuse, I was amazed at how many people, of all ages travel from afar,to devote their holiday time to the care of some beautiful animals.And by the number who stay for so long, or return, some several times.But then, it shouldn't be so amazing, after all it is a magical place!

And where else can you get your very own personal groomer...

The following has been submitted by N/a’an ku sê.I have added photos to their text.Enjoy.

About N/a’an ku sê
Since 2007, N/a’an ku sê Lodge & Wildlife Sanctuary has been committed to playing a key role in conservation and the protection of the Namibian wildlife, land and people. Our vision is an Africa where humans and wildlife can live and thrive together. Our mission is to conserve the land, cultures and wildlife of Namibia and rescue species threatened by an ever-shrinking habitat.

We do not receive any government funding and are solely reliant on voluntary donations and the time of volunteers to continue our vital work to help the people and animals of Namibia. All the money raised through our volunteering program goes directly back into the project which provides employment, education and accommodation to the local Bushman community and helps to ensure the rescue, survival and rehabilitation of the animals which are housed in natural environments around the site.

Our volunteers
We have a very special relationship with our volunteers as they are key to the success of our projects and we simply couldn’t do without them. In return, we provide volunteers with the rare and exciting opportunity to work closely with and actively participate in the conservation of African wildlife.

N/a’an ku sê is one of those places where some people just find themselves. They find their family, their friends, their home and their future here. Many staff members were once volunteers who couldn’t quite bring themselves to leave. Any many volunteers come back time after time to be together with the animals they fell in love with. For the Wildlife volunteers in particular, it’s hard not to form special bonds with some of the animals after spending all day every day with them and in the case of baby baboons, sleeping with them throughout the night too.

To hear direct from volunteers themselves about their experiences, follow these links:

All ages....just a few of the great people you meet.

Volunteers stay with us for any length of time between 2 weeks and 3 months. It’s an extremely sad experience saying goodbye when people leave – for N/a’an ku sê staff as well as the volunteers themselves. Thanks to our Facebook page ( ) we can all stay in touch with each other and volunteers can be kept up to date with the latest goings on here and pictures and videos of the animals growing up.

We run several projects at N/a’an ku sê all of which volunteers can join:

1. Wildlife Conservation Volunteer
Our Wildlife Sanctuary provides a safe refuge for orphaned and injured wildlife including a number of lions, leopards, cheetahs, wild dogs, caracals and baboons. Our Wildlife Conservation Volunteers provide an important resource in caring for and feeding the animals on a daily basis, helping to maintain the sanctuary and becoming surrogate parents to our baby baboons who need constant care and attention.

Now what does that spell?

2. Carnivore Conservation Research Volunteer
These lions are huge!
Our Carnivore Conservation Research Project plays a vital role in rescuing and releasing threatened cats in Namibia to help reduce human-wildlife conflict. This programme offers a unique opportunity to play a hands on part in the tracking, monitoring and conservation of wild cheetah and leopard as well as caring for other African wildlife.

3. Teaching and Wildlife Conservation Volunteer
Kay found working with the youngsters to be the best experience!
Our Clever Cubs School provides vital free education to San Bushman children whose parents work at the sanctuary and who would otherwise not have access to education. There are currently around 25 children aged between 1 and 7 years attending. This unique programme combines teaching four days a week (assisting our teacher with the children), as well as the opportunity to work hands on at an animal sanctuary one day a week.

4. Medical Conservation Volunteer
Our Lifeline Clinic is a medical outreach project which provides free treatment to the local Bushman community in a remote area of Namibia, called Epikuro. Volunteers assist the doctor and nurse in the running of the clinic, participating in observations, helping in the dispensary and on reception. Volunteers also learn a lot about the San community and their way of life.

To book as a volunteer at N/a’an ku sê or for more information, please email