Excerpts from student writing on the Travel Writing Course
Scouring the streets of Tokyo to find the city's best noodles is exhausting work but Angela Pearse discovers that perseverance pays.
Looking for a noodle bar in Tokyo is rather like looking for sand in the Sahara. In a city of over 12 million people, who eat noodles for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks in between, they're well catered for in the noodle arena.
But as a wise man once said, 'There are noodles and then there are noodles'. This makes perfect sense when one evening, just slightly north of Shibuya Crossing, I'm ingesting a greasy soup with undercooked udon, fatty chicken and floating burnt cabbage. The empty booths, the desperate waitress and bar's outlook onto naked neon women were a warning but not one I heeded.
Accidentally stumbling into a nudist holiday experience is bound to challenge even one's most liberal perceptions but Anna Smit and her mother discover it's not as terrifying as you might think.
"NATURIST BEACH. NUDISM COMPULSORY. NO DOGS ALLOWED ON BEACH." The sign literally hits my mother in the face and rudely awakes her from a dreamy stroll. The two of us gawk at the bold red lettering.
Our new friend Alain Lebaun watches our reaction grinning slightly. With an elegant swoop of a magician's cape, he flings his tiny loin cloth over his shoulder baring a golden bum and equally tanned jewels. My mother and I stare at each other at a loss as to what to do next.
"Take off. You must respect naked people on the beach," he orders. Struggling beneath our sarongs like pubescent girls in a locker room, we manage to peel off our swimsuits without revealing any crucial parts.
Preparing for a scooter drive to historical Greyton can belie the challenge of getting a pre-teen out of bed at mossie-poep on a Saturday morning...
The sun's silver feelers break through the dawn as the last breath of mist shies away from the approaching day. Somewhere in the distance a whale "ôôôônnhh"s and a sugarbird flits past us, colourful as a Rubic cube. We turn the Vespa's nose out of the driveway, the Whale Crier's sound just audible over my young co-riders muffled "did you remember our padkos?" through his helmet. Our destination - Greyton. Our mission - fun.
The Hemel-and-Aarde Valley stretches out before us, vineyards and canola fields vying for space in a Van Gogh-like landscape. The Vespa happily bumps along the dirt road past Tesselaardsdal and my 11-year-old son, Hawk, points out a solitary blue crane in the distance.
In a small platteland town in the Northern Cape, iconic symbols of two ancient cultures comfortably share space. The temple-shaped Transformer Building looks north to Egypt, the country to which it owes its design. And a little way down the road, a sushi bar does a roaring trade, dishing up this age-old Japanese delicacy with a modern twist to residents and visitors alike.
The fascinating hamlet of Kakamas, standing with one foot in the past and one in the present, tells an enthralling story. It's a tale of second chances, of hope, of backbreaking work and survival. It's also a story of a small town that is, against all odds, flourishing today.
From rural wattle-and-daub to hotels of long heritage, Wes Harrison explores this alluring mountain hideaway beyond first impressions.
Hogsback is at the top of a pass that winds into the southern-most folds of the Amatola Mountains in the Eastern Cape. As soon as you can change out of second gear, you're in the village. But if you pass the petrol pumps on your right, you've missed it.
When you start seeing signs to places with names like Rivendell, Hobbiton, The Shire, or Middle Earth, though, there shouldn't be much doubt where you are. Though Tolkien didn't actually get his inspiration for "The Lord of the Rings" from Hogsback, many residents seem to think he should have. Whatever the case, if you thought the Eastern Cape was just aloes and prickly pears, Hogsback proves you wrong.
The village gets its name from the three bristly peaks in whose shadows it lies. Hundreds of parallel spires line the top of three green mountains that from far look remarkably like, well, hogs' backs. At their feet is a dense mix of indigenous tangle and evergreen plantations.
Sunscreen- check. Water shoes-check. Camera - check. Quick glance up - 600 feet of cascading water rushing down. Racing heart, sweaty palms and many deep breaths - definitely check. White sand, flowing waterfalls and the sounds of nature. All ingredients for a relaxing, rejuvenating getaway? Right. Now how about climbing up said waterfall? Did I mention that it's 600 feet tall? Accompanied by gushing water and shrieks. Lots of shrieks. Erm, we are talking about the same relaxing getaway here right? Is it possible to soothe your soul while adrenalin is pumping? Claire Maloney puts on her water shoes and takes to the "Niagara of Jamaica" to find out.
I'll be honest - at first the idea of hauling up a massive waterfall while holding on to the hand of a complete stranger did sound a little crazy. Surely the best way to enjoy a waterfall would be to stand watching serenely, thinking Zen thoughts, thumb and middle finger connected, all the while mouthing "ommmm"?
However, having been dazzled by the gorgeous photos in the tour brochure and by the promise of renewal, I decided to set off towards Dunn's River Falls- Jamaica's most famous waterfalls. (Also, with 007 himself getting a mention for visiting in the 1962's movie Dr No, it would be almost rude not to.)
In an industrial part of Mt Roskill a group of nearly 40 people wait expectantly for a young Burmese woman to begin speaking. She says she's nervous and she giggles, easing the tension in the room. The room's classroom-like interior is defined by a world map and a poster for human rights. A quote by the American anthropologist Margaret Mead stands alone in the middle of the whiteboard: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has".
In spite of her nerves she smiles broadly and begins her story. The group are respectfully quiet. The young woman tells us she grew up in Burma in the middle of a civil war. On the wrong side of the war. For weeks at a time her family hid in a dirt hole in the ground. Sheltering from the fighting, they ate, slept and cooked with only a piece of tin over their heads to protect them. The room is now completely silent. She tells of their eventual escape, hiking over mountains as an eight-year-old to get to Thailand.
Once a year the Riebeeck East NG Kerk Bazaar brings Boere and Ingilsmanne together for a tjop, dop and a council-of-war; and culminates in a clash of tactics in a scrap for homemade wares and tasty goodies in the kerksaal.
The Boere gave the Brits a rough time in the Anglo-Boer War and a visit to the NG Kerk Bazaar in Riebeeck East showed us why. The orderly, patiently queuing English buitelanders were no match for the locals' guerrilla tactics; tactics similar to those of their shrewd and adaptable ancestors.
Extended family units had split into smaller commandos and scouted out the bazaar venue earlier, peeping through windows and identifying key areas of assault. Information was gathered, analysed over a beer and a curry-bunny and battle plans were formulated.
With wax palms shrouded in mist, jungle-clad ruins, enigmatic stonework and a landscape as diverse as the fruits for barter, Colombia is a country not to be missed.
Four a.m., tired and fed-up, I rap the door of El hospedaje‘El Jardin’. Again.
La Señora Ismenia,clearly familiar with travellers’ erratic arrival times, unbolts the heavy, wooden doors and leads me up a creaky stairway. I cast my eyes over eerily decorated walls – an armadillo shell, an ocelot pelt, an anaconda’s skin. Hardly a conservationist’s dream décor, but at this hour I am in no position to judge.
Seven a.m. The clip-clop of hooves awakens me. Shuttered French doors open to reveal chocolate-box surroundings – moss-covered terracotta rooves merge into the verdant countryside. Flower baskets revealing splashes of delicate pinks and apricots are set off elegantly by the white-washed buildings. One could assume Spain. But, no we are in a more ‘daring’ location - San Agustin, Southern Colombia.
How do you reconcile the need for adventure with the needs of young children? Deirdre Mills takes her kids on a self-drive expedition through the Kalahari Desert and finds that it’s not only manageable but surprisingly good fun.
“Desert? Almost 38,000 square kilometres of semi-arid desert?” “Dunes? Red sand dunes stabilized with patches of duinret grass?” “Dove? Namaqua Dove nesting at the side of the road?”
My husband and I were getting nowhere.
“Dinosaur!” cried my three year old, lost in his own alternative reality.
“No mommy,” said my eldest. “D for Dead Gemsbok. There. In the middle of the road.”
And so there was.
The winding road from Matjiesfontein to Sutherland draws me into a scenic Karoo backdrop. As I drive slowly around the bends, the blue and grey colours of the 'koppies' play with my eyes, emerging left and right as I pass. Gradually ascending Verlatenkloof pass, the flat-faced rocks frame the view and on the dusty horizon Sutherland appears. The last ten kilometres feel like a dash to the finish line - the white church tower a beacon for the town's centre. A yellow sign welcomes you to Sutherland.
At first glance, Sutherland seems less than ordinary: no Checkers, Kwikspar or Pick'n Pay in sight. Only a few unfamiliar business buildings line the main road - an art deco 'Sutherland Ko-op', a white-washed, flat-roofed building called 'Zellies se Winkel' and a stone building with red and green letters that reads 'Roggeveld Handelaars'. The dust and the wind provide a constant reminder of the Karoo. In the distance the sign to the big telescope, Sutherland's main attraction, is overshadowed by the majestic stone church, where Sutherland began.