Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Stories from Kampot

So..... here are some photos from a cool weekend with one of my favourite people in the entire world.

The thing is, I very rarely book accommodation on weekend's away.  A cursory glance at my aptitudes will tell you that anything that looks, smells or in any other way vaguely resembles admin causes all manner of frightening symptoms to break out immediately.  The only relief is for me to run, wailing, in the opposite direction.  I have a great number of structured, organised friends who take care of these jobs while I contribute to a weekend away in other ways.. making sure there is a camera on hand, asking if breakfast in included in the accommodation price and over-packing, because who knows what I wil feel like wearing tomorrow?!

My dear friend Claire came to visit for a few weeks and in a fit of excitement I wrote down some ideas of places we could visit on weekends. After some discussion we settled on Kampot.  Some keywords popped into my head as I pondered where we should stay.  River... bungalow... live music... great people.  A river bungalow with live music and great people. Surely a win!  I quickly looked at the guesthouse in question's website and as it was 2 days before we were due to leave (see admin aversion above), hurriedly booked us a riverside bungalow.

After a grotto bus ride during which the grossest curtain imaginable gently brushed against my skin, and I periodically informed Claire, "Oh I definitely recognise this area, we're nearly there" (we were never nearly there) we arrived and squeezed, bags and all onto one moto.

Oh boy, this story is going nowhere slowly but bare with me, I'm nearly done.

As we descended the gangplank to our bungalow my heart soared while my stomach sank (don't over think it).  We had this view (see first picture) but I hadn't realised there was only a communal bathroom, which is pretty much the worst thing ever.  However, we had this view and could jump right out of room into the water, which is pretty cool.

Later on in the night we realised the live music was also very loud, late night music and our bed sat at a roughly 85 degree angle.  Also, in an attempt at conversation with a young British boy, I misheard him say friends as parents and proceeded to ask him where his parents were in a conciliatory tone.  He was mortified at such a thought and we came to the tacit agreement that it was altogether more pleasant to just listen to the music. Oh and one last thing... while jumping out your room into the water is fun,  if you're under 5'5 and/or have no upper body strength, make sure to have a tall friend around.  I hear that you may find it impossible to get out the water, leaving you with option A) bob down to the main deck and step, dripping, over the backpackers sprawled out or B) shriek and dissolve in unhelpful giggles while your tall friend tries to pull you out.

Those bikes, are really that tiny. Also, Claire's well earned drink of water was rudely interrupted by a dog marking it's territory.. although it's photo bombing gift is pretty impressive.

Kampot is the main pepper growing region in Cambodia.  Kampot pepper is one of the best peppers in the world and if the official website is to be believed "it develops an enthralling aroma, strong, delicate and aromatic."  So here it is, drying in the sun. Uh, this man appears to be checking on it.. Moving right along.

The pork ribs at Rusty Keyhole, a restaurant along the river, are legen(pause)dary. For a few dollars we got a massive plate of ribs, which the guys at the next table informed us we'd never finish.  Right, well now the challenge was on.  Their most stunning feature, besides the taste and tenderness is that there were hardly any bones, just chunks of delicious meat!  While we ate the manager's daughter came to sit with us and commandeered my camera while chatting happily about her dress and the photos she was taking.  Oh and we almost finished the ribs before conceding defeat.

We lay on the deck of our guesthouse and played that old favourite, "Cloud Pictures".  See the squirrel?

Kampot is a lovely little town and I'm so glad I got to experience it for the first time with such a good friend.  Besides eating meat and drinking beer, we enjoyed leisurely cycles, some really great live music, card games with friends we made at the guesthouse, a sampling of some of the other eateries in Kampot, a bit of reading and journalling, great conversations and lots of swimming. And we had views like this from our room:

Saturday, May 18, 2013

7 Super Shots

I am taking part in HostelBookers 7 Super Shots.  What you do is pick 7 of your favourite photos, according to the 7 categories below, and write a short description of each.  For the other boring details, click on the link and they'll tell you what it's about.

So here are my shots..

a photo that takes my breath away

This was taken along the Eastern Cape coast of South Africa, at a spot called Waterfall Bluff.  Waterfall Bluff is a waterfall that falls directly into the Indian Ocean, and is a breathtaking and vertigo inducing sight. This was an epic day.  We undertook a 20 km hike from Mbotyi to Grosvenor, sticking close to the rugged coastline where possible, while at times venturing slightly inland and hiking up and down significant hills, through wild flower filled fields and taking dips in smaller waterfalls encountered along the way.  Towards the end of our hike we came to a river mouth that could only be crossed by swimming and so, after two members of our party managed to secure a lilo from a nearby house, we loaded it with our backpacks and swam across.  As we got out on the other side my friend casually mentioned that she'd seen a photo of sharks swimming in the very spot we'd just crossed.  It was with nervous giggling that we watched the others make their way across and breathed a great sigh of relief when everyone emerged with limbs intact.

a photo that makes me smile

This photo brings to mind a happy day from a few years ago, that of the marriage of my cousin.  As we arrived for the ceremony we saw my gran and my youngest brother, always so full of warmth, gave her a hug.  I love his joyful expression and her gentle smile. I love that this tender moment was captured.  

a photo that makes me dream

One of my favourite things to do on our family farm is to go for long meandering walks. From season to season the landscape changes dramatically and the same piece of land holds both fond memories and new discoveries. Beautiful places clear my mind of clutter and make space for reminiscing, dreaming and connecting with God, causing hope to blossom and perspective to be restored.

a photo that makes me think

When the former king of Cambodia died this year, the country went into mourning for their beloved King Father, who secured the country's independence in 1953.  This photo was taken on the 6th night of mourning, as thousands of people came to the Royal Palace to pay their respects.  I felt the sense of living through an important moment in history and the outpouring of grief and love really moved me.  It made me think about the importance of honouring our leaders, and while King Sihanouk made some costly mistakes during his life, he was remembered and honoured for the significant good he did.

a photo that makes my mouth water

I was a late discoverer of Eggs Benedict, but it has become one of my favourite breakfasts (of which there are admittedly many).  Efforts to create it at home have failed dismally, from a questionable Hollandaise to a swirling mass of stringy egg white.  The toast was pretty top notch though.  And so, until the secret is discovered, it remains a treat when eating out, and perhaps it's better that way.  

a photo that tells a story

A few years ago my family embarked on the "Simpson Family Road Trip", an epic cross country trip from Kwa-Zulu Natal, through Grahamstown to pick me up and on to Cape Town, the only other time we'd visited as a family being sometime in the early 90's.  My memories from that first visit include wind, being enamoured with my aunt, views of the city lights that blew my farm girl mind, cable cars, Table Mountain, big red buses, feeding squirrels in the park and some man shouting at me from a passing car to stop hanging my arm out the window.  On a day trip to Hout Bay I was walking along a pier at the harbour when I saw what, to my mind at least, epitomised a man of the sea.  I desperately wanted a photo but felt too shy to ask so I discreetly aimed my camera in his direction and pretended I was taking a photo of the rigging(1st photo).  Ninja skills.  Except it was totally obvious and he saw me, so I sheepishly asked if he would mind if I took his photo, to which he graciously nodded and I took it before scuttling off, a little embarrassed but mostly elated.  

a photo that I am most proud of

I can't really claim pride in a photo of which I was simply fortunate to be in the right place at the right time but I feel so happy to have captured it.  Last year I visited Koh Thmei, one of the many beautiful islands dotting the coast of Cambodia.  We slept in bungalows on the beach and every morning were treated to the most exquisite sunrises I'd ever seen.  On the first morning we hurried out to document it  before taking an early morning swim and I took this photo as my friend was walking along the shore.  It was an idyllic, almost surreal setting and one of the best holidays I've had.