A Pitcairn Island Christmas (2012)

Delectable Bounty Take Aways

Pitcairn is legendary in history for being the refuge sought by mutineers from the HMS Bounty. It is equally known in the present day as the home of men who drink whisky from a hollow sperm whale tooth worn on a cord hung around the neck.

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Pitcairn on the horizon (photo credit: Ingrid Visser)

The island is dramatic on approach with huge towering peaks jutting out at odd angles and massive, steep cliffs dropping to the breaking surf and rocks below.  The hillsides are green and lush and tall coconut palms break out of the canopy and fringe the shoreline.  There is one very small access point in a place called Bounty Bay. 

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Entry to Pitcairn Island by Zodiac (photo credit: Ingrid Visser)

We had to surf in on the back of big waves with our Zodiacs to enter the Bay. Passing the end of the pier, the driver had to then hug the concrete seawall to the left inside the very tiny bay to keep from being washed up onto the shallow rocks to the right. 

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Entry to Pitcairn Island by Zodiac (photo credit: Ingrid Visser)

In 1790, a little less than half the crew of the ship set adrift the Captain and those loyal to him in a small tender and sailed the Bounty to Tahiti and then on to Pitcairn. They searched for Pitcairn because it was known to be virtually inaccessible to ships of any size and they thought they could be safe and hidden from the rest of the world there. The punishment for mutiny could be a life in prison, or even death, so staying concealed was critical for the rebellious crew members. The plan essentially worked and nine mutineers, six Polynesian men, twelve Polynesian women and one baby settled on the island.

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“Welcome to Pitcairn Island” in Bounty Bay with local longboats

At time of writing, their descendants – officially 49 people – are residents of Pitcairn. Two people are not originally from the island – the police officer and the priest. There are a handful of others working here at the moment, mostly from New Zealand, the country with the closest ties to Pitcairn. One islander told me she had just wrapped Christmas presents for 55 people, so that was her population count for the year. With everyone off the ship – guests and crew – we more than tripled the head count on the island. 

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Pitcairn family on the favorite island mode of transport

Did I mention the ship visited Pitcairn Island on Christmas Day?

The whole island agreed to work on Christmas Day to take us on tours, sell crafts, and drive 4-wheel ATVs as “taxis” around the island for us. Instead of enjoying their holiday on December 25th, the islanders opted to celebrate Christmas on December 26th, so we felt very honored to be accommodated in such a way.

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St. Paul’s Pool, Pitcairn Island

I spent the morning walking to a spot called St. Paul’s Pool to check out a hike we wanted to take guests on in the afternoon.  The walk was steep and hot.  The red dirt road and punishing humidity took their toll and I found myself feeling light headed towards the top. 

We took a break for water and food near the highest point of the island, and the views were stunning looking out over the violet Pacific Ocean and the tumbling green peaks of the island.  The pool is down at sea level and a natural vertical rock wall separates this calm swimming hole from the violent waves of the ocean. 

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The view from high vantage on Pitcairn Island

I dove into the cool blue water just about as fast as I could after that grinding hike.  Every now and then a wave would break up and over the rock wall and flood the pool with a mini-tsunami.  Small reef fish, shrimp and crabs clung to the sides of the pool and rocked around with the breaking waves.

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Brave hikers peeking from the rock wall
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Vertical rock wall high above the swimming hole

Back in the Adamstown square I had a chance to talk with some of the islanders who had set up their tables of crafts and t-shirts for us. Everyone I met was very friendly and excited to have us on their island.

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A Christmas Market – Pitcairn Island Style

It has been a long time since another ship like ours made landing there – perhaps as much as a year ago. One woman I talked to said six ships are scheduled to visit in 2013, so they are looking forward to a little more business and contact with the outside world.

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Handmade Pitcairn crafts for sale – baskets
Handmade Pitcairn crafts for sale – sharks carved from local woods

We gave the islanders a big box of our used paperback novels from the ship so they could have new reading material. It must be a challenge to keep yourself entertained out there without access to the latest movie or even a bookstore.

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Next generation of islanders

Some local kids showed me around a little bit before I had to head back to the ship.  They pointed out the graveyard and back down at sea level, one of the longboats that the islanders use to come in and out of Bounty Bay.  I think the whole population could probably fit in that one giant longboat.

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Pitcairn Islander taking time out to show us around Adamstown, Pitcairn Island (photo credit: Ingrid Visser)
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Pitcairn’s interior is lush and green or alternatively bare with scorched red earth.
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Grave of John Adams, the last surviving mutineer of the Bounty. He settled on Pitcairn Island one year after the mutiny in January 1790.
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Here be mutineers...

The kids also had an old bathtub embedded in the concrete seawall around Bounty Bay that they could swim in.  Every time a really big wave broke over the seawall, the tub would be flooded and anyone in it was rolled around in the big round basin laughing and floating like a rubber ducky in the tub.

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Pandas trees spanning the Pitcairn forest and creating shady groves.

From my perspective today at the end of this decade, looking back on Christmas Day on Pitcairn Island near the decade’s beginning, I find myself a bit melancholy for those times. My days were often spent on a small ship in a vast sea searching for specks of islands to appear on the horizon. The friendships formed amongst expedition guides is one of family grown through necessity and chance encounter. We relied on each other in work and play.

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The original HMS Bounty anchor

The bonds formed by sailors are deep and rekindle in my memory each time I reflect on a voyage. I wonder how those mutineers — fellow seafarers — felt striking out on their own to settle a new land and begin life anew. How is it to foster a life entirely of your own making?

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Christmas Day clouds shrouding Pitcairn as the ship departs.

I wish for you all the happiest of holidays and renewed commitment to shaping the best life you can for yourself and those around you in the new decade.

Here’s to the Twenty20s my friends!

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Delectable Bounty Take Aways

Rocking and Rowing Manhattan

Bill in his “happy place”

When my dad passed away almost a year and a half ago I nominated Rocking the Boat to be his memorial charity — he loved the water and boating, NYC, and the idea of helping kids navigate the future — it just seemed a perfect way to honor him.  My family and I landed on another admirable effort, but it’s nagged me since that Rocking the Boat was also such a good fit.

And so, it’s with pride (and filled with the spirit of love) that I’m undertaking a row around Manhattan at the end of the month to raise funds for Rocking the Boat.  

Whitehall and Lady Liberty

On September 29 (only 10 DAYS from now), my “Yeah Buoy” teammates and I will row a Whitehall around the entire island of Manhattan — that’s 30 miles in one day!  We’ll be dodging ferries and water taxis, navigating the strong tides and city bridges while guided around the island by a program graduate as our coxswain. I recognize that all of us receive countless pleas for financial support these days, especially with the rise of progressive politicians who snub corporate-based funding and lobbies as a vehicle to win elections.  I embrace this direction in politics, but also recognize that it means that all that much more when you take the time to make a donation to this cause.

Your contribution (big or small) supports this admirable program, supports the initiative these kids are taking to build themselves as they build boats, supports my “Yeah Buoy” team, and supports me personally in my effort to uphold the memory of my dad; the great man and member of the NYC community that he was for so much of his life. 

Contribute now and help me close the gap on the last $1000 needed to reach my $2000 goal! 

At the core of this undertaking, I will be rowing and ‘Rocking Manhattan’ because my efforts will support Rocking the Boat’s vital programs for young people growing up in very difficult circumstances, and I will be wearing my dad’s old sailing gloves every stroke of the way around Manhattan.

Much love and thanks, 

~~ Kit

Antarctic Inspirations

Breakdown the word ‘inspiration.’

I’ve come to understand in the early days of 2018, that this capacious word embodies the simple act of inhaling, the source of creativity, and ultimately guidance from a divine power.

In the literal sense ‘inspiration’ means to breathe in – an inspiration and an expiration occurring in each cycle of breath. In the modern figurative sense it refers to someone or something that inspires us. But Merriam Webster says, “before inspiration was used to refer to breath it had a distinctly theological meaning…referring to a divine influence upon a person, from a divine entity….” This is the original meaning of the word from the early 14th century.

The word ‘inspiration’ strikes me as significant.

Its definitions ricochet from my right brain to my left and back again leaving me wondering how a word that I’ve been offhandedly tossing around all these years could hold such gravitas.

One solid year of dedicated meditation since my dad was diagnosed with incurable cancer has imbedded in me a profound respect for the simple necessity of inspirations and the rhythm of breathing.

My analytical, science-attuned left-brain understands ‘inspiration’ and breath as a life force. In particular, the need to uptake air, to draw in a cocktail of chemicals including oxygen that literally feeds our bodies and sustains life.

And the cleanest air on earth to imbibe? I’ve just returned from the Circumpolar Current-insulated continent that is Antarctica. Surely that southern air is the most nourishing I’ve been lucky enough to sample thus far. Its purity is unmistakable and it’s salty, chilled aftertaste smacks of vitality.

Turn to the artistic right-brain and ‘inspiration’ becomes something that cultivates our creative spirit. The ice, mountain peaks, profusion of wildlife, kindred spirit of fellow travelers, and encounters with ghosts of intrepid heroic explorers who long ago dressed in scratchy wool and frozen leather to trek the length and breath of Terra Australis – those too are ‘inspirations.’

In the Lemaire Channel with fellow traveler and dear friend Di Patterson. It was a joy to voyage together again!

The features of Antarctica are at once legendary and legends of geography, geology, biology and history that viscerally inspire me to keep reading and learning and teaching. It becomes obvious at the bottom of the world that there is always more to know and share.

Breaking ground with the Silversea Expeditions Training Academy.

I want to dole out the best bits of knowledge like bait on so many hooks, string them into a lifetime of study and exploration, and keep my audiences hooked as I reel in the line. 

Tiny penguins in the foreground are engulfed by their ‘berg in the distance.

I am also inspired to write, to paint, to create, and sing the praises of one of the most threatened places on the planet. The beauty I have been lucky enough to see over the last nine weeks is ephemeral, and changing in front of my generation’s eyes.

Deviations in climate, like trusses, now build a long tunnel with the clear light of finality shinning at the far end.

People and penguins in red, black and white stretch along the beach.

Finally, together let’s ponder the oldest meaning of the word ‘inspiration’ and come to understand independently how critically important it is to respect our differences in comprehension of the third and distinctly godly definition of the word.

For the divine definition of inspiration:

How does one discover and know divine influence?

Where does each person’s divine entity reside?

How profoundly does the divine influence each of us?

What form does your divinity take?

Are the steep, jagged, black, snow blasted slopes of Antarctic shores and the steel-blues of continental icebergs celestial enough for this brand of inspiration?

For me they are.


Sending everyone much love and hopes for an inspirational 2018.

New Eyes on the Galapagos

In a last minute flurry of opportunity I took my 13-year old niece to the Galapagos last month.  What a joy to be back in the islands unlike any others on the planet, and to see it all unfold in front of new eyes without the burden of expectation. 

We took advantage of every opportunity to snorkel, hike, kayak, and land ashore.  We took in sunsets over cold drinks (one virgin Piña Colada and a skinny Margarita please) and aboard a Zodiac cruising through twisted waterways of sheltered mangrove forest. 

One early morning chilly snorkel paid us back for the commitment of entering the cold ocean with a single playful sea lion that cavorted and dove and somersaulted with us for a solid length of time. And sometimes we saw flocks of penguins “flying” by in the blue sea as we swam along. 

Sea turtles on shore and in the water kept us company and hundreds, if not thousands of marine iguanas decorated the shores we explored with our excellent group of informed and informative guides.  

I’m grateful for this spontaneous trip to the equator before I journey south to the Antarctic Peninsula next week.  The sun and familiar surroundings were as comforting as the luxury of the ship and the special attention of all the crew. 

Being back in the Galapagos felt like being home.

A Hiatus Explained…

I’m sitting on a park bench in the south of France on the outskirts of the city of Monaco. The motivation to explore this new city is eluding me. I’m more attracted to the slow enjoyment of a café au lait on a small street corner, and to this shaded, quiet spot on a back street, half-way up a flight of steep steps rising from one twisted and narrow street to another above me.

My drive to explore has been temporarily dampened. I suspect this is not permanent, but rather a side effect of the terrible loss I’ve endured this year.

In mid-December 2016, while happily floating across the Indian Ocean from east to west – from Burma to Zanzibar – I got the news from home that you never, ever want to hear; “There’s something wrong with Dad.”

I flew home right away, rising above the Maldives’ endless shades of blues and greens, into the grey twilight of the unknown and onwards to my family’s home in the frigid, stark white of a New Hampshire winter. It was here, and after two tortuous biopsies, that we found out my father had Stage IV brain cancer.

Brain Cancer.

Let those words soak in for a moment. Think of the devastation and the sorrow and the heartbreak they carry. Think of the uncertainty, the fear, and the unknown consequences that they rain down onto a family.

And it did rain. It was a monsoon of stress and worry wrapped up in the management of time, and radiation treatments, and chemotherapy drugs, and patient care, and doctor’s visits, and eventually long-term nursing homes. And all this for a 72-year old man, the anchor of our family, who was riding 50 miles on his bicycle without batting an eye, who went to the gym without fail every morning at 5:30 am, and who hiked with the dog every weekend.

There was no apparent explanation for this torrent of raining misery, and no reason for the deluge, but it robbed me of my father in a slow, tortuous way that left us with nothing more than a shell of a man, half paralyzed in a hospital bed, unable to form sentences or follow his thoughts, unable to reflect on his life and his loves, and fixated on his last enjoyment in this world – food – namely ice cream and smoothies delivered by his doting adult children.

The experience of caring for my dad and watching him leave us, side-by-side with my family and close friends, has changed me forever. It’s brought me closer to my siblings and extended family, and it’s dragged me to the edge of my own capabilities.

Before this happened, I thought my strengths and abilities were near limitless. I take away from this experience the knowledge that strength is an illusion and ‘grace under fire’ is the ultimate resilience. It is courageous and human to ask for help, and bold and admirable to accept it when offered. I know intimately now that even the most fortified of walls will crumble.

And so now you know, dear reader, why I have been negligent in writing and have abandoned my travel posts and photos for some time. It’s taken me these four long months since my Dad slipped away in April, with a final whispered exhale, to find the space in my rain-soaked heart to write about his passing.

I owe him so much. He is the main reason I find joy in discovery and travel. From an early age he led me to understand that our lives are acted out on a stage that stretches beyond what we can see, to the far corners of the globe. Always growing up he told me, “Expand your horizons my girl.”

He is the main reason I depend without hesitation on my inner moral compass, and find confidence in my gut feelings, and resilience to changes in my life. In large part it’s because he always trusted me, always knew I’d find my way, and never hesitated to give me every assurance that things play out the way they are meant to.

It is frankly strange to travel without him now.

Who do I share my stories with when I come home? Who will sit with me and watch the videos of wildlife encounters and far-flung cultural performances? Who will laugh with me about the sagas that played out on board the microcosm of the ship and the colorful characters involved? Who will be that unfailing, reliable landmark in my life?

Of course, it will always be my dad.

The conversations just take place in my heart now.

And I will continue to make him proud, and bring him stories, and he will know that my horizons are broad and only getting wider.

Indian Ocean

It’s been a long hiatus since I set off on a lengthy journey…and that’s all about to change as today I leave for Singapore to begin eight weeks of travel through the Indian Ocean. The four back-to-back voyages I’m joining — plus one scouting trip — will take me to Thailand, Indonesia, Myanmar, the Andaman Islands of India, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, the Seychelles, Tanzania and Mozambique (the country whose name always makes me think of Bob Dylan’s song).


The Indian Ocean is my next destination!

The first voyage starts in Singapore and then swings north and west over to northern Sumatra and Banda Aceh (where I will hop off for a few days to scout the region for future expeditions). The ship then visits some of Myanmar’s offshore islands known as the Mergui Archipelago, a chain of roughly 800 islands in the Andaman Sea, before arriving in Phuket, Thailand where I will rejoin the ship, after having flown there at the end of my scouting trip in Indonesia.

Starting and ending in Phuket, the second voyage will take me to the Andaman Islands of India, to Yangon to explore Myanmar’s inland realms, as well as to the Lampi Group of the Mergui Islands. The Mergui are home to nomadic fisherman and a rich biodiversity of mangroves and coral reefs, not to mention monkeys and hornbills in the crowded, verdant, green forests, and sea eagles in the vast blue skies.

Voyage 2

A rough itinerary for the second voyage of my upcoming season.

The final two voyages will see the ship moving from east to west across the Indian Ocean.  The third voyage begins in Phuket and ends in the Maldives over 1,500 nautical miles to the west. On this trip, the ship will in part retrace her steps into Myanmar and the Andaman Islands, and then sets a course for Sri Lanka.

I’m incredibly excited to visit Sri Lanka, and our first stop will be Galle, an ancient Muslim port influenced by traders from around the world including the Moors, Portuguese, Dutch and British. I look forward to seeing the historic Dutch-colonial architecture and narrow streets and experiencing the intense culture of the place. From Kirinda we will visit Yala National Park known to hold Sri Lankan elephants and one of the highest densities of leopards in the world.

Voyage 3

Heading west over at least 1500 nautical miles from Phuket to the Maldives on voyage #3.

The fourth and final voyage of this contract will take me through the Maldives, further west still, to the Seychelles, and on to Mozambique and Tanzania. The jewel in the crown of my final voyage will be a chance to visit Aldabra in the Seychelles. Aldabra is recognized as the second largest atoll in the world and is sanctuary to thousands upon thousands of seabirds, with an inner lagoon that supports reef fish, rays and turtles, as well as beaches harboring the giant Aldabra tortoise, similar only to those found in the Galapagos Islands of Ecuador.

Voyage 4

The game plan for my fourth and final voyage of the season.

With so many sights, sensations, smells, tastes, animals and people to experience, I will be taking notes and snapping photos with hopes of translating the inundation of information into some meaningful and concise travel posts for you, dear reader, to enjoy.

Stay tuned and happy holidays!

I’m back in the cold Northeast of the US in January. (And what a reality warp that will be!)

The Life of an Ocean Adventurer

I was thrilled to have an interview published recently with the Women’s Adventure Expo in Bristol, UK.  Hope you enjoy reading about my day-to-day work as an Expedition Leader for Silversea Expeditions, and know that I’m proud to be a part of an endeavor dedicated to supporting wild women exploring the world! (Click on the iguana below to read more…)

The Life of an Ocean Adventurer

Welcome to the Women’s Adventure Expo!

We are the first adventure and travel expo in the UK dedicated to women. We are also a pioneering social enterprise empowering women who are interested in, or engaged in, adventure and exploration. We are commited to the growth of a positive global platform which celebrates and inspires women through adventure. We believe in making adventure accessible and inclusive to all women no matter what age, ability and stage of life. By connecting people, supporting one another and encouraging women to challenge themselves, we aim to raise awareness for, and collaborate with, projects that harness ethical purpose and create opportunities to expand our social value. Keep reading to find out more.

The ABCs of West African Roadsides

In West Africa, commerce thrives on the side of the road.  For 4 weeks now I have spent many hours driving along hundreds of miles of these roads in all their various states of repair and disarray, and I can safely say that almost everywhere there is a road, there is a market.

Africa - Roadsides-4

In West Africa, you can buy just about anything you want or need on the side of the road.

Thanks to the markets, hundreds of people are coming and going by bus, car, taxi, moped, or donkey-drawn cart at all hours of the day.

To entertain myself on these long drives along the Africa coasts, I made an incomplete list of some of the goodies for sale.

Enjoy the virtual shopping trip…



Air conditioner fans















Bed frames

Students walking home on the Sierra Leone roadside as piles of trash smolder on the riverbank behind them.

Students walk home on the Sierra Leone roadside as piles of trash smolder on the riverbank behind them.


Chairs (wooden, plastic, metal, children’s & full size)

Coffee tables

Cinder blocks

Car seat covers






Clay pots




Coca Cola

Market woman in Ghana

Woman in a market in Ghana





Doors (both house and garage)


Electrical Wire



Floor fans


Fly swatters

Floor tiles


Fake flowers


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Apparently God is in control of the refrigeration business…








High heels


Hair cuts





Africa - Roadsides-1

Most clothes for sale in West Africa are second hand. No doubt donations from the first world.




Koliko (fried yams in Togo)

Kitchen sinks












Nets (fishing and mosquito)



Original art


Africa - Roadsides-6

Not sure what is being sold out of this store front in Ghana.



Paint brushes

Phone calls



PVC pipe


Plucked chickens



Quik (as in Nestle)




Roof panels (corrugated metal, woven, thatch)







Solar panels


Sugar cane


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Sampling of the brilliant fabrics and clothes for sale.


Tank Tops



Tires (scooter, bicycle, car)


Televisions (flat screen and not)


Unprocessed wooden logs



Africa - Roadsides-2

Woman selling cabbage, squash, and yams in Angola.


Wooden boards


Washing detergent


Wash basins


X-Tigi Mobile (service in Togo)





A man walks a roadside of Angola.

A man walks a roadside in Angola.










Namibia –

On the lush southwestern coast of the African Continent, the German influenced country of Namibia is an anomaly. Two thousand kilometers of dry, uninhabited, dune-laden Skeleton Coast is neighbor to one of the world’s most productive and nutrient rich stretches of ocean on the planet.

1 Skeleton Coasta

The Skeleton Coast where desert meets cold Atlantic

Here the cold Atlantic is fed by Antarctic currents and keeps the landscape at a steady, cool temperature through most of the year. Thanks to cold and nutrient-rich currents, the sea boils with just shy of two million Cape Fur Seals, farmed oysters, dolphins, and whales of almost every imaginable variety. Meanwhile, the land offers visitors the unambiguous contrast of rolling barren sand dunes, low stony mountains and dry riverbeds.

Cape Fur Seals on Pelican Point -- approximately 2 million of these fur seals live and feast on the Skeleton Coast.

Cape Fur Seals on Pelican Point — approximately 2 million of these fur seals live and feast on the Skeleton Coast.

The desert is stunning in its own right. The soft curves of the sand dunes piled one upon another as far as the eye can see, and the brilliant contrasts of blue sky, amber sand, dark shadows, and a spattering of green plants all pile together up against the slate grey waves of the cold Atlantic. Fog rolls in and out as a soft, gray vapor and blots the harsh light of the sun for a few hours each morning.

3 desert

Fabulous dunes in the morning light

In Luderitz, on the southern Namibian coast, our ship docked early in the day and we disembarked in the requisite mist to explore the abandoned diamond mining community of Kolmanskop. A cautionary road sign simply reading, “SAND” met us as the coach turned off the main road and into the ghost town.

SAND reads the warning sign in the middle of the desert...

SAND reads the warning sign in the middle of the desert…

Never has there been a more accurate warning issued in a place where desert sand is swallowing up the remnants of greed-fueled human endeavor, and encroaching into old buildings and polishing the wooden floor boards of those still in use. It’s hard to imagine that people tried to live here with their water shipped in, packed inside wooden barrels and carted across the expanses to fill old bathtubs that are now abandoned on the sand dunes like claw-footed toboggans.

5 Kolmanskop

Abandoned Kolmanskop diamond mine

In Luderitz, I was equally enthralled with the colorfully painted German built houses, and the patches of watermelon growing in the desert. While the European architecture seems a tad out of place, so do the melons.

6 LuderitzA

The German town of Luderitz

The Kelly green vegetation and mid-sized melons are the last things I expected to find growing in the rocky soil, but there they were, turning sunlight and what little water is around into bitter fruit historically used by Bushmen as a water source. The kudu, gemsbok, ostrich, and springbok of the region apparently prefer to find their water elsewhere, ruling the fruit too sour for their tastes.

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Tsama melon in the desert

Further north, in Walvis Bay and the surrounding National Park I found hiking up steep dunes to be a difficult and tiring undertaking. Steps must be taken in parallel with the grade and the awkward diagonal trek upwards is impeded by sections of soft, slippery sand in abrupt contrast to packed, dense, firm sections where I could not dig the long edge of my boot into the dune wall, and found there was suddenly little purchase at all. I found speed helped in these situations, and passing quickly over the difficult spots I reached the ridge of the dune where I unknowingly upset the tenuously balanced sand on the inward edge of the dune’s crescent and caused a small avalanche to cascade down on the back side of the dune.

8 Dune

Soaking it all in from the ridge of a Skeleton Coast dune

Finally perched on the sandy crest, I paused a moment to take in the crashing waves to the west and the rising sun over the rows of dunes to the east. A Cape Fur Seal swimming like a porpoise cruised up the coast just beyond the breakers and out of sight of my companions and our row of 4×4 vehicles down at eye level on the beach.

9 Dune

The 4×4 convoy

That night we had dinner in a maze of inland desert canyons. Arriving just before sunset I scaled a low rocky outcrop to get out of the canyon’s belly and gain a heady view around the area. The low rocky peaks stretch out around me like cresting waves on the ocean and the low, auburn sun lit up the landscape bathing everything in warm, incandescent light.

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Sunset in the interior

I did not want to come back down, but was rewarded upon my return with a fantastic feast and a choir of surreal singers. Later the Milky Way erupted as a horizontal streak in the sky – the clarity of which I’ve not seen even under sail on a schooner in the middle of the Atlantic.

11 Sunset dinner

Dinner in a desert canyon

Namibia is a place I hope to return to for its unparalleled and expansive desert that is home to desert elephants and wild horses, and its coasts promising great surf and loaded with marine life, flamingos and giant white pelicans. It was a pleasure to become acquainted – even briefly – with such a special land.

Namibia Pelican-1


Africa is a word

Tunisia- Kit and the Camel

‘Africa’ is a word that has cultivated powerful imagery in the blank slate of my gray matter since childhood. For years, hearing the continent’s name spoken aloud was enough to conjure deep green rainforests alive with the chatter of insects, rolling desert sand dunes sheltering sidewinders and scorpions, lonely wildebeests roaming tree-fringed savannahs, and sprinting cheetahs, lean and panting in the tall, hot grass. The word also hinted at proud people clothed in colorful textiles, wearing stunning beadwork, towers of metal bracelets, anklets and necklaces, and releasing primal voodoo chants amidst chaotic drumming.

My first indirect exposure to the continent came from the contents of my father’s suitcases each time he would return from business trips to Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Angola, Ghana, Nigeria, Liberia and South Africa to name a few of the African countries he visited. I could hardly stand the anticipation as he would lay the hard case on the floor and open the two metal snapping locks, one on either side of the bag’s molded plastic handle, to reveal the bounty of presents within.

Africa Map

My dad often brought my mother gifts of jewelry from Africa. I remember a gold cuff bracelet carved with intricate ram’s heads, and I recall polished jade, thick strands of wire-like elephant hair, and brightly beaded bangle bracelets. He liked to bring me dolls in traditional costumes. Some were carved from wood, and one was made of cloth from his turban swathed head to sandaled toes. Others were synthetic and dressed like equatorial Barbie dolls.

The most exciting acquisitions were always the carved masks he unwrapped from between newspaper sheets and folded dress shirts. I was deeply intimidated by these confrontational embodiments of the dark dimensions of human fantasy. Although, I do recollect one mask that had tufts of hair and a mouth and eyes resembling giant Cheerios. That particular guise was enough to pry a quick smile from me each time I walked by it, mounted high on the hallway wall.

My family’s collection of African masks came to a sudden and premature termination when my father determined that not only had he brought home original woodcarvings from Africa, but that he had also imported a wealth of wood-boring insects – including termites – that were not as welcome in the house. So, that was the end of the masks, and the end of my liaisons with the obscure and mystical faces of Africa in the dark passages of my very own home.

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The only direct claim I have to Africa up until this point of my life was a brief trip I made to Tunisia with my mother in the late 1970s. I don’t remember too much of this adventure except playing with the life-sized pieces of the giant chess set near the pool at our hotel, and seeing my mother sip Campari at the empty hotel bar like a person I had not met yet.


In Tunisia, I was just a kid with my hair in pigtails, wearing bright colors and bellbottomed corduroy pants. However, I attracted the attention of a couple men in the medina who demanded to know how many camels it would take for my mother to sell me. I was convinced that at some point in the near future, the offers of wealth would be intoxicating and my mom would hand me over in exchange for several dromedaries. As my paranoia reached a fever pitch she had to ask me in all seriousness where she would possibly house a herd of camels in our small flat in London. The logic of that impossibility eventually brought me back down to earth.

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And here I am, still on the same planet, and in two days I leave for my own encounters with Africa.

This time I will not experience the continent through gifts from my dad that merely hinted at the riches in history, culture, and geography. Nor will I visit in the safety of my mom’s shadow as she shields me from wealthy camel herders, holds me tight on horseback (although I was sulking the whole time we rode on the beach because she wouldn’t let me ride a camel instead), or haggles for me in the souk with a vendor for a thick, woven tunic that I then refused to take off.

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From our small ship I will experience the entire West Coast of Africa from Cape Town, South Africa to Lisbon, Portugal.  The first leg of the voyage will go from Cape Town to Dakar, Senegal and from this western point the ship then meanders through the Cape Verde and Canary Islands, up the coast of Morocco, and into Europe.

It will be a journey of over 6,000 nautical miles embedded with new sights, sounds, smells, flavors, wildlife and smiles. I hope to write frequently of the experiences and will try to capture the essence of each day in a few photographs to share with you here.

Maybe I’ll even bring back a few carved masks – free of termites.

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