On Saturday, day 2 of the hard riding stages, we followed scores of 4×4’s traversing the Maluti mountains in an attempt to get to viewpoints 2 and 3. Eventually we were turned back by retiring 4×4’s, the drivers reporting that bottlenecks and “stuck” 4×4’s were preventing access. The mud, brought on by the torrential rains, stopped play for us and many riders.
If you look for it, you’ll probably miss the rotunda. I know I did. Several times in fact. It’s hidden between moored boats, boats often filled with laughing, loudly talking fishermen. But it’s there, if you take your time and see past the visual chaos of masts, brightly coloured boats, larger-than-life fishermen and fences and gates.
Behind the city’s hotels and apartment blocks that line the beachfront, and at the southern end, is the busy harbour port that underlies Durban’s commerce and importance.
Signs, they’re everywhere. Directing you here, directing you there … helping you find your way, if you’re looking.
Helen is devoted to yoga, and she’s also devoted to free diving. While one is about breathing and the other about breath-hold they’re both ultimately about the union of breath, mind and body.
Helen is a great friend and teacher and I was privileged to take photos of her for marketing collateral.
To spend eight hours perched on various wooden long tail boats, interjected by a spell of cycling across an island, for a chance (with no guarantee) to see the critically endangered Irrawaddy dolphins is madness. A masochistic madness borne of a life-long fascination with cetaceans … and as Riff Raff so eloquently sang: “madness takes its toll”.
The Mekong river, having traversed the length of Laos on its journey from Tibet to the South China Sea, takes a breath at Si Phan Don before crashing down a series of waterfalls and entering Cambodia.
Si Phan Don, loosely translated as the four thousand islands, is located on the widest stretch of the Mekong’s journey seawards. The river appears languid and lazy curling around islets and islands; flowing gently but surely. Like the river, life on the islands is slow and sure; unhurried and contemplative.
Lacking Cambodia’s ruins and tumultuous history, Thailand’s culture and regional power and Vietnam’s long history and story of conflict, Laos seems like the ignored quiet child in the back row of the classroom by comparison.
Yet for all that is understated and little-known about Laos, scratch its surface and you’ll find a fascinating and laid-back nation worthy of far greater attention.
The late afternoon sunshine bathes the fifty-four gothic towers of the Bayon temple in a gentle warm light. The sun’s slow progressive setting casts deep shadows on the two hundred and sixteen large faces of Avalokitesharva, ” the Lord who looks down”, carved on each of the four facets of every tower.
Each face serene, peaceful and representing enlightenment is a replica of the other and is said to bear a resemblance to King Jayavarman VII who commissioned and built this, his official state temple, sometime in the late twelfth or early thirteenth century.
Faced with the prospect of enduring a five to seven hour ferry ride from Battambang to Siem Reap, squashed into a plastic chair big enough for an infant and squeezed between forty nine other tourists or perched in a lotus position on the ferry rooftop, I chose the latter.
The twenty-odd metre long ferry is at most three to four meters wide, contains a cubicle toilet and accommodates some fifty people. Designed to seat Asians significantly smaller than most westerners the ferry, when full, has a sardine-can feel to it. That many tourists consider it a romantic notion to travel to Siem Reap by boat means the ferry is both popular and over-worked.