Sunday, 26 June 2016


This week returns to my On the Road Surprises series.

I have written several articles, travel essays and short stories about Namibia - here is an edited extract from a published article about the Skeleton Coast:

Our journey continued to the Skeleton Coast; an area we were keen to see. We were booked for one night at Terrace Bay, the most northerly point visitors can drive to on the Skeleton Coast

The first thing you notice as you near the coast is the cloud bank.  The second is the sand dunes rolling into infinity.  We arrived at the stark t-junction.  If we turned south we'd eventually reach towns with restaurants and comfortable hotels.  Four vultures crouching by the roadside watched us.  We turned north.

 The air was damp, the sky overcast, the terrain forbidding.  Purple streaked sand dunes loomed on our right and the cold crashing waves of the Atlantic flanked us on our left.  We didn't encounter a single vehicle.

My husband spotted gulls landing on the shore, behind a ridge.  We decided to investigate.  Black-backed jackal and brown hyena (known as strandwolves) patrol the beaches here and we found their prints everywhere.  Perhaps we'd see a hyena on a kill.

Shivering in the chill wind, we cautiously topped the ridge, but there were no animals.  What we found instead were bones.  Hundreds of them.   The whale bones were the easiest to identify and we found an almost intact skeleton of a seal.  Along with the bones were millions of shells.

The Skeleton Coast is so named because of the shipwrecks, but it could equally be named thus for the literal skeletons strewn in abundance.
Even the ocean was conquered at this spot. Sludgy olive green waves fought their way through a carpet of glutinous kelp, to bubble weakly onto the shore. 

It felt like the most desolate place on earth, but possessed an eerie beauty.


You can read one of my stories which was inspired by this experience HERE

I hope you enjoyed this week's post. See you next week for more On the Road Surprises.

Monday, 20 June 2016

KHAO LAK - THAILAND : Market Mini-Series

The first time I travelled around Thailand I fell in love with the country and every time I go back, my love affair is rekindled.

I love the people, the scenery, the culture, the architecture, the scuba diving... and the food.

Thais excel at street food. Anywhere you travel in Thailand you'll see these mobile market food stalls.

Think bar-be-que with a twist. 

The twist often being food which has been marinated in glorious Thai flavours like lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, fish sauce and garlic.

Not to mention lashings of chilli, which the Thais eat in great quantities.

Did you spot the extra pair of legs?

To the extent that I found pre-prepared pomelo (fruit similar to grapefruit) in the supermarket complete with a little bag of sugar mixed with dried chillies to sprinkle on the fruit.

I was initially a little nervous about trying spicy Thai food from a market stall, so my first experiment was with a lady in Bangkok who was cooking pancakes to order. 

It was an extraordinary experience. I have eaten pancakes in many countries, but none more delicious than the Thai version: a thin and crispy pancake slathered in condensed milk and sliced banana.

These days I'm braver and one of my favourite snacks is Thai bar-be-qued chicken. I don't know what all the ingredients are in the marinade - but it's an inspired combination of mouth-watering flavours.

Do you like street food? Would you try unfamiliar food in other countries?

Monday, 13 June 2016

LEGEND - A Story

I thought I'd switch to fiction this week. Here is the winning version of a story which I entered in the Talkback Writers Forum flash fiction competition a few years ago. A longer version of this story was also published on the CafeLit website. 


The finger bone was ancient.
‘Where did you find it?’
Sela pointed inland.
‘Show me.’

Red Footed Booby

The track wove interminably. A light wind ghosted through the hardwoods, carrying the cries of sea birds and the ammonia tang of guano.

Frigate Bird

Through the mosaic of virgin forest I could discern ruins, although many stones had tumbled over time.

‘Here,’ Sela said.
I knelt, fingertips probing. Gently, gently. I felt the unmistakable curve of a cranium.
‘Ah.’ I uncovered the skull.

‘This is old, Sela. This is Lapita.’
‘The spirit people?’ He was wide-eyed.
‘The Lapita were as human as you and me.’ I scraped and cleared.
‘You will release the devil.’

I knew the legend: disturbance of Lapita remains would free the ensnared spirit. But I was no shaman. And this skeleton was human, not devil. No juju to fear here.
‘I will release a piece of your history, nothing more.’

The wind danced in synchrony to my dance through the layers of time as I laid bare a three thousand year old secret.

The excavation was complete. The wind strengthened and the sky turned sulphurous.
‘I think we should brace ourselves,’ I said.
Sela whimpered. 
The skeleton’s feet were cloven.


The inspiration for this story came from an article I wrote about Lapita remains in Fiji. The legend of the spirit people is pure fiction. 

I took all these photos in Fiji. The one with the rocks are the remains of Lapita ring fortifications. The skeleton was found by workmen who were digging a trench in my little town: it is not Lapita.

I hope you enjoyed this week's post. I'll be taking you to South East Asia next week.

Tuesday, 7 June 2016


Following on from last week's post on Burma which featured harvested jellyfish I thought these beautiful and sometimes deadly creatures deserved their own post.


I've seen jellyfish on numerous occasions when scuba diving. Boys like the one above are a delight - not least because they're easy to spot and therefore easy to avoid. We found this one as we ascended at the end of a dive.


Jellyfish are made up of 95% water.

They have been around for 500 million years. They have no need for internal organs as we know them: no brains, stomach, intestines, lungs.

Jellyfish are carnivorous and larger specimens will eat small fish.

Either the fish here didn't know they were dicing with death - or they knew something I didn't.

There are many species of jellyfish. My research has come up with wildly varying figures!

The jellyfish I've seen when diving have always been in mid water or very near the surface. 

I've been mildly stung by jellyfish a couple of times. The culprits each time have been tiny, transparent ones that I haven't spotted when surfacing after a dive. I prefer to wear a full length wetsuit when I scuba dive. 

Jellyfish washed up on beach in West Cork

Most people believe that the Box Jellyfish is the deadliest. In fact the Irukandji Jellyfish is more deadly. 

Some beaches in Queensland are netted to allow people to swim during 'jellyfish season' - i.e. when they bloom and congregate close to the shore. However, Irukandji jellyfish are so tiny (fingernail sized) I wouldn't trust the nets and would never risk swimming in jelly infested waters.

A Queensland Beach

Jellyfish are beautiful creatures. If I see any when I'm diving I always enjoy watching them... from a safe distance.

Do you like jellyfish? Have you ever had a close encounter with one?