Author Archives: hramatheson

In search of my roots.

Just home from a 5-week trip, I am constantly asked how my holiday was. Sporting a grin reminiscent of the Cheshire Cat, I stumble for appropriate words, finally resorting to ‘AMAZING’, ‘AWESOME’, ‘FANTASTIC’, ‘EXHILARATING’ … but these don’t really seem adequate. So where was this extraordinary place?

In about 2013, in the words of Simon and Garfunkel, ‘a vision was planted in my brain’ and I had a sudden urge (at the age of fifty-something) to return to the town where I was born!

Back in the day, the town was called Fort Jameson and the country went by the grandiose name of The Federation of Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland. Try fitting that onto a visa application form! Today it is known as Chipata and is a bustling town in the very far east of Zambia. So far east that the only sensible means of approach was through Malawi, the Nyasaland of yore.

Image result for map zambia

The vision was expanded when I had the foresight to ask hubby what was on his ‘bucket list’. The response? The wildebeest migration in the Serengeti.


I leapt, with some trepidation, into the depths of Google and Trip Advisor and settled on two tour companies which sounded like safe and reasonable options, and turned out to be exceptional. The Responsible Safari Company  and Roy Safaris.

I sent out a call to friends and family to join me – there was a lot of scaremongering about the perceived dangers of Africa – but we eventually had six other brave and intrepid souls prepared to risk ‘life and limb’ in the wilds of ‘The Dark Continent’.

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Why travel?

In May I was on a bus from Queenstown to Milford Sound as the sun came up over heavily frosted farms. It glittered and sparkled on the ice, creating fields of diamonds, whose beauty was simple, but breath-taking.

My thoughts wandered to a friend who has never travelled far, and has no desire whatsoever to do so! She is content to be an armchair traveller and see the world on a screen. This all got me thinking about why I travel – of course my reasons may not be your reasons – and what do I get out of my travel? How do you convince someone to get out of the armchair and explore the world? I am also a great armchair traveller, but for me these programmes serve to inspire further journeys, and thus the bucket list just keeps on growing!

The south island of New Zealand is renowned in the astronomical world for its dark skies, and it is quite something to stand outside on a clear night and ponder the universe, which can be seen to an extraordinary scale once you’ve escaped bright city lights. We stood recently, all alone, on the shore of Lake Tekapo, and sought to make sense of the night sky. It is a humbling experience when you appreciate first-hand the vastness of the Milky Way, and realise just how small we really are. Personally, the enormity and endlessness of space frightens me a little, as it poses far more questions than I have time for answers! On the plus side though, it also reinforces the knowledge that Earth is a very special place and that I should make every effort to sample its wonders, for, as has been said by many: “life is short”.

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A glimpse at western France

La Rochelle

In 2008, fleeing the transport nightmare that was Paris, we did a flying visit to La Rochelle with our daughter,  just to see what it was like. We fell in love with the place and will have to go back sometime. La Rochelle was easy to walk around with a beautiful, large central park. The shopping centre was colonnaded like a Roman forum and great to stroll around. The marina area was lively with plenty of outdoor dining available. If you like mussels this is the place to go, though, because this town caters more for English tourists than Aussies, your mussels will probably come with chips! Continue reading

Birks of Aberfeldy

Scotland has an unfathomable allure to almost everyone you meet. The mention of Scotland elicits the almost universal comment “Oh, I love Scotland, it is so beautiful!” My husband, who has Scottish heritage, is one of these and is quite obsessed with all things and places Scottish.

I have no love for the barren cragginess of much of the highlands but I do adore the lush greens and burbling waterways of Perthshire. I have written previously of the absolute beauty and serenity of sitting by the River Tay on the flower studded grass of Dunkeld Cathedral. Continue reading

A Surprise on Orkney

Orkney has been on the bucket list for many years, with the famous Neolithic ruins of Skara Brae beckoning. However, this is not a tale of prehistoric ruins but of something more recent, totally unexpected and absolutely beautiful both for its art and for its story of human spirit and endurance. It is a place that has to be shared, and thus preserved for future generations.

The Italian Chapel.

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Wonders of Nature

This is not meant to be a comprehensive list of all the Earth’s natural wonders and beauties. There are many we have not seen and probably won’t. There are others we have been fortunate enough to visit, such as the Grand Canyon (USA), Victoria Falls (Zimbabwe), Pamukkale and Cappadocia (Turkey) and of course the Great Barrier Reef (Australia), but they are stories for another time. This will be a glimpse at the extraordinary beauty we have found in a tiny part of the world: Croatia and Slovenia.

Some time ago we saw a television documentary about Croatia, where we first saw the stunning Plitvice Lakes and determined these must be seen. Slovenia was never on our radar, Ljubljana (capital city) happened to fit logistically with our itinerary, but after only 3 days there it is firmly in our sights for a return visit!

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A different view of Hong Kong

Wanting to break the long haul flight from Sydney to London in 2008, Hong Kong seemed a good option. The flight to Hong Kong is a medium length but can be done during the daytime, thus avoiding an interminably sleepless night. Going via Singapore, back in the days when Qantas flew to Europe via Singapore, tended to land you in town or leaving town at an obscene hour in the morning.

Many moons before, we had done the touristy thing in Hong Kong. This time was meant to be a relaxation stop before the longer flight to London, so I researched alternatives to Hong Kong’s 24/7  of sensory overload. I found a surprising gem tucked away on the far side of Lantau Island – the island the airport is on. Continue reading