There’s more to The Bush


There’s more to The Bush than the bush.

There’s more to The Bush than the big five, or even the little five, or the birds, or the snakes.

The Bush is about the smell, the sound,the Feel.

In this instance, the wind, the rain.

First fierce and dominating so that speech is pointless as words are carried away with the hustle of the storm. Water cascading down, flooding every corner of the land and disappearing quickly into ground parched and thirsty to drink.

And then, spent, the heavens seem to rest and the rain falls gently, so gently my clothes don’t get wet yet I can see the drops still falling on the water hole.

On this day, most holy day of Good Friday it seems appropriate that the sky is black and angry and the storm rages down on us.

And it seems also appropriate that as I turn to look to my right, I see the light through the clouds, not yet shining, but with the look of a promise of what is to come; sun and renewed growth.

And the rainbow to remind me, on this holy day, most holy day of Good Friday;  not of our covenant with Him, but His with us.

“When I bring clouds over the earth, and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and every living creature—every mortal being—so that the waters will never again become a flood to destroy every mortal being.” (Gen 9)

There is more to The Bush than the bush

Day 2 – long, long, remarkable 

If you are wearied by my use of superlatives – please move on.

Because today is filled with superlatives, both with respect to the world I saw and with respect to how my body feels now!!😜😜
Julie and I had coffee and cereal this morning and left on our mounts, joined again by Breyten and Patch.
Another perfect day, slight breeze to take the edge off the heat, few clouds to make photographs more interesting and horses eager to move.
And move we did. Did they forget I put down beginner on the form? Did they forget I am three times their age? Sometimes it felt like that 😜

Our start took us through hills filled with Leucadendron – miles of them, green with pink tips, bulging with energy following massive fires a few years ago. It felt as though if Luke and I stood still for a while they would flower before our very eyes. As far as we could see, these green gentle bushes.

Then hills and hills of proteas – breathtaking
The ground was different today – sandy, soft, tough going I am guessing.
I know you may not drive and be on your phone, but no one told me I couldn’t use my phone while riding. So there I was, trying to get a signal; reins loose; gentle walking; looking down at my phone; happy as Larry 😂

And then a large male bushbuck jumped out of the bush, Luke jumped out of his skin and I nearly jumped out of the saddle 😂😂😂😂

BUT I didn’t; I gripped legs tightly, gathered the reins, saved the phone and decided perhaps I could , after all, call myself a rider !

Steep climbs – up and down, Luke trusting me and me him.

We saw the baboons today, sitting on a rock above screaming at us (apparently they don’t like horses 😂)

And one more steep hill revealed another world of beauty- before us was the Atlantic Ocean ; no words can describe the beauty; the privilege, the pinch myself this is real moment.
And for the next hour we had the sea and mountains before us. Such majesty and beauty : how can anyone say He is not amazing. It was beyond description. We could see as far as Cape Point !
After a short break to water the horses. I saw the saying come to be; we led them to water, filled the tub, and even though we told them in English, German and Afrikaans that were would be no more water till camp, we could not make Patch and Sparkey drink 😂😂😂😩😩
And then the dunes. Miles and miles of white sand.

We saw no one the whole day and it felt as though we were the first people in the world to arrive here. At times the sand was hard and I could hear Luke’s hooves crack the surface and in other parts so soft the animals sunk deep into the white sand, making me grateful I wasn’t walking 😊

And finally the beach, wild, isolated, waves roaring, amazing and exhilarating. No talking, just hand signals.

It was high tide so at times we had to wait for the waves to subside and rush through the gaps.

And suddenly a long stretch  of uninterrupted beach, in all this time we saw only 3 fisherman. And thousands and thousands of cormorants, filling a huge rock, and in the distance looking like a forest on the beach – literally thousands of them. They flew into the waves, diving like kids do, under the waves – amazing
Dolphins, we counted 4 also played in the surf – the whole sight somewhat surreal .
And we cantered, and cantered. Spray on my face, the even sound of Luke’s feet in my ears. My mind trying to absorb it all, the sights, sounds, the sensations. My body trying to adapt to the rhythm. “Trust your horse, trust yourself, trust your body”

And I did.
And then we reached the end of the beach and turned into the dunes again. Suddenly there was silence, the sound of sea blocked by the sand.
Up and down we rode away from the beach and each up brought the sound of the sea and each down took it away.

Surreal.
We still had two hours riding ahead of us. Completely different fynbos again. Trees burnt black looking like skeletons, with green new growth all around.

I saw butterflies everywhere – all day surely a good sign that the bush is healthy.
I cannot lie, the last hour was hell. My body was exhausted and trotting was painful. Every canter saw me holding onto the saddle ( thank goodness for a trail saddle) to save my back, or was it my kidneys, or perhaps my thighs, or was it my mind?
But I made it to Stanford River Lodge, let the others care for the horses, made a cup of tea, had very hot bath and am now nursing very tender thighs.
6 hours about 34 kilometres
Would I have missed this and saved my body? Not on your life. Although perhaps I should answer that tomorrow 😜






https://youtu.be/Lnj8ZMlx13I&rel=0


 

A Sunday in the Cape

The last time I drove through the Cape on my own was more than twenty years ago.   I did it often; always however,  with an agenda, a business meeting at a winery, or a dairy, at a set time.   Which meant, of course, there was little time to dawdle, to savour the views, to sit and ponder the beauty.

This Time, I had Time: as much as I liked, so I pottered.

Meandering back from visiting friends in Veldrif aiming for Cape Town and taking whichever road tickled my fancy:

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St Helena Bay:   The Colours
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The last of the flowers ..
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..in patches everywhere, still
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Ready for winter
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St Helena Bay – and still this doesn’t do it justice
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Paternoster. Carmen my hostess and chef at Ouma’s Kitchen
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lekker vis
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And my view – iPhone doesn’t do it justice
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and no complaints about the bill either 🙂
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Paternoster: Too much sun, not enough water
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Paternoster – watching me watching them
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Saldana – seems somehow to fit into the landscape
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Langebaan –
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my turn next visit

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always 🙂 🙂 🙂
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Always ahead of me
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driving back on R27 :  The mountain, a magnet for the eye

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Time with friends

Such a special time with friends from so long ago.   Time marches forward to a rhythm that isn’t always of our choosing, so when the opportunity  arises to suspend ‘life’ and savour the memories and the present, why wouldn’t I?

This was such an occasion.

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Quaint and
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beautiful

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Veldrif
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Beginning to look like Greece
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with charm
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and some money
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Die Kaapse Doktor  ( very strong wind for those non S Africans)
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waai
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very hard 🙂 🙂
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Saldana Slipway Restaurant
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with food and views
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to captivate

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Perhaps a blog?

30th October 2016 – Jarryds, Sea Point. ♥

After a glorious walk – still pinching myself re this trip
I’m told by those that know more about FB than I do (aka my girls) that my musings not suitable – so I shall, perhaps, get round to blogging for those kind enough to be interested ( there I go again – too long 😂😂) till then enjoying my coffee

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A Remarkable Experience

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A week with Neville Jones, http://www.experientialtravel.com.au was a wonderful experience – and a great way to explore Africa.     He organised the whole trip with such grace and thoughtfulness, that we moved seamlessly from one amazing experience to another, including seeing ‘the gorillas’;  something on many people’s wish list.    I was so so fortunate to be given the opportunity.

This part of our adventure began with us staying at the Buhoma Lodge, in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.   The staff were, as everywhere, courteous, helpful and knowledgable.   The lodge, I think is designed to prepare one for what lies ahead – a steep climb to our room with a view – we were quite puffed by the time we reached the verandah and were grateful we didn’t have to carry our bags, all be they small and soft (a condition of travel by the way for the light aircraft we used).

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As always, our meals were delicious and full of surprises, like Marmite which we never see in Australia 🙂

And the conversations with other guests interesting.   The exhilaration of those who had just returned from seeing the gorillas was such that they almost glowed with a bright light;   and so was the talk about ‘how tough the walk had been’.

 

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The Impenetrable Forest

If the truth be told, I was beginning to dread this walk.   Not 36 hours earlier I had walked to see the Ik people and did not relish the idea of an equally tough walk in the future, let alone the same week!!!!!    I did not sleep that night, debating with myself as to whether my damaged leg was a valid excuse not to walk; what if I didn’t keep up with the others; what if my boots failed me (I was not, as mentioned before, equipped with state of the art hiking gear I saw around me).  I most definitely felt like the country bumpkin (in my borrowed shirt and pants with not one pocket😂😂)  surrounded as I was by high Tech Trekkers speaking foreign languages with every cadged that opens and shut !!

But cowardice won and I did not admit that I was too nervous to do the walk.   Although Karen, I am sure sensed it as she encouraged me hugely to ‘give it a go’ as one says and off we went.

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The beginning….leaving the lodge

And  I discovered, it is all about ‘the benchmark’.   So when people told us how hard the gorilla walk was I used my benchmark and was fearful. Thankfully their benchmark was clearly different, this walk was a ‘walk in the park’ – a rather big park I admit, but an walk in a park nonetheless.   We had a different benchmark after our ‘Ik walk’.

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A rather large park….
Again armed guards, this time to protect us from wild gorillas (as opposed to habituated gorillas) and forest elephants;  a group of porters to carry our back packs and pull and push us up or down as required, the trackers and our leader.   They together with our merry group;
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Our Leader
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some information
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attention being paid
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who wouldn’t smile with such a priviledged job
the three of us, an elderly English couple who made me feel young again; a young Irish lass travelling alone and two Ugandan men travel photographers working with the Ugandan tourist board and the rest set off to find the gorillas.
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wish I could capture the sounds
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or the feel as we set off
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some coped with the incine better than others 🙂
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It was steep, but Oh so beautiful
The forest is a little like a garden of Eden or at least as I imagine it to be.
Strange, one seldom hears talk about the forest, lots about the gorillas and the toughness of the walk, but I have yet to hear anyone talk about how beautiful the forest is.
If I had a regret, it was that we were ‘on a mission’ – to see the gorillas, and there was no time to stop and absorb the detail of the trees that reached to heaven, the flowers that were so tiny, the trail of ants that went From who knows where To who knows where or look for the birds we could hear throughout the walk.
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Garden of Eden?

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The Impenetrable Forest

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Took my breath away

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the detail

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looking

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 We were lucky – 3 hours into walking we found the gorillas. This group (the Mubale group) consisted of 12 individuals and we were lucky to see all 12, including a one week old baby.
What a sighting – I did not presume to photograph – with several very serious photographers on our team, so these photographs are a mix of mine, Vincent Mugaba and Michelle Davies (who saw them the following day)
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one week old – photo by Karen Weskob
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This is my new baby – K Weskob
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one year old – K Weskob
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photo by K Weskob
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K Weskop

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looking
My first glimpse was, ‘Oh’.
I remember thinking, ‘so this is the gorilla’.
For a second there was almost nothing, I was a ‘blank’.
Then she moved to look my way and I saw her hands and arms and I was absolutely in the moment.   There was a mother cradling her one week old baby in one arm, and eating leaves, quite nonchalantly using her other hand, while watching me.
I do not say a gorilla, but rather a mother, everything about the way she nursed her infant was human.
There was much excitement amongst our little group and looking alongside me, eyes were moist.
It was fascinating to watch her watch us.
Some of us were in the moment and others were capturing the moment; with such intensity, I wonder if they were present at all.
And I wondered what she made of us.
Her expression relaxed and inscrutable.
At one point her baby stretched out its arm onto her chest, it was exquisite – tiny fingers and little arm, so perfect.  With the utmost gentleness she took that tiny hand and tucked it back under her arm.   How many times did I touch my children’s hands when they rested on my chest just as she did.
There was another female with a youngster, hanging onto her back, looking at us with curiosity and Michelle watched the same youngster playing in the trees, showing off his/her climbing prowess 🙂 🙂 🙂

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And then He was pointed out to me.   I didn’t realise what I was looking at to begin with.   Sitting across the path was a gorilla – big, but nothing to alert me.   And then he stood up, and the silverback was Large.   It is, I think impossible to describe in words the aura about him.   The confidence and authority that exudes from his body is so visible there was no need for my guide to ask me to move back, as he approached, filling the tiny path, lumbering forward as if I didn’t exist; he was Magnificent.   He ambled past me, his foot touching mine as I leant back out of his way.   Did I breath?   I think so.   Did I tremble?
I don’t think so for fear of touching him in doing so, he was that close.

Sneak peek at a 7 grab from my Uganda Highlight video that I will post in a few days.

A post shared by Experiential Travel (@nevillejonesphoto) on

It was extraordinary.
And yet, not  intimate in the way the contact with the mother was.
50 minutes up, said our guide; surely the quickest and yet the longest 50 minutes any of us had experienced.    Which meant we had only 1o minutes left when we had to leave the group.   Crazy I may be, but ‘my mother’ with her tiny baby stood, leant toward me and let me see her tiny baby as she held her in both her hands, almost an act of surrender to trust :  “here, have a look at my precious one”  and as quickly, she folded her back in her arms and walked off.
Did she know our time was up?
Did she deliberately show me her baby
Did I dream that?
Looking back, I can no longer be sure whether I imagined it or not.
But how could I have?
Did she move on with your child and marvel at our similarity, or did she not see it?
I moved on.
The walk back was different, some struggled, some talked, some were silent, there were parts that were very steep and concentration was focussed.
And still my mind wandered:   was I like her; or was she like me?…..
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private thoughts

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My lovely porter, Jennifer
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with the sweet smile
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looking
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Receiving a certificate 🙂
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A long flight….

We sit alongside each other : an empty seat between us.   And neither body spills over into it, which should give rise to a minor celebration on a long haul flight.   But there is no celebration. In fact there is nothing; not a look, smile, nod, scowl, absolutely nothing.  The empty seat is as solid a barrier as if there had been a body in it.   Each of us is absorbed in our own worlds, our thoughts private creating this strange isolation in a plane so large and full.

It is a long flight, this flight ‘home’ .  In a way it begins at 5.30am when I wake with the light in my room and go for a walk, because there will be sitting and sitting, effectively two days of sitting.

Then there is the packing.    The usual struggle to get back into my bag the stuff I easily took out on arrival.   Why doesn’t the same amount go back in? Every time!!!  So I negotiate with myself – you’re coming back soon so leave this behind, and that, and it would be a good idea to leave these shoes too.   (Which of course it wouldn’t as I will need to replace them at home 😜) but it’s all part of the long journey home.)

There are always people I didn’t get to see, the last minute phone calls- all somewhat unsatisfactory as I’m sort of half gone already; the private negotiation with my guilt about those not made;  the rushed shopping for someone I had overlooked.   The constant recalculation of how much time before I must leave going on in my head like a needle stuck on a long playing record.

There is the security of a ritual lunch out with two special special grannies.   Conversation somewhat muted, as we go over the highlights of my visit;  more effort than usual is required to fill the silences.   15107318_1377524708933297_2543157797124281220_n

And suddenly time has run out and I must leave, lock the bag, throw it on the back seat – the car is never large enough for anything but a pair of runners to fit in the boot, regardless of the little drawing of 4 people, 2 bags on the computer screen when you book it.😂

Hugs and tears, each parting is more painful than the previous and I shut myself off from the figure still standing at the top of the driveway as I drive off.

Family and friends text and call all the way to the airport so my concentration is challenged and my heart is blessed.    

img_5696Car drop off zones seem far more complex to access than car pick up zones, round here, switch lanes, to the far end.   And then back again to the airport!!!

The bag next, wrapped in plastic so no one can open it.   Not even me, at the other end 😜.  It takes superhuman patience to cut open a bag wound in ‘African’ plastic after two days of travelling.   Funny I never feel the need to do the plastic thing going into SA, but always do going into Oz, something about our customs people make me very nervous.

And then joy of joy; my most special friend is at the airport; this too is becoming a ritual.   She stands with me as I check in, she smiles and distracts me as I hand in my phone card and effectively cut off ties.   She joins me for a cup of tea as we talk and laugh and share and use up some of the three hours check in time.   She always pays and I always let her.   And then again, it’s time and I must leave again.  We laugh and hug and pretend it’s not for long and I walk through the gate that marks the point of no return.

It’s a long flight this flight home.

My boarding card says gate A00, the gate is marked A0.   

My boarding card says Johannesburg to Abu Dhabi, the sign at the gate shows flights going to 5 destinations, but not Abu Dhabi.

You will understand, if you have been following my journey, why I am very careful these days about times and gates 😜😜😜

So I check with the nice young man sitting next to me; he too is going to Abu Dhabi and is confused now that I point out the minor discrepancies between boarding passes and gates.

I look for an official – but we are sitting at gate A0 – the furthest gate of the airport and no official seems to venture that far😂😂.

The nice young man and I begin talking.   We have an ‘airport conversation’ which is at the same time intimate and remote.   He is visiting his sister in Sydney for her 40th birthday celebration.   He rode the 97.4 bike ride yesterday.   He works for Sandvik;  he ran up the berg and has a nice t shirt to commemorate the race.   

I’m about to learn about his ex wife and the work she does when an official arrives, asks for our boarding passes and moves us into two rows.   We smile, we’ll finish our conversation shortly.    We don’t.   We don’t see one another again, despite being on the same plane for 23 hours.   Such is the world of travel

Drinks are served by a friendly steward.   Red wine alongside, Diet Coke for me (why did I ask for it, fizzy and unattractive) – surely I could have thought of a better companion to my dinner.    Or perhaps it is exactly the right match for my dinner, for while the menu handed out earlier with such flamboyance describes a succulent lamb briyani, the reality is far from that .    I wonder if the expensive tickets really do translate to excellent meals?  I will never know.

We doze, my silent travelling companion and I.    I wriggle, fiddle with the movies but can’t concentrate, put the flight path on and watch as I and the aeroplane on the screen move ;

Time since departure 20 mins

Time since departure 2 hours

Until 10 hours later I see

Time to destination 20 mins.

The a three hour wait and another 14 hour flight.

What’s with going home?  The same flights – reversed I’ll admit, and transits tackled with So much more care.    It is though, essentially the same.   

So why is the trip home longer?

Quieter?

Slower?

Is it the difference between looking back over something as against looking forward to something I wonder? 

One way you can create; imagine a perfect reality. 

The other way the reality is exposed to you.  The joy, the pain, the fractures.   

And there always is a fracture, sometimes appearing long after like a chip in the windscreen unnoticed till it shatters suddenly. Other times like a serpent trapped and lashing out in a frenzy to protect itself from what it sees as an enemy. 

Sometimes we can mend; sometimes not.

Sometimes it has to do with living two different lives in two different places; sometimes not.

Sometimes it has to do with choices we make, sometimes not.

Is it the knowledge that I leave a ‘home’ troubled, groaning, needing willing hands , and I go to a ‘home’ where things are good and, out of sight, I can quickly forget about the poverty, corruption, pain and enormous beauty and potential I am leaving, that makes the trip feel so much longer?

Or is it simply I am flying into the sun, ever east, forward chasing the clock.img_5591

I doze as I sit in my seat,  34k,  last row of the plane, second leg of the flight, listening to the cabin crew talking, digesting another largely indigestible meal advertised as lunch.

I ask myself why lunch and not dinner since the plane has been plunged into darkness; every blind pulled down, forcing us to pretend it’s night although the sun shines blindingly on the white clouds beyond the Perspex.

My flight path aeroplane shows 10 hours to go

It’s a long flight ‘home ‘