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pop-up travel

Fantasy coffin-maker with cell phone coffin

The Fantasy Coffins of Ghana

Yesterday I was taking pictures in a cemetery and I got into a conversation about coffins. And suddenly, I remembered: In 2014 I met an artist in Ghana who builds “fantasy coffins” that look like cell phones and minibus taxis and crabs and three-headed dogs. And I NEVER BLOGGED ABOUT IT. The coffin artist and his Samsung coffin. Sadly, I’ve lost my notes about the visit and I don’t remember his name. But I’m grateful to him for allowing me to take photos in his shop. How is it possible that I visited a FANTASY COFFIN SHOP nearly three years ago and never blogged about it? I suppose I was busy back then, and I wasn’t happy with the photos I took of the coffins. Nonetheless, this is inexcusable. A full-body shot of the Samsung coffin. The quick back-story: I was in Ghana visiting my friend Michelle, who lived there at the time. We were on the road, headed back to Accra from the Cape Coast, when we spotted Serious Wood Works. I asked our driver to pull over. A crappy cell phone photo of Serious Wood Works. Fantasy coffins have been a thing in Ghana for the last few decades. The outlandish coffins evolved through the […]

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Sultan the Terbodore Great Dane

Pop-Up Travel: Terbodore Coffee Roasters

Last weekend Ray and I took a road trip to the Midlands — a scenic region in South Africa’s KwaZulu Natal Province, between Durban and the Drakensberg Mountains — and stayed at a lovely resort called Brahman Hills near the town of Curry’s Post. I’ll write a full review of the weekend in a future post, but in the meantime I’m doing a quick pop-up travel story about Terbodore Coffee. Ray’s cappuccino from Terbodore in the Midlands — possibly the creamiest and tastiest cappuccino ever. I first discovered Terbodore last year during a brief visit to Franschhoek, where Terbodore has a satellite coffee roastery/coffee shop. The Franschhoek shop is smaller than Terbodore’s sprawling farm in KZN, but is still a fantastic stop for South African coffee tourists. Jomo, a coffee roaster at Terbodore in Franschhoek, explains his work as the beans roast behind him. I can actually smell the beans when I look at this photo. A cappuccino in progress at the Terbodore Franschhoek shop. Jomo again, because he is super photogenic. The Terbodore Franschhoek location is great, but it’s much like other boutique roasteries/coffeeshops that I frequent here in Joburg. Terbodore’s Midlands location, which has been roasting and selling coffee since 2004, is on another […]

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Nelson Mandela Capture Site

Pop-Up Travel: The Nelson Mandela Capture Site

Earlier this week, I saw a photo of the Nelson Mandela Capture Site on my friend Meruschka’s Instagram feed. Meruschka’s post reminded me that I visited the Nelson Mandela Capture Site nearly a year ago and had yet to blog about it. Hence, my newest Pop-Up Travel post. The Nelson Mandela Capture Site commemorates the time and place in which Nelson Mandela — on the run from the apartheid government — was captured and arrested in 1962. After his arrest in the small town of Howick, in what was then South Africa’s Natal Province, Mandela was convicted of treason and went on to spend 27 years in prison. Today this still-rural spot in KwaZulu Natal is marked with a dramatic sculpture by South African artist Marco Cianfanelli, depicting Nelson Mandela’s profile with a collection of jagged, black metal bars. (You may remember that Cianfanelli also has a beautiful Mandela sculpture in downtown Joburg called the Shadow Boxer.) An innovative bust of Mandela in Howick, KwaZulu Natal. Ray and I stopped at the Capture Site last year on our way home from an eventful trip to Durban and the Wild Coast. We were tired, but the site is literally minutes from the highway […]

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Pop-Up Travel: Dullstroom Bird of Prey Centre

It’s been a while since I wrote a pop-up travel post — a post about a place that I traveled to a long time ago, nearly forgot, then remembered and decided to write about. Today’s pop-up travel post features the Dullstroom Bird of Prey & Rehabilitation Centre, a rehabilitation centre for raptors that I visited during last year’s #MeetSouthAfrica small-town road trip. I can’t believe I waited so long to write about this visit as it was actually one of my favorite travel experiences of 2015. Norman, a five-year-old greater kestrel at the Dullstroom Bird of Prey & Rehabilitation Centre. The Bird of Prey Centre’s primary mission is to rescue and rehabilitate birds of prey — usually birds who have been injured or improperly handled by humans — and reintroduce them to the wild, if possible. (The centre releases about 200 birds every year.) Some birds can never be released for one reason or another; those birds receive a permanent home at the centre. The centre is open to the public (with a small entry fee) and conducts daily flight displays at 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. The main purpose of the flight displays is to provide exercise and training for the […]

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Pop-Up Travel: Addo Elephant National Park

I visited Addo Elelphant National Park about a year-and-a-half ago as part of a blogger trip to Port Elizabeth. Addo is one of South Africa’s largest national parks and one of the best places in the world to view elephants in the wild. There are more than 600 elephants living in Addo, up from just 11 when the park was proclaimed in 1931. I only visited Addo for about half a day. It rained the day we went and our safari was cut short. I guess this is why I never got around to blogging about it — I figured I’d get back to Addo sometime soon, take more pictures, and write a full-length post. But alas, I haven’t made it back yet and my Addo elephant photos are languishing. So here are a few of my favorites. A small herd of elephants bathing in a dam (small lake) in Addo. This young elephant was cruising the shore close to our vehicle. Still cruising. Now stopping for a drink. End of sequence. Heavy rain moved in around this time and we had to return to the camp. Addo Elephant National Park is less than an hour’s drive from Port Elizabeth and makes a […]

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Pop-Up Travel: Quirky Jewelry Shopping in Accra

Shockingly, my whirlwind trip to Ghana was nearly a year ago and I did a few things there that I still need to tell you about. My visit to Hakim Jewelart in Accra is one of them. I’m not sure how my friend Michelle, who I was visiting in Ghana last August, originally discovered Georgette Hakim. But I’m glad she did; our visit to Georgette’s unlikely jewelry-making operation was one of my most memorable experiences in Ghana. Georgette — who was born in Lebanon but spent her entire adulthood in Ghana — has been selling handmade jewelry in Accra for decades. Georgette is close to 80 and her husband, who ran the business with her, died some years ago. Georgette has no plans to retire anytime soon. Georgette presides over her incredible spread of silver jewelry. See the bracelet in the lower-left corner of the red box in front of Georgette? I bought that. All of Georgette’s jewelry, with the exception of the intricate Ghanaian glass beads, is made on the premises in the small workshop next to the showroom. Most of the jewelry is silver, with a bit of gold mixed in, and most of it is designed using West African Adinkra symbols. Georgette sells her jewelry […]

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Pop-Up Travel: Paraty, Brazil

My trip to Brazil is almost a distant memory now, but there is still one part of the trip that I haven’t told you much about. In between Christmas and New Years my family and I spent three days in Paraty — a small town turned tourist hot spot — a couple of hours from Rio. (See my previous post about an amazing Paraty bag shop where I found the perfect camera bag.) Paraty became a busy port city when gold was discovered in Brazil in the late 1600s. But a new road built in the 1720s circumvented the need for Paraty’s port, and the town became isolated as it was only reachable by water due to the extreme geography surrounding it. The town fell into a sleepy decline until 1960, when a coastal road from Rio was finally connected to Paraty. (Read more on Paraty’s interesting history led to an interesting result: The town’s colonial architecture and cobblestone streets have survived almost completely intact into the 21st century, turning Paraty into a popular tourist town. Paraty was recognized as a National Historic Site in 1966. We loved Paraty although it was extremely crowded the week we were there. I struggled to capture good pictures of […]

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Pop-Up Travel: A Beautiful Church in Zimbabwe

Last November I visited Zimbabwe with Ray‘s family. During that trip, while driving back to Harare after our holiday in Nyanga, we turned off the A14 highway at a small sign for St. Faith’s High School. We were in a Zimbabwean province called Manicaland, a few minutes east of a town called Rusape. We drove for a few kilometers down a bumpy dirt road, sweating in the mid-day heat. Eventually, right in the middle of the bush — in the middle of nowhere, really — we came upon one of the prettiest churches that I’ve ever seen. St. Faith’s Church in Rusape, Zimbabwe. We stopped to visit St. Faith’s — an Anglican church and mission school — for old time’s sake. Ray’s family has a history there. It’s a complicated story but here’s a brief recap: A couple of decades ago Ray’s dad, Tim (who is a historian), visited St. Faith’s as a favor for a colleague. He was looking for a sculptor named Job Kekana. Kekana, who was South African but moved to Zimbabwe in the 1940s to work for a nun named Sister Pauline, had a workshop at St. Faith’s. Kekana specialized in religious woodcarvings and his work appears in churches all over the world. […]

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Pop-Up Travel: Ilha Grande, Brazil

At the end of my recent trip to Brazil, my family and I spent two days on an island called Ilha Grande. Ilha Grande is reachable only by boat (ferries to Ilha Grande leave from the town of Angra, about an hour-and-a-half from Rio) and there are no motorized vehicles allowed on the island. Lots of boats. No cars. Ilha Grande is known for its unspoiled natural beauty and we were expecting a deserted island kind of vibe. But we happened to visit during the week between Christmas and New Years, which I’m guessing is the busiest week of the year on Ilha Grande. The island was crowded, especially in the main settlement of Vila do Abraão where we stayed. So our time on Ilha Grande was more about people-watching (and animal-watching), eating, and drinking than it was about laying on deserted beaches. The church in Vila do Abraão. This was the most delicious platter of seafood I’ve ever eaten. Unfortunately I can’t remember the name of the restaurant where we ate it. A man making caipirinhas on a Vila do Abraão side street. That’s my sister in the shadows, petting one of Ilha Grande’s ubiquitous dogs. Holiday-makers. My favorite Instagram from the trip to Brazil. […]

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Pop-Up Travel: Cane Rats in Ghana

Warning: This post contains graphic photos. I have a lot of unfinished blogging business from 2014. I still haven’t shared everything from my most recent trip to Brazil, nor from my Zimbabwe trip before that nor my Ghana trip before that. I hate to think about all the epic experiences and photos from these far-flung places that I haven’t shared on the blog yet. So I’ve decided to start a series of pop-up travel posts in which I’ll quickly share a photo or memory from a past trip. Here’s my first pop-up travel post: Giant cane rats for sale on the side of the road in Ghana. Mohammed Tahiru holds up two cane rats: one fresh and one smoked. My friend Michelle and I saw quite a few people selling cane rats along the N1 highway between Ghana’s capital city of Accra and the town of Cape Coast. After passing the first couple of guys, standing on the shoulder of the road holding the rats up by their tails for every passing car, I finally worked up the courage to ask our driver to stop. Mohammed (above) and his colleague were happy to allow me to take a few pictures in exchange for a polaroid portrait and a small fee. Mohammed is […]

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