Six weeks ago, I set off by myself on an adventure. I flew to the deep, lush heart of one of the last Stone Age civilisations on Earth, to Sumba, Indonesia, an island twice the size of Bali, just south of Komodo island. More Africa than Asia, Sumba is a wild place that time has forgotten and nature has claimed as her own.
Pure chromatic turquoise waters surround the island, itself a haven of emerald green terraced fields and unruly jungle. I learned to surf on one of the best breaks in the world with USA pro big wave surfer Mark Healey and felt alive from an infusion of pure salt water and sun.
I walked through forests full of buffalo, goats and ponies and met villagers on their way to the beach, their long ceremonial kris knives dangling from their waists casually.
I had breakfast of scrambled eggs, sambal and tropical fruit on a bamboo platform festooned with palm fronds, over looking a deserted stretch of beach. I drank many many gallons of fresh coconut juice and buried my feet in the baking hot sand.
Not bad for a business trip. See you at Legacy Nihiwatu this November!
And then I flew from this enchanted tropical forest, through fog and mist-shrouded mountain ranges to land in another magical land, Paro, Bhutan, where we were holding our latest Legacy Bhutan retreat. Spring was slowly creeping in and bursts of cherry blossoms punctuated the stark landscape.
Our new Legacy Retreat guests were beautiful people. There are no accidents in life, everyone was meant to be there. It was a week of transformation, laughter, profound learning and adventure.
I ate red rice porridge with a numbingly hot chilli paste every morning, and spicy sweet potato momo dumplings for lunch, washed down with nettle soup or a healing hot pot of glass noodles and vegetable broth. Simple but healthy mountain food.
Oh, and I’m proud to say I conquered my fear of cycling and went downhill bike riding from the highest point in Paro, 3988 metres above sea level, from Che Le La mountain pass, down the icy slopes, past pine forests and stunning, panoramic views of terraced rice fields and fluttering prayer flags.
And then, I flew back to Singapore, reunited with the Irishman and we celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary in style at our friends, the Hardings’ glamorous beach front villa, with a few of our closest friends and family.
The kids insisted on holding a mock wedding ceremony and spent the afternoon gathering frangipani flowers from the lawn. So when Mark gave his speech, we were resoundingly pelted with handfuls of tropical flowers by our little ones, who relished their chance to recreate the wedding they had heard so much about and had so very annoyingly taken place before they were born.
And then, onwards we flew. Something old, something new. Something old was Rome, where we fell in love and where so many of our unforgettable moments were forged.
It was a real treat to have this time together, our first real holiday together, just the two of us, for more than two years. Life in the countryside is beautiful but it’s so hard to get away when you have kids, greyhounds, alpacas, sheep, chickens, ducks, fish and one grumpy peacock!
We went to our favourite haunts, spend lots of time just reading, lying around, soaking it all in. No pressure to rush or discover new things. They call it the Eternal City for a reason. Nothing ever changes, every restaurant, every ruin, every hat shop was exactly as we remembered it. Rome was about remembering our own little history and celebrating how we’ve changed and grown together.
And then, Marrakech! We had never been to North Africa before, and what a sensory overload it was! The riot of colours, of smells, of unbelievable sights. The layer upon layer of flavours in curries, lemon infused tagines and endless cups of mint tea. The majesty of gilded minarets and profuse tumbling walls of bougainvillea, and the rough tumble of wheeling and dealing in the souks, of nearly being run over a hundred times a day by donkey carts, horse carriages, snake charmers and old men waving big sticks!
When it all got too much, we escaped to high up to the Atlas mountains and reoxygenated our lungs in the clean mountain air. I rode on a mule into an unspoilt Berber village and had lunch on a bed of carpets at the highest point in the village, a simple chicken and vegetable tagine with home made cous cous and local olives. Simply delightful.
There’s so much to write about, my head is positively spilling over with ideas, vignettes, anecdotes, but I am terribly jet lagged. My body still thinks its in glorious sun infused Marrakech, though the reality is that the bracing Mornington Peninsula air is all of 3 degrees outside.
I write this sitting amongst mounds and mounds of boxes, unwashed clothes and unanswered letters, in a house which is three weeks away from having a complete kitchen, with a sink that is being held together by bits of duct tape and a temporary tap that looks like a sad droopy plastic willy. But I had an amazing time away and I’m so glad to be home, in my own bed, with my own very very exhausted, dizzy and happy family. Once I figure out how to make myself a cup of tea, it’ll be perfect.
Lots of love,