It’s now been almost two months since I was in South Africa for my sister’s wedding. I thought I’d left it too long to write about it but I’ve had so many people ask me how it went that I’ve decided to jot down a few memories from my time there.
It was my first time to Africa, my first time south of the equator! And the tenth country I’ve ever visited. What took me there was my sister’s wedding and what resulted was an adrenalin-pumping adventure packed with overcoming challenges and facing up to my fears.
Hannah, my sister has always been the adventurous one in our family – swimming across seas and cycling all over Europe. The only mountain I’ve ever climbed on the other hand is a metaphorical one.
The first obstacle I had to overcome was my fear of failure. Before heading out, I needed to accomplish watermarble nails to go with the pink, romantic theme of the wedding. Having tried twice to master this technique, it was very possible that it could all go wrong again.
However, one by one, I slowly and carefully dipped each finger in the swirls of varnish. I was thrilled with the outcome and they set me up for the multitude of challenges still to come during my trip.
To begin with, relocating an entire family to the opposite end of the globe is no mean feat. Add to that the threat of ebola and the anxiety of missing various flight connections and what you have is a disaster just waiting to happen! Fearing the worst, we all set off on our separate journeys.
Sadly one of our party was struck with an ear infection the day before flying and was unable to travel, but with a sigh of relief, the rest of us made it there in one piece.
Most of my family arrived the day before the wedding and that evening we met up with my new brother-in-law’s family for drinks before the Bride and the Groom’s families went their separate ways for dinner.
The morning of the wedding was a happy chaos of eating a delicious breakfast whilst getting ready. My sister had her hair and make up done and I painted her nails a nude pink. She looked stunning and all the details were utterly beautiful. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her so happy!
It was a huge privilege to have been a bridesmaid for my sister but that of course comes with further fears of looking like an idiot and tripping up the aisle or forgetting key duties and responsibilities.
Thankfully, however, the day ran perfectly. We had photos on the beach …
… and then we drove a little way to the reception – a breathtaking location filled with millions of twinkling fairy lights with a backdrop of Africa! The whole day was glorious.
The day after the wedding my boyfriend, Jonathan, and I decided to embark on an adventure trail which bordered the hotel my family was staying in. It started off tamely enough …
… but before long, we were crossing rickety little bridges with no rails to support us, and strong gusts of wind intent on pushing us into the rushing waters beneath. It sounds lame, but I honestly feared for my life out there, or at the very least, falling in and getting drenched. Naturally I sent Jon off ahead to test the waters!
We made it across safely – thank goodness!
And were rewarded with a stunning view of a little pathway down to the beach.
On another beautiful morning, a few of us decided to go on a bike ride along the coast. Given that I hadn’t ridden a bike since I was about 12 you can understand why I began to feel anxious. I was struck with multiple fears – the fear of disappointing everyone if I stayed behind, the fear of missing out if I didn’t join in and the fear of ruining the experience for everyone else if I went with them but couldn’t remember how to do it.
I should have listened to the old adage and taken comfort in the fact that it really is ‘as easy as riding a bike’!
Once I was out there, it soon came back to me and there was no stopping me!
Whenever I go on holiday I try to create a mental snapshot of a time when I feel completely happy so when I’m back in rainy London I can think back on it to cheer myself up. This was one of those moments – cycling along that promenade in the sunshine.
We took a rest mid cycle-ride to visit an aquarium and had to combat another common fear: fear of sharks!
And that wasn’t the only life-threatening animal I would see that holiday. A few days later, the remaining party went on a safari to the Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserve. There we saw three of the Big Five on our first afternoon: rhinos, elephants and buffalo.
What I discovered while on a guided tour that evening was that they are called the Big Five because of the degree of danger they pose to humans. If I’d realised that earlier in the day, perhaps I wouldn’t have tried to get quite so close!
We also managed to get near to a sweet little warthog family. I couldn’t resist a photo!
In total we saw over 20 species of birds and animals, including zebras …
… for which I’d gratifyingly done matching nails.
And giraffes …
… which inspired my nailart following the trip.
All in all, it was a wonderful holiday filled with huge excitements as well as the satisfaction of facing up to personal challenges. I know I sound utterly neurotic going on about all these fears but you’ll be happy to know they in no way tainted my experience. My memories of the trip are all wonderful and now that winter has set in, I find myself thinking back to that cycle ride more and more often…