Monday, July 23, 2007

07/07/07 --- The Engagement

The seventh day of the seventh month of the two-thousand and seventh year is meant to bring good luck. A while ago, Moni proposed that she and Kit spend this day together, thinking good thoughts and enjoying each other's company in a special place; she believes -- along with many mystics, yogis and yoginis, zen buddhas, seers and prophets -- good fortune will be gifted to those who honor this day.

Knowing this for several months prior to the trip and to the date in question, Kit spoke with his best friend, tireless romantic and "brother-from-another-mother," James "Oso" Carranza; the two hatched a plan one spring evening at sunset on the dunes of Noriega Avenue at Ocean Beach, accompanied by a six pack of Stella, the elixir of romantics. And on the 7th of the 7th of the 7th, Kit carried out the plan to perfection.

The day dawned sunny and beautiful, with no swell to speak of, the ocean's surface fanned by a light offshore wind. After breakfast, Kit proposed that he and Moni go on a walk to a beautiful cove about an hour away to spend the day together. Moni was thrilled by the prospect of it -- a day with Kit on a white sandy beach with no one around but the dolphins and other assorted sea life (note: the "cove" is actually called "Shark Point," a right hand pointbreak of some notoriety deep in the Transkei wilderness). Moni packed a picnic lunch while Kit haggled with local artisan children who were selling shell necklaces and wind chimes at their doorstep.

At 10:00 a.m., Kit and Moni began their walk, marveling at the beauty of the ocean, its sparkling surface, and the feeding birds, the breeching whales, the wave-riding dolphins. Kit took Moni along a meandering path which ran atop the bluffs over the ocean and then descended to the sandy beaches below. They passed several African children playing soccer barefoot on the beach while others swam naked in the shorebeak. Their path continued, past old rondaval huts and fishermen's shacks, over a river and past a stunning cove.

The path then wound around the top of a small headland, and Kit and Moni were treated to their first glimpse of Shark's Point. The two gasped at the beautiful sight before them -- a small, sunny cove of golden sand with a grassy headland in the southern corner and a rock shelf with a swimming hole in the middle of the small bay. Kit spotted a perfect, grassy nook where the two could enjoy a picnic, and the love birds made their way past cows sunning themselves on the sand, past tiny children with makeshift fishing rods, to a sunny, grassy spot nestled in the lee of the point with a stunning view of the headlands and bays that lay to the north.

After a quick lunch of boerewors rolls (sausage) and dried mango, Kit told Moni that he had a small surprise for her. The young lover showered Moni with several "sweet something" phrases and then reached into his bag and produced a necklace of "lucky beads," a strand of red-orange seeds and sea shells that he bought from one of the young salesmen earlier in the day. Moni was thrilled with her new necklace; she put it on and smiled in the sun.

But, in accordance with the Kit-Oso plan, Kit told his Sweet that he has another surprise for her; she was startled, replying, "but this [necklace] is so special! Why are you spoiling me so?!" Kit then got down on his knees and spoke words that only he and Moni could hear, would ever hear. A tiny tear ran down Moni's cheek as Kit spoke; his own eyes filled with water and a thousand butterflies flew in his chest. Kit then reached back into his rucksack, produced a small box of white leather, opened the box to reveal a diamond sparkling in the African sun, glistening on a gleaming ring while he asked for her hand in marriage.

Moni was shocked, speechless, her mouth open and tears streaming down her cheeks. After several moments of silence, Kit became concerned. "So, what do you say, Moni?" Moni snapped out of her trance-like state and gushed, "Yes, yes! Yes, Kit, I'll marry you!!"

Our two lovers lay in the sun in an embrace, Kit relieved that this day was going so well, Moni still in a euphoric state of dis-belief. As the couple lay back in the sun, admiring the view, a pod of dolphins swam past as if to give their blessing.

Kit and Moni then decided to go for a swim, first at the base of the sandy point and then in the small rock pool Moni had spotted from the trail on high. The two lovers laughed and smiled, swam and took underwater photos of themselves with Kit's waterproof digital camera (a purchase he made, incidentally, at the behest of Oso, one year prior). After frolicking in the ocean, Kit and Moni sunned themselves on the rocks and dried off, and then began their walk home together.

That evening, Kit built Moni a fire, and she produced a bottle of wine. The two sat, fire-side, watching the stars and the dancing flames, and marveling at their good fortune to have found each other in this big world, like two individual stars from an African sky coming together to create a brigther light.

Later that night, Kit and Moni fell asleep as an engaged couple for the first time ever.

Mpande-- Part I

After a day of relaxation at Cintsa, Moni and I loaded up the hire car and sped off into the Transkei. We crossed the legendary Kei river and stepped into a time-warp -- many of the people here live a traditional African life, free from technology, advertising, or consumerism. To walk in the Transkei is to glimpse an uncluttered life, one based on subsistence rather than excess. We ended up in the coastal region of Mpande, which is on the northern half of the Transkei coast. Moni was thrilled to be back in her childhood dreamland, and Kit was stoked too!


Oso, the Kid, and I discovered Cintsa back in 2000 -- it is located 4 hours from J Bay, on the doorstep of the Kei. Moni and I stopped in for a day to prepare for our excursion into Transkei and also to visit some old friends and enjoy the sunshine and cold beer at Buccaneer's, a club med of sorts for backpackers and budget travelers, revelers, musicians, hippies, and the odd American or South African surfer.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

On the Road Again --- Transkei, Part I

So after a few flat days in J Bay, we got happy feet again. Our next destination: the Transkei, the ancient African homeland --- home of empty white sand beaches, empty lineups, feeding frenzies, sharks, sangomas (witch doctors), ancient secrets, old spirits, and bright song. Our first stop was in Cintsa, a small beach town outside of Oos London (East London).

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Back to Jeffrey's

After enjoying the Grahamstown Festival, we returned to J Bay for more cold fronts, long walls, and downtime spent in Deon's garden or in the sunshine on one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. We love Africa.

Grahamstown -- Part 2

We continued to take in the local scenery, both on the streets, in the hillsides, in galleries, and in the artisans' tents. At the end of the weekend, Moni was a happy though tired camper who had loaded up on all kinds of African beadwork for our home in San Francisco. Thanks, Moni....

Grahamstown Festival

Every year, the university town of Grahamstown hosts a 10 day arts and music festival. Artists, musicians, college students, tourists, locals, Africans, Afrikaaners, rastas, and gypsys descend on the town to enjoy colorful art, music, and food. Deon and Tanja, our generous tour guides, loaded Moni and I into the back of their car and whisked us away for a few days. Highlights for us were Moni's performance as "Bloody Mary Vodka-tini," the Russian ballerina in the improv-comedy play, "Raiders"; groovy South African jazz fusion tunes; and shopping in the Village Green, a giant arts and crafts market in tents and the open air.

Sunny South African Days

Once the surf dropped at Supers, we spent our time visiting old friends and also exploring the various coastal nooks and crannies nearby in search of surf. We found fun beachbreak waves and spent time with Stuey (checking the surf above) and Deon and Tanja, our neighbors and very close "tjommies" (pronounced "chommies," which means "friends" or "buddies" in Afrikaans). In the photo above, Deon is doing his best 'Merican impersonation, promising rides all the way from Supertubes to "Al-be-trawss!" Shot guys.

J Bay Life

We soon fell into the easy rythm of checking the surf at dawn from the Supertubes deck, coffees in hand and beanies on head. We also settled into our home for 2 months at Stuey and Helen's spot, directly across the street from the world's greatest right hander. With Moni cooking dinners and Supers providing ample swell, Kit was in heaven.