(Salmon) Fishing in Yemen

Socotra-52Ever wondered where the best place you’ve never heard of is? Well I think I’ve found it – and it’s an island called Socotra.   Technically part of Yemen but 500km off the mainland, it’s one of the most isolated landmasses on earth. With all the advantages you can imagine that brings – unique flora and fauna, beautiful untouched scenery and friendly people.

Amee, my trusty Middle Eastern traveling companion, started the trip by creating a national security incident.   Responding to a favor asked by a local tour leader, she attempted to enter the country with a bottle of alcohol. Being strictly Islamic, the bottle was confiscated and so began a series of events involving calls to governors, conversations with police chiefs and many frantic phone calls to and fro.   Alas, the bottle never reappeared but at least they didn’t throw us in jail!

After that, things ran more smoothly. Indeed, it was an outdoor lovers dream. Jump in a land cruiser with your guide and driver/chef, chug up crazy mountain passes, swim in stunning wadi waterholes, visit enormous cave systems, play in golden sand dunes, hike amongst unique dragon blood trees and in high stony mountains, stop off for tea and rice in village homes, snorkel, dive, teach English to some school classes, laze by a gorgeous lagoon, dance with fishermen on their boat and chill on long deserted beaches after watching hundreds of dolphins frolic acrobatically beside you.   Then, at the end of the day, throw your mattress onto those golden sands and sleep out under the stars, waking with the dawn.   It’s hard to do justice to it in words but check out the photos below and Amee’s more professional ones at www.ameechande.com. Truly stunning.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a Middle Eastern trip without a marriage proposal and it turns out Amee is worth 350 goats, 100 sheep, 2 houses, a boat and a significant amount of money. I was especially excited about the boat but it all came to naught after some very excitable discussion.   Our flirting guide and driver also provided their own share of interest.  And just for the record (and for you Doro), all Socotra men have great hair – no matter how old they are – thick, dark and curly!

Things turned even more interesting when war broke out on mainland Yemen. This wouldn’t really have impacted us (the island is isolated and we were flying directly to Dubai) but Dubai authorities thought that three girls (by this time we were traveling with our new Swiss friend Sandra) with three different passports, a Yemen stamp and multiple other dodgy visas, were a little suspect and detained us for four hours, interrogating each of us individually as they tried to ascertain exactly why it was we went to Yemen.   Tourism just didn’t seem a realistic answer.

In Dubai, we partied Dubai-style, hosted by the fun-loving Gaye and Elizabeth, experiencing a Friday Moet all-you-can-eat-and-drink brunch, a party night out on the town and a lovely dinner by the amazing fountain show.   We also eschewed some of the more standard Dubai attractions to spend time in the very hip art district – highly rewarding.   We then made a quick but relaxing getaway to the Mussandam Peninsula, an isolated part of Oman, for some fjord boat cruising, diving, isolated village visiting and general lying by the pool.   Thanks for the Socotra tip Dani and Robert – and thanks to Gaye and Elizabeth for a wonderful Dubai stopover…and thanks to Amee for once again joining me on some wild and wonderful adventures…

The Middle East hasn’t been my only travels since I officially finished my walkabout.   February saw me in the stunning Dolomites in Italy for our annual gang skiing trip.   Interesting ski routes, sunny weather, great on-slope food/wine and having the gang all together again made for another wonderful trip.   I can’t wait to go back in a summer for some hiking – the scenery is amazing. Thanks for the tips Paolo!

Christmas saw Marijana and I lounging on Lamu – an Islamic island off Kenya’s coast. A walk/run on the beach, yoga twice a day, study some Swahili, sunbathing and an occasional drink on a hotel patio made for a very relaxing time.   All with amazing fresh seafood for lunch and dinner.   For New Years we headed inland safari style– a small dose of animal watching (lions and leopard!!) mingled with a big dose of lovely lodge lounging.   It doesn’t get better than that…

The globe-trotting Peter was my first visitor and we spent time biking with the wild animals….and checking out Nairobi’s hopping night life.    Then last October saw Amee and I having a quick meetup in Mumbai to stay at the fabulous Machan TreeHouses with rooms with 270 degree glass set high above the trees. Gorgeous.   In Mumbai we had the usual amazing food at our favorite restaurant Soam and incredible service at the Oberoi.  More recently, a trip to the Kenyan lakes offered up extraordinary flamingo viewing – 10,000 flamingos anyone???   A few days in the Seychelles and a few days away at the Kenyan coast for some diving and beach chilling has been a great way to relax beachside.   And a quick trip to London to visit my girls there and Singapore based Steph and family (exactly one year after I left) rounded out my travel.  Home in Nairobi, I’m lucky to have my Inverell school friend Robyn (and her family Keir and Zoe) living here so I also get to catch up with them often.

Workwise, I left my role at Bridge International Academies just before Christmas (did not get along with the co-founders), have spent some time selling toilets in the slums (seriously – a great company called Sanergy) and start a new permanent gig in August doing e-commerce and delivery to the rural poor.  I’m still loving living in Nairobi – it’s a great mix of adventure and big city sophistication with lots of places to visit on the weekends – I’ve been getting in lots of hiking.   And the business scene here is buzzing with entrepreneurs trying to figure out the best market-based solutions to big social problems.    So all is good …. just have to figure out how to get even more travel in….   Best to everyone xxxx