Wednesday 22 July 2009

Stukkie, Stompie and the Countess


It wasn’t very long ago that three friends decided to leave their respective husbands, abandon their children, cast responsibilities to the four winds and set off to conquer Africa. And we did it!

cape to kampala **Giraffe at Nyala are for Lola and Mr. E, with love**

Two of the three were me (aka ‘Stompie’) and my sister, Janie (aka The Countess). Jane de S. (aka ‘Stukkie’) was our wonderfully eccentric and much loved travelling companion until we reached Tanzania where she had to leave the team and fly back to meet her children in Uganda. Undeterred, Janie and I bashed our way on up through the Serengeti, down into the Ngorongoro Crater, across into Kenya…and up over the border into beautiful Uganda and our ultimate destination …..the foothills of The Mountains of the Moon.


Here is my account of the journey in a poem which is written backwards because we originally intended to start from Uganda. In fact we eventually did it the other way around – starting from the meeting of those two oceans at the very tip of Africa up to the Mountains of the Moon (Ruwenzori) in Uganda – 10,089 kilometres in all!



With vehicle stocked and engine oiled

And brand new Michelins still unsoiled,

We’ll venture forth to chase our dream

Of dusty plains where wild game teem.

Of glistening dunes in desert places,

Immense blue skies and feral spaces.

Of rainbow’d falls and verdant valleys

And canyon floors – vast granite alleys.


From Malawi’s clear, sun-crystal’d lake

The southern route is one we’ll take.

Through Tete and Zim to Mozambique

Past fever trees and dried-up creek.

Then ‘cross the Swazi hills we’ll go

Where geysers soar and rivers flow.

From highland veldt and blond savannah,

Through sprawling huts to hillside manor.

Across Limpopo hinterland and the desiccated plain

To teeming herds of antelope, and elephants again.



Down through the desert, past skeletal coast

Bleached white bones and shipwreck’d ghost

To shimmering saltpans and dry bed Chari

And the sand filled seas of the Kalahari.

Through wastelands red, the ochre Nama

Mythical canyons and rock strewn drama.

On to the mountains, through fields of maize

To magical memories of childhood days,

Where dolphins skim the blue-green sea

And the wild, white beaches – running free.

sea - cropped

Through sunny vineyards with grapes so sweet

We’ll reach the point where two oceans meet.

We’ll watch the waves crash, huge and mighty

And then turn our thoughts to dear old Blighty.

But Africa will hold her spell; the pulsating beat

And rhythm of cicada song, the sizzling heat.

Misty valleys, sapphire lakes and sunset glory;

Jungled slopes and snow-clad peaks of Ruwenzori.

Crocodiles and splashing hippo, the puissant Nile.

A tribal song: a ritual dance – that welcome smile.



Holly said...

Okay, I've probably said this before but it bears repeating: If I didn't love you so much, I'd hate you.

First, I adore that artwork! Love it. Then I have to stop how well your write. Then you make me shake my head in awe as I read your poem.

Let's not get me started on your ability with a camera!!!

But, I am really amazed at your courage to travel and try everything. I have to admit that Africa intimidates me and I can't imagine myself there. However, I see your images and I long to have the experience....

Tessa, is there anything you can't or don't do well?

Thanks, so, for sharing!

Elizabeth said...

What an adventure!
What stunning pictures.
I'm jealous, jealous, jealous. A friend who is coming to dinner tonight grew up in Kenya -I'll show her your site.
What a poem, too.
I rather agree with Holly.
And you can cook!

Tess Kincaid said...

What a fabulous adventure! I am totally envious. Your pictures are brilliant. Wow!!

Elizabeth Bradley said...

What can I say that hasn't been said. What a trip!

Jinksy said...

Wowee! You're the tops, Tessa!

Madame DeFarge said...

Artwork is great and so is the poem. I'm envious of your travels and the sights you must have seen. We need to know more :)

Amy said...

I think I actually gasped when looking at the first picture of the path leading to the mountain. Unbelievable.

You're like a character in a story book to me. It's difficult to believe that you're real. (But, I'm so glad you are.)

Alexandra MacVean said...

I really love the artwork. Looks like you had so much fun! =) Ohhh...I want to take a trip now!

soulbrush said...

amazing all- rounder you are. my hubby did a landrover trip with four friends from london to cape town in 1972, where he met gonna send him this link to read and enjoy,(he's on his computer downstairs tee hee) just as i have.

Elizabeth Musgrave said...

Gosh, my world looks so green and lush and grey and misty compared to the vivid colours of your photos. Not that I don't love it, just that you remind me that it not the only one.

Rosaria Williams said...

What an adventurous soul you and your friend and sister are. The poem captures the feelings and the sights; as do the pictures. No wonder you fell in love with the continent. I can't wait to read your novel.

Delwyn said...

Hello Tessa

the path through the banana palms heading into the mountains looks like a great metaphor for your journey. I imagine that you are incredibly pleased at your accomplishment - not just to cover the miles but to call up your courage and spirit of adventure and determination and the desire to see the new and unchartered.
What an endeavour...

Happy days

Anonymous said...

Aaah! Such wonderfully crafted words, conjuring that special feeling, the experience, the place that is Africa!

Maithri said...

Amazing my friend, Simply Amazing,

The poems, the photographs, You!

I'd be on the next plane out if I could,

Much Love, M

Debra Keirce said...

Tessa, I'm so thrilled you got your computer woes taken care of! What a lovely post! Your art is amazing, and the photos are breathtaking, and your prose speaks to the heart. I wish I had a signature art style like you do, a better camera, and a knack for writing is an alluring style (instead of Erma Bombeck's) --- It would be so easy to envy you, but that would be breaking all sorts of rules and commandments. So, I will sit back and just enjoy you!!

Silke Powers said...

Tessa, you are something else! First the painting - which is so amazing - those colors! And then the photos and THEN a POEM?!? What a post - I am once again awestruck!! :) Silke

Ces Adorio said...

You are so fabulous! Great photographs. Although I really thought you abandoned civilizations and responsibility and became nomads traveling with a band of gypsies and bedouins or a herd of zebras. You had had a Land Rover! Absolutely fantastic photography. I bet you had tea along the way! I am now the first member of the Tesaa Fan Club!

karen said...

How fabulous! Poem, images and that marvellous spirit of adventure!

Irene said...

Tessa, anything that can be said, has been said. I will not repeat it. I do want to say, though, that I think your photography is excellent and you must have always had a very good camera and have known, and still know, how to use it. I admire that especially, because lots of people fancy themselves photographers, but few of them are really good ones and you are one of them.

Lori ann said...


oh dear lord.

what have you done?? you've painted a gorgeous work of art. wrote a lovely poem and showed us the most incredible photos of all???

of A F R I C A!!

what a treat. i mean really, why would you ever want to leave your own blog? i know i want to live here and eat mango fruit muffins and wait to see what you come up with next.

so don't come look for me on my blog anymore, i'll be right here. from now on ☺

Caroline said...

Splendid, Tessa! I am always delighted to see a new post from you pop into my Google Reader as I know that it will be something so special! Thank you for sharing your amazing journey with us!

Jeanne/Jeanze said...

Tessa, how I envy your courage and adventurous spirit! And what joy I take in viewing this amazing world through your eyes via your art (including your camera) and your beautiful words. I admire you and hope that by some miracle, despite the water between our lives, our paths connect, and I get to hug you live and in person. What an honor to be twinned to a such vibrant and awesome (in the true sense of the word) woman!

Thank you for sharing this with us!

With love and great appreciation,


Beth Kephart said...

I'm just going to go with Holly here.

Those photographs! That painting! Your words! Your life.

Love. All. Of. It.

xxx said...


thanks for sharing all of that.

best wishes

Angela said...

I gasped at the first photo (after smiling at your painting - such colourful, lovely ladies!), but when I saw the second, I just sat and stared. How BEAUTIFUL is Africa?! Can I have that picture to hang on my wall? I am with Lori, I will just sit here and wait for more! Thank you, dear Tessa!

Linda Sue said...

LOVE the ladies! Love their names! Africa- what a jem...we only hear of dreadful strife- not much about the vast, wild beauty - amazing shots! I actually felt it in my heart!I became homesick...and I am not even from there- your post is most effective.BEAUTY!

pink dogwood said...

your pictures are a feast for our eyes and your art and words are a treat for our soul - just great :)

kj said...

okay,that's it!

dammit tessa, okay, i admit it: yours is my favorite blog. i come here and feast and fawn on your art, your poetry, your photos, your family, your homeland, your eye, your spunk, your reverence.

do you know how magical your life and sharing is?

manohman, am i glad i've blessed myself with you as a special friend. think march, tessa, keep thinking march. you never know, you know....



ps prayers for renee

Merry ME said...

Dear Tess,
I admit to being a totally un-traveled American who thinks lions, hippos and elephants live behind bars in a zoo. And when I think of Africa I think of horrors too great to even imagine. I so excited to have found your blog (and others) that paint the continent with such beauty and tenderness. It's a toss up as to which I like more, your colorful paintings or your dynamic photographs.

And your words - ooh lala. Who would have thought you one find words to rhyme with Mozambique, Chari, ochre Nama and Ruwenzori? To be able to use words like veldt, verdant, desiccated, and puissant all in the same poem is an ability I doubt few can claim.

What a trip. You rock!!!!

E said...

it's 4 am and I am jetlagged, tired and bloated from intercontinental air travel, but I am weeping with happines. Images of Africa and your rhyming ode to its transcendent beauty are actually making me smell the red soil, the acacias and the sheltering sky above. My heart aches every time... What is it about that blessed land that draws me so? I can't heal from its nostalgia.
MrE and I thank you for the giraffes and for the rest of this post. My days will get back to normal. No longer a slave of inverted time schedules and messy sleeping patterns. I will hang the wash of 4 suitcases to dry. I will resume blogging and recipe-concocting. I'll skip across cobblestonesd roads and smile through work. I will do all that, but Africa will still be an ache.

Beautiful, Tessa. You are beautiful.
Thank you, infinitely.
Lola xx

Sarah Lulu said...


I don't have the words to say how much I loved the artwork, ...then the writing and the photos.


Sarah Lulu

JR's Thumbprints said...

Geez, what I'd do to have a chance to visit Africa. Awesome pictures btw.

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

Oh, I love all of this. The photographs are heart-stopping. What a magical journey!

Funny, I'm known by some friends as "the Countess", too! But unfortunately for me, it is due to the fact that a painter who used to work for me always pronounced my name as Pam-u-la. Rather like Dracula. So, instead of the Count....I am the Countess. Sigh.

A Cuban In London said...

Coming to your blog humbles me. It is one of those pleasures in life for which I would not mind paying. Yes, you read that right, paying for reading your marvellous posts.

The intro with that painting is bewitching. Then the photos, THE PHOTOS! I have no words to describe them because each adjective would fall short of my feelings. Not having ever been to Africa the shot of the child in the river was pure joy. And the one with the sand stretching for miles was absolutely marvellous.

And the poem encapsulates the adventurous spirit, the friendship, the sisterhood (twofold, for being accompanied by your sister, and for being a good friend)

Many thanks. My holidays so far have been great. Today, funny enough, there was an African day at the Richmix in Shoreditch andmy wife and I took our two children there. The story-telling was magical. And this comes from a story-teller himself :-). Although I am not around much these days when there's quality, like the one I've witnessed tonight, missing it merits bringing hanging back for the offender.

Greetings from London.

Anonymous said...

Wow! What lovely pictures! Your trip must have been amazing!
BTW thank you so much for the nice comment on my blog.

Bee said...

Having scanned the comments, I find nothing much to add except for my own praise and thanks for this truly STUNNING and enriching post.

Every single one of these photographs is so alive . . . but the one of the little child in the golden water really touches me. How beautiful Africa is through your eyes and words.

Renee said...

You are an adventure that I love to ride and hang onto your coat tails.

Beautiful pictures Tessa.

Love Renee xoxo

kendalee said...

Magical Africa captured in beautiful words and images (as always) Tessa. It looks like it was a great, fun adventure!

Loved the Zanzibar post too - one of my favourite spots on the planet, for all the texture and contradictions you described. My memories are vivid but I was there in pre digital photography days (when I was so hesitant to take pictures) so I'd love to go again and take some more shots now... Yours are very evocative!

My Castle in Spain said...

oh my ! what could i say that hasn't been said before ? it's simply STUNNING Tessa, your photos and your so evocative poem.
you're simply amazing !!

pRiyA said...

no wonder anyone who visits Africa never forgets it.

Polly said...

First of all - I love the picture, it's so dynamic and the women are so beautiful.

Secondly - your trip sounds like an adventure of a lifetime. I envy you growing up in Africa, having that African spirit inside you, that sense of adventure, and feeling at home there. I'd love to be like that.

And thirdly - stunning, stunning photos. They almost don't seem real.

L'Adelaide said...

this is absolutely gorgeous and paints in words your journey in a way that almost needs to be sung...

sublime and what a treat to share in it with you and of course, the is gorgeous and speaks to the JOY that must have danced through your veins!