Drive down the white road to a path that leads to an immense tree bent over an occasional creek. Weave under the relentless sun and over the cracked earth, where the landscape is muted and blurred by the heat in the air. Descend down into a canyon, suddenly lush with ferns, damp and cool. Climb over rocks and water until you reach the fall itself, a sheer crescent of dark rock that plunges down into a black, glassy pool that reflects the cliff perfectly, so that you can look down into the far-away sky, just as you can look up to it.
One morning in Venice, unable to sleep, a friend and I ventured out of our garden onto our little street to watch the city wake up. Barefoot and still in our nightgowns, we were so entranced by the beauty of the early morning light and the silence of the place, which was completely empty of people and felt all our own, that we ventured into our square. From there we kept walking, all the way to the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute, where we watched the sun rise over the lagoon.
When in Venice, it’s worth taking a day to venture out into the Lagoon. The busy island of Murano is known for its blown glass, and the quiet island of Torcello houses the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, known for its 11th century Byzantine Mosaics. But my personal favorite is the colourful isle of Burano, a brightly-painted former fishing village. On a warm day, enjoy a lunch of frito misto, and then buy a gelato and wander the vibrant streets.
We saw the dark clouds over the water too late. The tide was coming in, almost up to the trees, and the makeshift camp we had made on the beach was beginning to flood. In the jungle behind us we heard howler monkeys screeching a horrible, murderous call that made us too afraid to step foot beyond the open sand. It was getting dark and the approaching storm was moving quickly. We piled everything into our little dingy, but it wouldn’t start.
Some years ago, when I was much braver (or more reckless) than I am now, two other girls and I decided to spend a day out on a beautiful, isolated and uninhabited island in the Caribbean. We set off in the morning in a rented dingy full of provisions for the day (beer, by the way, should never be considered a provision) and went out to a small island we had seen in the distance. Seeking a quiet escape, we went around to a small beach on the far side of the island, hidden from the main island by a thick jungle. As far as I recall, we failed to tell anyone where we were going.
We spent the day blissfully wandering the beach and floating in the surf, feeling like castaways. But our castaway fantasy became a little too real as the rising tide began to fill our dead little dingy and a full tropical storm was fast approaching. To boot, I have a phobia of open water so acute that I was barely persuaded to get in the dingy in the first place. That morning I had been swayed into taking to the water by clear blue water, sunny skies, and a momentary sense of adventure that had since been superseded by an almost paralysing fear. I was willing to endure the Howler Monkey Jungle, hunger and night on the island if only it meant I didn’t have to get into that dingy. My companions, sensibly, picked me up and threw me into the boat.
One girl set to work trying to start the dingy while the other two of us began to bail out the boat with the only tools we had: empty bottles. It did start at last, but not fifteen feet from the island it died again. We began to paddle, with one oar and four hands, but the wind was picking up and the waves were getting choppy. Our little dingy got caught on a coral reef that tore a hole in the bottom of the boat. The water in the bottom rose and we bailed faster as one girl got out to push us off the reef, badly cutting up her arms and legs in the process. She steered us through the ocean, into the harbor, and at long last to dry land. The boat was destroyed. The hotel had been in the process of sending out a coastguard to find us. It was almost dark, and as we were helped out of the boat, shaking, near tears, deeply apologetic and relieved, the first few drops of rain began to fall.