I recently walked in Silvermine Nature Reserve with two dynamic ladies in their sixties, Pat Evans and Lyn Maire, whose career paths are enviable. What a delight it is to socialise with women who have lived their lives the way that they have wished to. It shows in their contented and happy mien and in their ongoing embracing of opportunities that come their way.
Pat Evans, who lives in Kommetjie, has an Accountancy diploma, worked as a photographer, was a wife, a mother of three daughters, and professional dairy manager. (“I milked 200 cows twice daily in the six years we lived on our farm in Natal!”), has undertaken scuba and advanced diving courses, earned her skipper’s status in sailing as well as a private and commercial pilot’s license, passed the Estate Agent’s Board Certificate, obtained the Civil Protection Radio Operators Certificate and complete a Basic Television Production Course, complementing her course in Underwater Photography. Her topside photographs were published in a coffee table book entitled ‘The Golden Escarpment’. Her daughter Barbara, creative like her mom, is a professional underwater photographer.
Enough, you cry? Not for Pat! She now runs a self-catering chalet. on a lagoon alongside the sea in Mozambique. Here at Pomene she teaches sailing and takes guests kayaking. www.mozambiquescape.com
Pat was the proud owner of a 1930s Tiger Moth for 16 years. Having watched a pilot winging his way in his iconic plane she expressed the desire to hire his Tiger Moth. He replied that “one cannot hire a Tiger Moth, one can only own one.” She instantly offered to buy his and was very surprised when he responded positively! Between the years 1999 – 2005 she enjoyed taking tourists on flight-seeing tours around the Western Cape in her “Tigger”.
To her great dismay the Tiger flying came to an abrupt end when the undercarriage of her beloved plane clipped high voltage electricity lines while she was taking part in a aircraft show in Cape Town. Pat escaped with “minor injuries” (as in lots of broken bones!) on her face, but her plane was in a dire state. It was bought by a Tiger Moth enthusiast who had the time and the ability to rebuild it.
Where did she get her zest for adventure? She has always had it. As a little girl she would “co-pilot” a DC3s from the lap of the pilot as he flew her family between Namibia and Cape Town, fuelling her desire to be a pilot one day. After leaving school she embarked on a 4-year “almost around the world” sailing adventure with her father on the first South African-built yacht to set sail on such a voyage. Helping to skipper another yacht down from Fiji to New Zealand she survived a tumultuous few days as the boat was caught in a cyclone. They had lost contact with her dad, skippering his own yacht ‘Corsair II’, a distressing and anxiety provoking experience as neither knew if the other had survived the storm.
Pat’s life’s philosophy: “Basically, to quote the Dalai Lama, it is to‘Be Joyful’. This can be quite a difficult thing to maintain what with the negative attitude many have towards someone who sticks her neck out to do unusual things, so one needs the courage of one’s convictions and the strength to get up and go despite one’s head having been lopped off a number of times!”
These are not your usual cruise liner trips – no “no dancing girls, bingo or shuffleboard.” Instead the emphasis is on adult education. Her fellow lecturers are high profile historians, political analysts, climatologists, writers and other specialists, while the passengers are drawn from the travel arms of American University/College alumni associations and other prestigious American organizations like the Smithsonian and Explorers Club.
“My passions include birdwatching, travel and photography and these have led me to the sort of work I now do, a late-in-life new career. It all started in 1995 when I was asked to be a lecturer and bird guide on a RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) cruise on a very small, 30-passenger, Russian ice-breaker that was en route from Antarctica to Vladivostok. We ‘birded’ all the way from Cape Town to Seychelles, spending some time going up the remote West coast of Madagascar before reaching the Comoros and Seychelles.
This worked so well that I have been leading overland tours in Madagascar, focusing on the endemic birds, and more recently on the natural history of this remarkable huge island. One thing leads to another and I am now leading two- to three- weeklong natural history and cultural land tours in Bhutan, an amazing Himalayan Kingdom, Malaysia including Borneo, Israel and the Seychelles.
Before I did the travel thing, I worked for my ex husband, an orthopaedic surgeon, doing the books …. borrrring! I also organised international conferences and congresses, had a successful catering company and did a lot of charity work. It was the time when I travelled extensively (without husband or passengers) birding and looking for rare and endemic birds in strange and re mote parts of Africa and Madagascar.”
Enchanted by her first trip to Antarctica, Lyn obtained her skipper’s ticket through the NSRI and spent five summer seasons on board small expedition ships around the Antarctic Peninsula driving zodiacs and lecturing on seabirds and penguins.
“The best was to be behind some big icebergs with no sign of the ship, switch off the engine and to just listen to the awesome silence for a few minutes…passengers loved this. We had some exciting close up experiences with whales. On one occasion a Minke whale dived right under my zodiac and came up on the other side and just looked at us and a second later a Humpback dived right behind us leaving that strong fishy smell.
Lyn has become an African specialist. Her voyages take her to the Western Indian Ocean – Madagascar, Seychelles, Comores and the East African Coasts of Kenya, Tanzania and Mozambique visiting many tiny and fascinating islands known for their turbulent histories and having some wonderful diving and snorkeling opportunities along the way.
“The West African coast line is richly rewarding in terms of culture, but most of the wildlife has landed in the pot or in Eastern markets as aphrodisiacs. We cruise between Spain and Cape Town visiting the entire West African coast except for Ivory Coast and Nigeria. Ports of call take in Morocco and Western Sahara, Senegal, Sierra Leona and Liberia. Benin and Togo, known for their connection to voodoo, are enthralling destinations. Ghana, Gabon, Cameroon and Angola are part of the itinerary. My favourite islands are tiny islands of Sao Tome and Principe hanging out of the armpit of Africa, where you can find the best chocolate in the whole entire world…really and truly, it is sublime!”
A few years ago Lyn worked on the remote atoll of Aldabra in the Seychelles monitoring the enormous giant tortoises, turtles and seabirds. As a result she was askedby Hilary Bradt to write a travel guide to Seychelles. Her book, the 4th edition of Seychelles: the Bradt Travel Guide, which she has co-authored with Lynnath Beckley, Professor of Marine Science at Murdoch University Perth Australia is about to be launched and has already been translated into Italian.
Lyn is about to leave for Namibia for a month where she will be working with students from Dartmouth College doing their Foreign Studies program in Environmental Studies, visiting different parts of the country focusing on environmental issues such as cheetah conservation.
When at home in Lakeside, Lyn does not languish. She regularly walks the mountains of the Cape Peninsula with the Flying Tortoises, a hiking group of the U3A False Bay and she enjoys working in her garden.
Asked her philosophy on life she said that the following quote ( author unknown) epitomises what she believes:
Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, rather than by the number of moments that take our breath away. Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely, with an attractive, but well preserved body, rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, martini in the other, body thoroughly used up and totally worn out, screaming wooooohooo what a ride!
When someone offers you lemons ask for tequila and salt.
“In my words, says Lyn, “grab every opportunity and keep those doors open …”
Copyright: Viv von der Heyden