Caravan of Art

Charpoy with Art

With Kaspia’s Caravan opening at The Yellow House, I naturally wanted visual art well represented in this iconic building. Thankfully, I was able to work with my friend and amazing Sydney artist James Gulliver Hancock on wall designs for the rooms. James designed a brilliant mindscape on the wall of the main room which we worked on together using a projector. We used a similar technique in other areas of the large shop space, forgoing the temptation to use decals, in order to maintain a natural, hand-drawn look which reflects much of beautiful handmade merchandise of Kaspia’s Caravan. In my search for treasures, I always go for items that tell a human story or where the indentations of real fingers remain. Downstairs in the ‘rug room’ we were keen to show off my favourite tribal rug motifs on the walls. Pity people can’t take these artworks home! In saying that, we have several limited prints availabe by the artist James Gulliver Hancock, and not all of them have been hung. So if you like the wall art, please ask to see the prints!

The art that is currently on display is from the collection of my husband and collaborator Benjamin Gilmour. Benjamin has spent a great deal of time in the northwest of Pakistan where he made the award-winning feature film ‘Son of a Lion’ (2008) and in the east of the country where he shot some of his last film ‘Paramedico’ (2012) and wrote the book of the same name. While my eye is always drawn to breathtaking Pakistani textiles, jewellery and furniture, Benjamin has discovered other amazing items. While writing his book ‘Warrior Poets’ in 2005 he spent some time in Royal Park, the rambling film studios of Lahore known as ‘Lollywood’. This is Benjamin in Lollywood.

Benjamin in Lollywood

He penned a short piece on his blog about this here. While at Royal Park, Benjamin came across a small stash of well-preserved original Pakistani film posters. He bought these at the time, had some restored onto linen and they are now hanging in the shop and for sale. These are the original posters, and we only have the ones on display, so first in first served. Benjamin will happily give you some information on each poster, the title translation and year of release.

Also part of Benjamin’s collection now for sale is his beloved series of hand-coloured box-camera photos. This traditional process can be read about here. While in Peshawar city in 2007, Benjamin searched the city’s photo studios and bought old, original prints that were on display advertising the studio. He bought them right out of the front cabinets. His small collection has been copied by the Afghan Box Camera editors who will be including them in a forthcoming book. In the meantime, Benjamin’s original box-camera series is on sale. Let me stress, these are not multiple prints. These are the original prints. There are no others on the planet. Benjamin has framed them tastefully and they are on display in the rug room. Please come and see these amazing pictures and speculate with us on the whereabouts (or demise) of these customers who never returned to pick up their portraits.

Box camera series

See you soon at Kaspia’s Caravan!

Xxx Kaspia xxX

Holiday in Havana

Kaspia in Havana Our first glimpse of Havana is better than expected. For so long we’ve wanted to come here, an intriguing destination seemingly made just for us, our tastes and style, which are, like Cuba itself, stuck in a time warp circa 1959. Romeo Cuban architecture leaves us gaping, our necks craning to take in the diverse wonder of it all. There’s plenty of rustic opulence here. From handsome colonial buildings to crazy baroque and neo-classical style. Old Havana is dense with Moorish, Italian, Greek and Roman design, the majority of structures looking near to collapse, with peeling paint, crumbling balconies and some of them almost entirely covered in crawling jungle vines.

Vintage car aficionados like ourselves are in heaven. For the first week in Havana we take whatever crazy finned fifties car our heart desires and drive around admiring other crazy finned fifties cars. We could car-hop all day in this place! They come in every colour of the paintbox. There are Jacaranda-blue Buicks, ruby red ratrods, canary yellow Cadillacs and perfect bubbble-gum pink Pontiacs. I was expecting only a few of these cars scattered around to please tourists. But they’re everywhere, and for most Cubans they are everyday transport. All around us they splutter and chug along, choking the air with their noise and fumes, packed with grannies on the way back from the market or kids from school. Each morning, neither Romeo nor Paloma can wait to help choose another beautiful yank tank to explore more of Havana in.

While we relish the time capsule that Cuba still is, at least for now, all the locals seem to want is the latest slice of modern America. It’s ironic that anti-imperialism slogans are posted everywhere we turn, yet we see just as many ordinary Cuban women eating hamburgers at pop-up fast food joints dressed in lycra leggings and tight tops printed with stars-and-stripes. Obsessed with bling, R&B and pop-culture, the young boys could be straight out of Brooklyn. Brooklyn, Cuba Kaspia makes a call Holiday in Havana Romeo, our new travel addition, has taken to the road like his true namesake. Making an exception to our preference for vintage American cars, we catch an orange motorcycle taxi and put-put around the narrow back alleys of Habana Vieja and down towards the sea at the Malecon. Around us crumbling Art Nouveau leans on Deco villas which stand proud against decaying eclectic facades. Who lives in these palaces, I wonder?

Wherever we stop, we’re never far from a Cuba Libre. Hotel Sevilla beckons and we take shelter from the midday sun in a courtyard of palm trees, cool black-and-white tiles and the Afro percussion of a band playing son cubano. Romeo and Paloma make straight for the dance floor. Paloma enjoys a Romeo & Juliet Cigar

Kaspia’s Caravan pop-up shop!

Kaspia’s Caravan opens in true nomadic ‘pop-up’ fashion this coming December at Sydney’s famous Yellow House, once home to ‘happenings’ by artists Brett Whiteley, George Gittoes and film director Peter Weir, among others. Don’t miss your chance to enter Kaspia’s exotic world and see her collection of handcrafted treasures gathered over many years spent traversing the Far East. You too can bring the romance of distant outposts to your home with Kaspia’s interiors, including a superb selection of Afghan tribal rugs, Himalayan furniture and village home wares. Collaborating with long-time friends at Afghan Interiors, formerly of Newtown, Kaspia’s bazaar will also feature unique gypsy fashions, textiles and the rarest jewels of the Nile.

Opens: December 1st, 2014

Where: The Yellow House, 57 Mcleay Street, Potts Point, Sydney.

Kaspia’s Style Portfolio



Kaspia’s top 10 tips for travelling with children

Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH

Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH

1. Keep mobile. Prams can be a hassle even in European nations like France and Italy (think cobble stones!) and a waste of time in places without proper footpaths/sidewalks and heaving crowds. We use an Ergo carrier, but you might prefer a sling. Get your baby used to sleeping in this from an early age if you intend traveling with them.

2. Be flexible. While you may stick to ‘routines’ when at home (dinner, sleep times etc), when on the road you need an ability to adapt and to be flexible. You can always go back to routines when you return.

3. Bring play-things/entertainment. Our children have own bags with things they can play with. Sheets of little stickers keep them going for hours. Every child has a different preference. Some might like heaps of videos or learning tools uploaded onto iPhones or iPads. While away, find things to do that they like, too. Not many kids get into adult art galleries, I’m afraid. Find fairs, circuses, parks and shows.

4. Keep onto food and drink. Snacks are vital. Always have a snack supply! Nuts, muesli bars, whatever. In many countries the food can be a bit full-on for kids (masala etc) so have a back-up. Things were really easy while breastfeeding. I didn’t have to think about baby food at all! On that note, be careful not to flash boobs in ultra conservative countries!

5. Get them sleeping rough. No, only kidding! We use a ‘Port-a-cot’, preferably a very light one (Bill&Ted’s T2 is popular and the lightest on the market). Be prepared for your child to end up sleeping in your bed, though. Ah, whatever, we’ll be back home soon! If your child relies on milk to sleep and is no longer breast-feeding, remember almost everywhere in the world has fresh milk (often only available in the mornings though) and if not, Tetra Paks are a back-up if you really have to. Can you share a room? We do, but depends on how well your children sleep with noise. Our daughter, once down, will not wake up if we’re watching a movie on our laptop full-volume on our bed next to her cot, which is lucky.

6. Tolerating lower hygiene. Nappy-wipes or wet-ones are good to have with you always, of course. Handwashing wherever possible is best. But dirt on their hands is unavoidable in some countries (India, for one!). Expect your child to put the filthiest things you can imagine into their mouths while on your travels. They’ll probably survive this. Kids need to build their immunity through exposure. So in a sense, you are doing them a favour by not locking them indoors all day. There is every chance in some locations they will develop a bout of mild gastro. Keep them well hydrated during this, and seek urgent medical aid if it goes on more than 48 hours, if they develop a raging temperature or if they start acting weird/lethargic etc.

7. Share your child. Well to a degree, otherwise you’ll have a terrible time. Traveling with a baby or child as a foreigner in many Asian nations, for example, is such a novelty to the locals. Everyone wants their picture taken with your child, especially at touristy sites. They’ll kiss, pinch, pat, cuddle and sometimes simply take your baby/child from your arms. Try not to freak out too much. Freaking out rarely helps. If things get full-on, politely decline and walk away quickly and keep moving. Unless you are willing to let your child develop their social skills by interacting with locals in way-out places, don’t bother traveling in the first place.

8. Be sensible but not obsessively stupid about safety. Travel with a child is simply not advisable for parents who are highly risk-averse. This is a very contentious point. Here we will use one very obvious example that will bring this fact home; child seats for cars. Outside of high-income nations there is near-to-zero use of the ‘baby seat’ for private cars, let alone taxis. Now, we’re not advocating taking your whole family on a motorbike through central Calcutta. But, you will almost certainly be catching a taxi or rickshaw in places like this. Bearing this in mind, we believe it is up to the parents as to what level of risk they are willing to expose their kids to (within reasonable limits and the law, of course!) It is a very personal thing. But just be aware of this before you book your flights to India, for example. Even if you bring your own baby seat to countries like this, chances are they won’t have the right fittings. If you do choose, as we do, to make exceptions for the time you are overseas, be sure you always hold on to your child in transit. Another tip with an infant is to put your own seatbelt on as normal (if there is one), then place the Ergo baby carrier over yourself with baby in it. We have also heard of parents using seatbelt attachments like the ones found on planes.

9. Bath time with Iodine. Yes, some places just don’t have clean enough water for your child to splash about in. We use hotel-supplied buckets filled with tap water and Iodine solution added. Swish it about and make sure to wait around ten minutes.

10. Plan and co-ordinate. Oh, those great days of free-wheeling as backpackers! How fun and crazy! Now with our children we’re just a little more organised (not too much, though, that would be boring). We book ahead occasionally nowadays; hotels, flights, trains. It’s so easy with the internet to ‘kind of’ know what you’re going to get (the occasionl nasty surprise is part ‘n parcel). We plan long car journeys to coincide with our child’s sleep time and so on.

Well, that’s about it. Please feel free to write and tell me your stories or give me your own tips!

Bon voyage to you all.


The Great Ghatsby

Varanasi, or its ancient name Benares, is India’s holiest city. As we step off the train we are caught in a melee of pilgrims, families, sadhus and a thousand other people from all walks of life. We are hustled through the station and into the 45 degree heat of the day by our sweet-talking rickshaw driver.

Varanasi is Mecca for Hindus, and unlike the millions of Indians who wish to draw their final breath here, the last time I was here I did think I was doing to die, having been so sick with gastroenteritis. But that was 12 years ago. Now I am here in a new phase of my life with my favourite travel companion, Paloma.

My recollections of this ancient city are still some of my favourite travel memories, as Ben and I were on our first adventure together and so in love. Could a city as ancient as this have changed much in this tiny drop of time?

Our rickshaw driver Ranjit thinks he knows the hotel I’ve been describing to him, one right on the ghats, the steps, which look over the Ganga and are alive with ritual and daily life.

My old diaries are buried somewhere in my collection of things too deep to unearth. But I think I remember where our sweet octagonal room was in the hotel high above the river. Ranjit leads me through many winding alleyways to many out-of-the-way hotels, claiming they have a view of the river. Well, yes, through the bathroom window. Meanwhile, Lisa waits in the rickshaw sweating and entertaining the kids while I play the scout. After too long I put my foot down and demand to be taken to the hotel we asked to go to an hour before. It’s a carnival of errors from here on in. Now grumpy, he drops us off on the side of the road with the kids and all our luggage. We have to take a bicycle rickshaw into the heart of the old city as the laneways are big enough only for two rows of pilgrims to pass one another. ‘You are like sister to me, not tourist…this is my life’s work, my karma…’ are his parting words before asking for more rupees than initially agreed on.

We load ourselves with guilt onto a bicycle rickshaw. Our cyclist, an old man, is already sweating heavily in the mid-morning sun. He pulls the four of us and our luggage through the masses of people. Out of thin air another man appears then, literally hanging onto the bike and running along side us yelling that he has the best hotel on the ghats. He is reminiscent of Dustin Hoffman’s character in ‘Midnight Cowboy’. We later find out he is a heroin addict like so many other young guys here. Foolishly, I let him lead me through the labyrinthine old city to yet another awful hole in the wall hotel with no view. Concerned I will never see Lisa and the kids again I ask him to navigate our way back, more rupees are handed over, again with a line about his spiritual mission to help others. In a place so full of spirituality and all about escaping the material world there seems to be a frightful lot of wheeling and dealing and money being exchanged…

I give up on finding a hotel and we make ourselves at home in the beautiful Brown Bread Bakery. The kids run wild jumping on all the pretty embroidered cushions and Lisa and I sip on ice cold fruit juices and recline against the painted walls.

The Sunrise Guest House is as cheap as you can get, so cheap in fact that we can have separate rooms, all for under $14 a night combined. Paloma and I take the smaller room with a little enclosed sunroom looking onto the swirling river and the dusky sand-land on the other side of the Ganga. Far in the distance we watch a convoy of black buffalo being led to the shore for a  drink. In the midday heat there is not a soul out on the water. We lie under the ceiling fan draped in a wet sheet and fall into a dreamless sleep.

Every evening on the main Ghat, a puja, a religious ritual, is performed to Ma Ganga and the goddess Durga. Each sunset hundreds flock to sit on the red sandstone steps to watch and listen to the vespers, entranced by the beauty these age-old rituals symbolise.

During the night I am awoken, drenched in sweat and have to soak our bed sheet in water again and again, cocooning us from the intense heat. Paloma and I wake up at 6am and are called to the river by the sounds of the pilgrims singing outside our window as they make their way down the wide, worn steps to perform the morning ablutions in the filthy, yet holy waters. It seems confusing that on one hand the river is considered sacred, but on the other hand so many people are willing to throw their rubbish into it. But I read a heartening article in the local paper about a women’s group protesting the government’s lack of action and have created a ‘Clean Up the Ganges Varanasi Campaign’

Barindra, a boatman, beckons us to his pretty wooden paddleboat. I know I should wait for Lisa and Otis but the morning light is magic and Paloma and I set out through the floating rubbish and swimming pilgrims to the center of the river. Another boatman rows to our side, his boat laden with flower garlands and palm leaf pressed bowls full of roses, marigolds and sweets to offer into the river. We purchase two and make up our own ritual sending prayers to Ben in Afghanistan and our families at home. The pretty offerings sail away on the eddies and flow of the river. Women in saris line the Ghats, standing in the river up to their waists, colour swirls in the reflections. Boys swim and splash each other with huge empty water drums tied to their back with rope, floatie style. Sadhus in that alluring saffron drape themselves around the ghats. Action is everywhere. Varanasi teems with life, and death, always.

Lisa and Otis emerge and we have another boat ride and Barindra shows us his houseboat and his other rowboats. He is from a long line of Banaras Boatmen and his sons are in training already. Paloma and Otie love rocking the boat, there is no way to keep them still, they adore the ride.

In search of breakfast I slip down the shit-caked steps with Paloma on my back in the ergo…ouch…and arrive at The Ganpatti Guest House. It is the haven we have been looking for. Realising early on that our Sunrise Lodge is was but a desperate option and not so sunny, we move out. Instead, at Ganpatti, lush green foliage canopies a beautiful cool courtyard set inside traditional Havelli walls of this red sandstone guesthouse. Every doorway is painted and hung with sparkling Indian embroideries. The rooms have ice-cold air-con and a fountain bubbles enticingly in the courtyard. No rooms are free until the next day so we put our names down and finally settle into our new home. The kids are in raptures as the owners have a son and all his toys are there for the taking. Clothes are ripped off, fountains are splashed in and bodies are painted.

After the heat of the midday subsides we slither into the alleys to explore, getting jostled and pushed, constantly amazed at the number of people passing through this small city daily. We get lost and found; more treasures and trinkets are haggled over to take home with us. Cows poo is everywhere and great plumes of flies buzz around our heads. Lisa takes a series of photos of sleeping men and the children take up the cry ‘He’s not dead, he’s sleeping!’ We are always laughing. Lisa has a way with people and stallholders, waiters and strangers are in fits of laughter when she’s around, claiming her as the newest member of their family.

When we return to our boatman, he takes us to Kali Ghat, the main burning ghat where 200 plus people are cremated each day. Surrounding this ghat are crumbling hospices where hundreds come to die while we sleep. Barindra pushes our boat to the ‘front row’ the flames warm our faces as six fires burn at different stages up the hill. Cows wander among the layers of rubbish, ash, corpses, rotting flower garlands and old wood. Who knows how many thousands of trees are needed each year to burn the people desperate to leave the cycle of life that only death in Varanasi can bring? A charming man steps onto our boat, Barindra looks away as he waxes lyrical about the wood, bodies and how much this all costs, for our own good karma can we spare a few hundred of rupees? Well since everyone is asking for our money, why not!

As I retell my experience of Varanasi to Lisa, Otie overhears me mentioning something about a burning leg flying up out of the fire. ‘Why does the dead leg fly up, what are there sparkles?’ Here our children are getting an up-close and vibrant view of life and death. Another body draped in shining silver fabrics is heaved up and onto the ready pyre. We all stare transfixed by the beauty of this spectacle only a place like India shares so openly.

Barindra rows us from the pyre, the tiny lights of the puja candles on the water merge with the reflections of the flames and the stars in the night sky.

How not to catch an Indian train

Most seasoned travellers would never be racing through peak hour traffic yelling at their driver ‘Chello! Chello! Dhanyavaad!’ (Faster! Faster! Thank you!) while the nice man drives as fast as he can, attempting to weave through the notoriously crazy Delhi traffic… with no horn. Yes, the only taxi in India without a horn, right when we need one with a horn.

We accidentally mixed up our station of departure to Varanasi. I thought it was the railway station up the road, but the station in question was, in fact, 40 minutes away.  And now our train was leaving in 30 minutes. We were going to miss it. Lisa looked at me like I was mad, which I am, but she isn’t, thank goodness.

Still in island time from our Andaman Paradise trip, we are never-the-less keen to get to Varanasi, India’s holiest city. Right now Delhi is the last place we want to stay in.

We screech to a halt outside Delhi Anand Vihar Train Station at 6:05pm. The train is set to leave at 6:10. Lisa is half carrying and half dragging Otie who has fallen asleep in her arms while we lug two bags into the terminal. The guard rushes us through security not bothering to check for the grenades in our luggage. We burst out laughing when we see the massive set of stairs in front of us and start to race up them.

In India, there is always someone to help you, whether you want it or not. Today we want it and a good Samaritan has come to our rescue. He whips our suitcase onto his head, grabs our ticket races us down the platform and installs us in our carriage with 1 minute to spare. We offer him a tip but he puts his hand on his heart and shakes his head, backing out of the carriage, never to be seen again.

We can’t believe we’re on the train. But we don’t have time to marvel at this because soon we find ourselves battling through the compartment to our berth with the sweat dripping from us. We are surprised to find the berth is over-capacity already. There are eight people here instead of four. Now, one can’t get mad because one has to spend the next 15 hours with these new friends. So we calmly negotiate with them that at least two people leave so we can sit down.

On it and over it.

Soon I notice a steady stream of people flowing down the aisle and coming back with bedding. In 2nd class AC sleeper you arrive to a berth with only four bunks and the bedding wrapped nicely in brown paper at the end of your bed. We could only manage 3rd class AC Sleeper and here you have to get it yourself. I motion to the people and our new friend Ravi says ‘Run! Run!’ I join the masses with Paloma on my front in the ergo carrier. I didn’t realize I would have to fight for my life, well my child’s life to be precise, just to acquire this little package of linen.

We head into the small hallway connecting the two carriages and immediately get squished on both sides from others desperate for bedding too. I squirm my way to the tiny counter and thrust forward a 50 rupee note, as everyone else seems to be doing. But the pillow wallah dealing in sheets and blankets seems oblivious. At least 50 people are surrounding us and pushing in harder and harder. Paloma is asking nicely ‘Please, Mummy, can we go?’ and then after a while ‘MUMMY!!!! HELLLLPPPPP!’ and screaming at the top of her lungs. ‘Batcha! Batcha!’ (‘Baby! Baby!) I yell at them motioning to her as the temperature rises and she is pulled in all directions. A woman turns her squashed face to me, sandwiched between three other peoples shoulders. ‘Will you control your child!’ ‘Are YOU serious?’ I exclaim. She then softens for some reason and goes nuts, ordering the men to provide me with my bedding ASAP! I reach out to grab at the enormous pile being handed to me but it disappears down the hall on a sea of hands. It is gone. Then all hell breaks loose. The lady who is now my defender starts hitting the crowd, yelling at the pillow walla who yells at me and I yell at him and Paloma yells at everyone. I grab sheets and pillows, abandoning the blankets, offer a quick thanks to my guardian goddess and turn to leave. On my way out of the melee I face the crowd who have been pushing me into a ball from behind for the last five minutes. A passage parts like the Nile.

Ravi, our fellow passenger, questions me as to where my blankets are. And don’t I know there is a blanket racket going on? They turn the AC up so high we freeze, so people buy more blankets, he says. But then at midnight they turn it off so we will all sweat. Luckily I abandoned the blankets.

Before we retire the kids race up and down the carriage loving the adventure of travel. Paloma disappears for 20 minutes and I find her entertaining a berth of Indian gentlemen with her stories and telling them all her name. I love having so many child minders on hand…and all for free! Otis loves the ‘Train Hotel’ and we make cubby houses out of sheets once the old men on the bottom bunks let us go to bed, that is the curse of having the middle bunks.

These bunks feel like they have shrunk since last month when I shared one with Paloma. She hogs the remainder of the space we have. After a crazy afternoon we are finally all cosy and snug and fall asleep to the rock and rhythm of the train.

Magic Beach

I am tipetoeing along the beach as all the little shells are moving. Each time I pick one up for my collection a crab comes out and tickles my fingers.

Waking up at 3 am is a killer. We have to be at the airport by 5 am for a 6 hour flight to Port Blair, then a very hot 3 hour ride in a rusty ferry with no fans. By the time we arrive at our destination we are hot, sweaty and dishevelled.

We leave our luggage in the beautiful hand thatched bungalow, throw on our swimming costumes and head to the beach. The view is slightly obscured by enormous mangrove trees hanging into the sand and coconut palms swaying in the breeze. We are startled by the beauty set out before us. The clear lavender blue sky falls into the aquamarine ocean, there is almost no distinction between sea and sky. We submerge ourselves in the bath warm waters of Havelock Island on the deserted beach outside our rustic guest house, The Emerald Gecko. Paloma and Otie are in heaven splashing in their blow up animals. We let them float away out to sea and let the tide bring them back.

The Andaman Islands conjure up images of pirates, explorations, tropical Islands, ship wrecks and savage tribes from the days of old. The modern day reality is complete peace, serenity and beauty.

Havelock Island is small, but there are much smaller islands in the Andamans. It consists of a bazzar, a pharmacy, a hand ful of  identical shops selling identical goods and beach balls, a tiny round-about which every one drives around the wrong way and one of the worlds most beautiful beaches. And an Elephant that swims.

Coconut palm groves line the bumpy road leading to The Emerld Gecko, shiny black curly horned buffalo are tied up ourside thatched houses, licking their nostrils in a zen like manner as we whizz by in the rickshaw. The air is thick with moisture and clings to our skin, pressing on to you like a lover. If you feel claustrophobic, just lean on a coconut tree and wait for the breeze.

Days pass and Paloma and Otis have become wild, feral animals. Their hair has sprung into curly blonde mops and they rip off all their clothes not allowing us to dress them at all. Every day they wake up and race into the water, running amock with the dogs and local kids, searching for treasure in the shimmering pools. Paloma has been waiting to get to Magic Beach with Aunty Lili and Otie for months and she excitedly recites the lines from her favourite book, Magic Beach by

‘Wild white horses are thundering past,

Waiting to get to the land.

Plunging and prancing and tossing their heads,

then fading away on the sand.’

And then throws herself in the sea yelling out more lines she loves.

The Calypso life is my kind of life. A simple hand woven bamboo and palm thatched hut to call home, fresh fruit and roast coconut pancakes for breakfast ,mango salsa prawns for supper with lime spritzed cold beers and nothing to do but think, dream and gaze at the delicious blue, blue, blue. Oh, and did I mention two crazy kids?

Paloma and Otis act more like brother and sister than cousins as they have spent almost every week of their life together. Amidst the cute conversations of calling each other ‘Kitty-Cat’ and ‘Meow Meow’ or ‘Batman’ and ‘Robin’, they kick, push and irritate each other, and us. But when they are good they are very very good. And when they are bad we throw them in the sea!

In search of the promised Elephant we leave the perfection of our home and cross the island to another version of perfection through paddys, past road side temples, and a cremation. We watch vignettes of island life out the window of the rickshaw on our way to Beach Number 7. It has been listed as the second most beautiful beach in the world.

No matter how many times we come to visit him the elephant remains a mystery. Not even a foot print is discovered. We are told that when the British came to the Andamans they saw it was filled with timber and to transport it from one side of the island to the port they trained the elephants to swim the timber around. This is the last remaining swimming elephant. Our disappointment is rewarded with the view. Pure white sand is lapped by emerald green ocean waves, big enough to body surf on and big enough to nearly drown Paloma and I. Splashing about happily one day I don’t see the huge wave sneaking up on us. As it breaks almost in front of us we are thrown under the water, rolling round and round, I clutch her slippery body with all my might and loose my favourite sun glasses in the fray. Lucky she had her floaties on!  We come out of the water gasping for breath. ‘Wasn’t that fun?!?’ I splutter and she nodes her head in agreement. After that it seems any fears she had of the ocean have dissapeared and she races into the waves, falling down and coming out yelling ‘I went under! Under the sea!’ Otie follows her and  they race back in giggling their heads off to do it again.

When you are in ‘Paradise’ you are aware how easily it can turn into hell. The Emerald Gecko looks surprisingly similar to the guest house Ben and I stayed at on Boxing Day 2004 when the Tsunami hit and we ran for our lives. A week before we arrived in The Andamans a tsunami warning had been sent out. I am always on the look out for the highest hill and the most sturdy building, just in case. We didn’t experience any Tsunami but everyone seems to be struck by some sickness. Otis has a mysterious vomiting bug. Paloma looks like a pirate with conjunctivitis in both eyes. I lose my voice and the only one holding it together is Lisa.

After we have eaten dinner and the kids have terrorised the dogs, entertained the other travellers and then turn on each other we creep through the palm forest. We stop and look up at the milky way twinkling above us through the fronds. We all pile into the double bed under the mosquito net and the fan, which sounds like a helicopter about to take off, and fall asleep in a tangle of limbs all finding their spot like pieces in a puzzle.

Geckos chirrup, the children have re named all the dogs, black butterflies dance in the sun, we lose days and find others. Making friends with the local fisher men the children are rewarded with pet fish. And they teach the kids all about life and death. Paloma is ecstatic when she is given a small silvery fish to play with, it flips and flaps around in her hands until they teach her how to hold it properly. Soon it stoops flapping and she is even happier that she can now carry it round for a few hours…eeeew!

We return to the Magic Beach in the last hopeful attempt at having a ride on the elephant. He is still a no show. We return to our favourite coconut seller witht he filthy tee shirt and select two huge coconuts to take home with us. We entree on the delicious coconut meat as we ride back to The Emerald Gecko for our Last Supper in the rickshaw. The sky shows off with a spectacular swirling psychedelic affair over the green mountain, fields and groves. Fire flies flicker in the trees and a new moon hangs silvery in the sky. We send our love to dad who is in Afghanistan by wishing on the biggest brightest star in the sky we have now re named Paloma star.

About Kaspia

Kaspia's Cuba

I’m Kaspia, a stylist and traveller from Sydney, Australia.

Before I could crawl, I travelled. My parents carried me. They camped with me. They crossed borders with me. I still like spaghetti from a tin. But I also developed a very early appetite for adventure, discovery and learning about ways other people in the world spend their days, decorate their living spaces and adorn themselves.

Before my husband Benjamin Gilmour and I had our children, we embarked on many exciting travels, from motorbike journeys across Indian deserts, to daring escapades on the Pakistani frontier. Now we are happy to say our young daughter Paloma and son Romeo already have dozens of stamps peppering the pages of their passports.

Anthropology is not just for academics. By way of journal entries and Instagram images, I hope to share with you my ‘travels in style’, my exploration of the varied ways in which humans express themselves in their environments and through personal beautification. I also hope to encourage those who hesitate to travel with young children, that it’s not only possible to take them with you, but despite the challenges the experience can be truly amazing and one of the greatest gifts you can give.


Sisters are doing it for themselves!

My fabulous sister Lisa has arrived in Delhi with my nephew Otis. We cover them in marigold garlands and annoint them with the red pigment sindu as soon as they burst from the departure gates and into our arms. As we bounce along the highway Paloma and Otis, are ecstatic to see each other and kiss and cuddle in the back of the Ambassador taxi into Delhi. Who knows how long that will last!

Ben is heading to Afghanistan for a ‘Boy’s Own’ adventure and I thought it would be great to visit the south of India on a ‘Girl’s own’ adventure with Lisa. And the kids, of course! We are sad our other wonderful sister Ainsley can’t join us, but hopefully she can next time with more kids in tow. Lisa is writing a blog about her foodie finds through the USA, Mexico and Europe and is on the first leg of her 5 month family sabbatical. Matt, her husbando, is on a Caravan of Comics (hyperlink) traveling through the USA.



Sisters are doing it for themselves! We wonder if we are mad, taking two under three year olds through India with us, probably but you have to give it go, right?

Our days are spent buzzing round dirty Delhi, feasting on Mughali food at famous Karims and exploring Old Delhi, getting mobbed by everyone for photos of our blondies at the Jama Masjid and relaxing in the lovers quarters of the Lodi gardens.

Before Ben leaves he takes the kids for one night while Lisa and I run through the streets and markets, shopping and getting our hands and feet hennad. The kids love our weird and kooky hotel Anoop and are fast becoming friends with the boys who live in the hotel, these boys break their backs to give you a hand with anything you need. The Indian service is second to none. After a few days in Delhi I can already see that Lisa is a natural, taking India in her stride.

The Taj Mahal is the seventh wonder of the world and as horrible as Agra is, being filled with dodgy touts, dirty streets and tourist walahs begging for your rupees, it all contrasts starkly with the beauty of this magnificent building. I still believe that no trip to India is complete without seeing the Taj Mahal. After a 3 hour drive from Delhi to Agra we have a dip in the pool at our hotel and head to the Taj for sunset.

The Taj Mahal building is as stunning as always, surrounded by lush manicured gardens and flanked on each side by identical red sandstone mosques. Lisa and I are love with it and can imagine it in its former glory. It was originally built is a mausoleum in 1632 by emperor Shah Jahan in the memory of his third wife Mumtaz Mahal. She demanded he build the most magnificent tomb for her, as every wife deserves.

One would think that by being surrounded by all this splendour and tranquility; the gardens, the white marble made soft over time by the millions of hands and feet seeking meaning in this ‘ode to love’, that the place would be peaceful and calm. On this occasion however the experience was a little more challenging than last time; with 38 degree heat and non-stop requests by Indian Tourists wanting ‘snaps’ of Paloma and Otis. We were stopped at every carved flower, at each minaret all around the tomb . One or two ‘snaps’  is ok. But the people wanted more and more. We stop for one and a crowd soon forms and everyone then is asking for a photo with our children as if they are celebrities!

The children have their own ways of declining these offers. Even when Otis is ‘blasting’ them with his ‘rocket powered arm and Paloma is rolling on the ground flashing her nappy, they still don’t get ‘NO!’ Otie is very vocal in his dislike of ‘snaps’ and Paloma loves pulling silly faces at them when they beg for a smile. Somehow we manage 2 minutes on our own to absorb a brief lull of peace and love and then we are out of there and head back to dusty Delhi.

Our itinerary had originally been to travel to Kerala for our adventure, but we are told it is scorching hot down there already and would be too much for the kids. At the last minute we decide to change our plans. Instead we decide to visit a place that turns out to be ‘paradise on earth’.