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December 14, 2021
I know it’s our industry cliché. But it’s not the only thing we talk about in the salon. Hairdressers acquire quite a range of knowledge through their clients. Even the late George Burns quipped, “all the people that know how to run the country are too busy driving cabs and cutting hair”. And of course, he was serious. 😀
Save the last two years, travel’s been a big part of my life whether for business, pleasure or general discovery. Perhaps the wanderlust came from my Greek mother who took us back to live there every summer. Or her father who used to trade across Europe and the Middle East and spent much of his time on ships from Egypt through to Russia.
From my grandmother’s house in Athens, we would venture out to tour the Greek islands. Always by slow boat as the new hydrofoils were too expensive, and then by beaten up old taxis from the ‘40s or ‘50s, or by foot, or by donkey up to the mountain monasteries my mother loved to visit. We’d have to kiss the icons (pre-COVID), light the candles and keep quiet, knowing we’d soon be let loose to the beach. One island had 365 churches – a different venue for each day of the year. Thankfully my mother had her favourites.
The newer taxis were influenced by the 1950's space race and had fins on the back. We kids would bundle into the back of those ignoring where the taxi was in the rank. My mother was good at diffusing punch-ups between the drivers. A flirtatious apology meant we rarely had to get out and take the beaten jalopy at the front of the line.
But in answer to the headline question, have I been anywhere nice? Emphatically YES! I’ve stayed in some truly wonderful hotels in big exciting cities, ambassadorial residences and palaces on Royal tours, and travelled expanses of wilderness with barely a soul to disturb the echoes of nature. These are my favourite retreats, with a quiet luxury back-up to soothe and spoil after a hard day’s exploration, a sense of eco-deluxe. This new series of travel blogs will document some of them.
Raw, verdant and a little bit spooky, primeval forests are such a draw for me. This trip turned out to be a bit of research and discovery on the grooming habits of one of our nearest relatives, the silverback mountain gorilla. There are only 700 left in the world now but concerted efforts at protecting them have stabilised their numbers. Their home, the Virunga Mountain territory sits at the junction of three countries, Uganda, Rwanda and Congo.
We entered from the Ugandan side into the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. Only 8 passes a day are granted to track one gorilla group, which may take 3-6 hours to find with the trained rangers. Trekking through the jungle with our small party; machete men at the front, Kalashnikovs at the rear, reminded me of the old black and white Tarzan films I used to love watching on a Saturday morning.
These captivating animals were quite accepting of us disturbing their peace. A few are semi-habituated to humans through the protective efforts of the rangers and we sat amongst them to observe their behaviour. When they’re not swinging around, and it’s amazing how agile the 500lb adult males are, they groom each other to promote wellbeing and social cohesion.
I think the closest we get to that nowadays is through our hairdressers. In physiological terms, the head is one of the two hub areas of the body where the parasympathetic nervous system exits the spine. Nerves radiate out across the head, which when touched stimulate the system to activate natural healing. Primates use touch to soothe, and when not eating or resting, spend their time grooming each other, promoting further relaxation.
So the feeling of wellbeing when having your hair done is not just because we make you look and feel so strikingly attractive, or even the joy from being in the midst of our lovely stylists...it’s also due in part to this parasympathetic nervous system being stimulated through touch of the nerve endings around the scalp, allowing systemic heal and repair. Being able to encourage that healing and blissful state, may also explain why hairdressing is regularly listed as the happiest profession.
The beautiful Clouds Mountain Lodge on the edge of the forest is a perfect retreat after an arduous trek. Set overlooking the borders of Congo and Rwanda, the mountain range has active volcanoes that glow on a clear night. They treated us to a mini earthquake at 3.00 am - their first quake for 18 months though normally a twice-yearly event, and whilst powerful, no one was hurt. We did notice some major cracks in the masonry next morning though.
Michael Van Clarke
June 06, 2022
June 03, 2022
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