Driving to Oriental, North Carolina I was almost convinced that I was lost since the track was getting less populated while there was an abundance of greenery.
After a good five-hour drive along the spectacular Neuse River, we met our dear friend Diane who awaited us outside her beautiful garden. I was thrilled to see her and jumped out of the van.
Tucked away in the charming southern coast of North Carolina, this quaint town is a breathtaking place, so I along with a group of photographers planned on exploring the town for a week.
This was my first trip to the southern part of the United States, and the time spent turned out to be memorable, exploring the area and nearby towns including New Bern, Morehead City and Beaufort.
All the marshes, beaches, islands, creeks, rivers and marinas in every corner were already a treat for me but spending time with my mentor of 15 years, Diane was the cherry on the cake. Among the 900 or so people that make up the population of Oriental, most are friendly, laid-back retired folks. They are a pleasure to talk to and have fun with, their years of experience and stories kept me engaged throughout. They were keen on learning about Pakistan and our culture, and of course first-hand contact is the best way of understanding culture.
The 266 miles of navigable waters in Pamlico County gave me endless opportunity to be adventurous. It started from Diane’s beautiful butterfly garden and birdwatching with her in the wilds and continued on to strolling along the beaches, exploring marinas, museums, little craft stores, and ferry rides.
I figured activities in Oriental revolve around water – everything that has to do with aquatics can be experienced here. It was delightful even though coming from Karachi, I have a natural connection with the sea as a lot of my activities at home revolved around the various beaches.
Oriental is also known as North Carolina’s sailing capital so there are sailing clubs every where. With over 50 marinas in town there are competitions and events coming up regularly. Water sports like sailing, cruising, kayaking, canoeing, fishing goes on all year round.
One fine evening Bill Hines, one of the wonderful residents of Oriental, lend me his terrific kayaking boat and his team of six paddlers encouraged me to paddle my first kayak into the calm waters of Green Creek. That was one evening which I will always remember and cherish as it was followed by a dreamy sunset, leading to a spectacular moonrise that reflected in the pristine waters – the serenity of it all is what stunned me.
The next day was like a painting set on Wordsworth’s poetry; collecting seashells and walking on Shackleford Island reminded me of nature’s impactful beauty – what an artist the mighty Creator is!
Soon after, it was about to rain; the dark clouds had gathered and the cool air made it a little risky to be on the beach that day, but we made it in time to get the ferry back to the coast.
Real happiness emanates from small things in life, and I was reminded of this when I washed my bagful of seashells and felt giddy with happiness just like a little girl would feel.
Being coastal, this town has the freshest seafood I ever had. On one of the afternoons, I even managed to choose some shrimps and scallops from the fresh catch of the day just out of a fishing trawler. Then I spent the evening cooking a meal for my host, her family and friends from the village. The culinary engagement did not stop here; I baked a few loaves and shared recipes with the people, and had some meaningful food conversations with them.
The small family-style restaurants in the town served some of the choicest seafood menu at a very reasonable cost, which literally made me feel like I was in a seafood heaven.
The classic village life is very relaxing as I strolled around the beautiful homes, flowers and shady trees, stopping here and there for a quick chat while giving a howdy to the friendly people who never made me feel like a tourist. It was like one big family where everyone knew everybody and cared for each other, but just lived in different houses.
Nature, food and community is the spirit of Oriental which made me fall in love with it instantly. When we think of village life, we think of a lack of technology and facilities but around the world villages offer some of the best cultural immersion experiences especially, ones close to nature, that us, the city folks are often deprived of.
Farah is a Project Director, Education consultant, traveller, blogger, trainer, photojournalist, health supportive cook, a nutrition coach, food writer, tech junkie. For more travel blogs from Farah follow her on Instagram and Twitter @fskamal.