Sunday, 26 April 2015

Time to Celebrate! - 25,000 views of this blog!

 Celebration Time!!!

Sometime, during the night while I was sleeping in the land "down under", this blog had it's 25,000th viewing and I am delighted, thrilled, and proud!  A great big thank you to each and everyone of my readers, you make the effort I put in to writing it so worth while.

I enjoy blogging for a number of reasons.  Here are some of them in no particular order:

  •   I love to share the places I've been and the things I've done. 
  •  Having a blog makes me get out, do things and explore this wonderful world in order to have things to write about. 
  •  It is greatly satisfying to present the wonders of New Zealand,  from time to time, to readers all over the world
  •  I enjoy writing
  •  I also enjoy photography
  •  The connection to people in all four corners of the globe is stimulating and exciting
  •  I hope that my blog is helpful for fellow travelers and adventurers

Those are the few I can think of right now, there are sure to be others.

A blank page, already to go!
So thank you again and to show my appreciation I have two small gifts of New Zealand speciality chocolate to give away.  One to the first overseas reader to send me their details by email and one to the first New Zealand reader to send me their details by email.

  My email address is:

I love feedback so please feel free to post comments at the end of any posts you read.

 In a few weeks time I am off  on an exciting adventure which I will, of course, blog about. 
 Happy travels everyone! 

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Feijoa - Autumn's delicious bounty. Plus some easy recipes

Feijoa harvest
Autumn is my favourite season.  In New Zealand it brings still sunny days, mild temperatures and, in Auckland,  a stunning glass like harbour reflecting a clear azure sky.   It is perfect weather to be out walking, admiring the russet and golden leaves falling from the trees and, above all, for eating feijoas.  I love feijoas so anticipate their season with relish each year.  I gorge on them, make jam, chutney, sauces with them, or simply scoop out their flesh to freeze  ready for lots of warm wintery crumbles to be eaten with ice cream or custard.  Hmmmmm, my mouth is watering just thinking about it.

Jelly like in the centre and slightly gritty around the edge
The exotic flavoured feijoa, sometimes known as pineapple guava, is a native of South America which thrives in the New Zealand climate.  Few New Zealand children grow up without a feijoa tree in their back yard and a ready supply of free fruit just waiting to be eaten.  Feijoa fruit matures in autumn and is ready to eat when it has fallen from the tree. When ripe it is about the size of an egg with opaque flesh in the middle, which becomes jelly like when ripe, and a slightly gritty outer flesh near the skin.  The most popular way to eat a feijoa is to cut it in half and scoop the flesh out with a spoon. It is perfect on cereal for breakfast and handy and compact in a lunch box, although as far as I'm concerned one feijoa is never enough.
My Roasted Feijoa Chutney and clear, golden, Feijoa Jelly

I have spent the last week in my kitchen cooking up a storm.  I have made feijoa jelly, roasted feijoa chutney and feijoa sauce.  I have also frozen pulped feijoas and, of course eaten heaps along the way.

If, you are lucky enough to have any feijoas here are a couple of very easy recipes:

500gms feijoa
1/3 cup of sugar
2 tablespoons of water
50 - 75gms crystallised ginger
2 teaspoons cornflour
2 tablespoons of sherry or ginger wine
1. Place first 4 ingredients in a microwave proof bowl, cover and cook for 5 minutes, stirring well after 3 minutes
2. Mix cornflour with wine and cook another 2 minutes to thicken.  Total cooking time 7 minutes
This is delicious over ice cream and can be frozen for later use.

Feijoa sauce in the jug
1.Scoop out the flesh of a pile of feijoas (no set weight but try and have at least a kilo)
2.Simmer  gently in a pot until very soft . You do not need to add water as they are juicy but make sure you have the heat very low to start with.
3.Pour the pulp into a muslin cloth and hang to drip into a bowl overnight.  Do not be tempted to squeeze the bag at any stage as this will make the jelly cloudy.
4.The next day measure the juice from the bowl into a pot and add one cup of sugar for every one cup of juice.
5.Bring to the boil and boil rapidly until setting point is reached.
6.You can tell if it is at setting point by putting a teaspoon of the jelly onto a saucer and letting it cool.  Then drag your finger through the middle of the jelly. If the surface wrinkles it is ready.
7.Pour it into jars you have sterilised in the oven for half an hour at 120Degrees C
The lids can be sterilised in boiling water. Seal while still hot.
Enjoy!!  Now I must go and have my morning treat - feijoas, of course!!


Monday, 6 April 2015

Namibia - A hike up Dune 45

In 2010 I had the adventure of a lifetime in Africa, visiting South Africa, Namibia, Botswana and Zambia.  I recounted this trip in and have decided to make occasional revisits to it here.

Among the spectacular sand dunes of the Namib desert
The Sossusvlei area of the Namib desert, in Namibia, is famous for its mountainous red sand dunes which stretch as far as the eye can see. With the ever changing play of light and shadows  across their folds and planes they are a photographer's delight.  Dune 45, at 170 metres tall, is not the tallest of the dunes  but is one of the few tourists  are permitted to climb.  Climbing to the top to watch the sunrise over the spectacular landscape is a "must do" activity needing an early, and, uh oh, it's the desert after all, a freezing cold, start.   By 6am we were sitting in our bus, bundled up like Michelin men, raring to go. Then, at what seemed like breakneck speed, we were off on the 40 minute drive  to get to the Dune and climb it before sunrise.  Like a bunch of over excited school kids we cheered and whopped when our driver overtook a couple of tourist buses on the way, encouraging him "Go, Ronney!" ...everyone was making the mad dash, it seemed. It was still eerily dark when, along with around a hundred other people, we started the silent climb.  Sweet, we thought, how hard can it be to climb a dune?  Very hard as it turns out! Every step sank deeply into the soft fine sand which soon filled my boots and I felt increasingly like a fat, unfit, life long smoker as I huffed and puffed my way up the steep ridge.  Note: Some people recommend climbing the dune in socks

Our group hiking in the Namib amongst the sand mountains

Boy was I grateful when someone up ahead stopped every so often for a breather giving us all a chance to catch our breath, rather nonchalantly,  of course, pretending that we could carry on if that person up front didn't keep stopping!  Finally we got there and sat with our legs dangling over the sharp ridge waiting for the sun to rise.  I noticed a group ahead of us facing in the wrong direction and called out to them.  It was amusing to watch their mad scramble to turn around without slipping down the slopes.

I did it!  The tiny specs at the top are people.  It's quite a climb!

At last an enormous red sun  appeared slowly from behind the mountain range, unfortunately rather muted for us due to heavy cloud cover but still spectacular nevertheless.  Then it was time to head down again and after plodding for a while we decided to just go for it and run and slide down the slope. We arrived at the bottom euphoric - proud to have achieved the climb and bubbling with the exhilaration and fun of the descent.

At the bottom Ronney had set out a delicious breakfast for us which we munched on contentedly while watching other people, like so many tiny ants, climb  and descend the dune.  Ronney, our guide, a Namibian born and bred,  had a wonderful knowledge of the wildlife and terrain of Namibia so  I asked him during breakfast how many times he had climbed Dune 45.  He smiled and told me he had never climbed it "Because it looks too hard"!   

A welcome breakfast in Namibia...I'm seated 4th from right