Monday, 26 October 2015

Sand, Shipwrecks, Seals and Spitzkoppe ( A look back at my African Adventure 2010)

 Our trip out of Swakopmund, Namibia, was delayed a short while as we waited for a spare part for the truck but now we are on our way travelling through an endless landscape of golden sand.  The scenery is flat and featureless so we spend the time chatting, joking and dozing in the truck. 

Our truck in the Namib Desert - sand as far as the eye can see

A shipwreck on Namibia's Skeleton Coast
   We stop at the lower reaches of the Skeleton Coast and walk across the sand to view a ship wrecked trawler.  A fairly recent wreck it is an eerie sight, through the mist, as it wallows abandoned at the edge of the breakers.  The Skeleton Coast is named for the bleached whale and seal bones scattered along its length but it is also infamous for the number of ship wrecks that have occurred there over the years.  The combination of an 
inhospitable climate, constant rolling surf and regular sea fogs have made the coast fearsome for sailors and the subject of myth and legend. 

Seals millions of them - smelly!
We can smell our next stop before we even see it.  This is the Cape Cross seal colony, home to approximately 80,000 seals.  At first it is hard to discern them  but as we get closer they become a seething mass lying on the rocks.  A walkway takes us right up to, over, and around them.  It is quite a sight to see but I keep a perfumed wipe over my nose the whole way. Cape Cross was named by Diego Cao, a Portuguese explorer who landed there in 1486 and planted a cross on the spot. We eat lunch a little further up the coast beside great crashing waves and several of us run into the icy water to have, at least, a paddle in the Atlantic. 
The stunningly beautiful Spitzkoppe

After lunch we head inland again, pass through the strangle little settlement of Hientjes Bay, built entirely on sand, and after a while the scenery begins to change.  There is more vegetation and in the distance we can see large red mountain peaks rising out of the Namib desert.  We are heading to Spitzkoppe, the highest at 1728 metres and will camp there over night.  Spitzkoppe, like the other mountains in this area is 700 million years old, solid granite and referred to as the Matterhorn of Namibia because it has a similar shape to the Swiss mountain.  As we arrive at the entrance to the camp site our truck becomes deeply bogged in sand.  We all climb out and the men in our group start digging the truck out.  After several attempts at freeing it, and with the help of a good push from everyone, the truck is free and we continue on to camp.  We drive between the giant red mountains and into a canyon to our stunning camp site.  There are no facilities here, no water or showers and just a long drop toilet but we are all awe struck by the setting and after pitching our tents set out to explore it. 

We spot several hyrax or dassies basking on the rocks.  They are a very cute little animal, a cross between a guinea pig and a rabbit.  We clamber about over the rocks and pose to photograph our own version of rock drawings.  We sit on the warm red rock and watch the sun go down behind the mountains.  The sun is always a bright red ball as it goes down in this part of Africa but we have noticed the colour does not really spread across the sky.  We spend the most magical evening, sitting around the camp fire, chatting and singing and telling stories.  We are in the wilderness and it is wonderful.  The stars in the sky are spectacular.

We make our own rock drawings

Our magnificent campsite

View from our tent

Monday, 19 October 2015

Fiji - a Holiday or a Holiday?

There are two types of holidays. There is the "travel-to-exotic-location-and-see-as-much-as-you-can" holiday and then there is the relaxing, laid back "holiday" holiday. As an addicted traveller I love both. Recently I was thrilled to be invited to share a  "holiday" holiday in Fiji with my son and his family and what a joy it was.

The plan was simply to kick back, relax, enjoy the warmth, the surroundings and have some quality family time.  The plan worked, it was an absolute delight.
View from our villa
Our week was spent at the Sheraton Villas on Denerau Island just out of Nadi. The villas are very large, with kitchen and laundry facilities, ideal when you are travelling with two young children.  Ours had a romantic view of the sea framed by softly waving palm trees and  overlooking one of the swimming pools. When the children were asleep we spent long hours on our deck admiring the view, people watching, reading, drinking wine and chatting.
Oh, Look!  I think we may have ordered some cocktails.
 Denerau is almost exclusively a resort area with several hotels lining the beach frontage joined by a pretty seaside pathway. The Sheraton and adjoining Westin Hotel belong to the same umbrella company so that guests at one can use all the facilities at both. Blessed with a week of glorious weather our days kicked off with long, lazy, sumptuous breakfasts at the Sheraton, Master Three's eyes popping as he surveyed the vast buffet selection and then settled on pretty much what he normally eats, such is the nature of a three year old.  Over breakfast we discussed  plans for the day, pressing things like which pool of the many would we swim at, where would we go for a walk and where would we eat dinner.  Some times we took the Bula Bus for a tour around the island or to the Denerau Port shopping centre. One evening we had a memorable, waterside, meal at Nadina Authentic Fijian Restaurant there, my lobster chowder was sublime, and later we watched dancers from many Pacific nations perform in the town square. Another day we took the village bus into Nadi to shop for fruit and vegetables at the market. Master Three kept the other passengers amused with his delighted whoops as we passed over bridges and under palm trees.

Fire Dancers with their small fan
My own coconut drink!

 He was enthralled by the fire dancers who performed in the evenings at various hotels insisting that we watch them again and again. One day my son and I spent a pleasurable hour at the Denarau Golf Course driving range  followed by a tasting of Fiji's own delicious rum.  The golf club is also an ideal place to eat as a family with expansive views over the  course and very reasonably priced family type meals.

 Master Three was spell bound by the Fijian man who climbed  coconut trees to collect the fruit and then offered him one, complete with straw, so he could enjoy drinking its sweet and refreshing nectar.  But small children are easy to entertain, playing in the playground, feeding the prolific schools of fish near the shore with bread, watching the toads who come out in the  evening and hop around the resort, and, best of all, swimming. One day Master Three went on a fishing tour  with his dad but generally we simply relaxed with a capital "R"

Glorious Denarau sunset, Sheraton, a travel brochure cliché, but true. 
The Fijians are known to be a lovely, warm, happy people who will never pass you by without a  cheery "Bula" greeting.  I'm sure you've heard of "babe magnets", well my eight month old grand daughter was a "magnet babe" to the child loving Fijians who lined up for cuddles with her, even our apartment cleaner rushed off to get her friend to come and admire her. 
I can take any amount of this love and admiration!
 It was a marvellous holiday. None of us wanted to return home, however, sadly, holidays do eventually end and I guess that's partly what makes them so good. They are a relaxing break from normal life.  We all said, rather half heartedly, that if that was normal life you wouldn't appreciate it so much but then quickly agreed we wouldn't mind testing that theory!  We returned home refreshed, completely contented and very relaxed I highly recommend a
" holiday" holiday every now and then.

Monday, 12 October 2015

Easy Recipes for Maori Food (Kai)

Our week in Rotorua has inspired me to revisit some Maori recipes I had tucked away in my recipe folder.  They are simple, straight forward and delicious.  Try them, you won't be disappointed.



400gms floury potatoes, 300gms plain flour, 55gms caster sugar

Peel and slice the potatoes and then cook in boiling water until tender.  Drain and mash until smooth.  Cool and place in a large container - it will expand as it ferments.
Add the flour and sugar and mix to form a dough-like consistency.  Cover with a fitting lid and leave in a warm place to ferment. 24 hours should be sufficient in warm weather but it may take up to three days in cold weather.  It is ready when it begins to swell  and bubble.


1 cup of starter, 350gms plain flour, 110gms caster sugar, 125mls hot water, 1tbsp melted butter

Place the starter in a bowl with the flour, sugar and hot water.  Stir to form a dough and then knead for several minutes until smooth.  Grease a 1 litre pan with butter and place the dough inside.  Cover and set aside in a warm place until doubled in size.  Preheat oven to 180c and bake bread in the oven for 45 minutes.  Remove from oven, brush with melted butter and return to oven for another 15 minutes.

Rewena Paraoa


Paua, also known as abalone, is considered to be a taonga or special treasure by the Maori.  The spectacular shells are used as eyes in the carvings in meeting houses and are also widely used in the New Zealand souvenir market for jewellery and ornaments etc.

1 chopped onion
6 paua or abalone, Shell the paua, chop into small pieces and then mince, preferably in an old fashioned mincer.
Combine 1 cup of flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1 teaspoon of salt and 1 egg.
Add the minced paua and the chopped onion and some finely chopped parsley and combine
Add 1 cup of milk or more if required to make a smooth batter.
Fry in tablespoon lots oil at a low temperature

Paua shell


This has to be one of the easiest puddings ever and is delicious.  Any left overs can be sliced and eaten like bread the following day.  There are no specific measurements required.

Take some kumara, I prefer golden kumara but any type will do and if you don't have kumara use any type of sweet potato.
Peel and grate the kumara and spread in a greased oven proof dish.
Sprinkle with sugar.
Cover the surface with thick slices of kumara to prevent the grated kumara from hardening.
Bake for 1 hour at 180C or 350F

That's it!  Simple as!  Serve with custard, cream or ice cream.  Enjoy!

These three recipes together make up an authentic Maori meal which can be made anywhere in the world.  Hope you have fun experimenting with them.
Kumara ready for grating

Monday, 5 October 2015

Rotorua - Boiling mud, steaming pools and glorious lakes

Prince of Wales Geyser and Pohutu Geyser  (photo: Destination Rotorua)
I can't believe I haven't written about Rotorua before since it is one of my favourite places.  It is the first place I ever visited with my husband as part of our honeymoon, we  took the children there countless times and I still visit at least once a year. Judging by the whoops of delight coming from the back of the car I think it might  now be one of my grandson's favourites too.  Little boys delight in the sulphurous smell that permeates the town.  It gives them all sorts of excuses to make rude jokes, not that small boys need excuses.  That aside, my grandson, born in England, had never experienced a town so unique, a town where random pools of boiling mud are fenced off for visitors' safety and steam wafts out of roadside gratings, where Maori culture is a vital part of the town's fabric, where the city is surrounded by picturesque lakes  and where you can while away a whole winter's afternoon in steaming thermal pools.
The Marae or meeting house at Whakarewarewa village
We are in Rotorua as a family group, consisting of myself, my two sons and their families. One son is visiting from England and as it is winter in New Zealand  Rotorua is the best place to go for a family break.  Rainy, cold weather doesn't matter in Rotorua,  there is still plenty to do.
My awe struck  grandsons at the concert Whakarewarewa
Our first day is spent at the Maori village of Whakarewarewa, built right in the heart of the thermal area.  The small boys are fascinated by the steaming hot pools where the villagers cook their meals by lowering pots and baskets into the water and by the mesmerising plopping of the boiling mud pools. We wander through the village to view the Marae (meeting house) and, from a safe distance, the  impressive Pohutu Geyser shooting rockets of boiling water into the air, before taking  our seats in the small village hall for a Maori cultural concert.  The children are entranced by the performance and enjoy re-enacting the haka (war dance) at home later in the day.
Swan, trout and pristine pools at Rainbow Springs
Our second day is spent at the beautiful Rainbow Springs.  We wander beside pristine trout pools fed by springs and shaded by lush native bush.  The huge trout swim in lazy, contented circles, waiting to be fed, as mute swans glide above. We view the nocturnal kiwi in a darkened pavilion and the prehistoric tuatara (native lizard) before enjoying the spectacle of well trained  native birds in the bird show. Then it's time for the water ride, a ride which meanders through recreated prehistoric times and some early history of New Zealand before plummeting down a steep chute accompanied by our squeals and screams and a few tears, from the little one.  The children, big and small, love it and have several turns, even the little one who had cried.
My son and grandson at the top of the gondola, Lake Rotorua in the background
Fun on the luge
The next day we take the gondola to the top of Mount Ngongotaha, a thrilling ride offering panoramic views of Lake Rotorua and the city.  Excellent and all as the gondola ride is the main purpose in going up the mountain is to ride the luge which winds down the mountain side. My sons and  grandsons absolutely revel in it, whooping with delight as they hurtle down the hillside, catching their breath on the chairlift back to the top in time for another ride.

Our rented lakeside house is in a magic location and the children enjoy feeding the ducks each morning while the adults linger over cups of coffee.  The afternoons are spent wallowing in the thermal hot pools at Polynesian Spa.  On our final day we take a drive out to Lake Tarawera, a serene and awe inspiring place and stop to admire the Blue and Green lakes. Both lakes can be seen from a viewing point and are different colours.   Reluctant to leave Rotorua we head back into town for lunch at  Eat Streat, a covered street lined with restaurants and a great new addition to the Rotorua dining scene. And then, sadly, it's time to head home
Feeding the wild life at our lakeside accommodation
We have had a wonderful time..   I can't think of a better place we could have gone for a family trip.  Rotorua is crammed with attractions.  We only managed a few of them on this trip but that's good because we now have an excuse to take the children back. 
Oh, and the weather? - perfect for three of the four days!
Mysterious and peaceful, Lake Tarawera