Tuesday, 27 March 2012

African Food… a Recipe – Chakalaka...

This is possibly one of the best known, simplest and most disagreed-on recipes to come out of South Africa.  Essentially a recipe of the townships; miners and laborers could make this quick, cheap and easy dish to eat with their Stywe pap.  People will argue that it’s not derived from an ancient and noble African culture but it can boast origins in Johannesburg and Soweto and as such, is truly a food of the people.

 At its most basic level, Chakalaka is a mixture of fried onions, tomato and some curry powder and it is hot! Tinned baked beans were often added to the mix.  As the flavorful dish traveled further afield, other ingredients were added; with input from the traditional Dutch, Malay and Indian cuisines found around South Africa.  Almost everyone will agree with the basic tomato-onion mixture but after that, all bets are off. Many cooks use the basic mixture as a starting point for a flavorful curry or vegetarian casserole but that becomes another story… This is the version shown to me in those first difficult years as a new farm wife, living in the back of beyond. 
The Back of Beyond


60 ml canola oil
2 – 4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 – 2 chillies, seeds and membrane removed and finely chopped
3 onions, chopped
6 large ripe tomatoes, coarsely chopped (skinning the tomatoes was unheard of)
1 – 4 Tblsps curry powder
Salt and pepper to taste
Pinch of sugar - optional

Fry onions slowly in oil, until they are rich brown color, add garlic and chillies. Stir through the curry powder, if using. Add the tomatoes, mix well and bring to a brisk simmer.  At this point, reduce the heat and cook until the tomatoes are mushy and have formed a thick sauce; about ten to fifteen minutes. Stir every few minutes and if the liquid cooks away, add enough water to keep the mixture like a thick, chunky gravy. Adjust the seasoning and serve with Stywe Pap or rice or pasta or couscous or…

Chopped Tomatoes
Over time, many cooks have *improved* the original; here are some other ingredients that can be added (but not necessarily all together).
Canned Baked beans
Fresh ginger, grated
Green, red or yellow peppers, chopped
Vegetables; try baby squash, green beans, peas, carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes
Coriander or Cilantro 

Chakalaka is great on it's own, with a starch, but it's also awesome with barbequed or grilled meat, chicken and fish.

                  Hunger is the best sauce in the world.  ~Cervantes

Sunday, 25 March 2012

African Folktales...How the Zebra Got His Stripes...

Long, long ago when the earth and all the animals were new, there was a great drought; the sun was hot and the water had dried from all but the deepest pans and waterholes... This is now finally in book form, in the long version.

... Welcome to this folktale. Please go to Wildmoz to see all our new articles on African Folktales as they appear. We are publishing all our African Folktales in their full version in e-books for readers, PDFs, etc. as well as in hard copies. Keep a look out for these wonderful little stories for children and adults alike at Wildmoz Books. Collect for yourself a set of twelve, in the format of your choice...

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Big Five now Big Seven?

There’s a new phrase out there in the world of African wildlife.  Elephants are a source of endless fascination here; but places to visit them around the Cape…well, not so many.  But sometimes, a two or three day trip into the heartland just isn’t an option. With this in mind I started researching some Cape parks that once had elephants and discovered that one of the best; the Addo Elephant National Park had recently been expanded. Along with more land, it now boasts the *Big Seven*! Huh…

...Welcome to this post. Please go to Wildmoz to see all our new articles on wildlife as they appear. We are also publishing all our African Folktales in their full version in e-books for readers, PDFs, etc. as well as in ... Welcome to this post. Please go to Wildmoz to see all our new articles on wildlife as they appear. We are also publishing all our African Folktales in their full version in e-books for readers, PDFs, etc. as well as in hard copies. 

Keep a look out for these wonderful little stories for children and adults alike at Wildmoz.com. Collect for yourself a set of twelve, in the format of your choice, as and when they are available...


World Water Day

Imagine hauling your own water; the only well, miles away from your house. Imagine carrying it back home on your head over dusty tracks, no shade anywhere. It may not be sweet or refreshing having traveled the journey in an old container in the sun but it will still support life… And then, one day arriving at the well, you find it is dry…then what?

Hauling Water

 “World Water Day has been observed on 22 March since 1993 when the UN declared 22 March as World Day for Water and has grown significantly ever since; for people to show support, it is encouraged to not use taps throughout the whole day.”

                  "Filthy water cannot be washed."  ~African Proverb

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Saturday, 17 March 2012

An Irish Blessing for St Patricks Day

St Patrick
May the lilt of Irish laughter lighten every load,
May the mist of Irish magic shorten every road
May you taste the sweetest pleasures
that fortune ever bestowed,
And may all your friends remember
all the favours you are owed.

Go mbeannai Dia duit
(May God Bless You)

Irish Woods

Have a wonderful St. Patricks Day! And remember…

   Never do anything that you wouldn't want to explain to the
                                               paramedics.  ~ Anon

Please see our new site wildmoz.com

Friday, 16 March 2012

African Folktales...Cloud Eating (or How Hyena got her Limp)

My Gran would often tell me stories, repeating the ones from her own childhood. Some belonged to European tradition and some belonged to African tradition but they shared common goals and that was to explain or teach; and answer the endless "but why" questions, parents everywhere know all too well.

... Welcome to this folktale. Please go to Wildmoz to see all our new articles on African Folktales as they appear. We are publishing all our African Folktales in their full version in e-books for readers, PDFs, etc. as well as in hard copies. Keep a look out for these wonderful little stories for children and adults alike. Collect for yourself a set of twelve, in the format of your choice.



Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Attack by Land and Sea…

Seems like a lot of gloomy news coming from the world of wildlife this year and its only March! Three quarters of the year still left though…

It’s been a bad year for Dolphins and Rhinos… These are innocent creatures caught up in the relentless pursuit of money.  The terrible part is that the Rhino is killed for its horn and the body left for the carrion eaters.  For the Dolphin, it’s even worse; killed for greed…an innocent bystander accidentally trapped in fishing nets and discarded.

Black Rhino - Mother and Child

In confirmed figures recently released, a hundred rhinos were killed by poachers in the first two months of 2012, in South Africa alone. That's more than one Rhino a day...

Maui's Dolphins
The extremely endangered, New Zealand dolphin is the Maui's dolphin; the world's smallest and rarest dolphin has seen its population fall by half in the last seven years. Barely more than 20 breeding females survive, according to the NABU International Foundation for Nature.

Benguela Dolphins - Africa's Own
This Dolphin is cousin to our local Benguela Dolphins, I wrote about here
There are only two other species in the genus; The Chilean Dolphin, also known as the Black Dolphin, is only found off the coast of Chile and the Commerson's Dolphin, also known as the Skunk Dolphin, Piebald Dolphin or Panda Dolphin, off the southern coast of South America and the waters near the Kerguelen Islands. All four of these Dolphins have an extremely limited habitats close to shore making accidental killing in gill-nets a common occurrence.

Animals give me more pleasure through the viewfinder of a camera than they ever did in the cross-hairs of a gun-sight.  And after I've finished "shooting," my unharmed victims are still around for others to enjoy.  I have developed a deep respect for animals.  I consider them fellow living creatures with certain rights that should not be violated any more than those of humans. 
 ~ Jimmy Stewart

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Extreme Wildlife…

Embarking on our New (Old) Career...

This post should have happened yesterday but we’re busy building an awesome website and there were a couple of hiccups that had to be handled. Creating an extreme wildlife-experience website is a long-held dream realized, really a Cyberland manifestation of the game farm we once tried to create; a hugely exciting development for us. As our friends know, we encountered some detours and this is the road we have traveled to get here. 
Interestingly, the places we have lived in have defined our lives. Each one holds a piece of our hearts and still now shapes our views of the world.

LA Nights
For a city-dwelling, nightclubbing, South African career girl living in LA; marriage to a South African farmer, game and other, was the one choice that had not been part of my game (hahaha) plan. But to paraphrase the old Latin proverb, “A woman is not where she lives, but where she loves.” And so, without a clue as to what my new job might entail, I became a farmer’s wife! The culture shock was abysmal but once I realized that the days of salon manicures were over; I resigned myself to short, practical nails, and half the battle was won.

Capable Hands
In the time that followed, we developed our farm, introducing children and livestock in addition to the crops of maize, pumpkins, onions and feed grass. Over the years we raised sheep, cattle, horses and game with varying degrees of success but my personal favourites were the Dormer sheep and the Drakensberger cattle.

The children were fairly successful too; we seem to have got the hang of breeding them quite quickly but gender selection was a problem. Production was limited to sons only, despite the implementation of many “old wives tales” designed to swing the odds towards daughters. After four, we decided to call it a day and concentrate on making a future for the six of us. Fortunately, the livestock did not follow our example and produced for us a better ratio of male and female offspring and for a time life progressed, while not always smoothly, at least profitably.

Storm Over Farmland

As the political climate of our country changed in the ‘90’s, so did economic factors and (as in the EU and US), farming became ‘survival of the biggest’. To keep our heads above water and hold on to the family farm (started by M’s great grandfather in 1912), we had to diversify, developing the large homestead into a B & B and eventually introducing wildlife in a bid to attract the tourist trade. These measures worked for a while but as the situation worsened, it became clear that our African idyll was over. There was no future for us developing our dream, in the unfavourable area we found ourselves. Our ages were at odds with our ambitions and we turned our faces toward a new beginning. 

There followed a period of exile, consumed with learning and catching up with the world, then time spent in Scotland soothing our inner hermits – where Sunshine and Shadow began. The worst extreme longing for Africa and the pull of the familiar had receded to a manageable level, we thought; But when M had a heart attack, we had an epiphany of where we needed to be. As much as we loved Scotland, we needed our native land.
Scotland Near Loch Fyne Our Last Home
And so we came back…and on the way back, it became apparent that this yearning for our homeland was more than just a tidy theory. The appeal, the lure, that primal magnet was out there somewhere… out in the bush…out in the elements of life.  And, because it is more practical, for the time being we have compromised and I live with one stiletto in civilization, one boot in the wild… 

These Hills Are Alive...
And so this Blog is doing the same. Yes it’s a personal journal but it is also where I record our adventures and we develop our future as we settle back in Africa. Soon there will be our website because there’s so much to tell. With both families involved in wildlife, going back generations and an endless resource of photographs, true stories and tales as numerous as the ants on the ground; there will be folklore and food, people, places, wildlife and wonders at every turn. New material is arriving daily and if there isn’t enough, we’ll go out and find it. We hope to change any negative perceptions about Africa; one dung beetle at a time…

…And because the greatest, lasting impact on our lives has happened away from the developed world and its unrelenting torture of the tender human spirit…comes the area closest to both our hearts…The wild…


Thursday, 8 March 2012

If You Go Down in the Woods Today…

We stayed in the mountains two days longer than we intended…Any longer, and I don’t think we’d have got out. Something primal in those hills and valleys links to something deep inside us – life’s reduced to food and shelter and all else is so far removed from reality, that little besides seems of much consequence.

Knysna Loerie (Tauraco) - Lives in the Forests
I don’t think we’ll get D and P visiting our side of the country too soon - they stay cloistered in their mountain hideaway, custodians of the fauna and flora. P feeds the wild birds that come into the garden; wild birds that have no fear of people here, have free range of the house, knowing there will be tit-bits to find and they fly in and out freely.  We got used to finding strange birds rootling around the breakfast table and in the dog dish. This doesn’t seem to bother the resident canine – he’s as laid back as his people...

Laid Back Outeniqua Canine

Sunrise Over the Main Garden
We only drove out some days, exploring the terrain and enjoying the fynbos as the proteas came into flower…Despite our hopes of bundu to bash, the ‘Cruiser basically had a holiday…Most of the *bundu bashing* was done on foot.  All the proteas, ericas and other bushy plants made game spotting an exercise in tracking. Then, most game here is quite small, a Cape Grysbok is only about twenty inches tall, the Common Duiker about the same, with the Klipspringer (shoulder height 21 – 22 inches) the largest of the three. 
Klipspringer (Rock Jumper)
Waking up every day in this gigantic natural garden – mile upon mile of flowering shrubs and bushes, was awesome. As the sun spread across the countryside, steam would rise from plants dripping with dew, releasing sweet odours everywhere. Go out beyond the garden, boots crunching on the gravel and the dirt tracks showed who (or what) had been out and about during the night. 
We never did see the baboons that gave me such a fright, although evidence of their activity was all around; missing vegetables, droppings on the ground, tracks in the sand and their barking cry heard in the distance.   

Cape Genet
 After dark, Cape Eagle owls hunted near the house, using the roof as a rest stop. Dark also brought the stealthy Cape Genets, hiding elusively in the shadows, hunting rodents, and the nights were almost as busy as the days.
The weather stayed brilliant; all the stormy petulance and freezing tantrums gone. Night skies, sharp and clear, gave way to days so bright they hurt the unprotected eye.

Cape Eagle Owl - My, What Big Eyes You Have!
Early morning and dusk were the most successful times of the day to see game (this is true all over). The smaller creatures, scurrying about everywhere, were harder to spot but they at least gave us a chance by being around most of the day. This great garden was alive with…life…everywhere. 

Outeniqua 'Cruiser
And, as happens with all the paradises we visit, we eventually had to leave…Back to the realities of our lives. With the ‘Cruiser packed and plenty of daylight, we set off early one morning to tackle the tracks and trails back to the Plettenberg Bay road.  On the good side of noon, there was time to stop and poke around the river banks and enjoy the natural forests and the trip passed all too quickly.

Mossy, Fern Filled Cape Forest
Later that morning, as we left the last bit of tree shaded glen, damp with moss and leaf-mould, ferns lining the edges of the track; we marvelled that this natural habitat still thrived so close to civilization.  With the obligatory commercial forestry all around, these protected pockets have allowed the wilderness to spread, expanding into the empty spaces. As we left this special place, turning on the dirt road to the coast, we knew that, one day, we’d be back…


Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Wild Side Walkabout...Take II ?

There's three distinct layers of natural world here (like a parfait), each enhancing and supporting the other to make the perfect whole.This means, a heap of wildlife to see while the day lasts...

The Outeniqua Mountains
Hidden away in this mountain wilderness are other realms of nature. First off, the terrain is very different to the fairly flat savannah we're used to. Looking out over the lovely blue-green mountains at the start of the journey couldn't begin to prepare us for the reality. These deep valleys and open hillsides are as different as it gets but, technically they're one and the same place. In this landscape, unfamiliar is part of the lure and part of the problem; to really *see* the main attractions means lacing up the hiking boots and saddling up *shanks pony*. 

Bush Pig
Down in the forested valleys; patches of indigenous bush and trees are home to Cape leopard, Chacma Baboons, Bushbuck, Blue duiker, Cape Grysbuck and Bush pig, along with reptiles, small mammals and hundreds of bird species. 
These natural woodlands with their peaty, earthy odor, also provide shelter for the famous, elusive, mythical elephants of the Knysna Forests.

There’s not much light and heat getting through into these valleys and they stay damp, moist, and fertile. The water and mud we had come through, will take several days to dry out, whereas, up here on the hillsides, the tracks are already dusty after a few short hours of sun.  
Cape Grysbok
As the altitude increases, the natural woods give way to forestry and the forestry areas are surrounded by remnants of the natural forest undergrowth and patches of fynbos (literal translation – fine bush). Fynbos, natural heathland vegetation, occurs in small parts of the Western Cape, mainly in winter rainfall coastal and mountain areas with a Mediterranean climate.

Orange-Breasted Sunbird on Pincushion Protea
Ericas and Protea fynbos take over up on the mountain ridges and peaks with elevations above three-hundred meters and more. Hiking in the midst of all these fragrant plants stirs up the aromas of warm, wild honey.  Every so often, I was beguiled by the sharp spicy scent of some small plant, I'd brushed against. Drawn by this sensual richness, the wildlife in these mountain habitats include bees, beetles, horseflies, ants and butterflies and birds such as Cape Sugar-birds and the Orange-breasted Sunbird.
Many of these birds and insects are important and specific pollinators for the fynbos, such as the Mountain Pride butterfly which only visits red flowers and pollinates 15 different species.  
Mountain Pride Butterfly
Astonishing! Does *red*have a specific smell? How does the butterfly know if a flower’s red – they can’t be colour blind…Did you know butterflies are supposed to have the broadest visual range of any form of wildlife? I didn’t…
Here at the higher altitudes, Cape Genet and Cape Eagle Owl join the Baboons, Cape Leopard, Common Duiker, Imbabala (Xhosa name for Bushbuck), Cape Grysbok and Blue Duiker. The Elephants and Bush pig stay in the forests as they prefer cover.  So no big five, (only leopard) to get in the way of a good ramble and after breakfast, we started out with the river our goal; a few hundred meters down a steep path, off the edge of the garden.

The Fountain Flows in Here
Hiking down the steep incline, slipping and sliding over the gravel, was quicker than I realized.  What appeared from the top as a rock-decorated, silver-ribbon of water surrounded by puffy, green cushions revealed unseen details. First impressions were wet. Water, clean pure water, filtered through layers of mountain rock. A mountain spring augments the flow from the river destined for the house; useful to have when unusually heavy rainfall (with snow) causes flooding and debris in the river itself. The banks of this tributary widen out at this point, providing a spot for a small patch of indigenous forest (puffy green cushions) and the homestead vegetable garden. This is completely caged in – top, bottom and sides, but still the thieves are all around; the baboons raid the fertile spot constantly and always take the yummiest fruit and vegetables... 

You may have noticed I had some trouble with Blogger yesterday (or maybe it's me?), that's why this is late...sorry about that!

Next...More of the trek and out at night!

Saturday, 3 March 2012

The Amazing Patchwork, Gingerbread House...

Perhaps, I’d better explain…here there is nothing …A house, yes, but no jolly little village.  Plettenberg Bay is the last town, the closest town and that is thirty-eight miles away. In the immediate area, nothing! No people, no cars, no doctor, no corner shop, no fire department; nearest neighbour, about three miles “as the crow flies”.  What is here; is  an enormous and unending silence, and hidden away in all this huge emptiness is everything we’ve come to see…
Over the Hills and Far Away

D’s been building this nest of his, by hand, for a few years now; his only helper, his son.  While he was slogging away in the bundu here, P was keeping the home fires burning, closer to civilization until 2010, when she joined them. Another year or so and it should be finished along with more projects for this slice of natural fynbos.

 Patchwork, Gingerbread House

Their home has grown organically and sprawls on the ridge of highland, an Afro/Euro fairy-tale on a mountain in the Cape.

Arriving in the dark with no artificial lights outside; headlights and starlight revealed what little we could see of the home where we would be staying. With the exterior giving nothing away, we went into a huge great room, stone floors, wooden walls; the glow from a Chimenea adding its amber warmth to the candlelight. Later, gathered around the old table, warm and well fed, the muddy valleys seemed very far away.

Clear skies the next morning signalled the end of the stormy weather. Daylight revealed a sparkling world, no dust to mar the endless views. Seeing the ‘Cruiser, with thick frost all over her canvas roof, had me grateful for our warm bed; what a frightful thought, we could have spent the night out in the bush…shiver... it would have been very, very cold. And then there were the baboons (and the leopards)! 

'Cruiser Thawing Out

You can’t really see the frost in this pic, but you can see the steam rising from the top of the vehicle as the sun hits the canvas.
"Howdy Pardner" Porch

Stepping out of the warm house early that morning, into the cold, brittle light was stepping back in time. The wooden house, already bearing the patina of weathered age, stretched out along the ridge in front of me.

Gardening Natural Style

A long veranda running the length of the building (“Western Style”) was fully furnished.  Cushioned chairs placed against the walls face the driveway, boarded by a strip of pretty, bird-filled, indigenous garden with a shallow
 Garden Edge - Mind the Drop

Just beyond the garden, the deep gorge of the Keurbooms River lies some two-hundred metres below; a steep descent we tackled later that week.

Malachite Sunbird

On the other side of the gorge, rose the opposite mountain, even higher than this one, blocking the rapidly rising sun…The veranda was in shade, the car-park was in shade but it was very early. 
Soon sun would wash over the whole ridge and the front-row seats on the veranda filled up rapidly; with coffee mugs in hand, we watched and marveled as the ‘hood come alive… 

Next…wild side walkabout...

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Technology Saves the Day…

This was sooo not funny! And I got such a fright, and got laughed at and with my (now) wet feet (What? Check for puddles? When there are giant Lion-Apes around?), I was cold and miserable, sniff... Not a happy camper, no Sir-eee… (There may even have been some eye-water involved!).

...Welcome to this post. Please go to Wildmoz to see all our new articles on wildlife as they appear. We are also publishing all our African Folktales in their full version in e-books for readers, PDFs, etc. as well as in ... Welcome to this post. Please go to Wildmoz to see all our new articles on wildlife as they appear. We are also publishing all our African Folktales in their full version in e-books for readers, PDFs, etc. as well as in hard copies. 

Keep a look out for these wonderful little stories for children and adults alike at Wildmoz.com. Collect for yourself a set of twelve, in the format of your choice, as and when they are available...

Baboons Like the Natural Forest


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