namibia part III - etosha national park

30 Aug 2017

This year I was only able to take 3 weeks annual leave instead of my usual 4 weeks leave. When I booked my trip to Namibia, the trip was chosen solely on dates that fitted my tight schedule. My travel agent looked through the trip I'd booked online and commented that I'd love being on safari.

At that point I hadn't realised the trip included 2 days on safari. About 2 weeks before I flew out I started looking at a suitable lens. The new Fuji 100-400mm lens was way out of my price range so I tried renting the lens. I encountered every road block imaginable so in the end I went on safari without a long lens. I knew I wouldn't be able to get the close-up shots I wanted and instead sat back and tried to enjoy the experience in real time.

The safari took place in the Etosha National Park. We arrived when the park gates opened for the day and waited for our open top vehicle to arrive. We were warned not to expect too much and for a while we saw nothing. We stopped at a water hole for a while and soon after we started to see some animals. Here's a photo of my favourite beasts, the zebras.

There were springboks aplenty

and less common sightings like these wildebeest on the move.

Did I mention the giraffes?

and the elephants having a bath,

having a drink,

and even (?) running. The other animals wisely kept out of their way.

The water holes, where all the action happened.

At the water holes there was an obvious hierarchy and all the other animals would leave when the elephants arrived, even the rhinos.

Startled impala.

because there was a pride of lions close by.

The first night we stayed at the Moringa Waterhole. When I walked down there in the heat of the day, there were no animals in sight. I went to bed early and  the following day heard tales of the rhinos who'd come to drink at the waterhole. I did see a tiny little squirrel though.

The next day we climbed back on board Mike the truck for our safari. Again there was little to see in the morning so we made our way to the Pan, a large salt pan visible from space.

There was some plant life and plenty of salt.

The salt was crunchy underfoot.

We may have ignored the 'stay in vehicle' part of the message.

On our second day on safari we moved to a different camp located near the Okaukuejo Water hole where I found a weaver bird hard at work building it's nest.

Our second day on safari was a great day guided by Thandi, our Nomad tour leader. We found this herd of red hartebeest grazing nearby.

and of course the by now ubiquitous elephants.

A male ostrich wandering through the plains.

Then it was back to our camp for lunch under the common weaver nest and a chance to gather around the waterhole before returning to the the truck.

A zebra crossing and yes they do walk in single file.

There could never be too many zebras for me.

I roamed around the campsite with my camera.

Before returning to the water hole at dusk

where I finally caught sight of the elusive rhino. The rhinos waited until the elephants had finished bathing. As no flash was allowed all I have is a grainy image of 3 rhinos on my mobile phone and a few photos of a herd of elephants in a cloud of swirling dust.

The safari was just magical,


blood orange almond polenta and semolina cake

28 Aug 2017

Blood oranges are back in season. I just love blood oranges and I'm always looking for new recipes incorporating them.

Some time ago I made Claudia Roden's classic flourless orange and almond cake recipe but 
I found the cake quite bitter. I then found this Philip Johnson recipe for a crushed almond and orange cake and have been meaning to make it ever since. Philip Johnson runs e'cco bistro in Brisbane and e'cco was my family's go to restaurant for special occasions. 

I used Philip's recipe as a starting point and took it from there. The ground almonds and flour in the original recipe morphed into almonds, semolina and fine polenta inspired by an Ottolenghi recipe.

I kept my fingers crossed that the recipe would work out. Once the cake cooled, I dredged it with icing sugar then served it with some blood orange segments and double cream.

The cake was nice and moist with a slightly grainy texture from the semolina and an intense orange flavour without any bitterness. I'm sure you could use mandarins or tangelos instead of blood oranges and next time I make this cake I think I'll use lemons.

Here's the recipe for you, which makes an 18cm cake. For all my recipes I use a 250 ml cup and a 20 ml tablespoon. All eggs are 60 grams and my oven is a conventional oven not fan forced, so you may need to reduce your oven temperature by 20°C. If you'd like to make a bigger version, double all the ingredients to make a 23cm cake. The baking time will remain the same.

Blood orange, almond, polenta and semolina cake 

1 blood orange 
125g unsalted butter, room temperature 
125g caster sugar 
3 eggs 
¾ tsp baking powder 
tbs (scant ¼ cup) fine polenta or maize flour 
⅓ cup (60g) fine semolina 
⅔ cup (60g) ground almonds 

To serve 
Icing sugar 
Blood orange segments 
Double cream 

Put the orange in a saucepan then cover with water. Place a plate over the orange to keep it submerged then boil until soft, about 2 hours. Drain and cool, then quarter the orange, removing any seeds you come across. Pulse the orange in a food processor until finely chopped. Measure out 125mls of the orange pulp and freeze any leftover pulp for another time. 

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C. Grease and line the base and sides of a 18cm round spring-form cake tin with baking paper. Cream the butter and sugar together until light and pale. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Sift the baking powder with the maize flour and semolina, then stir in the almond meal. Add to the butter, mixing in 3 additions, alternating with the orange pulp. 

Pour into the prepared tin and bake at 180°C for 45-50 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Cool cake on a cooling rack before inverting and removing the baking paper. Just before serving dust with icing sugar. Serve with blood orange segments and some thick cream. 

I hope you get to try the recipe soon. Meanwhile, I'll be back again later in the week with my final post from Namibia.

See you all again soon,

Bye for now,


rhubarb apple cake

21 Aug 2017

Just looking through the archives will tell you I have a thing for rhubarb, plums and raspberries. Rhubarb is looking good at the moment so a few weeks ago I decided to make a rhubarb and apple cake.

I'd been marooned at the doctors for an hour and saw some photos of a rhubarb and apple cake whilst looking through a magazine. The cake looked pretty good but when I went to get the recipe, someone had torn out the page. Who does that in this day and age, I thought, when you can photograph the recipe with your mobile phone? I will not be defeated so I decided to work with one of my old favourites, the country apple cake, adding a batch of oven baked rhubarb to the filling.

The cake itself doesn't take long to put together but the oven baked rhubarb is probably best prepared the day before making the cake so it has time to cool. 

The pastry base is patted into the tin though I think it's easier to roll out the top than patting it out. 

Those apples you see came directly from a tin. If you want to cook the apples from scratch you'd need to lightly stew 4-6 large green apples.

You never know how these things are going to work out but on this occasion the rhubarb and apple combination was a brilliant success and a combination I will use again in the future.

Here's the recipe for you, which makes an 17cm cake. For all my recipes I use a 250 ml cup and a 20 ml tablespoon. All eggs are 60 grams and my oven is a conventional oven not fan forced, so you may need to reduce your oven temperature by 20°C. If you'd like to make a bigger version, use a whole egg in the cake batter and double everything else to make a 23cm cake. The baking time will remain the same.

Rhubarb and Apple Cake
1 quantity of drained oven roasted rhubarb
1 tin pie apple (400g)
2 tbs caster (superfine) sugar
½ tsp ground cinnamon

Oven Roasted Rhubarb
1 bunch rhubarb, stalks washed and trimmed.
4 tablespoons caster sugar
The juice of half an orange
2 strips of orange rind, each strip ~ 5cm long
1 cinnamon stick

Preheat the oven to 200°C. Cut the rhubarb stalks into 5cm lengths and place into a baking dish with the orange rind and the cinnamon stick. Sprinkle with the sugar and drizzle the rhubarb with the orange juice. Cover the dish with foil or a lid and bake for ~ 20-30 minutes or until the rhubarb is cooked but still holds its shape. Remove the dish from the oven and allow the rhubarb to cool, still covered. When cool, remove the cinnamon stick (it can be washed and used again) and store the rhubarb in a sealed container in the fridge.

Filling method
Gently combine the apple, the drained rhubarb, sugar and cinnamon. Stir to combine then taste for sweetness and adjust as necessary.

1 cup self-raising flour
⅓ cup cornflour (corn starch)
2 tbs cup caster (superfine) sugar
100 gm unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tbs milk
Extra milk and caster sugar
Icing sugar and cream to serve

Cake method
Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Lightly grease a 17cm spring form tin and line the base of the tin with baking paper

Sift the self raising flour with the cornflour. Put the sifted flours, the sugar and the butter into the bowl of a food processor and process until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. In a small bowl combine the egg yolk, the vanilla and the milk.

With the food processor running, gradually pour in enough of the milk mixture and process until the mixture wraps around the blades. Using floured hands, press ⅔ of the mixture into the base and up the sides of the tin. Spoon in the apple and rhubarb mixture, which won’t completely fill the tin. Fold over any overhang of pastry from the sides of the tin, then using floured hands, flatten the remaining mixture into a disc (or you can roll this out with a rolling pin between 2 sheets of greaseproof paper) and cover the top of the cake. Don’t worry if there are a few holes. They’ll close over as the cake bakes. Brush the top of the cake with milk then sprinkle with a little extra caster sugar.

Bake the cake for 50-60 minutes at 180°C/350°F. If the cake is browning too quickly, cover the top with a piece of grease proof paper. Don’t be tempted to take the cake out too early as the cake mixture won’t have cooked through.

When cool dust with icing sugar and serve with cream.

I've been working on my photos from Etosha National Park, so when I get a chance I'll put together a post.

See you again soonish,

Bye for now,


namibia part II

16 Aug 2017

I'm back again with some more of my travel photos from Namibia. Looking through my black and white photos I found a few I'd taken at the Bush Camp but hadn't shared with you. If you look really closely, some of the little beasts in the photos are wearing striped pajamas, the elusive mountain zebras.

We made a brief detour to Walvis Bay to drop off one of our travellers and to see the flamingos before driving the short distance to Swakopmund.

When we arrived in Swakopmund, evening had fallen and it was really, really cold. After a few days in the heat of the desert we were all unprepared for the change in temperature. I know because I was wearing shorts. We stayed for 2 nights in Swakopmund so it gave us time to get some laundry done, always a problem when you're on the road. Swakopmund is styled as an adventure destination but I chose not to undertake any of the options on offer instead spending my time exploring the town. After a few days in the desert I couldn't resist the lure of paved roads, restaurants, shops and traffic lights.

We woke the next day to foggy skies. I could see a patch of blue out the window so I was confident the skies would clear. I packed up my stuff and started the walk into town. After a few steps, the Namibian predilection for old cars was evident.

The streets of Swakopmund were eerily quiet. Most of the houses appeared unoccupied and those houses that were inhabited took their security very carefully. Think high fences/electric fences/guard dogs and loads of warning signs.

Swakopmund is a beach resort with more than a nod to Namibia's period of German colonisation. I found half-timbered houses; sturdy government buildings; street signs in German and when I greeted some locals, our conversation was conducted in a combination of German and English.

I headed straight to the beach. I've always lived near water so I feel at home there. The water was cold and it certainly wasn't swimming weather but I enjoyed my walk along the beachfront.

The pier at Swakopmund.

After quite a few days of heat and red sand, I was thrilled to find patches of green all over the city.

The colourful Swakopmund Sea Rescue Initiative, sponsored by a paint company!

The old light house.

After our time in Swakopmund we returned to Mike, the truck, and drove along the Skeleton Coast to Khorixas. The sea was rough and it was easy to imagine how this boat met it's fate.

Our activity for the day was a visit to Spitzkoppe, also known as the Matterhorn of Namibia. I quipped that I was a bit disappointed at the lack of snow on the peak and one of our group members took my comment seriously! I've not been to Uluru but I've been to North West Western Australia and have travelled along the Gibb River Road. The scenery and the colours were so similar.

I kept taking photos. 

Cave paintings of rhinos and the bush men.

The Giant Arch

One of my favourite scenes.

We spent one night in Khorixas before making our way to Outjo. We had a few stops that day, and the first one was at the Petrified Forest. Without an internet connection I hadn't been able to check our itinerary for the day so I didn't even know there was a Petrified Forest in Namibia let alone that we were to visit it.

I can't remember if I'd seen petrified wood before. In the forest, there were whole trees and some of the trees had opalised.

This desert flower, the Welwitschiawas seen all over the forest.

Our visits for the day weren't over. We returned to Khorixas to refuel before heading to a Himba village. I'd seen some photos of Himba women and I was so looking forward to the visit.

I'm not quite sure what I was expecting, but a visit to a tribe who'd been relocated to a block of land behind a cultural centre probably wasn't what I had in mind. I think the place we visited was the 
Otjikandero Himba Orphan Village. Yes the men still tended their cattle but when the ladies ran short of maize flour for pap, they went up to the centre and restocked, often wearing western clothing.

The ceremonies and ritual behind the ladies dress and head gear was interesting as was their unique way of bathing without water.

The red colour is from a paste of ochre applied to the skin.

We we actively encouraged to take photographs of the rituals. I learnt little about the men, who don't wear traditional dress.

The unique himba head dress.

There were lots of little ones who attended the local school when old enough.

The ladies make and sell craft at a small market. 

We left the visit feeling a bit discomforted.

Our last stop on the tour before the tour ended in Windhoek was the Etosha National Park, where we spent 2 days on safari. Please don't expect loads of close-up photos of animals in the wild because I wasn't able to hire a telephoto lens for the safari. I tried a number of places including Fujifilm South Africa and a camera store in Cape Town and found there were too many hurdles to over come.

When I get some spare time I'll be back with part III, the final chapter, of my trip to Namibia.

Bye for now,

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