Each of us has the right and the responsibility to assess the roads which lie ahead, and those over which we have traveled, and if the future road looms ominous or unpromising, and the roads back uninviting, then we need to gather our resolve and, carrying only the necessary baggage, step off that road into another direction. -Maya Angelou

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Once upon a time.......in Nimbin

Are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin...............

Once upon a time there was a little village called Nimbin, It nestled in a secret valley surrounded by lush rain forest that covered the high Nightcap Mountains. Pockets of mist swirled and spiraled their way through the trees as if they were on fire, and armies of emerald tree frogs chorused as they clambered through the damp weed that carpeted the forest floor. It was home to a rainbow tribe, a happy people known as the Ganja. All day long they sat around smoking a sweet smelling weed that made them feel higher than the mountains they lived in. It was the Age of Aquarius and they believed that when the moon was in the Seventh House and Jupiter aligned with Mars then peace would guide the planets and love would steer the stars.

Once a year on the first weekend in May the Ganja Faeries would appear and dance through the village to signal the start of a special MardiGrass festival to celebrate all things Ganja. Thousands would come from far and wide to take part in the fun and frivolity of a Prohibition Protest Rally, and to compete for the coveted Ganja Cup. The Hemp Olympix included the Bong "Throw'n'Yell", a Joint Rolling competition for the fastest and most artistic joint. and the Grower's Iron Person event. Runners must first carry a 20 kg sack of fertilizer, then a bucket of water, and finally "the crop", as a tribute to the difficulties faced by growers in the hills, and to show that the Ganja are fit and healthy. At nightfall the Harvest and Picker's Ball, rocked on the village Green and poets and soulful singers entertained the crowds in the cafes and bars.

The Lords of Canberra were not amused by the antics of the Ganja and proclaimed a law. Anybody caught growing, selling or even holding the weed would be severely punished. This was hard on the Ganja as it is part of their culture to buy, sell and smoke enormous quantities of their sweet smelling weed on the streets of their village. In fact it gave rise to the local saying “You will smell Nimbin before you see Nimbin” The peace loving Ganja decided to build a museum filled with their artwork and weed memorabilia to show the Lords of Canberra  that they only wanted to be left in peace. The entry fee was to be a donation and if you enjoyed your visit one of the Ganja faeries would give you a special cookie as you left, to help you get over the sadness of leaving Nimbin. So many people came to support the Ganja and those cookies that the Lords of Canberra decided to turn a blind eye on the village and so they all lived happily ever after ………or maybe not.......

Nimbin, counterculture capital of Australia is a town stuck in the hippie culture of the 60's, an Aussie Woodstock, if you will, but life was not always a fairytale here. Forests of Red Cedar first attracted loggers to the area in the 1840s but they soon cleared the forests and turned to dairy farms and growing bananas. In the 1960s a recession led to the collapse of the industry but in 1973 the first Aquarius Festival and the huge influx of hippies of all sizes shapes and cultures changed life forever. The Festival was the first event in Australia that sought permission for the use of land from the Traditional Owners. After the festival hundreds of participants and festival goers remained in Nimbin to form communes and other multiple occupancy communities, in search of an "alternative lifestyle". Nimbin in fact made legal history for the first ever application of group title ownership of land in Australia. Since the Aquarius Festival, the region has attracted thousands of writers, artists, musicians, actors, environmentalists and permaculture enthusiasts, as well as tourists and young families escaping city life.
I loved it even though it was looking a little seedy around the edges, and the inhabitants on the day we visited were not very lively......perhaps they had all had a rather taxing "smoko" the night before. I sat at a pavement cafe and people watched. I ordered the vegetarian option to try and fit in with the locals,as I was told you always go away happy when you eat something vegetarian in Nimbin.. My "Nimbin Happy Meal" was  rather odd looking dish of falafels accompanied by glutinous mash of something that resembled freshly poured concrete. It did little to whet my appetite,and the green puree was definitely not spinach. A young mum, obviously a friend of the owner by her conversation stood at the table next to me and cheerfully changed her baby's dirty nappy oblivious to the  hostile stares from tourists.
Tommy had the better idea and opted for the standard "Aussie pie" from the local bakery.......but he wasn't half as happy.... but perhaps it was the nappy changing ........

Nimbin Happy Meal
We camped at Mullumbimby another small town in the mountains and drove down to pretty Byron Bay to visit our friends Jean and Ken  We had some great times at Cape Keraudren with them on our travels up the coastline of  Western Australia. It was so good to see them again and share some memories but sadly we had to leave them behind as we continued north and into Queensland the last state on our round trip.  Brisbane and the Gold Coast beckons........land of bananas and rum, now the sound of that makes me happy!

Soulfood Kitchen

Falafel's with Cucumber Relish

My version of The Nimbin Happy Meal without any added herbs will definitely make you your tummy happy, and "a happy tum is a happy mind"

1 (15 ounce) can chickpeas drained
1 onion, chopped
1/2 cup fresh parsley
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 egg
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon salt
1 dash pepper
1 pinch cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup dry bread crumbs

oil for frying

Cucumber Relish
1 (6 ounce) container plain Greek yogurt full cream
1/2 cucumber - peeled, seeded, and finely chopped
1 teaspoon dried dill weed
salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon mayonnaise

1.In a large bowl mash chickpeas until thick and pasty; don't use a blender, as the consistency will be too thin. In a blender, process onion, parsley and garlic until smooth. Stir into mashed chickpeas.

2.In a small bowl combine egg, cumin, coriander, salt, pepper, cayenne, lemon juice and baking powder. Stir into chickpea mixture along with olive oil. Slowly add bread crumbs until mixture is not sticky but will hold together; add more or less bread crumbs, as needed. Form 8 balls and then flatten into patties.

3.Heat 1 inch of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Fry patties in hot oil until brown on both sides.

4.In a small bowl combine yogurt, cucumber, dill, salt, pepper and mayonnaise. Chill for at least 30 minutes.

A crisp garden salad garnished with a bright nasturtium flower would be great with this dish,
Put another flower in your hair and you could be in Nimbin.....stay happy!


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

10,000 hills and still counting......

"If you ask me they're round the bend mate"

Well it’s official. We are now round the bend. “Hmm …. But we knew that already”……….I hear you muttering. That may well be so and I will not argue the state of our mental health which is always of ongoing concern. Here I am speaking more geographically. By way of many hills we have reached New South Wales also known recently as Never So Wet. I have never felt so continually damp. In fact when I painted my toenails the other night my worst fears were realized, I discovered webbing between my toes. Our intended stay of a couple of nights turned into two wet weeks at Genoa River bush camp on the border between Victoria and NSW. We moved the van twice because of the rising river and panic set in when we were down to our last two beers. For heavens sake, there is only so much water you can drink. The one consolation was the rain kept the many Bell birds quiet. Their high “ding ding” call made you feel as if you were trapped in an manic elevator continually changing floors.

Wet Sunset at Genoa River

For light relief we kept ourselves amused observing the idiosyncrasies of our fellow refugees, many made our own mental health issues pale in comparison. There are some seriously eccentric travelers driving around Oz. A wonderful couple, retired farmers we met at Genoa must take first prize. They had a Ute with a pop up tent on top and towed an A frame trailer. One side housed their favorite chooks in purpose built cages, the other side their travelling kitchen. But wait there’s more……in the compartment in the center was their upright piano. This was pulled out when they got to their campsite and the evening entertainment started. The farmer played a polka, the chooks danced, and Toby their Jack Russell cross went around with the hat for donations, and yes, there were always scrambled eggs for breakfast. Strewth!

Top Cemetery lookout - Dalmeny

As soon as the roads became passable we set off up more hills for Dalmeny on the coast and the welcome prospect of seeing two very special people,our friends Geoff and Kaye.  We last saw them in Kununurra in the Kimberley region of western Australia and loved their company, still do !  And still it rained, and rained and rained. Even the rainbow lorrikeets at our new campsite were miserable. There is no sorrier sight than a wet parrot. Luckily we had plenty of seed on board and two became so tame they would come and perch in the van and watch TV with us, obviously checking out the weather. Dalmeny must have the most scenic cemetery in Australia, the views are superb,if you can get a plot here you will definitely have more visitors, its a beaut picnic spot.
We had a brief respite from the rain and the four of us visited the small picturesque fishing village called Bermagui.  Zane Grey, the internationally known American author spent a lot of time here in the thirties. In real life his fishy stories rivaled those of his cowboy westerns he was so famous for. He was a keen big game fisherman, a sport he had pursued in many parts of the world, but his greatest catches were in the waters around Bremagui.
In one month he caught 10 black marlin weighing between 84kg and 213kg and raised and sighted 30 more. His methods and tackle were unknown to the Australians anglers at the time but his capture of a 460kg tiger shark in 1936 was his crowning achievement. It was the largest fish in the world at that time to be caught using a rod and a unique heavy reel specially made for him by Hardy's of London. He also caught the first yellow fin tuna ever found in NSW waters, and at 40 kg it was the lure for other big game fishermen to come to the place and also kick started a big commercial fishing industry. Bermagui still retains its charm as a fishing village but is now also known for its annual “Sculpture on the Bluff” . It was an amazing experience to see so many innovative pieces in such a fabulous setting, the sea crashing onto the rocks below and the pieces silhouetted against the stormy skies.

Sculpture on the Bluff at Bermagui

We faced even more hills and a steady stream of traffic as we travelled up the coast towards Sydney. Since "the incident " on the Mornington Peninsular (see Viva Victoria) we have developed a fear of anything remotely resembling a hill.. Now I am, and always have been seriously navigationally challenged, and this does not help the situation as we have to rely on the Navman. I have come to the conclusion that the Navman and the Ute are in collaboration to cause us as much stress as possible by taking us on the most curvaceous and steep route it can find between destinations. Due to old age  it has lost its voice, so you have to watch it like a hawk and it frequently tells us we are on no road at all!  This does not make for happy travels, and my nerves are shot by the time we reach our camp spot. Thankfully there is always a bottle of Clare Valley Riesling to restore equilibrium.
We reached Woolongong,south of Sydney, and had a the opportunity for some R&R by flying back to Perth for Tessa, Tom's grand daughter's 21st birthday .We couldn't get on that plane fast enough. It was wonderful seeing the family again,and being able to celebrate a milestone in one very special young lady's life. Too soon we were back on the road and faced our most daunting climb yet. There are only two ways north to get out of Wollongong, both involve mountains.......we choose the longer but less steep up Mount Ouwsely. The day before we worked feverishly to ditch anything that we could, including the box we had had made to carry our equipment for fairs. Anything we hadn't used for 6 months was out the door........the caravan park was very accommodating about the spontaneous chuck out.
We left  at 5.30 the next morning thinking we would beat the traffic. We crawled up the mountain in the inside lane in the pitch dark and rain, huge trucks blinding us with their lights and roaring past at insane speeds. A white knuckle ride and as we reached Sydney we caught the morning rush hour.......bad choices!
Our next stop Mullimbimby near Byron Bay and another climb to smokey Nimbin, the alternative capital of  Oz.........high.....high...high in the mountains..........

Soul Food Kitchen 

Succulent Coconut Crusted Prawns

I make no apologies for yet another prawn recipe in my blog........they are plentiful and cheap as chips here. This is so popular and is eaten so quickly that I never get to take a pic



Preparation Time

10 minutes

Cooking Time

20 minutes

Ingredients (serves 8)

• 235g (1 cup) whole-egg mayonnaise

• 60ml (1/4 cup) fresh lime juice

• 1 large fresh red chili, deseeded, finely chopped

• 175g (1 cup) plain flour
mixed with 1 tablespoon of  cayenne pepper and salt.

• 3 eggs, lightly whisked

• 1 x 250g pkt shredded coconut

• 1kg green prawns, peeled leaving tails intact, deveined

• Vegetable oil, to deep-fry


1. Combine mayonnaise, lime juice and chilli in a small bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge.

2. Place the plain flour, egg and coconut in separate bowls. Holding prawns by tails, dip them, 1 at a time, into the flour and shake off any excess. Dip prawns into the egg, then press firmly into the coconut to evenly coat. Transfer to a plate.

3. Add enough oil to a large saucepan to reach a depth of 6cm. Heat to 170°C over medium-high heat (when the oil is ready, a cube of bread will turn golden brown in 20 seconds). Add one-eighth of the prawns to the oil and cook for 1-2 minutes or until golden brown. Use a slotted spoon to transfer to a plate lined with paper towel. Repeat, in 7 more batches, with the remaining prawns, reheating the oil between batches.

4. Place the prawns on a serving platter and serve with chili lime mayonnaise.

A perfect snack with drinks and one that will surely impress your guests.........delicious

Monday, February 27, 2012

Viva Victoria!

Melbourne the most livable city!

Victoria is a multicoloured mosaic of dramatically different places. From the rugged blue grey mountains in the north to the golden sandy surf beaches of the Mornington Peninsula. The coast hugging splendour of the Great Ocean Road,with its green-clad hills plunging to the sea to the dramatic vistas of giant limestone stacks rising out of the bluest Southern Ocean. Secluded emerald rain forests full of giant tree ferns in the Otway National Park to lush corduroy vineyards in the Yarra valley.  Idyllic bush camping next to the peaceful Genoa River with its crimson and green King parrots to picturesque seaside towns like Eden famous for its killer whales. The quaint villages in the Dandenong hills with its beautiful gardens to William Ricketts serene sanctuary set in a primitive forest and filled with his amazing sculptures inspired by the Aboriginal people who he admired for their affinity with nature. Then of course there is the vibrant multicultural capital city of Melbourne rated as one of the best cities in the world to live in. Home to the MCG, and thousands of eateries of every description, wonderful shopping and the best cappuccino this side of Italy.

We took the ferry across from the mainland to Sorrento on the Mornigton Penninsular. Terry and Chris our good friends who we first met at Katherine in the Northern Territory were camping at Point Leo and we were to join them there. The Ute had been pushed to its limits pulling the heavy rig on the winding and hilly Great Ocean Road and we had kept smelling "clutch" but choose to ignore it.  Not a good decision.........as we were descending a steep hill with a hairpin bend at the bottom the smell got worse. There was an even steeper climb up the other side and we managed to make a third of the way up the hill before the clutch packed up. The next few minutes were a nightmare as the Ute and rig started sliding back and finally jackknifed across the road blocking all traffic. We were scared and helpless. Cars and motorbikes came to a screeching halt behind and in front of us.  An off duty Victorian policeman was singularly unhelpful but angels came to our rescue in the disguise of a wonderful Italian family Joe, Nicole, Hayden and Nathan Mammolito. With their help we were able to tow the rig up the hill and back to the safety of the flat. Words cannot fully express our gratitude to them but they will always be remembered as the best that Victoria has to offer.Thank you guys you're amazing. We will pay it forward............a foot note...........Tommy has much maligned this noble renaissance race in the past.No more! In fact he actually got down on his knees and asked for forgiveness from the Mammolitos........they were very magnanimous and it was smiles all around. I told you Tommy "One day an Italian will save your life...........Capisce!"

Victorian Angels

We made our way gingerly to Point Leo without further mishap. Our good fortune continued as we camped next to Mike and Jenny. Mike who had an automotive workshop took the Ute in and fixed us up with a new clutch. Another act of kindness from Victorians. We spent a wonderful 10 days ,swimming in the warm clear waters of the Southern Ocean and indulging in long lazy sun downers with Jeff , Mary Ellen, Max , Jen, Chris, and Terry. It’s amazing how much enjoyment you can have on one foot. I tore the fascia on the sole of my foot diving into the water and spent a few days on crutches courtesy of the local hospital. By the time we left we felt one of the tribe…….Viva Victoria!

Having had such a warm welcome we decided to extended our stay and found a caravan park in Chelsea south of the city. From there it was an easy commute into Melbourne where we caught trams to take us around the city. The Queen Victoria market with its amazing range of fresh fish, meat, fruit and vegetables to say nothing of the delicatessen section which had the widest selection of cheeses I have ever seen kept us busy for a day or two. I was serenaded by an elderly tenor in tattered trousers as we had our bratwurst rolls on the pavement cafe.   Another trip took in the cultural delights of the National Gallery, Federation Square with its funky architecture and a stroll around the beautiful lush Botanical Gardens next to the Yarra River. We had a pizza at one of the numerous Italian resturants in the famous Lygon Street and quite frankly “it wasn’t worth a cracker” perhaps I should have chosen the “chocolate pizza” not my mundane “Quattro stagioni” I loved Melbourne, the city has a creative buzz, unlike any other I have visited, the street musicians were amazing, and Chinatown a delight to the palate even if Tommy declined to eat the chicken feet covered in a delicious chili and ginger sauce.
Gale force winds ripped our awning which happily extended our stay even longer. Thai curry evenings with the gang as we waited to get the rigs awning to be replaced made the wait easy, and a final cooking evening with the girls making Soulfood Kitchen's famous Pea and Potato Samosas brought our time in Melbourne to a close........sigh. " missing you already"!

An Ode to Melbournians

Hail to you Melbournians!
Folk of wit and charm and grace,
Blessed to live in a city fair
Whose trams do set the pace

Angels now come in disguise
To lend a helping hand
Renaissance race accept our thanks
Never again shall we deride

Your hospitality is legend
To dine is a delight
Wine flows as swift as Yarra
At Leo’s Point most nights.

Old dogs can learn new tricks I’m told
I’ve tasted so I know
Samosa wallahs everyone
Whether Vegan, Veg or Carnivore.

So Farewell to you Victorians
Old Monarch would be proud
But to the Feral Cops of Moe
May you be buried upside down.

I cannot stay another day
My time is running out
My waistline is expanding
And now I have the Gout

Your laughter, fun and friendship
We never shall forget
So build the bridge
Get over it and
Let's meet again real quick.

Soul food Kitchen

Pea and potato Samosas with ginger and garlic.
This recipe will always bring back happy memories of a wonderful curry dinner at Mary Ellen and Jeff's home where we feasted like kings.

This amount of ingredients makes a goodly number of samosas depending on size but you can never make enough..........there are never any leftovers!


2 cups of chopped onion

2 Gloves Garlic crushed and chopped

1 large red chili chopped

6 potatoes boiled ( but still firm) and chopped

2 cups of frozen peas

Ginger the size of a small potato grated

2 tablespoons cumin seeds (fry in a dry pan over high heat quickly then crush finely or grind)

1/2 cup fresh Coriander chopped.

1 veg stock cube and 1 3/4 cups of hot water

Sheets of spring roll pastry


Cook onion garlic & red chili in a large frying pan with a little peanut oil till soft and add about 1 1/2 tablespoons of the roasted crushed cumin seeds to the mixture. Cook for a few minutes to release that wonderful pungent aroma of  the spice. Add the grated ginger.(the best way to store fresh ginger is to keep it wrapped in the freezer, then you always have it to hand and it grates beautifully when frozen)
Add chopped potato and peas with vegetable.Cook over medium heat until peas are cooked & stock reduced .Leave to cool and add salt & pepper a squeeze of lemon and chopped fresh coriander.

Cut pastry square into three strips and and lay one strip across your left palm. Bring  the left edge point up and over to make a triangle.Fold it back to make a pocket. Fill with cool mixture, do not overfill. Fold over the triangle till you reach the end of the strip. Wet the end of the strip with a little water to seal.Fry a few triangles at a time for about 3 minutes in hot peanut oil. Put onto Kitchen paper to drain and serve with fresh  lemon wedges the rest of the roasted cumin seed mixed with salt and some fresh coriander to garnish.

Melbourian Samosa wallahs

Sunday, February 19, 2012

New Year New Horizons

Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the wind longs to play with your hair.
Kahil Gibran 

A new year and new horizons. The start of another journey, but this time, surprisingly we have had some misgivings. The last year was a wonderful year of adventures but it has taken its toll. Perhaps we are tired of travelling and longing for a more permanent base. For eighteen months we have travelled nonstop and are probably suffering from a sensory overload. We have lived the Australian dream but the reality is sometimes a little less romantic!
Our Melbournian friends have an apt saying “ Build a bridge and get over it mate!” this is often accompanied by a whack across the head with a piece of 2 by 4, presumably to get you started with the building of the aforesaid bridge. This is just what we need right now! Enough whining ……..or as they say in Afrikaans “Vat jou goed en trek Druce” A new adventure is around the corner......lets go!
Beach bums...two years on.

We left the Clare valley with heavy hearts, our plans to buy some land dashed as our home in South Africa didn’t sell. In hindsight a blessing as we still have so much of this wonderful country to explore before we make our decision on a final resting spot.  The valley will remain one of the most memorable places I have seen and we will definitely go back some day.  Our year started with a week of bush camping at Wrights Bay in South Australia. The beach windswept and wild was notable for its seaweed,  which looked liked stands of luminescent green pearls. Small spotted puffer fish littered the sand which the disgusted local fishermen seem to catch and discard in large numbers .We celebrated our second wedding anniversary with a a rock lobster dinner and a bottle of bubbly under the stars To say it was  windy is an understatement. Most nights we were rocked to sleep in the van and eventually it swept us right out and into a new state Victoria.

Rare Green pearls

Over the border, the local Mexicans gave us a warm welcome in the little fishing village of Nelson. It was a great base to explore Mount Gambier and its extinct volcanic crater lakes. The most famous, Blue Lake, whose water is normally a dull grey blue has a metamorphosis every November and  turns a brilliant cobalt and remains that way for the rest of the summer. The colour change is apparently caused by calcite particles in the water which absorb all visible light except blue. On a sunny day it is quite a magnificent sight. We had our lunch in a sinkhole........another first. In 1884 James Umpherston set out to create " a pleasant resort in the heat of summer" and  a sinkhole was turned into a beautiful garden,with terraces, rock walkways and even a small lake in the bottom. Today with ivy hanging over the edges and filled with fuchsias, hydrangeas, ferns and roses it is a quiet and peaceful spot in which to dine.

Sinkhole Dining
The Bluest Blue lake........but aren't they all?

 We were headed for Melbourne but couldn't resist the lure of the mountains so did a detour to the rugged ranges of the Grampians National Park. A wrong turning took us over a spectacular mountain pass. It was the first time we had taken the rig on such a climb and we had some heartstopping moments going around tight corners downhill. We arrived shaken and definately stirred hours later to our camp at Halls Gap and vowing never to repeat the experience.

McKenzie Falls Grampain Mountains

The Crimson Rosellas and Sulpher Crested Cockatoos made up for our frightening descent. Every morning was a riot. Sometimes as many as 30 cockatoos  joined us for breakfast . The three bright red and blue Rosellas were my favorites. So trusting they would sit on my hand and  I could feed them a  single sunflower seed which they would  nibble delicately  However the love affair soon wore off and ended altogether when  the cockatoos decided to eat the chairs and then pooped  in disgust all over them when they tasted the vinyl. We eventually had to keep the door of the van shut as they were happy to take up residence inside if they could spot some tucker.

Breakfast for the birds

Next stop Melbourne and a time to catch up with our friends Chris and Terry who we met in Katherine, Northern Territory.
We are looking forward to it! See you at Point Leo guys! Get the wine ready.............

Soul Food Kitchen

I was tempted to give you a recipe for Roasted Crested Cockatoo with a vinyl jus ..............  but this salad I had in a local resturant is more delicious and so quick to make.

Grilled Haloumi Salad  with Pear and Fennel

Prepare a salad with a handful of fresh coriander, some baby spinach leaves, half a fennel bulb cut into fine strips and a thinly sliced ripe pear.
Dress with generous glug of extra virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar and a squeeze of lemon. Season with black pepper and a sprinkle of fennel seed and rock salt.
Cut Haloumi into slices and cook on a ribbed frying pan over a high heat till golden brown or under a grill.
Place on top of the salad and garnish with a fennel frond. Serve with a crusty roll and glass of chilled Chardonnay.
A marriage of flavours made in heaven! Enjoy!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas Letter from Clare 2011

Loved family and friends,

It’s the Christmas season and that time when you are all even dearer and especially so because you are far away. We miss you.

Tommy and I will celebrate Christmas Day in the vineyards of the beautiful Clare valley in South Australia, and share our day with some new friends we have made here.

We have had an adventurous year travelling around Australia and a wonderful month in the USA with our American family. Managed to drive through five states, and 3,000 miles in three weeks in March and saw so many canyons we were literally “rocked out”. Slept in so many different beds at times it was difficult to remember where we were but it made for magical memories.

Sue has chronicled our many Aussie adventures on her blog, soulfoodtraveller.com so we will not repeat them here, but it has been an exciting and challenging experience to explore this vast and beautiful land we call home. To do it justice we would need another two lifetimes.

In November Sue spent six weeks back in Port Elizabeth, with her South African and Kenyan family. A bittersweet time as Ian is battling cancer but she was able to spend time with Kathy and Chris as he went through another round of chemotherapy in Cape Town. It was also an opportunity to try and sell Chocolat, our home at Schoenies, which has become increasingly difficult to manage being so far away. Unfortunately we did not find a buyer but managed to find great new tenants, the Sweet family who we have known for years and are as nice as their name.

Despite a difficult year, Thom and Ems have once again shown courage and resilience. They continue to work and live in London and we are hoping will pay us a visit in 2012. Tom, Tommy’s son, and partner Joy are happy in Perth with their combined families. Thank goodness for the internet it’s a case of keeping up on Face book and emails with the family being so spread about.

We have fallen in love with the countryside of the Clare valley, the sense of community and the many friendly natives who have made us “blow-ins” feel so welcome. One day we hope to purchase some land here so we can build a place for us to stop and rest when we have tired of travelling.

In the New Year we will be hitting the road again and travelling east towards Melbourne, Tasmania and the Gold Coast. The Great Barrier Reef is on our “bucket list” and will complete our Big Lap. Please check out the Sue’s blog as she updates it monthly.

Thank you sharing 2011 with us, even at a distance your love and friendship enriches our lives. We wish you a Peaceful Christmas filled with the hope that the Christ child brings, and a New Year that will bless you more than you can ever imagine with love, laughter and the gifts of faith, friendship and most of all family.

With our love,

Sue and Tommy.xx

Clare Valley South Australia

We shall not cease from exploration

And the end of all of our exploring

Will be to arrive where we started

And know the place for the first time.

T.S. Elliott

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Journey's End?

Uluru -Moon rising
Think with awe on the slow and quiet power of time.

                                                    Friedrich Schiller

The road to Uluru took us through groves of dusty desert oaks before opening out to the vast empty ochre plains of the Red Center. No matter how many pictures you have seen, nothing can prepare you for your first view of Uluru or Ayers Rock. It rises above the surrounding desert like a huge slumbering beast and its ancient spirit overwhelms you. Its not the worlds largest monolith, just the most famous but when you stand at its base and touch the rusty pockmarked surface, the sheer scale of it fills you with awe. It  rises 348 metres, is 9 km around the base,and it is estimated that at least two thirds of this weathered rock lies below the surface.   You have to look at it through the eyes of the traditional owners, the Anangu to fully appreciate its significance. It is sacred to them, the essence of Tjukurpa, the ancient and traditional law that moves through all mankind linking us to nature. They ask you not to climb the rock as it disturbs their sacred sites and a path of spiritual significance taken by a only few aboriginal men on special occasions That does not deter the thousands of  tourists that travel miles just to climb it. This tortuous climb,as high as a 9 storey building up the sheer rock face with only a chain to hold onto, has claimed many lives. Bronze memorial plagues at the base of the climb bear testimony to the recent casualties,the 35 that died ,mostly from heart attacks or by being swept off the summit by the high winds. This was one controversy I was happy to avoid.........climbing was not an option. Vertigo or Vino?.  I choose the later..........no contest! To watch the ever changing colours of the Rock as the sun set was a magical moment and as the moon rose over the horizon I took my final shot of Uluru . It was a fitting end to a memorable love affair with the Northern Territory and one I will never forget.

Ant Heaps at Coober Pedy Opal Mines

The next day we set off down the Stuart Highway to Coober Pedy, Opal capital of the world, and our first stop in South Australia. Opals were first discovered here in 1915. Mullock hills of gravel that the miners have cast aside in their search for the rainbow coloured gemstones look like giant ant heaps It seems unbelievable that anyone would want to live in such a desolate, and treeless hellhole. But Coober Pedy exists for only one reason, Opals, and when the opal fever strikes you, you never escape. Out of the resident population of 4,000 at least half live underground in dugouts or "kupa-piti" (white men holes) to escape the fierce summer temperatures of 60C.These are no ordinary holes mind you, four bed roomed luxury homes some even have swimming pools.Apart from the miners homes,there are bars, restaurants, hotels and churches all underground. There is even a golf course, above ground,without a blade of grass, but golfers carry a small square of astro turf around on which to tee off. This apocalyptic lunar landscape has been used to great effect in films like Mad Max-Beyond Thunder dome, Red Planet and my favorite Priscilla Queen of the Desert. All water has to be imported here and you pay dearly for it...........oh take me back to Mataranka!  A couple of days here and you feel " as dry as a kangaroo's paw ". A week here and you would have severe case of " a few kangaroos loose in your top paddock" and risk going totally loopy. It was fascinating but I was happy to see the back of the place.

Underground Greek Orthodox Church
It didn't get much better further south. We drove for hours through endless dry and barren flat lands covered in saltbush with only the occasional salt lake to break the horizon . Lake Hart is situated on the edge of the Woomera Prohibited Area. One eighth of South Australia or an area twice the size of Tasmania is a no-go zone.  In the post WW11  era of the Cold War secret military testing of more than 4,000 rockets and at least nine devastating atomic bombs took place here. Some areas are still radio active to this day and in one area the tremendous temperatures have fused the sand into shiny bomb glaze.The WPA was also home to a controversial detention center and joint defence projects with Britain involving long range weapons. Conveniently the distance between Woomera and the Pilbara  was the same as London and Moscow! You need numerous permits from the Department of Defense to enter the area but the town of Woomera near Lake Hart is now a tourist destination filled with rocket memorabilia. When we visited it was like a ghost town,never saw a soul, but at least 300 people live here with a cinema, a school which could cater for 1000 students, a bowling alley, huge swimming pool and other essentials that the Americans needed to function when they occupied the town in the 1970's.

Anyone for salt?
We spent two nights bush camping at Lake Hart, it had a stark beauty. At night the desert sky seemed so low , the Milky Way stretching over us like a shimmering gossamer shawl of stars.You felt you could just reach up and grab a fistful .

It was another long haul down to Port Augusta on the Eyre Peninsular and our first glimpse of the Spencer Gulf. We had two choices. Turn right down the peninsular with its picturesque fishing ports along the coast or left into the Clare Valley. We choose the latter and it proved to be a wise choice. With a blustery wind behind us we drove into an area of outstanding pastoral beauty. Fresh spring green acres of barley and wheat, as smooth as billiard tables stretched out to the horizon.  Sheep grazed between chrome yellow seas of canola and fields of purple Salvation Jane. The closer we got to the town of Clare the countryside became softer with rolling hills and under the groves of gum trees splashes of wild white iris and lavender. The hedgerows were full of olive trees laden with fruit and a profusion of pink and white dog roses. After the desert the joy of seeing grass again was like an aphrodisiac to the eyes, and then it started to rain..........

 Yellow seas of canola
We have been here a month now camping next to fields of neat corduroy vines. This valley which has a rich history of first copper mining and then wine making has become a wonderful  place of rest. We have only sampled a few of the delicious wines from some of the 36 wineries but we intend to savour more! We love this beautiful valley, the people are welcoming, and it has a real spirit of creativity . This could well be the place where we will settle and cease our travels. We have made an offer on a small cottage with 2 acres in historical Penwortham and only time will tell if this is "Journey's End"
 Iris Woodland

Soul Food Kitchen

Olive oil and Almond Tart

We tasted this delicious dessert at a local resturant. It makes good use of all the beautiful local produce of this area and is a taste of heaven!

Sweet Pastry
250g plain flour
150g cold butter grated
60g icing sugar
1 egg yolk

Grease a 30 cm flan tin lightly with butter.Mix flour, butter and icing sugar and egg yolk ,bring together to form a dough. Wrap in plastic film and rest in fridge for 30 minutes. Roll out on a floured board to about 3mm thickness. Line flan tin with pastry and rest in fridge for a further 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 160C.

Olive Oil and Almond Filling
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup caster sugar
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1/4 cup local olive oil
1/4 cup Annies Lane Botrytis Reisling ( a sweet dessert wine will do)
1/2 cup plain flour
1 cup almond meal
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 cups poached fruit of choice ,drained (tinned raspberrieswould be delicious)
3 egg whites
1/4 cup caster sugar

Cream yolks, sugar and zest until light and fluffy. Slowly add oil, then wine and beat until just combined.Fold through flour, almond meal and baking powder.Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form, add sugar and beat till glossy.Fold into the almond mix. Pour into prepared tin and arrange fruit on top. Bake for 40-45 minutes until cooked.

Serve a slice on a plate dusted with icing sugar, a fresh sprig of lavender and a generous dollop of whipped cream.
Almost too pretty to eat.............almost!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

We of the Never Never

Behind the Back of Beyond, in the Land of the Never Never;
a land that bewitches her people.
Called the Never Never  because those who have lived in it , and loved it, Never Never voluntarily leave it.
But those who do leave know that their hearts will Never Never  rest away from it.
                                                          Jeannie Gunn 

We headed down into the Never Never under a pall of smoke. Down into the "Woop Woop, Way out back, Beyond the black stump, to the Red Center.".................... but which ever way you say it its still a long 3,033 ks down the middle of Oz from Darwin to Adelaide. The fires went before us leaving only termite mounds as tombstones in a blackened landscape. We found another Eden at Mataranka, birthplace of Jeannie Gunn's great Australian classic novel We of the Never Never .  Having a hot bath was taken to another level, as we floated serenely downstream on our noodles with the steam rising gently from the thermal springs amid the lush tropical vegetation and bright blue kingfishers. We were only going to stay for a day ......it turned into a week of baths.

Daly Waters

On the road again we had a pitstop at the famous Daly Waters Pub. it was started in the 1930's to service the crews and passengers of Qantas as a refuelling stop. Its walls are festooned with anything the weary traveller can leave as a memento after that ice cold "stubby" Bras, panties, T shirts, foreign currency and more are pinned to every surface. We had a delicious "snag and bum nut toastie" aka sausage and egg toasted sandwich, very tasty. The curio shop  across the road was doing a brisk trade in real kangaroo paw "back scratchers" and stuffed cane toads.......NASTY!  Then it was on to a quick detour round the Devil's Marbles, bum nutts of a more generous size. Huge granite boulders which the local aboriginals claim are the eggs of the Rainbow Serpent.
Devils marbles
We have reached the center of OZ and its almost a year since we started our Great Lap. I had heard of,  read about and seen the movie, but was enchanted by the real Alice Springs. The Alice as she is affectionately known by her locals, seems to be the destination of choice for every man and his dog. Over 350,000 visitors a year at the last count, and that's not counting the dogs. Nestled between the scenic Mac Donnell Ranges its a neat town with a strong aboriginal flavour. Shops full of aboriginal art and didgeridoos ,and a strong cultural presence that I hadn't felt before. The air was like champagne ,crisp and clean and a welcomed relief after the humidity and smog of the top end. It was cold! The first few nights we snuggled under double duvets and blankets and took advantage of the camp fires which were lit every night in the caravan park. We explored the surrounding countryside and went to markets where there was some exceptional beautiful aboriginal artwork, full of vibrant colour and quite different to the traditional dot paintings I had seen before.



We spent our last evening huddled next to a roaring fire with other campers singing along  with a local troubadour . We all joined in with those well known Aussie favorites"The pub with no beer"  and "Give me a home among the gumtrees' What talent we lacked we made up with enthusiasm. Besides after a couple of drinks everyone thinks they sing like Freddie.  As the night grew colder ,the southern cross shone brighter , and our songs more sentimental. As  the last strains of "I am, you are, we are Australian" there wasn't a dry eye, even the good old bastard was brushing his cheek.

I came upon the prison ship bowed down by iron chains.
I cleared the land, endured the lash and waited for the rains.
I'm a settler.
I'm a farmer's wife on a dry and barren run
A convict then a free man I became Australian.

I'm the daughter of a digger who sought the mother lode
The girl became a woman on the long and dusty road
I'm a child of the depression
I saw the good times come
I'm a bushy, I'm a battler
I am Australian

I'm a teller of stories
I'm a singer of songs
I am Albert Namatjira
I paint the ghostly gums
I am Clancy on his horse
I'm Ned Kelly on the run
I'm the one who waltzed Matilda
I am Australian

I came from the dream time from the dusty red soil plains
I am the ancient heart, the keeper of the flame
I stood upon the rocky shore
I watched the tall ships come
For forty thousand years I'd been the first Australian.

I'm the hot wind from the desert
I'm the black soil of the plains
I'm the mountains and the valleys
I'm the drought and flooding rains
I am the rock, I am the sky
The rivers when they run
The spirit of this great land
I am Australian

We are one, but we are many
And from all the lands on earth we come
We share a dream and sing with one voice:
I am, you are, we are Australian
I am, you are, we are Australian.

Soul Food Kitchen

Red Center Soup. This is a quick and easy recipe to keep you warm on those cold outback nights.

1 x410g tin of Tomato soup
1x210g tin crab meat, drained
1/2 teaspoon dill
1/4 cup cream
salt and pepper
dash of Tabasco

Prepare soup according to directions on tin using milk not water as the liquid. Heat through then add the crab meat and dill. Season with salt and freshly cracked black pepper and a dash of Tabasco. Swirl through the cream before serving with some warm crusty bread or damper.
"It will warm the cockles of your heart, it will!"