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

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!