Nshema with Berry

Back in South Africa, when I went to the marvellous Mzoli’s in Cape Town, I had something called Papa, a strange kind of starchy fake mash side dish!

As it turns out, this is a traditional side dish all over Africa, but goes by a different name depending on where you go. In South Africa and Botswana it’s called Papa, in Zambia its Slozi name is Wahobi, but it’s Zambian English name, somehow, is Nshema!

In my quest to take on as many new recipes as possible while on my travels, I tentatively approached Berry to ask if she might teach me how to cook this. Every night, after cooking for Paula, Dan, Matt and myself, Berry cooking Nshema for herself and the rest of the staff, so I’m confident she’s the expert. And lucky me, she very kindly agreed to show me!

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South Africa

Monday 25 May

My two months in this country have suddenly drawn to a close, and I can only conclude that I MUST see more!

I’ve really enjoyed it here. There people, the food, the beautifully crafted, carved, painted items you can find on the market. I could easily spend a months wage, even with the incredibly favourable exchange rate!

Cape Town was particularly special, but one short weekend there was not enough. I would love to return, re-visit the fantastic Mzoli’s, and see what other activities and history this querky town has to offer.

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I’ve heard of these “Baz Bus” trips, a hop on hop off bus that spans the coast of South Africa ending in Cape Town. It’s made my ‘To Do’ list!

Port Elizabeth was also a nice place, and definitely made special by the Cubata restaurant! It’s well worth returning just to go there!

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With the exception of Cubata, one thing I did find difficult in this culture was the famous “Africa time”, and the total “no rush” attitude… While sometimes welcome, the event oraganiser in me couldn’t quite adjust to a world where things don’t run at the agreed time for the agreed period! Load Shedding, in particular, doesn’t help this (although it does make for some fun and frightening games of Hide and Seek in The Dark!) And ordering food in a restaurant could also be less easy to predict than you might think… If they’ve run out of what you’ve ordered, you’ll generally just be brought something else!

Now, this is Gary:

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He’s the owner of a relatively new taxi firm, who made being new in Port Elizabeth that much easier! His knowledge of the area is only that which can come from someone with a life-long knowledge of the place. He’s always happy to help you, gives great tips on places to visit, helps you find great value for money restaurants, and even goes as far sometimes as to jump from his car and quickly walk you around an area, be it the Board Walk or the Airport, just to make sure you know where to find what. And to top it all, he gives the cheapeast fair compared to any other firm in town! So, if you’re in Port Elizabeth and you need a cab, give Gary a call and tell him you got his number from Lauren!

Call: 083 704 6691

WhatsApp: +27 83 704 6691

As for my experience with Kwantu… Well, I enjoyed it there, but it wasn’t what I expected, nor what I felt I’d paid for. From Real Gap, I purchased a Game Ranger Internship- something specialising in Wildlife Conservation. When I arrived, I was given a Nature Guide Internship, something training me to take tourists out on Game Drives. While I certainly saw some interesting stuff, and I learned a thing or two about tracking, there was no focus on wildlife conservation with the exception of a module I read in a book, and I certainly would never have knowingly paid to go somewhere that keeps caged animals! I have contacted Real Gap regarding this issue, however thus far they seem to feel they can fall back on this internship containing one module on wildlife conservation, and are refusing to admit any fault. Even though they are advertising it by an entirely conflicting title, and on day one of the internship our book actually states this:

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The battle for them to be fair enough to change the name of this product as advertised on their website continues! But in the meantime, based on this experience and poor handling of a legitimate complaint, I wouldn’t recommend anyone books through Real Gap in a hurry!

But, that bad taste aside, independently of Kwantu,I have really enjoyed South Africa! I hope to return here again in the near future with friends and family, to show them my many tasty finds, and to discover all the more this country promises!

Good News and Goodbyes

24 May 2015

Well, I’ll start with the news about my Nature Guide exam!

I passed my practical!

It was actually an incredible drive, down more to luck than anything else. As soon as I entered the reserve, I found a pack of six lions hunting. I followed them all the way to the watering hole of Kwantu’s only hippo, who we could see peeking out the water. “He’s fine” I thought “He can see the lions. He won’t put himself in any sort of danger.”

Then, to my amazement, the hippo got out the water, marched right up to the lions and chased them all away with their tails between their legs! I mean, I knew hippos were territorial but… Wow! It gave me plenty to talk about!

Next we saw some rhinos, but didn’t stick around for long as the examiner was keen to see me do some tracking…

We finally found some droppings which I stopped to take a look at and, just my luck, I’d never seen such a type before! I used my guiding and tracking tools (in other words, a book about poo) and although it took some time and very careful examination I finally (and correctly!) identified them as Eland!

It wrapped up with a beautiful view in the valleys and a few teas and coffees!

That afternoon was my practical exam which, if I’m honest, I felt less than prepared for… I’ll find out the results in a couple of weeks but to be honest, I feel more than satisfied following that practical!

After the exam, Densely took us students on one last unforgettable Game Drive

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Before dropping us off at dinner, where they recognised me on the Kwantu register by my recent CORRECT title!

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Thank god I did that “practise pack” on Sunday though, because after an early morning three hour drive and the adrenaline of a two hour written exam I was ready to drop, and frankly good for nothing. So the next morning, I got up a little earlier to pack my bags and say my goodbyes to the Kwantu staff that had really made my time there as enjoyable as could be!

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Judgement Day is upon us…

21 May 2015

I can’t believe it’s here, but here it is! The examiner for the FGASA has arrived, to conclude whether or not we Nature Guide students are up to scratch!

Today, Sofia and Nina had their practical exams. I got to ride along, and can frankly say it’s no surprise that the two of them passed- they both did a great job and gave very interesting Game Drives!

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The two of them are covered in Plumbegos in the picture, a sticky bluey purple flower traditional thrown on people in congratulations. Paul and I took the liberty of picking and sticking.

Tomorrow, I have my practical exam, a Dawn Drive, followed at 14:00 by my theory. I feel ok about the practical, but certainly not for the theory! I’d of preferred to spend more time studying for that than I’ve been spending on Game Drive practise/observation but… There we are. I suppose all I can do now is try for a good night’s sleep, and wait and see what cards I’m dealt.

 

Finger’s crossed!

What’s In a Name?

17 May 2015

Last week, a couple of new volunteers came along to Kwantu all the way from Ontario, Canada; Erin and Amanda Maitland. Once we discovered each other’s full names, we were both stunned and excited. Neither of the three of us had met another unrelated Maitland before! We reached the only obvious conclusion: We must, in some way or another, most definitely be related. After all, I do have some relatives in Ontario, and they do have some kind of distant Irish heritage, and how else do you explain such an usual name as Maitland cropping up in the middle of Africa!

There was only one way to celebrate, of course; Dinner at Cubata!

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Cape Town Day 3: Mzoli’s!!

03 May 2015

Today, we had a cheerio with Lena who (after 9 months of travelling!!) is finally returning to her family in Luxembourg. So for our final activity, we went on a Free Tour of Cape Town.

As we had already discovered in the Slavery Museum yesterday, Cape Town has a dark and fascinating history and has made significant social growth in the short time since apartheid rule has thankfully been defeated. I was particularly interested in the benches outside the Cape Town courthouse

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I’ll never be able to comprehend the logic (or lack, thereof) that was applied here.

Finally though, after wishing Lena a fond farewell, Sofia, Tilly and I ventured out to a Cape Town Township of Guguleta to visit a whispered about area for lunch called Mzoli’s.

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Cape Town Day 2: Neighbourgoods, Chocolate, Slavery and Beer

02 May 2015

This was a great GREAT day, not only for the foodie in me, but also for that little girl with lots of questions that never quite left me as I got older.

First, the food!

We jumped out of bed in the morning and skipping breakfast intentionally, as we heading down to the Cape Town Neigbourgoods Market- and awesome gigantic Food Market, with what I like to call a “things market” on the side.

Frankly, this was just ridiculous. My stomach was crying out with a painful hunger that got worse the more I looked around! There was just too much damned choice!

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Cape Town Day 1: Juicy Burgers, Table Mountain and Meringue

01 May 2015

After our 12 hour overnight bus journey, Sofia and I finally arrived at Cape Town bus station at roughly 8:00 this morning! We opted for walking to our Ashanti Lodge hostel (where we were meeting Lena and Tilly) and although it took us a good 30 minutes to hobble and shuffle our way there, our surroundings made it all worthwhile. A beautiful Garden greets you to the right of Government Street and takes up around 10 minutes of the walk. You look on in awe at a variety of trees of a variety of ages while squirrels dance around your feet!

After we arrived at the hostel and were greeted by our friends, we all agreed the best thing to do was to go to breakfast. Immediately.

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Tilly introduced us to a simple but lovely restaurant/café called Knead- like what you do to the bread- so named but all their baked goods are made there and then on site. A wonderful touch!

My body clock was a little thrown off by the journey, so I opted for a super flavoursome, juicilicious Spicy Bacon and Blue Cheese burger!

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Lauren and Sofia’s Grand Day Out

30 April 2015

Today was a very exciting day indeed! The day of the night that we travel to Cape Town!

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As our bus was not due to leave until 21:30, selected with the intention to sleep more or less the entire journey, Sofia and I decided it wise to fill the day with lots of eating and walking around- the best way to get sleepy. What better place for this than Port Elizabeth’s Green Acres Mall!

We began with a very hearty lunch at Mugg & Bean, a lovely Restaurant/Café chaining starting up here. They provided us with delicious iced teas and coffees

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GOODBYE SARAH!

26 April 2015

This weekend was Sarah’s final weekend in Port Elizabeth! She is due to fly back to Germany tomorrow afternoon and I think I can speak for everyone when I say we’re going to miss her greatly, but what an excellent last weekend in PE we showed her!

We’d had this master plan to go to the EP Kings Rugby Game and follow it up with dinner at Cubata (after all, I did vow to return, and what better weekend than this to introduce everyone to their meatlicious delights?)

Unfortunately, some genius got the kick-off time wrong, and mistook 15:00 for 5:00… So, everyone missed the game, but we also had quite the adventure negotiating a set of tickets from a touter, realising our error and hastily recruiting a member of the Mandela Bay security to get our money back for us! A close call, a good story and a lesson learned!

Most people had been more keen to see the Mandela Bay Stadium itself rather than any kind of game, so I made up for the mix up with 24/12 hour clock with a charming little line for security

“Excuse, I’ve come all this way with this tour group, who are obviously a bit upset about missing the game. Most of them were just keen to see the stadium, can we please have 5 minutes just to look around?”

They very kindly obliged, and I led my tour group inside.

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