The Ongava Experience

We got an opportunity to visit Ongava, a famous private game reserve spread over 30,000 hectares. The conservation has highest number of lions, and a wide variety of antelopes and birds. Since we always wanted to see a lion’s pride in natural habitation, we started our journey with the hope to definitely spot it at Ongava.

ongava-game-reserve

It was early evening when we reached Ongava after travelling about 425km towards North. The staff welcomed cordially with wet scented towels and chilled lemon water, which we appreciated very much after a long journey in the blazing Sun. We took over our rooms. The chalets were so sparkling clean and cozy! Every piece of amenity inside was provided with a keen interest and thoughtfulness. We kept our luggage into the rooms and rushed towards a beautifully located swimming pool. The Sun was still glorifying the west horizon.

After a few dips in the pool we went to the rooms and got ready to sip coffee in the lounge. The thatched lounge of Ongava is designed such that the viewers can see the twin waterholes just beside and the Savannah plains that spread over acres till the horizon. While we were sipping coffee, we could see a pair of rhinos and a pair of giraffes; two of the five big animals of Africa. Our dedicated guide Abner told us that there was also a watch-house just next to it; smartly hidden in bushes. The route to watch-house was covered by bamboo stripes entirely, so that the viewers could be completely hidden from the animals. We speedily went there with cameras while the Sun was still flashing its last rays of the day.

animal-watching

Rhinos came and made giraffes wait till their turn of having water was over. They went into nearby bushes and ate. They again came to the waterhole. They didn’t allow giraffes to come near waterhole and poor giraffes were waiting for their turn. After multiple toggling trips to waterhole and bushes, the rhinos disappeared into the bushes once and for all, and giraffes came to the waterhole slowly. They stretched their forelimbs wide apart to be able to reach the water and drank it. So inconvenient it was for them! Giraffe is most vulnerable to become a prey while having water. Sun descended completely and we walked back to the rooms.

Since the chalets had dense vegetation around, a staff member escorted us to the dining area. Around 8:00pm we went to the lounge. It was pitch dark on the western side, barring a lamp at the waterhole. The dinner was laid next to a big braai. It was chicken kebabs and butternut soup; very well adorned with streaks of cream. The aroma of meat wafted in the air. The wind carried scent of dry soil and bushes to us.

While we were having dinner, Abner came to us to decide on next day’s plan. We expressed our wish to see a lion’s pride to him. While we were in the discussion, we saw a safari vehicle approaching back to the chalets with head lights on. Shortly a group of happy tourists arrived at the dining area and announced that they saw a pride of lions! 😮 The group so excited to have spotted lions that they shared their experience with twinkling eyes. 🙂 Their real story increased our anxiety to see the pride of lions even more. Abner was happy for getting a clue about where the pride could be.

Abner escorted us to our chalets and we straight went to the beds. Yet another awesome night beside the Savannah plains… 🙂

Early morning around 6:30, father and Nishant heard the roar of a big cat. Lion’s roar can be heard from a distance as long as five miles. At the time of breakfast, Abner came to our table and suggested that we should first visit the south-west terrain, where the other group of guests saw a lion’s pride the previous evening. We boarded the safari vehicle hopefully.

Abner took the sturdy vehicle through thorny bushes, ditches, and deep marked trails, which were left by other safari vehicles. We tried to keep ourselves from those thorny bushes and heat. We roamed the terrain looking for the presence of lions about an hour; but no luck…Abner, little disappointingly suggested that we go to the Etosha Pan and return to the west-terrain again to search the pride. We could see a large number of kudus, springboks, impalas, water bucks, elephants, ostriches, zebras, oryxes, wildebeests, and a lazy pair of lions, but the pride. 😦 The pair of lions we saw had tracing collars around their necks and they were lazily slumbering near a cement water tank. Sun was showering its warmest rays and the lion couple seemed to take years to move. 😀 I knew the lions were very lazy, but never knew they were that lazy!! 😀 Abner informed that they were together for making babies.

Sun was on our heads and Abner seemed to be little upset on not being able to follow the pride’s trail. He offered us for some juices and cold drinks to stay hydrated. In Etosha Pan we saw a giant tusker hurriedly coming to the waterhole. He was a darker than the most usual elephants. He drank from the water hole’s fresh water source and went his way. Abner told that the elephants splash water on their skin and then coat a layer of sand over the wet skin to make a mask, which saves them from the heat.

elephant-with-tusks

So the dark tusker seemed to have arrived from the terrain where there was dark soil. The tusker vanished into the bush with the same speed that he came with. A large herd of elephants came at the waterhole to quench their thirst. A little elephant cub was looking indeed cute 🙂

We decided to return to our chalets. We were little upset as we had only that evening left and we hadn’t yet spotted the pride. We were suppose to leave Ongava the next morning and time was running fast… 😦 We had chicken pies in lunch, took rest for an hour, and once again started the safari drive in search of pride. It was about 5:00pm with still a bright day outside. We all were sitting quiet in the vehicle and keenly looking around for any yellow furry patches or long brown mane…En route, Abner stopped the vehicle to show a beautiful fly catcher and few other small birds. But that day, we had eyes only for lion’s pride.

We roamed about more than 150km in Savannah plains in search of the lion’s pride. Abner was getting despondent and we were being desperate…The sky was clouded heavily and winds swirled up the dust in the air spirally. We were quiet and almost on the verge of losing hope… 😦 Sun was about to descend in some time. Abner again gathered his enthusiasm and took us to a nearby waterhole in anticipation of getting the pride’s trail…We spotted two mighty elephants at the waterhole, who were least bothered about our appearance. Abner stopped the vehicle at a little distance.

The elephants were munching leaves from the nearby tree, breaking its branches, and removing the bark…We keenly looked around again…

And all our efforts were paid!! 😀

It was there. Twelve of them. Camouflaged in the dry brown bushes. 🙂 Quiet and completely untamed…Spread around the waterhole. Young and old, males and females, and toddler cubs. Some lions were basking in the evening Sun.

lions-prideAbner read their body language and said that they had consumed their prey and arrived at the waterhole to conclude the day. The leader of the pride was keeping eye on elephants. He was little away from the elephants as well as from his pride. He looked ferocious with a steady gaze, full grown mane, and commanding gestures.

the-lion

Abner started the vehicle and parked it almost between the two elephants on one side and the pride on the other. After a lot of eating, the elephants approached the waterhole, where two lionesses were having water. One active elephant shooed them away by a loud trumpet and a thump of a forefoot. The lionesses made space for elephants and went aside. The elephants then started having water as if the waterhole was their own property! 😀 The pride kept anticipating their next moves and waiting for their turn to have water.

elephants-at-waterhole

A couple of lightening streaks appeared on the west horizon and we saw a massive cloud approaching towards us like a shower head. It carried a drizzle to us. Then it moved aside to make place for Sun to show its magic. Soon a beautiful rainbow appeared in the sky! It was magnificent. 🙂 The elephants, the Savannah plains, a lion’s pride, and the colorful sky!! The sight was so captivating!! A few hours before, we had wholeheartedly wished for the view of lion’s pride and He showed an extra-ordinary view of nature. 🙂 We were fortunate to be a part of that magical scene!!

Soon, the Sun went down leaving a hot orange streak in the western sky. Abner drove us safely back towards the chalets. It was so hard to get over the wonderful experience! We took dinner and went to bed.

ongava-managers

The managers, Ongava Game Reserve

The next morning, we took a lavish breakfast and met the staff to pay thanks. We expressed our deep gratitude to the lodge managers for hosting us. The staff members were so hospitable, and warmhearted that they effortlessly made us feel at home. 🙂 Their dedicated service with polite yet clear communication was unparalleled.

Ongava visit helped us to create one of the best memories during Namibian wildlife safari. As we know, we all retain best memories; for we can retrieve and revisit them, and smile again… 🙂 Holding memories of the unique experience at Ongava game reserve, we started back to Windhoek.

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Embracing the New Year

How was year 2016 for me? When I think of this question, a lot of recent memories crowd my mind…Year 2016 was full of experiences, zest, fun, and lessons. A year of learning the whole set of new lessons and revising the old ones…I went to places, met people, made new friends, and observed them all. I could overcome my fear of water and swim, learn basic French, and pick up photography as per my last year’s resolution. 🙂 I visited the great Pyramid of Giza, Roman Colosseum, London Bridge, and climbed the Leaning Tower of Pisa. It was so much fun to see a number of jaw-dropping places in Namibia and South Africa with my loved ones. I witnessed a wide variety of flora, fauna, and different colors of the mother earth.

The places I visited throughout the year were wonderful and exclusive, but it was not the case with people I met or been with. 😀 Some strangers beautifully reintroduced me to all the small and big things I could smile for. Some people I came across had less than their worth and some others had more than they deserved. Some funny people praised themselves on good results of execution of their plans and blamed others when results were unwelcomed. I met a girl who was ready to leave anything to find real love and then I met a woman who left love for money and material…I can say, I completely understood relativity! 😀

I learnt once a person’s soul departs, at no cost the person can come back…In contrast to the volatile life, this is a certainty of death. All you have are the memories of the days shared together. So it’s us to decide what kind of memories we want live with.

I learnt that I should not accept someone’s nonsense at first place. If I do then most probably I would have to submit myself to compromise my self-respect on every such nonsense in future. After all, I am responsible to condition others’ behavior too.

I used to think that if at all we quantify faith from 0 as no faith to 100 as undoubted faith then all the values between 0 and 99 are same as 0. I used to believe that I have faith only if it was 100%, complete. But according to my experience, faith can also be between 0 and 100.

I learnt that honesty and integrity are not something that weak people can handle. People will always take the easy and lazy route to hide their unethical behavior instead of choosing to condition themselves to be ethical, or not getting into unethical behavior at all.

I revised an old lesson that a person can change only if he or she wishes and works to change.

I also experienced an incredible power of pure thoughts and unsoiled character that anyone can accomplish by behaving in accordance with good virtues consistently. But sadly, a person with such character often continues the journey of growth alone.

I revised the lesson of hope. Hope and optimism go hand in hand. Hope had always been by my side even during the bad patches in my life. It is something that never ever broke my faith with it. This year I find myself equipped with little more knowledge I gained from my lessons… 🙂 I am going to release any bad memories accumulated over the past year. I am going to carry on only with the experiences and lessons.

While bidding farewell to the ending year, I find myself as anxious as a child, who awaits to open a series of gift boxes… 🙂 I am anxious to uncover what God has planned for me, day by day. I am ready to enter into year 2017 with full hope…to embrace new days, new experiences, and new lessons.

happy-new-year

Hoba: The Largest Known Iron Meteorite on Earth

It was Grootfontein in North Namibia, where a giant meteorite struck some less than 80,000 years ago. It remained at the same place since the time it arrived on the blue planet. The reason is nothing but its incredible weight. 🙂

We drove on the gravel road about 20 km west from Grootfonteint to see this giant extra-terrestrial body. We found the place very serene. There was dense vegetation. We started walking towards the meteorite. The short shady trail was quite soothing during the warm daytime.

hoba-meteorite

There are two stories behind the discovery of Hoba. According to the first version, in 1920, when a hunter named Jacobus Hermanus Brits was hunting at Farm Hoba West, he came across a strange dark grey colored surface surrounded by soil. He found the surface to be unusual so he scratched it with his knife. To his surprise the scratches shone and confirmed that it was a part of some metallic piece. Then Jacobus tried to find out more. He removed the surrounding soil that revealed entire body of the boulder. Then he chiseled off a small piece of the suspicious boulder and sent it to South West Africa (SWA; now Namibia) Maatskappy (this Africans word means company), which determined it to be an age-old meteorite.

The other version of the story says, Jacobus was a farm owner. Once while ploughing in Hoba West farm, his iron plough got stuck in the soil with a banging noise. When he dug around to remove the soil, this meteorite was revealed from underneath.

The most amazing features of Hoba meteorite are its shape and content. It is in the shape of a brick; as if some artists started sculpting it, reached the shape of a box, and left sculpting it in the middle for some reason. It is made of 82.4% iron, the substantial figure to name it as an iron meteorite. The rest 16.4% portion contains Nickel, Cobalt, Phosphorus, Carbon, Copper, Zinc, Gallium, Iridium, and other minerals that are not found on the earth. The local guide showed us the portion where iron piece was chipped off. It was shining so brightly in the Sun!

hoba-meteorite-iron-contentOnstudying the radioactive nickel isotope present in the boulder, the geologists figured out Hoba’s age to be at least 190 million years and at most 400 million years. It is estimated to weigh 66 tons at the time when it struck the earth. Later, due to oxidation, high winds, erosion, and vandalism, it lost its mass. Today, Hoba is estimated to be weighing about 60 tons.

The American Museum of National History at Manhattan initiated the purchase this meteorite from Namibia in 1954. The idea did not materialize due to transportation problems. The local community intimated Namibian Government about this and then the meteorite was declared as a national monument in year 1955. In 1985, Rössing Uranium Ltd. provided financial support to Namibian Government to guard the meteorite against public vandalism. Today, Hoba is surrounded by a cement structure and steps to enhance its view and facilitate the tourists to observe it from very near.

The curious cats like us wondered; what formula(e) did the geologists use to calculate its

hoba-meteorite-top-view

Hoba Meteorite Top View  Image, taken from a helicopter. Courtsey: Sqn Ldr Raja Pandiyan

 

weight, when there is absolutely no chance to move it?

How did Hoba acquire its box shape naturally? Was it semi-molten, so could achieve this shape while striking the earth?

How come there are no creators formed on nearby land, when such a massive object struck the Terra Firma? Have they vanished under trees or soil?

The local guide could not provide us answers of these questions. But nature is a good teacher. It teaches that not all questions have answers. Some questions have no logical answers; or no answers at all…

Determining to find out more information on our unanswered questions, we boarded our car and started journey back to Grootfontein.

Quick Facts of Hoba Meteorite

Here are some quick facts of Hoba meteorite:

Weight:            60 tons
Dimensions:  Length 9 ft  x  Width 9 ft  x  Height 3 ft
Contents:        82.4% Iron + 16.2% Nickel + Other minerals
Location:         Near Grootfontein, Northern Namibia.

Feeding Cheetahs and Leopards at Düsternbrook Farm

It was our 18th wedding anniversary, and we wanted to make it special and memorable. We planned to visit Düsternbrook Farm, a specious farm with colonial architecture, just 40 km away from Windhoek. It is a beautiful site famous for Cheetah feeding. Yes, we were going to see Cheetahs and Leopards being fed in their natural habitat. No cages, no moats; just open feeding to some active big cats! 😀

cheetah

The drive was about to start at 3:30 pm. As it is rainy season going on in Windhoek, the weather was partially cloudy, giving us a chance to save our skin from scratching Sun. With frequent glimpses of Warthogs and Guinea Fowls on the roadside, we entered this beautiful farm.

The safari vehicle was ready. We seated in the reception for some time till all the fellow travelers assembled. Our driver, Ryan, was quite a knowledgeable person and he knew what to do when it comes to deal with the big cats. He told us some facts about Cheetahs and Leopards, and informed us to be safe ourselves.

arun-ready-to-feed

Shortly, we all took seats in the vehicle one-by-one. Arun took co-driver’s seat. In the first row, I sat with a senior German couple. Nishant sat with his grandparents Small Aaji and Small Aaba behind us. And then there were a few rear-seat occupants. We all were ready with our hats, goggles, and most importantly, the cameras. Ryan came with a large tub containing pieces of game meat. He kept the tub near his seat and geared the vehicle.

He drove for a couple of minutes on very rough road. On our drive, we spotted a flock of Guinea Fowls flying overhead. I never knew, they could fly so high! 😮 Till that time, I had only spotted Guinea Fowls walking on the ground in flocks and hurriedly running to hide on our appearance. The area was covered with pebbles, dust, dry grass and Acacias. Some large Acacia trees were broken at boles; as if elephants had brought them down. All we could see around were various shades of beige and brown…

cheetah-in-action

Soon, Ryan parked the vehicle at a place which was little open; without any vegetation. We didn’t had to wait for long. Two Cheetahs came around in few minutes. There were male siblings of nine years each. They came by the smell of meat in the tub. Ryan first started flinging the smaller pieces of meat towards them. With their keen eyesight and anticipation, they were jumping and catching them in the air directly. That was quite a sight to watch.

Since there were two male Cheetahs together, I was a bit surprised. I asked him, “Can multiple Cheetah males share the same terrain, unlike lions?”

He said while flinging yet another piece of meat, “Male Cheetahs can; but females can’t.”

The man sitting next to me said, “Just like you women, you see 😉 …”, winking his eyes at me. It was such an apt and timely joke! 😀

jungle-safari

Ryan made the Cheetahs wander around the vehicle for a while. They were asking for more meat by making a sound like, Aawwe from their throats. Ryan told that Cheetahs have a large nasal cavity that helps to breathe speedily after an exhausting chase. Though they chase and knock down their preys to puncture their spinal cords like the other big cats do; they are not very ferocious. At last, Ryan flung a large pieces of meat to each one, which they fondly caught in the air and went under a shady tree. They started eating it peacefully. We stayed there for some time observing them and taking pictures.

By then, the clouds moved away as usual revealing the bright glare behind. Sun was terribly sharp even if it was inclined towards West. Air turned warmer than it was some time back. After eating wholeheartedly, the Cheetahs went their ways and we started towards Leopards. The safari vehicle was leaving behind a trail of tire-marks and brut white dust.

No sooner than we entered the Leopard terrain, Ryan announced that a Leopard was just in the close vicinity from us. At a few meters distance, we spotted him sitting camouflaged in the dry grass. His head was partially visible and his gaze was fixed towards us. Ryan parked the vehicle right under a tree and took the meat tub on the top of the vehicle. He accessed the lower branches and planted some meat pieces on the them. Then he got down, and reversed the vehicle to park at some distance from the tree. It made a whooshing noise and stopped. We all were sitting silent. Everything turned quiet except a distant call of a solitary bird and continual chirp of crickets. The Leopard was steadily observing us.

leopard

We waited for him to show some action. Of course, only the action of eating that meat on the tree. 😀 After some time he got up slowly and walked towards the tree. He halted at some distance from the tree. He wore beige-colored coat with black spots that looked like small flowers of three to five petals. The linear arrangement of spots on his neck was prominent. He stood there for a while twirling and hitting his tail on the ground; growling occasionally. A completely untamed big cat, in full sorts, just a few feet away! I could feel goosebumps rising on my neck 😥

Ryan made some sounds and spoke something in the local Damara language. The leopard continued growling. Throwing a final glance at us, he swiftly climbed the tree, reached the meat pieces, and grabbed them in his jaws. He then climbed down the tree gracefully and sat down to eat them. He was cracking the large bones easily while closing its eyes and tilting his head. That cracking sound was so fiercely during that quiet afternoon! We watched it for a while and started with our return journey. On our way back from the terrain, we revised the difference in the two big cats we just saw.

What is the Difference between Cheetah and Leopard?

Though cheetah and leopard look very similar apparently, there are different in many ways.

  1. Spots – The first apparent difference lies in their spots. Cheetahs have solid round dot-shaped spots on their skin whereas Leopards flaunt black flowers-like spots named rosettes.
  2. Body Shape– Cheetahs have very sleek body with long limbs and small head. They are tall. Leopards have bigger head and are bulkier than Cheetahs. Also, they have a typical cat-shaped body.
  3. Face – Cheetahs have two black facial lines that run down from inside of the eyes up to the mouth. They are known as Tear Lines. They act as reflectors when Cheetahs are hunting during a very bright day. Leopards on the other hand, don’t have such lines. and their faces resemble to domestic cat.
  4. Action – Cheetahs appeared to be very quick when it came to action as opposed to the lousy leopards.
  5. Forte – When it comes to hunting, Cheetahs exploit their speed, and leopards count on their strength.
  6. Jaws and Paws – Because of the larger nasal cavity, Cheetahs have smaller teeth and jaw than leopards, hence they cannot crack large bones. Leopards on the contrary are known to possess the highest strength to crack thick bones. Their jaw pressure is 700 PSI, which is even more than the lion’s 690PSI (PSI = Pounds per Sqr Inch). Leopards also have special paws that enable them to climb the trees. Cheetahs lack such paws.
  7. Lifestyle – Cheetahs are more social animals. Male Cheetahs can form groups and can be domesticated too; but Leopards are solitary animals. Also, Cheetahs are diurnal animals who prefer to wander in plains as opposed to the nocturnal Leopards who prefer thick bushes and trees.

We shortly arrived at the farm premises. The farm boasts a clean and large swimming pool. We enjoyed swimming for some time and prepared ourselves to return.

evening-in-namibia

The Sun was setting down with full brightness. Evening breeze carried the aroma of wet soil from long away. We boarded our car and started return journey on the rough road. Warthogs were running back to their warrens flaunting their funny antenna-like erect tails. 😀 Oryxes and Impalas were walking in herds into the thicker vegetation. Weaver birds had assembled on the trees. A hare crossed our way rapidly. Soon we arrived at the main road and with yet another gem of experience on mind, we headed towards Windhoek.

Braai, Beer, and Bush

History of braai can be traced back to the time when the early humans walked on the earth. Maybe the early man found a dead animal who couldn’t escape the forest fire and he tasted its meat with smoked flavor…He realized that the cooked piece of meat was comparatively much softer and tastier than the uncooked meat…Maybe then he preferred to cook the meat always thereafter…Or maybe he invented fire creating using two-stone method and tried cooking the meat…Whatever the reason, the taste and flavor of the grilled meat spoilt taste buds of the early humans. That must be the very first step of a human being towards braaing and in turn cooking.

The word Braai is a short form of Braaivleis, which is an Afrikaans word for local variation of barbecued or grilled meat. The word Braai is a noun that depicts the cooking equipment as well as a verb that depicts the way meat is cooked.

Braai involves outdoor cooking of meat and dining. Family or friends gather together in a casual environment for Braai lunch or dinner. Braai is an important part of food culture of Botswana, Malawi, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. A large number of houses in these African countries have Braai arrangements in their gardens. They are called permanent Braai stands and are generally located near swimming pools. Most of the resorts, hostels, and hotels also provide permanent Braai stands.

half-drum-braai

Braai Party is a great social gathering in a friendly and casual manner where you don’t need to worry about following any stern party manners hence the host can also become a part of the event casually. Less preparation is required for the Braai as far as the food part is concerned. The other interesting thing is, the men folk plays a leading role in braaiing as it needs to handle heavy or large-sized equipment near fire. Believe it or not, this definitely lessens the cooking load on women folk. Women mostly contribute in marination, preparing salads or dips, and cutting lemon wedges.

Which basic equipment do I need for braai?

round-braaiBraai is a tray of some substantial height, which is entirely covered with grid. You can keep burning firewood or hot embers in the tray and cover it with the metal grid on which you can keep pieces of meat directly for grilling. The metal grid is made of iron, cast iron, or steel. There are various shapes of Braai stands such as Half-oil drum (which is the largest in size), Dome-shaped, and Box-shaped.

Apart from the Braai stand, paraffin or kerosene is required for persistent fire that goes on even during winds in the open areas. The tongs are required to pick up or turn the pieces of meat on hot grid. The longer the tongs, the safer they are. In addition, it is better to use paper plates than the glass or ceramic ones, as they are convenient during outdoor eating.

Braai Fuel

Various types of seasoned wood or charcoal are primarily used as Braai fuel. These days, brackets made from fine wooden chips are being preferred. The type of wood plays an instrumental role in the smoke it produces and in turn in flavor of the meat. Though most of the times wood is used conventionally, brackets and charcoal provide convenient handling.

Which meat or vegetables can I braai?

The sleeker the meat, more tenderly and completely it gets cooked. Meat is marinated in spices for hours before the actual cooking starts. Fillets or cubes of chicken, pork, and lamb or mutton, other red meat, game meat, tiger prawns or fish, boerewors, sausages, frankfurters, steaks, and ribs are excellent options for Braai. Though few people prefer meat with bones, the tender cuts such as shoulder, breast, and thigh are perfect for braaing as they contain less or almost no bones.

Braai doesn’t let anyone go hungry. A vegetarian guest can always braai marinated cottage cheese cubes, tomatoes, mushrooms, capsicums, brinjal slices, carrots, potatoes, and sweet potatoes.

Which side dish and drink goes well with braai?

Braaied food can be paired with a large range of salads, sauces, dips, and breads to enhance the taste. The side dishes give a fantastic color combination and complement the main braai dish. Potato salad, Green salad, Greek salad, Carrot-orange salad, are great options for side dish.

Since it’s a casual dining practice, braaied meats can be served with chilled drought beer, lager, or ale. White or red wine with dry taste can match with braaied seafood. The teetotalers can rely on any cold drinks. Braai is a wild thing that can be better handled with chilled alcoholic drinks.

Braai Recipes

Here are few Braai recipes:

Braaied Chicken Breasts 

This is an Indo-African version of braai recipe sufficient for 3 to 4 people. Flavorful and tastey, for those who wish to try something with Indian spices in African wilderness. 🙂

Ingredients

Boneless Chicken – 4 large pieces of 125-150gm each, cut into long slices.

Marination

  1. Thick unsweetened curds – 1 cup
  2. Fresh Ginger Paste – 1 tbsp
  3. Fresh Garlic Paste – 1 tbsp
  4. Coriander Powder – 1 tbsp
  5. White Pepper Powder – ½ tbsp
  6. Cinnamon or Nutmeg Powder – ½ tbsp
  7. Kashmiri Chilli Powder – 1 tbsp
  8. Lemon juice – 5 tbsp
  9. Salt – to taste

Method

  1. Clean the pieces of chicken.
  2. Slit the pieces by running a sharp knife on it 3 to 5mm deep at 1cm distance. Do not let them break apart.
  3. Flip the piece and repeat the process on the other side.
  4. Mix all the Marination ingredients in a large bowl.
  5. Apply this mixture to the chicken pieces all over to coat them evenly.
  6. Keep the chicken breasts covered for a couple of hours in the refrigerator for marination.
  7. Roast the chicken breasts on the braai grid till they are done completely.

Carrot-Black Currant-Orange Salad

This salad is tasty enough to make you close your eyes while feeling its juicy taste. It will make you forget that some time back you couldn’t take off your eyes from its bright orange and black colors. 🙂

Ingredients

  1. Fresh bright carrots – 6 to 8 large
  2. Orange juice – 1 ½ cup
  3. Black Currants – 3 tbsp

Method

  1. Peel the carrots.
  2. Shred them into fine stripes.
  3. Transfer the shredded carrot into a large bowl.
  4. Add orange juice into it.
  5. Add black currants.
  6. Mix well.
  7. Keep the bowl covered with cling foil in the refrigerator.
  8. Serve chilled.

Mustard Sauce

This little hot and sweet tangy sauce brings an extra punch to the braaied meat or vegetables.

Ingredients

  1. Evaporated Milk – ¾ cups
  2. Split and husked mustard – 4 tbsp
  3. Sugar – 1 tbsp
  4. Salt – ¼ tbsp

Method

  1. Soak the mustard in milk for ½ hour.
  2. Add Sugar.
  3. Blend well in a blender to fine paste.
  4. Add salt.
  5. Serve at room temperature.

So next time when you are in fix for a casual party theme, why not try the African Braai with beer in a bush? 🙂

Swiss Landscape on Bernina Express

“If on earth be an Eden of bliss,

It is this, it is this, it is none but this!”

When I entered Switzerland its stunning beauty made me remind these lines. Switzerland boasts Alps ranges, a large number of tunnels and bridges, highest dams, and four official languages. It displays a unique range of magnificent landscapes. We all wanted to see the mighty yet beautiful Alps ranges and the scenic beauty of this blessed piece of land hence we visited Switzerland this summer.

We planned to travel by the world-famous Bernina Express, the train especially operated for the purpose of site-seeing. We decided to take the route from Tirano to Zurich and excitedly boarded the train.

bernina-express

The train was bright red-colored from outside with refreshing cream-white color inside the compartments, which were very comfortable and lavish. A very special and noticeable feature of Bernina Express is its large and clear windows through which the passengers can see the surrounding nature. These windows are extended up to the roof and facilitate the passengers to see every bit of the beauty and find themselves as a part of the nature while being on the wheels. Another stunning feature is the height at which Bernina Express operates effortlessly on narrow-guage. It runs at an adequate speed to let one observe the surroundings. The train operates at the height of 2253 meters above sea level and makes one wonder, how successfully man has created machines and tamed them at his service.

As the train steadily kept moving ahead, the breathtaking landscapes started unfolding. It took us through pastures of lush green grass. There were healthy brown cows grazing on the slopes. They were wearing flat-shaped brass bells tied in the embroidered leather belts around their necks. The black-nosed sheep were looking as if there were few white woolen bundles kept on green carpet.

switzerland-landscape

Along the green pastures, there were small houses topped with tapered roofs and fenced with wooden bars. Sometimes they were so close to the train that I thought I could extend my hand to touch. They had little entrance gates which were adorned with bells and floral plants. The gardens in front of the houses displayed artistic arrangement of small fountains, animal figurines, and colorful pots. We spotted a little house just near the rail track where figurines of seven smiling dwarfs were kept in the garden. They looked so cute! 🙂 I tried to look for the Snow White’s figurine around but the train moved ahead and that pretty sight of the house was replaced by another beautiful view of chestnut trees.

The Swedish houses had small old-styled windows of wooden frames. Almost every window was decorated with the rectangular pots placed just outside the windows, which contained plants with pink, white, yellow, and purple flowers. They made a good contrast with the color of the window frames and left us impossible to decide which one was beautifying the other 😀

There were churches seen occasionally in the backdrop of the hilly green meadows. The Swedish towns just looked like the ones portrayed in the fairy tales. 🙂 Indeed Europeans have an obsession as well as an eye for a great detail to maintain their gardens neat, clean, and attractive.

The train was taking us on bridges, through tunnels, and around orchards. The food service carts arrived full of hamburgers, sandwiches, wines, and other drinks. They also had soft toys for sale, especially the Valais Black-nosed sheep. As we progressed on our journey, we started getting the glimpse of Alps Mountain through the tall pine trees. Soon Bernina took us nearer and we were astonished to see the snow-clad tops of the Alps.

switzerland-matterhorn

It was the most breathtaking moment when we saw Matterhorn, the fifth highest peak in Alps ranges. It is in the shape of a pyramid with four steep triangular faces, each one facing a direction. Though its appearance, height, and expanse were scary, it captivated our eyes. 🙂 I find the view of large natural bodies like mountains and oceans is always spectacular. It limits one’s ego and makes one realize how negligible one’s presence is on this mother Earth!

We were so engrossed in watching the beauty around that we could not believe our destination had arrived. While we were on the train, the time seemed to pass so fast! It was an indulging experience to travel through the scenic beauty of Switzerland.

Switzerland landscapes are splendid.

It makes one’s eyes hungry and contented at the same time with its delightful beauty. 🙂

Namibian Birds through My Lens

Our tenure in Windhoek, the capital city Namibia, is an open door for visiting different unexplored places. Windhoek is one of the top 10 clean cities in Africa. It has a number of photo-opportunity places. The deep blue skies overhead and almost no pollution makes the routine sunrise and sunsets also very splendid. In this less populated city, the birds are ample in variety and number. And they are visible so easily! 🙂

birds-flocks

I use 55-250mm lens with Canon camera to take pictures. I also use the handy and compact Sony digital camera. Here are some birds that I could spot around our house on Eadie Street, around Windhoek city, and the countryside.

Windhoek mornings start with sound of the dawn chorus. 🙂 Especially during winter, the weather is chilled and the Sun is bright. The birds are often found basking on the tree-tops or on the overhead electric cables.

Cardinal Woodpecker

It is found in entire Namibia, Botswana, and South Africa. I saw this bird accidentally. Once during late afternoon I went to collect dried clothes from the clothes-string installed in the backyard. I heard some strange sound rhythmically coming from the tree located in the extreme far end of the fence. There were more trees there. I slinked to follow the sound and got to see this beautiful bird!

cardinal-woodpecker

I rushed back home speedily to get the camera and returned with it hoping that it would stay there till I click a couple of pictures. It was too busy to notice the sound of any leaves crushed under my feet 🙂 Indeed, good for me.

Greater Flamingos

We saw them on the west-coast of Walvis Bay. It was the evening and the water at the sea shore was warm. The flamingos were just about 300m away from us; wading their long feet in the water and looking for their favorite fish.

greater-flamingos

Later I learnt this type of flamingo is known as Greater Flamingo in the diction of Ornithology. It has pale pinkish-white body with long neck and pink legs. Its beak seems quite big for its head and has black tip. Its wings are adorned with pink fringe of the feathers.

Gray Hornbill

I spotted it early morning on the backyard tree. Initially I saw a big bird flying steadily in the sky. I prayed it should perch on the nearby tree visibly till I take its pictures. I didn’t know, my prayers would be answered instantly.

grey-hornbill

The bird took two rounds and perched on one of the top branches on the barren tree. It had long shining black bill and a white eyebrow line. I managed to click this picture though I was very far from it. Yes, something is always better than nothing. 😀

Gray Go-Away Bird

I get to see it in acacia tree in the backyard. It appears with smokey grey color. It has whitish crown on its head. It is concolored means uniformly colored bird. It is seen perching on the thorny branches and eating wild figs and breaking seeds.

go-away-bird

It is found on Namibian desert lands such as Kalahari, Caprivi, and also the Kavango region. It is also named as Grey Lourie. It is a funny sight when it frequently raises and lowers its crest while moving around the branches.

Hartlaub’s Gull

It was seen on the see shore of Walvis Bay. It has a thin pointed black bill. Its head, face, and the stomach are white. It has black eyes and deep gray-colored wings, which gradually turn darker at the ends. Its tail is short and black.

hartlaub-gull

Its legs are short and thin. The claws are connected together with wading pads. I spotted it while it was resting on the sea shore and didn’t really bother about my presence around.

Palm Dove

It is also known as Laughing dove. It must have acquired the name because of its call. It has adjusted itself to the city life and it is found in entire Namibia. It has cinnamon-colored body with the hints of grey. During winters it is often found basking on the top of the trees.

palm-doves

During warm daytime, the walls and ground receive a large amount of sunlight. In the afternoon even when the heat goes down, the garden paths are warm. The Palm Doves then sometimes perch on the ground.

Red-Eyed Bulbul

This little fellows are habitual visitors around our house at Eadie Street. It has black head and beak. Its wings are dusky brown. The orange-red colored ring around its eyes distinguishes it from the common Bulbul. It has little yellow patch beneath its black tail.

red-eyed-bulbul-pair

These Bulbuls are found in entire Namibia. Their sweet calls on a quiet afternoon are indeed maddening! Of course, in a good way. 😀

Rosyfaced Lovebird

They have rose-colored face and vibrant green-colored body. Their short tails look deep cobalt-blue outside. But let it start shrieking and one feels like running out of the place speedily…What a combination, beautiful looks and shrill noise! 😦 I did not know its name when I first spotted it.

rosyfaced-lovebirds

One fine morning I went to the High Commission of India’s library and found a book on South African birds. I found this rightly-named bird listed under the lovebirds category.

Scarlet-Chested Sunbird

It has a diagnostic scarlet-colored chest. Rest of the body is shining jet back color. It flaunts brown colored wings. Its beak is long, curved, slender, and grey. It visits a large tree in front of our house during early morning hours and once during afternoon.

scarlet-chested-sunbird

It was very restless indeed; I didn’t ever find this fellow perching stable on any branch. It must be a male because in most of the birds species, male birds look better than female birds. Plus, they are flamboyant too. 😉

Short-Toed Rock Thrush

It is a beautiful bird with very pale blue head, slate blue face, and same colored wings, which gradually become darker at the ends. Its chest and stomach are brownish-orange colored.

short-toed-rock-thrush

When I was setting my camera lens, it noticed my actions and still kept sitting on the branch. That’s like a good bird! 🙂 This bird is found in entire Namibia and northern region of South Africa.

Weaver Bird

Though there are numerous types of weaver birds today on the Terra Firma, I could spot the Lesser Masked Weaver which displays partially black face with yellow rings around its eyes. All Weaver Birds types are almost equal is size and shape. They are as big as a house sparrow.

masked-weaver-with-nest

One needs only two colors at hand: black and yellow; if one wishes to color a drawing of Lesser Masked Weaver. The weavers have short beaks. During spring, the weavers start making their coconut-shaped nests hanging at the end of a long soft branch.

White-Backed Mousebird

It has light grey feathers on the back and it flaunts a small crest on the head. Its short white bill has black tip. The upper part of its body is plain and the claws are shocking pink colored. It has a pointed long tail.

whitebacked-mousebird

These birds are regular visitors in the nearby trees. They live in flocks and chirp with a very sweet sound. When it is evening, a group of Whitebacked Mousebirds hides itself into the dense thorny bush of Bougainvillea that is just outside the bedroom. Every morning, we get up together 😀

White-Crowned Shrikes

This bird is about 10cm long. It lives and moves in flocks. Each flock has about 10 to 20 birds. This bird has a short white beak. Its stomach and head are also white. The upper part of its small black eye is surrounded with the hint of black. Its tail has two short black feathers. The tail looks like a tail of a fish.

shrikes

One morning I saw a big flock of shrikes on the tree-top. Till the time I adjust the camera lens, many of them flew away. Then I could get a picture with only three participants. 🙂

Yellow-Billed Hornbill

Maybe it was a female species of Grey Hornbill. I spotted it on a tree near the swimming pool. It had a yellow bill, but it was not prominent yellow. It flaunted a brown patch under the bill. It moved around the branches slowly and ungracefully, as if with a great difficulty. It perched on a branch for a quite some time and took flight, which looked magnificent.

yellowbilled-hornbill

This is not all. There are many birds out there, which I have not yet seen.

It was not always I could capture the picture of every bird I saw. At times some birds flew away at my glimpse and sometimes I encountered them without the camera at hand. :/ Sometimes my tip-toeing skills didn’t work on dry leaves effectively while following them. And the other times, they just flew away suddenly out of a startle when we both faced each other unexpectedly 😀

But at the end of the day, it is fun to follow their calls and striking colors in the trees. I strongly believe, we all can definitely get to see what we persistently and religiously look for. Hence my quest of bird-watching continues… 🙂