Friday, September 30, 2011

Couscous Craze

Another food blog post.

Well this one is more of an assembling rather then cooking. I made the couscous, which I'm totally crazy about because it's soooooo simple to make and sooooooo difficult to mess up, just by simply adding boiling water into the same amount of couscous with a bit of seasoning and letting that sit for a few minutes. That was it! Then I got the chopped fresh vegetables, serunding (spicy meat floss a colleague brought for me from KL during his Eid holiday), sambal of onions and dried anchovies which I cooked and frozen a week ago and leftover fried peanuts and crispy anchovies from my nasi lemak, piled them all up on a bed of the fluffy buttery couscous.

Let's eat!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Another Salad Dinner... and Lunch!

I'm on a salad craze at the moment, making another salad meal. It was super easy, involving opening up tins of can beans: white beans, chickpeas, sweet corn and peas plus some dicing of red onions and carrots. Then a quick toss in a simple dressing of lime juice and honey and extra virgin olive oil.

I made so much that it actually lasted me for 2 meals, piling up on my dinner plate and filing up my lunch box the next day.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Salad Lunch

Getting (was it stealing?) the idea from a friend, I tweaked it a bit and made this avocado cabbage onion salad with honey mustard dressing. I switched the lettuce to cabbage because lettuce is ridiculously expensive here and I added an hard boiled egg for the texture and protein punch. The dressing was super simple with equal part of mustard and honey and then whisking them up in double part of extra virgin olive oil, with a squeeze of lime and pinch of herbs (whatever is available) and salt and pepper to taste.

Love the creaminess of the avocado and the soft bite of the egg with the cabbage and red onions crunch. The sweetness of the dressing and the aromatic olive oil brought them all together very nicely.

And it was surprisingly filling.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

To Hell And Back

I've been to hell, made it back in one piece and loved every single minute of it. Hell's Gate National Park that is. It was named Hell's Gate by the German explorers Fisher and Thomson in 1883, after a narrow break in the rugged cliffs, which was once a tributary of a prehistoric lake within the Rift Valley. However, according to my guide Brian, Hell's Gate is a translation from a local name Menangai, which mean burial site or grave.

What is impressive of this place, aside from game watching, is the panoramically towering and rugged red cliffs in the vast savannah landscape. Due to the volcanic activity of the area, there are hot springs and geysers in the park. The best bit, you get to roam free, on foot or on bike, along with the animals in the park, with the possibility of close encounters with lions, leopards, cheetahs, elands, zebras, giraffes, baboons and more than 100 species of birds.

Entering the park with the red cliffs flanking on the side.

The Devil's Nose, rock climbing allowed here.

The sheer rugged cliffs with a lovely hues of red, brown, orange and yellow.

Lone tree in the vast expense of the open savannah.

The massive awe-inspiring cliffs

Fisher Tower, a volcanic plug, a landmark within the park.

Hiking down the to the Hell's Gate gorge.

At the bottom of the gorge.

The art work of the wind and heat and water over millions of years.

One of the numerous hot springs in the park, collectively named Hell's Shower.

Silently strolling at the bottom of the gorge, slightly eerie but calming too.

The trickling hot springs sculpts the gorge walls into funny shapes and colors them in wonderfully splashes of hues.

The colorfully layered earth exposed by the elements.
Riverbanks of white, black and yellow, with bursts of lush green vegetation.

The river flows so quietly and patiently.

The mother of all geysers here in the park, collectively name Hell's Kitchen. (Gordon Ramsay was nowhere in sight.)

The vast open space of the gorge valley.

The amazingly colorful riverbanks, love it.

The picturesque spectacle of the gorge and cliffs.

Hiking back up from the gorge.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Oh My Eyes!

7.45 a.m.

I opened the door of my room getting out for work, to the sight of my over-the-retiring-age and restless looking flatmate, L, sitting cross-legged on the couch reading newspapers, in his oversized t-shirt that covered his lower body and (I really really hope) his undies.

Oh my eyes!

Not so early in the morning. Not ever!

Oh my eyes!

Sunday, September 11, 2011


Today is Mid Autumn festival. A festival in the Chinese culture commemorating the successful uprising of the Chinese rebels against the Mogul rulers back in the 14th century. Nowadays it is a celebration of family reunion, having dinner together and later in the night enjoying the delicious sweet treat of mooncakes and tea while admiring the moon. The moon is believe to be the roundest and brightest and most beautiful on this night. Kids would be going around the neighborhood carrying lanterns with a variety of shapes and designs and colors.

Mom was asking me about getting mooncakes here in Khartoum when we spoke some weekends ago. I remember telling her that was pretty much impossible. Then, I received a box of moon cakes from a Chinese friend from mainland China, 9 beautifully crafted mooncakes with different filling from normal sweet red bean paste with a salted yolk to the lychee paste and golden dates paste filling, all nicely done up and elegantly packed. Oh, what a treat!

Then I realized it's imported from China. And the Chinese have some seriously doggy processed food, dumpling with card board filling, fake eggs and the list goes on and on.

Damn! To eat or not to eat?

Oh fuck it, I had two already!

10 Years

The only constant in life is change. Everything changes everyday, one way or another. But no change came so swiftly and dramatically and radically as it did the same day 10 years ago. Unfortunately that was not change for the better. For that day on, countless lives were forever altered in ways beyond our comprehension.

In fact, a lot of us are still trying to comprehend and make sense of that painful event.

10 years later, so many changes came and gone. But have we really learnt from the unspeakable tragedy that shook us to the core on that fateful day?

I pray you peace, strength and wisdom.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Who's Looking At Who?

Towards the end of my safari trip in Masai Mara, while looking at the animals roaming freely in the open grassland, taking in the rugged panoramic view of the land, I started to feel like the animals in the zoo. We were being caged in the van through the safari and the game out there was probably looking at us, pretty much like us visiting a zoo looking at the animals in their confinement.

That's why I think I actually enjoy Hell's Gate National Park so much more. I was on my bike, free to roam around, stop wherever and whenever I wanted, admire the animal (though from afar) and experience the vast expense of the open space.
We both are free, the animals and the visitors, sharing the space and doing our own thing. And that was a indescribable feeling. Everything was just great and I just couldn't stop grinning. Even the rain felt good and refreshing as it hit my face on my way out of the park at the end of the day. It did not dampen my feeling a tiny bit.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Breakfast at Masai Mara

Normally I have dried fruit and mixed nuts muesli for breakfast. Just add milk then a simple and quick yet healthy and nutritious breakfast is ready. Perfect for lazy bum (me!) who would like to max out the shut-eye time in the morning.

But in Masai Mara, they are on a different breakfast, more of a local treat which involve quite a bit of hardwork the night before. And they like it raw.

Well perhaps the vultures and marabou storks have it easy, just picking up the leftovers from the predatory game. But there isn't a lot of leftovers to go around and therefore competition aplenty.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Mara Wonders

"Do Masai Mara. You'll see loads of animals, for sure!" F told me, with such assurance.

"Go to Masai Mara. The drivers will drive off the trail to get you as closer as possible to the animal and getting you a good view of them." C informed me, with a wink and a grin.

Such comments from fellow travelers upped my excitement level tremendously to visit Masai Mara. The night before my trip, I was so exhilarated and and psyhed up that I couldn't sleep, like a child all excited to discover what present and how many of them he is getting on Christmas morning. I was sure I even dreamed of close encounter with lions and elephants.

I woke up so early the next morning heading to the pick up point in Nairobi to begin my 3-day-2-night Kenyan safari adventure. I was acquainted with my fellow safari van mates: two Dutch girls and four Japanese. After a bit of dilly dally that included a snack shopping stop, a van switch, a tire change and a lot of plain waiting in the van, we were off.

"Masai Mara here we come!"

The journey to Masai Mara from Nairobi took a good 6 hours, with a lunch stop. The last stretch into the reserve, a good 60km, was ridiculously bumpy. The road was obviously poorly maintained, potholes as big as a crater and patches unpaved. The bumpy 60km took almost 2 hours. It baffled me to no end why the Kenyan government's inaction on this, considering the Mara is pulling millions of visitors a year and making millions of dollars to the Kenyan economy.

Anyway, we got there about 4.15pm and quickly settled into our tent and just as quickly dashed to the Mara, just in time for our first evening game drive. And with that our safari adventure officially started.

Within the 3 hour game drive, we saw huge herds of wildebeests and zebra grazing in the vast expanse of the Kenyan plain. It is often to see these two animals together. One has better sight while the other is more superior in it's hearing, which helps in alerting each other the presence of their predator, the lions, in addition to the combo of their strength in number.

Then there were the giraffes, placid and gentle, moving from tree to tree, munching the tenderest tips of the trees away. They strolled by with the grace and fluidity of a ballerina. Occasionally, they raised their heads and looked at us for a moment, then resumed munching without a care in the world. How could anyone not love this towering gentle creatures?

On the grassy field there were groups of impalas, another gentle creatures. Male impalas have pointy spiral horns, which are their weapon of choice when fighting over a female impala. Females has no horns, so the ladies hang out in group, safety in number and protected by a pimp, I mean a male impala and it's horns.

Later in the evening game drive, we came across a group lioness chilling atop of a hilly rocky boulder, literally chilling, while an equally huge group of safari van with tourists going gaga over them. The ohs and ahs did not faze them one tiny bit. It was truly a sight to behold. It was unnerving being so close to them but looking at these majestically fierce beasts frolicking playfully was amazing. At the same time, their poise and quiet demeanor was also incredibly calming.

Just as we were still reveling in the excitement of the close encounter with the group of lioness, we were treated to the sight of a lion, also chilling in the field, all by himself. He was just hanging out on its own, quietly, oblivious of the van loads of tourists and ceaseless and frantic clicking of the cameras.

We saw two cheetahs too. They have 2 black lines coming down the side of their nose from their eyes. Leopards do not. Their black spotted yellow hide was beautiful, with an almost glimmering shimmer, even in the dying light of the day.
Then I remembered what F and C said to me. Oh, how true!

Oh we witnessed an brilliant sunset over Masai Mara, with the sky splashed with a glorious spectrum of hues of yellow and orange and pink and red. Oh what a sight to end the day.