Saturday, September 28, 2013

South African Heavy Artillery Memorial in Durban

I wouldn't really call war memorials a specific interest on my side, but I really enjoy discovering historic sites and attractions.  Just about every city and town in South Africa has a war memorial of some sort and Durban is no different.  Usually cities have a number of war related memorials and the first one I found in Durban was the city's South African Heavy Artillery Memorial, one of six around South Africa. 
After the end of World War I the Imperial Government presented 6 howitzer guns to the Union of South Africa.  The guns were used by the South African Heavy Artillery Association to honour their fallen Comrades-in-Arms and the six South African Heavy Artillery Memorials were created.  The six memorials can be found in the following places:
  • Johannesburg Zoo - Memorial to 71st (Transvaal) Siege Battery
  • Clyde N Terry Museum in Kimberley - 72nd (Griqualand West) Siege Battery
  • Company Gardens in Cape Town - 73rd (Cape) Siege Battery
  • National Museum in Bloemfontein - 74th (Eastern Province) Siege Battery
  • Union Buildings in Pretoria - 125th (Transvaal) Siege Battery)
  • Warriors' Gate MOTH Shellhole in Old Fort Road, Durban - 75th (Natal) Siege Battery

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Potjiekos 101

In South Africa a braai (and please note how I say braai and not barbecue as barbecue is a chips flavour) is as part of the nation's heritage as ice is part of the North Pole.  In my opinion a braai is also just a proper braai when you start with burning wood to create coals.  But that is a discussion for a whole other day.  Something that is very much part of the braai culture is potjiekos.  Potjiekos literally translates as "small pot food" and is a stew prepared outdoors and traditionally cooked in a round, three-legged cast iron pot.  
When the Dutch first came to the Cape they brought with them their ways of cooking food in heavy cast iron pots. These pots would hang from the kitchen hearth above the fire and was used to cook and heat water. The black people of South Africa also used cast iron pots to cook in, something they learned from Middle Eastern traders and later Portuguese colonists.
During the Great Trek in the 1800's the Voortrekkers hung their pots from their wagons and when they got to their over night stops they would put the pots straight onto the fire to cook or heat their food in. The beauty of cast iron pots is that they are able to retain heat well and only a few coals are needed to keep the food simmering for hours as the heat and steam doesn't escape from the lid. 
This post isn't about the origins about potjiekos though but rather to show you more about making a potjie and also what a potjiekos competition is.  The pictures were taken at a potjiekos competition I was part of a little while ago. A potjiekos competition is something like Ultimate Braaimaster or Master Chef where groups of people prepare meals in potjies to be judged. In this case its just not for television but rather done during festive weekends and often in plattelandse dorpies. Ok, not just little towns as you get to see it in the cities as well.

The most popular pot to use is the no 3 pot which makes enough for about 4 to 6 people to eat from. and what you make with it is only limited by your own imagination. Let me explain why. Well, you can make just about anything in the pot. I normally have a small pot on the side in which I make chicken livers while another favorite is making pot bread to eat with the potjiekos. The potjiekos itself range from meat potjies to vegetable, seafood to chicken and pasta to desserts.

The way to make your potjiekos is to start off with some oil in the bottom of your pot.  Remember how Shrek said that ogres have layers like onions? Well, potjiekos is also made up of layers.  You start off with your meat in the bottom of the pot, browning it on both side to seal in the flavour.  Cook the meat for a little while longer and then add the onions followed by the vegetables which get placed in the order it takes them to be cooked.  Start off with potato and carrots followed by pumpkin, mushroom, peas and tomatoes right at the top.  This is obviously just a suggestion as you add whatever tickles your fancy.  Some people add their sauce or wine straight after their meat.  I like to add mine after the veg.  A watery potjie is never good so don't add to much water.  Importantly, and this is the main difference between a potjie and a stew, don't stir until right at the end.
One of the best parts of being at a potjiekos competition is taking a walk around past the competitiors to see what they are preparing and to get some ideas for your own future creations.  The competition in question was at the Montagu Caravan Park in the Western Cape and there were probably about 20 entries with a huge veriety of pots and side dishes on offer.

The judges really had their jobs cut out for them moving from pot to pot tasting everything, taking notes and deliberating.  Even though there were some outstanding dishes there could only be one winner.  

The lamb shank pot close to where I was sitting smelled and looked outstanding but eventually it had to bend the knee to a couple of guys from the West Coast with their Abelone (yes they had a permit for it) pot and it's side dishes which included crayfish tails.  Yum yum yum...  South African cultural food at it's best.

Sunday, September 22, 2013


I can't think that there are many people out there who doesn't know about the plight of the rhino yet 618 rhino has been killed by poachers in South Africa this year so far to satisfy the demand for rhino horn in the East.  At this rate rhino could disappear of the face of this earth before I have grandchildren one day and posts like this would only be possible with old photos or ones like this rhino conservation piece outside the Durban ICC.  In 2010 the WWF South Africa established World Rhino Day to take places annually on 22 September to focus on raising awareness on the increased threat of rhino poaching and the illegal trade in rhino horn. The day has become a global phenomenon and gives concerned citizens the opportunity to stand up for rhino conservation.  This year the campaign was taken another step up with the appeal to Twitter users to use the hash tag #iam4rhinos and get 1 000 000 tweets for rhino conservation.  As I'm typing this the number is standing on 130 336 130 341 130 357 130 400 and counting.  Keep track of the campaign on #Iam4rhinos.

The idea for the bronze rhino outside the Durban ICC was born during the planning of the Fifth World Parks Congress which took place in the city in 2003.  The rhino is installed on a plinth with the following inscription:  "The White Rhinoceros" This dramatic and powerful animal is a symbol of the contribution made to SOUTH AFRICA by BIODIVERSITY CONSERVATION the endeavours of which have led to the RESTORATION OF OUR WILDLIFE HERITAGE and A MASSIVE CONTRIBUTION TO THE ECONOMIC GROWTH OF SOUTH AFRICA. It also celebrates the holding of the Fifth World Parks Congress at the Durban ICC, September 2003. Commissioned by THE CONSERVATION TRUST".

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Lion leftovers

You don't kick a lion kill out from behind every bush and very few people have had the opportunity to see the actual kill take place.  What you do get though are the remains of those kills.  Bones picked clean and bleached white by the sun.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Egret nesting ground

Ornithologists, or just plain bird lovers for those who don't know the big word, visiting the town of Montagu in the Western Cape gets drawn to the Leidam like a mouse to cheese.  For the last two years we spent a week in Montagu during our summer holiday and during both visits I spent some time just watching the birds in the trees around the dam.  The Leidam was originally built to supply water to the town via canals with each house having an allocated time in the day during which they could draw water from the canal.  This system is still in places today although the town has grown quite a bit since those days and the area covered by the canals are basically in the western part of town.  The trees around the dam has become home to 18 species of birds (including Sacred Ibis, Herons, Cormorants, Egrets, Shrikes and Weavers) that use it as their breeding ground with more than 52 visiting species also having been identified.  One word of warning though.  If you have a very sensitive nose you should rather stay away.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Aloe trident

Aloes are amongst my favorite flowers, specially because they bloom in winter, so I'm always a bit sad at this time of the year when the flowers start to wilt and disappear. 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Mock charge

On a recent visit to Kuzuko Lodge in the greater Addo Elephant National Park we had some amazing sightings.  The afternoon game drive started with a close up sighting of their two male lions before we encountered a herd of elephants in a valley close to the lodge.  The matriarch put up a spectacular mock charge what with flapping ears, stamping of feet and the shaking of a poor little bush.  Unfortunately I didn't have me camera at the ready and missed the whole performance.  Shortly later we did have this young bull look at us with a bit of attitude and a skew camera angle gave me very much the same effect as if it was the matriarch in the picture. 

Friday, September 6, 2013

Boardwalk Fountain Spectacular

In December 2012 when the Boardwalk Complex opened the new Boardwalk Hotel and Convention Centre, it also launched the Fountain Spectacular on the Boardwalk Lake.  People streamed to the Boardwalk to see the fountains with its lights and music.  On weekend evenings there were so many people that they stood about four or five deep around the lake to see the performance.  For that reason I decided to wait a little bit to go and a little bit became a long bit.  Needless to see most of Port Elizabeth probably got to see the Spectacular before I got there, but better late than never.  I popped by with a film crew from the SABC 1 travel show Vaya Mzansi and actually couldn't believe my eyes.  Its an amazing show which really can not be missed by anybody visiting (or living in) Port Elizabeth.  Sunday to Thursday there is one show every evening but on Fridays and Saturday they do three.  Each show is about 20 minutes long and, sorry to repeat myself, cannot be missed.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Egyptian goose on Kings Beach lake

Have you even noticed that you will always find Egyptian Geese where ever there is water.  Lakes, dams, rivers, ponds and even on the off chance a backyard pool.  When the Boardwalk development opened in Port Elizabeth some years ago it wasn't long before a pair moved in and they have been there ever since, hatching their chicks every year.  The same has happened at the new Kings Beach development with a pair moving in very soon after completion.  I snapped one of them the other day while checking up on a geocache in the area.