Thumper…

April 25, 2014

Walking, the Forest and Rain

Houston, we have a problem! I moved my leg and groaned. What on earth had I done… I racked my brain and couldn’t think of any particular time yesterday where I’d over stretched, or fallen and had the potential to pull a muscle. I rolled out of bed and groaned a bit more as I stood up. What had I done… My legs were like dead weights. Then it dawned on me. The ladder. Oh the ladder. Yes, I remember now. That 50-60m ladder with massive steps. I’ll bet that was the cause. I quickly and accurately assessed that steps were going to be a little more difficult to navigate than general walking, which was a bit of a problem seeing as I was on the second floor at the very comfortable Visitors Inn… This time it was Juliet’s turn to laugh. Being the youngest, she was fine. No problems at all for her. Now I’m not saying it’s an age thing, perhaps it was more that she was more used to Ugandan conditions, but both Mike and I were having a few difficulties moving the muscles and steps were a particular problem for me, but best thing to do is to walk it out! A good theory anyway. I wish I could say that by the end of the day, I was walking fine again, but unfortunately, I could still feel the soreness days later while walking up and down steps in Madagascar.

A quick wash and refuel

A quick wash and refuel

Today was a rather short day in some ways. We stopped off at the petrol station as you come into Mbale and took a bit of flak from the guys at the servo for our dirty car. Most cars are kept spotless over there, despite the dusty conditions. In fact, on occasions, we have actually washed the car to go to church because it’s not good form to turn up with a dirty car!

Kampala-Jinja road, dividing Mabira Forrest

Kampala-Jinja road, dividing Mabira Forrest

We headed back Kampala way, via Jinja. We stopped at the road house in Jinja again and had a good lunch, before continuing to Mabira Forest. The Mabira Forest is located part way between Jinja and Kampala and is divided by the main road running between it. The main facilities, including some lodging, education facilities and information, as well as the beginning of some walks, are found on the left as you’re heading to Jinja at the Mabira Forest Tourism Project. The place was deserted, apart from a couple of staff there, perhaps because it was not school holidays, or perhaps because it looked like there would be a storm soon.

A tall tree

A tall tree

The walks are really well signposted and there’s a number of different routes and lengths to choose from. The two main walks, a one hour and two loop both start and finish at the lodge office. The long one crosses the road, loops around to recross the road further along, while the short one takes you close to the road, but then back to the office area.
As we stood at the junction for the 1 hour walk or the 2 hour walk, I checked. Time – plenty. Legs – walking not too strenuous, mainly flat so far, I’ll be fine. Camera – yep, all batteries charged, working ok. Forest – not too cool, could handle a two hour walk. Weather – questionable. There’s a storm brewing and both Juliet and I say it’s going to rain. Mike says no worries, we’ll be right, we’ll make it before it rains, we don’t have far. I quell all those doubts about how the time estimates could be wrong and how quickly it starts raining and then how heavy it rains over here when it does start raining and follow.

Fungi Umbrella

Fungi Umbrella

Although we headed deeper into the forest, that wasn’t the reason why it went so quiet or got darker. Ever noticed that just before it’s going to pour that the animals go quiet and take cover and the clouds move over and cover the sun? It quickly became apparent that a) it was going to rain sooner rather than later and b) it was now quicker to continue forward rather than go back.

While we had stopped a bit to look at things along the way in the first half of the walk, after we’d crossed the road and the point of no return, we got a move on so we weren’t caught in the storm. But wow, that path seemed to go forever. Each turn and corner, I thought surely must take us back toward the road. Nope. A few drops. We all walk faster. Cameras get put away. Drops get bigger. Not long after those big drops the rain came down. The path would be reasonably easy to navigate in the dry, but there were a couple of places that weren’t so great in the wet (aka pouring rain). By the time we eventually made it back to the office area, we were all drenched and the rain was starting to ease a little and the sun come out. The couple of staff there had a good laugh at us as we walked back in to sign out, shoes squelching from being wet and wet clothes sticking to us. We sort of dried off as best we could, but it soon started to get a bit cold standing around in wet clothes, so we headed back to Kampala with the heater on.

Waterfalls on the path

Waterfalls on the path

We made a bit of a detour to Griffin Falls, in an attempt to try and visit them. It was back to pouring (pelting) rain again by the time we reached the gate – the guy there STILL wanted to charge a rather excessive fee for each of us to enter his resort. Ok, we were happy to pay for one person, as I was the only one who was wanting to see them badly enough in this pouring rain (as if you’d see anything anyway), but he insisted, so instead of getting something, we turned around (with great difficulty on a single lane mud track) and he went back into his little hut with an empty wallet and no hope of any other visitors dropping by.

These shoes are made for walking

These shoes are made for walking

As we headed back we made time to stop at the shop for some supplies and of course ice cream despite the rain and the cold…

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April 24, 2014

Macadamia Nut Slice

Filed under: Food — pearsey @ 3:38 pm
Tags: ,

I made this a couple of weeks ago and it has also proved to be a winner and it’s really easy to make. The recipe was emailed to me years and years ago by a friend, and I found it when cleaning up my mail file – but I’d never tried it until the other day.

Macadamia Nut Slice

  • 250gm Macadamia Nuts, roughly chopped – baked for 5-8 mins until golden
  • Place in a bowl
    • 1 1/4 cups SR Flour
    • 1/3 cup castor sugar
    • 125gm butter melted
  • Mix until combined and press into a greased and lined lamington tray and bake for 20mins until golden.
  • Place in a saucepan
    • 1 395g tin of condensed milk
    • 1/3 cup of brown sugar
    • 50gm butter
  • Stir constantly over low heat for 15mins until thickened. Pour over base, top with nuts and bake for 10-15mins or until it begins to bubble. (I mixed the nuts into the mixture before pouring onto base). Set aside to cool. Cover and chill. Slice when cold.
Macadamia Nut Slice

Macadamia Nut Slice

April 23, 2014

Awake to Sipi

It was Day 1 at Sipi (30/5/13) – and well, the only day!

It was a lovely morning and if you were really quiet, you could just hear the faint roar of the water falling. Quite nice to wake up to.

On the agenda today was to see at least 2 of the 3 falls that make up the Sipi falls. There are 3 levels and it would make sense to call them upper, lower and middle, but apparently that’s not what they’re called. According to our guide, they are Sipi 1, 2 and 3, where 1 can be either top or bottom, depending on whether you’re looking up or down!

Picturesque middle falls

Picturesque middle falls

Our understanding was that you can’t actually see any of the falls without a guide. Perhaps that’s a good idea, but wow, here in Aus, that’s a totally foreign concept. At best we have tracks built and marked out with information paper or boards to look at. At worst, you use local knowledge. We actually headed back down to Sip Falls Lodge and hired a guide there. It was about the closest to the middle water fall and we could just see some lovely green lawn through the gates!

The scenic grounds of Sipi River Lodge

The scenic grounds of Sipi River Lodge

The worker at the gate was also gets a big shout out. There was no power at The Crows Nest and Mike’s phone had gone flat. Normally that wouldn’t be a problem except that today was his wedding anniversary and with his wife back in Australia, a call was expected. A quick* discussion with him and the problem was solved. After our tours to the falls, Mike picked up his now charged phone and made that all important call!

Happy Anniversary Dear

Happy Anniversary Dear

Our young guide was quite good and spoke english reasonably well. That was a good thing for us and for Juliet, who still hadn’t found anybody who could speak her Lugandan dialect! Sipi River Lodge has some excellent gardens and surrounds. It really is a lovely place to sit back, relax and spend some time in and is right on the river. The walk to the middle falls is only about 10 minutes and is really easy. You can hear the roar of the water as you approach and it’s amazing that such a small river can make such a loud noise. You can walk right behind the middle fall here and you will get wet from the spray. I walked out to a couple of rocks nearby to see the falls from a different angle, but the water was like heavy rain and I ended up drenched, seeing nothing. At least I was nice and cool though. You can explore the little cave behind the falls, a cool dry place, but there’s not a lot to it.

In the spray

In the spray

From the middle falls, we headed back to the Lodge, then across the road through the police and school grounds to the path for the lower falls. It happened to be a break from school when we went through, so we got mobbed by the kids. It was a great place to stop, you could see for miles, as well as see the river winding its way through the valley. The valley is heavily farmed and workers have utilised most available space, including on the steep cliffs surrounding the falls where there are plenty of banana trees. You could also get an appreciation for how high we were and I must admit I wasn’t really looking forward to the walk back up the hill. However, there was a surprise in store that meant I avoided most of that.

Looking out over the valley

Looking out over the valley

Our guide had been talking about some “steps”. Rounding a corner the path abruptly disappeared. The explanation for the steps soon followed and going down as far as we could see was a nice ladder. It would have to have been at least 50-60m high, and struck fear into the heart of Juliet who was not so good with heights! The guide suggested going down backwards, but forwards it was for all of us. Not sure why you would go backwards for that actually. Juliet went pretty slowly, but with a bit of encouragement she made it down praise God. The last part was a short walk through the banana plants and lush undergrowth, each step bringing us closer to the roar of the falling water. The spray from the 100m fall provided a nice cooling mist from the heat. It’s a pretty awesome sight watching water fall that far on to rocks below.

Lower falls

Lower falls

The hike back up the cliff was pretty good and we went back to Sipi Lodge Resort and spent some time wandering around the gardens. The gardens are really well kept and it really is an oasis and a place to retreat. We ate a very nice lunch there and enjoyed some chocolate (no ice cream) before heading back to Mbale and the Visitors Inn. It started to rain on the way back and unfortunately we passed a few vehicles coming the other way right about where the puddles were. Our white car ended up a little less than white, but this time Mike had enough sense to keep his window up!

Not too bad...

Not too bad…

* Mike’s version of quick took at least 15 mins and involved many life stories! Juliet and I had long vanished.

April 22, 2014

Mbale to Sipi

Filed under: Trips,Uganda — pearsey @ 12:05 am
Tags: , , , , ,

Next day, our destination was Sipi, via the Mt Elgon area, an area where Mike had done quite a bit of ministry. Mike thought it would be a great idea to drive toward Mt Elgon and have breakfast up the mountain overlooking some of the great scenery. It all sounded fine in theory, but by the time we did stop, it was no longer breakfast time! The road from Mbale to Mt Elgon starts off sealed, but quickly turns to dirt. Initially it’s two lanes of dirt road (ie one lane each direction), but that quickly narrows to a wideish single lane in most places. At one point we were stopped by a police road block. They pulled us over and were having a bit of a chat when a cheeky boda boda rider tried to ride through. The cops yelled out to him, waved us through and pulled him over. He was still being a little smart, so the policeman reached over, turned off his bike and grabbed the key. That soon wiped the grin off his face, while it was all we could do to hold the laughter in til we were far enough away… Later on another policeman stopped us to ask for a lift. Our car was fairly full and we weren’t going his way, but at least he was nice about it (many aren’t).

An abandoned piece of heavy machinery half way up

An abandoned piece of heavy machinery half way up

Mt Elgon is high, and the drive through the maize fields is soon replaced by a view overlooking the surrounding area, gradually getting higher and being able to see further as you go up. We eventually did stop for breakfast, the locals enjoyed the show and we enjoyed the view. It’s surprising how many cars actually go past and how many banana bunches are shipped out of the area. Plenty of trucks loaded to overflowing with bananas, or matooke as it’s called there, were headed down the mountain, for sale mainly in Kampala.

One of the many trucks on the mountain

One of the many trucks on the mountain

One of the villages half way up the mountain was having it’s weekly market. There were people everywhere, the road just disappeared into a sea of people. But like Moses and the red sea, the people parted, all be it slowly, so that we could eventually creep through.

Market ahead

Market ahead

Another obstacle on the road was young boys (early teens) out to make a few shillings. They would put tree branches on the road, or a rope across the road and expect you to pay for them to remove them. It’s illegal, but they still do it and although many do pay, we refused to. One young boy started particularly digging his heels in, absolutely refusing to move them until we paid. No worries, we soon sorted him out as we picked up the phone to call our friend the policeman from just down the road. A glare and a sullen look followed and he slowly moved toward his branches and dragged them far enough away for us to pass.

Further along, appearing out of nowhere, is a semi gorge/cave type area, where the road passes through, almost like a tunnel. We stopped here and spent some time exploring. The walls dripped with water dribbling down the side, the plants hung down, flowing toward the road, also providing a path for the water to dribble down. In some places the water was a small water fall and the whole area was lovely and cool. Drive around the next hairpin bend and you’d never know it was there, the top is covered in vegetation and appears no different to the rest of the mountain. It was in this gorge area that a cry rings out “Pastor Mike, is that you”? And what do you know, along comes somebody that Mike had ministered to on one of his trips up the mountain. He was quite a way from home, especially when he was only walking, but it just proves that you never know when you’ll run into somebody you know.

Approaching the gorge

Approaching the gorge

We were reaching the top of the mountain when we met with another road block. You could see the boys eyes light up. We fixed them by doing a u-turn and heading back down. We were about to head back down anyway, so nothing was lost.

There are plenty of places to pull over on the side of the road, each providing another scenic view point. It was a case of count the waterfalls, as there were so many that you could see in the distance wherever you looked. I’m sure Mike and Juliet got sick of me saying “Is that the main Sipi fall” each time I saw something vaguely similar! At one of these vantage points on the way down we met some young boys. One was very shy and would only poke his head out from bushes. The other came a bit closer and got rather interested in what we were eating. We gave him a biscuit and the other boy came out a bit further. We offered him a biscuit and he came out. We got a few words out of both of them, but they didn’t know a lot of english and none of us spoke their dialect. Ah, food, the way to break down any barriers.

The view at breakfast

The view at breakfast

On the road up to Sipi, we stopped at another little water fall type area. Such a a nice waterfall so close to the road, this one being more of a water stream than a vertical one. A few young boys were herding their cattle and I do admit, much to my amusement, they took the cattle straight up the side of the rocky mountain, I guess heading to the stream up the top. I thought it was only goats that went up mountains like that, but apparently not.

The cows head up

The cows head up

We made it to Sipi township, eventually found a place to have lunch (quite good), then headed off to find a place to stay. Everyone is happy to stand on the road and direct you to their resort, but we settled on The Crows Nest. Although it had great views, we got the impression that we were more an inconvenience to them than a welcome guest, but never mind. The food was cheap and there was lots of it for just the three of us, although it was nothing special (and just for the record, I am travelling with one Ugandan and somebody who’s lived there for 5 or 6 years, so they know what to expect food wise). After the night before at the Visitors Inn in Mbale, we probably had higher expectations that weren’t quite met given the price we paid to stay here. It’s quite cool up that way at night, so thankfully I still had my jumper at that point in time! We each got a hurricane lamp so we could navigate around the place and light our cabins at night. But, what it lacked in facilities, it more than made up for with the view. You could pay more, but you wouldn’t get such a great view at some of the other places.

Sipi Falls - 3 levels

Sipi Falls – 3 levels, the view from The Crows nest

April 21, 2014

Heading East – Mbale

More on my African trip last year. We had hired a car in Kampala for a few days through Road Trip Uganda. I found this company really good to deal with, as well as very reasonably priced. They responded to all of my queries really quickly and I had no problems at all with them. They also supplied camping equipment with the car. We actually didn’t end up using any of the camping equipment bar the cutlery and crockery, but I guess if it had have been peak season (I was there end of May) it may have been useful. Unfortunately it looked like somebody had been on safari before us and the car’s radiator was absolutely covered in grass seeds. Once we’d cleaned that up a bit, the air con started to work a little better!

The road to Mbale close to dusk

The road to Mbale close to dusk

Our plan was to head out past Jinja toward Mbale and Sipi in the east of Uganda, to tour around there for a few days, then head back. It was all about taking our time and stopping where ever and whenever for photos or interesting things. We got the day off to a good start by stopping at the Jinja road house for some lunch. I must admit I was fairly amazed to see that this place existed. I had all but given up hope of ever seeing a fast food type place in Uganda! However, not only could you choose from a menu, you could choose from the pre cooked buffet of fried food, as well as shop for a limited amount of groceries, petrol and of course ice cream and as an added bonus, they also had clean and free toilets! I was most impressed – not that I’m a big fan of fried or fast food normally 🙂

Lush vegetation

Lush vegetation

On the way to Mbale there’s a large swamp/marsh area where the Mpologoma River runs through. There’s not much room to pull up on the side of the road, but we did and spent quite a while taking in the sights of the swampy marsh. It’s a large flat area, with plenty of lush vegetation. It would be great to grab a canoe or tinnie and explore the area a bit more. Juliet took that many photos she flattened two batteries in the space of a few hours, something I hadn’t even managed to do!

Hunting

Juliet shot a hunter

Upon reaching Mbale, we found a place called Vistors Inn. This must have been fairly new. It was clean, comfortable and just off the main road so it was fairly quiet. It was meant to have hot water, but Juliet and I are still waiting. Mike did find some in his room one night, so it does exist. There’s a few different sized rooms, 40,000UGX (about $16AUD when I was there) for a large room down to 20,000GX for a small room. Even the small room comes with a separate bathroom and a tv. If you can, grab a room with a balcony. An excellent find and highly recommended.

The view from the balcony

The view from the balcony

Although they had a restaurant downstairs, they were out of most things, so we took to the streets to find something to eat. The streets certainly came alive at night and were absolutely buzzing. There were people everywhere, shops and restaurants were open and there were stalls selling everything you could think of. We found a restaurant serving local (Ugandan) food. It looked busy, so using that theory, we thought it must be ok. Not this time. That was fairly ordinary even by African standards, so what could we do but head some where looking for ice cream to salvage something of the meal! While wandering around, we ran into some Americans who were over there doing some volunteer work (I forget who for). It was good to have a chat with them and good to know that they also faced many of the problems that other foreigners face while working in Uganda.

Visitors Inn - Highly recommended

Has anyone seen the Visitors In??

In what must be an absolute first, when we decided to head back both Mike and I had completely lost our sense of direction and had no idea where our place was – and worse still, what it was actually called. We were sure it was down “this” street, but each street came up blank. Juliet, a Ugandan, did her best to help out. She stopped some of the locals and asked for directions (and had also though to take a look at her key which had the hotel name on it), but she quickly learned that her dialect of Lugandan was a totally different dialect to what they spoke here. While I shouldn’t laugh, it was funny watching her and the locals struggle to communicate and she quickly learned what it’s like to be in a place where nobody speaks your language. We knew we weren’t far away, but in desperation we gave up and asked a couple of boda boda riders to take us there. We negotiated a price, knew we were still being ripped off and jumped on. Seriously, they drove us about 100m round the corner to our hotel! We had a good laugh with them about it and they enjoyed their easy cash.

April 20, 2014

Cooking Catchup

Filed under: Food — pearsey @ 4:01 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

It’s been a while since I’ve posted much about my cooking. Now, mainly for my benefit so I know where to find these recipes later on, here’s a selection of good, great and ordinary! Most of the recipes were chosen because I needed to use up a particular ingredient. Either that, or I use what’s on hand, substituting that where I don’t have the listed ingredient. It’s all good fun and mostly it works. Even better is that you get to eat your creation when you’re done!

One pan lasagne
Seriously this was in the “great” list! It was so easy and tasted so good – it was a winner with the guests who sampled it. I honestly don’t know whether I’ll ever make a traditional lasagne again.

One Pan Lasagne

One Pan Lasagne

Lemony Yoghurt Salad
Another in the great list. A couple of apples tossed in some lemon juice to stop them going brown (I used granny smith), some capsicum (instead of celery), lettuce and cornflakes (sprinkle corn flakes on just before serving). For the dressing, 1/4 cup of yoghurt, zest of a lemon, 1 tbsp finely chopped basil (I used dried), 2 tbsp grated apples and salt and pepper to taste. I didn’t find the dressing to be that good, it was rather tangy for me, possibly not helped by using vanilla yoghurt rather than natural. Tick of approval again from the guests.

Lemony Yoghurt Salad

Lemony Yoghurt Salad

Lemony Yoghurt Salad

Lemony Yoghurt Salad

Raspberry and yoghurt loaf
And yes, another winner! I liked this one so much I’ve made it 3 weekends in a row. I used strawberries instead of raspberries as we were in strawberry season and they were plentiful. This recipe comes from goodfood.com.au, but because I don’t want to lose this recipe, here it is replicated:

  • 250gm plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking power
  • pinch of salt
  • 115gm soft butter
  • 255gm castor sugar
  • zest of 1 large lemon, finely grated
  • 2 large eggs
  • 100g full-fat plain yoghurt (I used a couple of spoonfuls more)
  • 25g ground almonds ( I used flaked)
  • 200g fresh raspberries (or strawberries)

Sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Cream the butter and castor sugar in a large mixing bowl for five minutes or until pale and fluffy. Beat in lemon zest. Beat in eggs one at a time, adding a tablespoon of the sifted flour with the second egg. Alternatively fold in large spoonfuls of the remaining flour and the yoghurt until the mixture is smooth, then fold in the almonds. Spoon 1/3 of the cake mixture into a greased and lined loaf tin and scatter with 1/3 of the raspberries. Repeat twice, finishing with a layer of raspberries. Place tin in a preheated (180deg) oven. Bake for 45-50min until the cake is nicely browned, then cover loosely with foil and bake for a further 20-25minutes, until a skewer inserted comes out clean.
Remove cake from oven, cool for 5 minutes and if desired sprinkle with white sugar. Enjoy!

Strawberry Yoghurt Loaf

Strawberry Yoghurt Loaf

Sour cream quiche
We had some sour cream left over from a work lunch, so I volunteered to make something to use it up. I hadn’t made quiche before, so I was a bit worried as to how this would turn out. I needn’t have worried. Despite me messing with the recipe (as usual), it was eaten and enjoyed at work and there was nothing left over. The recipe from bestrecipes.com.au is linked to above, but here’s what I did.

  • 1 sheet puff pastry, rolled to fit in the dish
  • 3 eggs
  • approx 250ml sour cream (needed 300ml, I ran out), rest made up with milk
  • 1 small onion, fried before hand to cook it
  • A handful or so of ham
  • 4 or 5 leaves of silver beet
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Place the eggs in a bowl and whisk, add cream and milk, whisk again. Throw in other ingredients, pour into quiche dish lined with pastry and bake at 180deg til cooked (at least 30 min).

    Sour Cream Quiche

    Sour Cream Quiche

    Apple and raspberry crumble (slice)
    This was one that I found in my recipe book. It’s actually meant to be pear and ginger, but I didn’t have any pears. I did however have apples and strawberries! This again turned out really well and the crumble on top was actually nice and crunchy. What was the secret? Mix the dry ingredients together, then melt the butter and sugar until dissolved. Pour that onto the flour mixture and let it go hard. Break it up, scatter on top and let it cook. It was meant to be a slice, but left its mark as a dessert, served warm with ice cream.

    Apple and Strawberry Crumble

    Apple and Strawberry Crumble

    Berry Jelly Cake
    This was from my sisters cook book. Mine looked nothing like the picture. It tasted ok, but the chocolate I iced it with didn’t really go with it. I should’ve stuck with the cream. May possibly try it again.

    Berry Jelly Cake

    Berry Jelly Cake

    Apple Pie Pudding
    This one had the beginnings of something good. The apples, walnuts and corn flakes were a great combination and it tasted its best when it was straight from the oven. The pudding part of it was a bit too sweet for me, so I may have to do some more experimenting with that combination to make it work properly. Otherwise, quick and easy.

    Apple Pie Pudding

    Apple Pie Pudding

    Cornflakes butter cake
    For me, this was ordinary. It is meant to use caramel ice cream, but I didn’t have any, so I substituted some philadelphia chocolate cream cheese frosting. I baked it too long and that was probably my fault that it then tasted dry. It also looked nothing like the picture on the website! I did however find a nice easy recipe for some chocolate syrup, and the leftovers were great on some ice cream (and it was a winner with those who I tested it on!).

    Cornflakes butter cake

    Cornflakes butter cake

    Homemade Chocolate Syrup
    Wow, so easy. Cocoa, sugar and water. A bit of heat, a bit of vanilla when done. Homemade chocolate syrup, without all the fillers you get in bought chocolate syrup.

The Hidden Secret Destroyed

Filed under: Idle Ramblings — pearsey @ 2:34 pm
Tags:

The Challenge:
It all started when my brother in law said we should have a competition and see who collects the most. Not one to back down from a challenge, I gave it a crack.

How:
One by one, they built up. He gave up. He added to my collection.

How long:
A bit over 7 years.

How many:
672

Why now?
The stack was too unstable!

Before - the completed stack

Before – the completed stack

After - Gone!

After – Gone!

Just so you're sure!

Just so you’re sure!

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