Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Breakfast Review - Cocomo

It is sad when you have more breakfast reviews during your holiday than exciting adventurous stuff, but it seems like my luck has run out where the weather is concerned. I was actually on my way for another Wilderness paragliding session when I stopped at the Cocomo Restaurant for breakfast. Not that I really needed food, I have been stuffing my face since I arrived in Mossel Bay and promised myself the day before (Xmas Day), that I will NOT eat anymore until New Year. But, when you are hungry I guess your stomach doesn't want to hear that.

The Cocomo Restaurant is actually a cocktail bar and not a restaurant. Breakfasts are therefor not their speciality, but when my wife ran in and came back with the news that kiddies have their own menu and do not have to pay R55 for the "Breakfast Buffet" which was advertised outside, we decided to give it a try. At my age I am not particularly fond of buffet meals, because I don't eat that much anymore. When I compared that to what a breakfast cost me at Delfino's a couple of days earlier, I thought it was a bargain.

I was a bit disappointment when I saw the "buffet". It didn't look much different than the breakfast I usually get from some of the less-fancy hotels that I have stayed in on my trips to Africa. The only difference was that it was "eat-as-much-as-you-like", but unfortunately for me I was not going to overdo it again. I had cereal, yogurt and muesli and some fruit before I dished up the part which I usually call "breakfast"...bacon and eggs. My son had a breakfast called the "R10 Brekkie" which consisted of one egg, some bacon and a slice of toast. All for ten rand of course, and probably what I should've had instead of stuffing myself even further. Even though I was hungry I was not really starved, so I think I wasted my money on what looked like a bargain. If you are really, then o for it.

I have to admit that even though the buffet did not look that impressive, the food really tasted good. More like the bacon and eggs I make for myself at home. If I was really hungry I am sure this would be a very good place to have a breakfast, and seeing that it is on the way to the launch site at Wilderness, not a bad place to stop and hook up with fellow pilots before the day's flying start. After a day's flying one can always come in for a cocktail afterwards. The rest of my day unfortunately did not go as planned. The wind never changed direction and the launch site was covered in fog. We eventually turned around with a full stomach and nothing else to rave about. But, I am glad I visited the place. Definitely worth wile to check out of you want a breakfast and you are really hungry....or go for the "R10 Brekkie", definitely a bargain. Maybe you can have two....

Friday, December 23, 2011

Wilderness Unexpected

Important Information
Don't you just love it when you start a day not expecting much and then events take it in a complete different direction and at the end of the day you just feel totally stoked about the way it turned out? I got up this morning and the plan was to go get my son some Lego blocks at the George Mall to keep himself busy when the vacation gets too long for him. Not much of an expectation. Now if you have ever been in the Southern Cape over Xmas time, then you know that a shopping mall is NOT the place where you want to find yourself days before Xmas. The idea was to drive to one of the entrances, drop my wife and then pick her up a few minutes later. I knew we were heading in the direction of Wilderness, which is a few kilometres further on the N2, but I never expected to see it today as the hope of getting the shopping done in a reasonable time didn't cross my mind.

Launch Site facing Wilderness
My wife went in and came out about 20 minutes later, Lego in hand. Because it was still early I decided to drive through to Wilderness to spend the day there next to the Kaaiman's River or on the beach. I had my paragliding gear with me, but had no idea what the wind prediction for the day was. When we got to Wilderness I decided to drive up to the Map of Africa, which is just opposite the launching area for the paragliders and hanggliders.  My plan was to take some pictures of "The Map of Africa" but when I saw that there were already gliders laid out on the grass, I lost interest in the Map and headed straight for the take-off site. The wind was definitely not strong enough to take off and stay in the air, but I eventually took out my glider and took off after two other pilots. It was straight down to the beach, no lift.

Old Post Office Restaurant
After my wife picked me up at the beach, we stopped in the little town at The Old Post Office Restaurant and had something to drink. At this point I was really hoping for the wind to pick up so that I could try my luck again. Soon enough we were on our way to the top again. My wife dropped me with all my gear and returned to the beach to spend some time with my son while I waited out the time. It's called "parawaiting." By this time more pilots came and things looked much more promising. My glider was laid out and ready, and I was the first pilot to actually decide that I am going to give it a try. If it was another foofie, then so be it, I thought. But this time I stayed up.

During the flight I tried to take some pictures. In the beginning it was a bit difficult to fly with one hand as I was scraping the vegetation in order to get as much lift as possible. As time went on the wind gradually increased and after a while I was flying effortlessly along the ridge. This gave me time to take out my point-and-shoot to take a few pictures. Probably not the best pictures, but not bad considering that it was with one hand while flying the glider with the other. In the end there were about 6 gliders in the air and later 3 hanggliders also joined in the fun. This is probably a bit short notice for a Xmas gift suggestion, but maybe next year I must invest in one of those helmet cameras which allows you to take videos and pictures without having to risk your life. Maybe I can use it for my biking and kitesurfing as well.

Bird's Eye View - N2 below towards Kaaimans River
From the air I could see my son and wife on the beach. I knew it was a bit far for her to take pictures of me, but I was having so much fun that I couldn't care less if I had pictures or not. I flew for more than an hour before I eventually decided to go land. As I went down I flew out to sea as I had enough altitude to turn back should I need to. Nobody wants to land in the water, but I had no alternative as the wind was now really keeping me up and I needed to lose some altitude in order to land on the beach. When I finally landed I was more than stoked. It was already after two and all parties were satisfied about how their day turned out. My wife and son for having time on the beach and myself for having an unexpected awesome flight. When I looked up I saw the other gliders in the air and thought to, that looks so nice. I just smiled and packed my glider for my next flight....

Wilderness beach from the air

Try and spot the real bird...

Spot the odd one out.....

Coming in for the landing

Perfect flight, perfect landing, perfect day

Breakfast Review - Delfino's

When you take someone out for a breakfast, I guess one should not complain about the prices of the meals. Fortunately my "date" was quite intriqued with my breakfast reviews and couldn't be phased about my thoughts of the steep prices afterwards. I am in Mossel Bay at the moment, and even though I could probably try 20 new restauarants, I knew that the BigBlu restaurant where I had one of my best breakfasts yet, would be a good place. Unfortunately when we passed there on the bike, the place looked pretty much closed so we went to another popular spot at The Point...Delfino's. I guess Delfino's is one of the most popular spots in Mossel Bay for anything from a quick coffee to a good meal. The restaurant is located at the best location in Mossel Bay, overlooking Inner and Outer Pool, very popular surfing spots. But I am sure the owners of the restaurant knows that, because the prices are a bit wide. You obviously pay for the setting.

The restaurant itself has no problems, although I remember many years ago that we waited hours for our food. Maybe it was under different management then. This time we were served very quickly and we got what we had ordered. Unfortunately it seems that because of the popularity of the restaurant, they want you to leave as soon as possible too. We were actually asked three times if our bill should be prepared. I know they are eager to help the people waiting outside, but can I at least finish chewing my bacon before you bring me the bill?

My partner ordered fruit salad and yoghurt which was R38. She said it was good, but did say that they could've put a better variety of fruit in, and that it tasted like it came from a can. At that price I would expect it to be picked fresh from a tree each morning.  My bacon and eggs (Innerpool) at R48 was a bit steep. It tasted fine, but I have no idea why they put Aromat on my chips. I hate that taste and would rather just put my own salt on.

The setting of the restaurant is perfect. The view and location right on the beach is probably the only reason why I would go back there, but I don't see why I should be charged for that. I can sit on the beach and get the same effect. I was however informed that they have very nice pizzas, so I think I will check it out some time.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Dune Soaring Reebok

It's been a while that I have been in my paragliding harness. I don't get much time to fly anymore because you always have to drive quite a distance in Cape Town to get to the flying sites. Even though Cape Town and the areas surrounding Cape Town has some of the best flying, it is always a mission to go there. Once you are there, there is always the possibility that the wind might not be right. Fuel and time wasted. Today I was lucky....

After I returned from my survival excursion with my son, I saw that the wind direction in Mossel Bay was just right for some dune soaring at Reebok. I got my glider and went down to the beach. At first I thought that the wind might be too weak. With all my kite surfing lately I was a bit unsure what the wind strength should be for paragliding. Fortunately my wife remembered what I was always waiting for, but my little anemometer was not working anymore and I had to go on gut feeling. Time for a new one I guess. I laid out my glider and hooked into my harness.....

I was a bit worried today, the adrenalin was pumping. When you haven't flown for a while you always wonder if you are doing everything right, but there was no way to double check. It was pull up and go. The wind was perfect. I felt something funny on the seat of my harness, but it turned out to be my speed bar that was still wrapped around my harness straps. Forgot to connect that, but nothing serious, as long as the wind doesn't get too strong. I flew for about 30 minutes and decided to do a top landing instead of a landing on the beach like I always do. I approached the same spot where I launched. I managed to land the glider without any issues, but was a bit careless when I was smiling for the camera instead of getting ready to pull my glider down. One wrong move and you can get dragged through all the beach houses along the road. Not good for your image.... ;-)

What a day. I hope to get at least another flight or two in before I go back to Cape Town.

"Surviving" Wolwedans

My summer vacation started of with a bang. On Monday I had a good kitesurfing session which would probably be the last one for 2011 as I am in a different part of the world now. Yesterday I was on the motor bike on my way to Mossel Bay where I will stay at least a week to spend time with the family and to do some of my other hobbies. This morning I took my son for another one of his "Ultimate Survival"excursions.

The Wolwedans ("Wolf dance") Dam is situated in the halls behind Great Brak River close to Mossel Bay and the Garden Route. I have no idea why the name has something to do with wolves as I am sure that there were no wolves in these parts of South Africa. Anyway, the idea was to be dropped off at the dam wall and to find our way back to "civilization". So kitted out in his latest survival gear and all the Bear Grylls survival goodies he received at the Xmas Party, the little survival man headed down to the river valley. "We always follow the river down where the possibility of finding humans is always better downstream." Quoted from Bear himself. 

As we climbed down into the ravine, we were very soon surprised with our fist wild life in the form of the Knysna Loerie. The problem with doing a survival trip with a five year old is that the continuous chatter of a little boy over-excited about what lies ahead, has the tendency to scare away any possible close encounters (or good photos) of the local wild life. I managed to calm him down and get a very vague picture of this rare and very shy bird just as evidence. See if you can find it on the photo below.

The route along the rock boulders is about 3 kilometres from the wall until you first see "civilization". My first concern was the sign warning that the water level could rise at any time when the flood gates are opened. There were no numbers to contact for verification so I just hoped for the best while continuously looking for a way up the steep hangs of the valley. My second concern was that all the climbing would tire out the little survival man and that I might have to carry him to the end. Fortunately none of these happened.

There is not much of a trail along the river bed, so climbing the boulders were the only way forward. Occasionally we had to stop for "food", but apart from a small crab that quickly got away there was not much evidence of any form of life in the water. Fortunately we had our own water and the peanut butter sandwiches made up for the lack of fish and crabs. We did try and build a wall the stop the flowing water with the hope of trapping some fish, but I knew that this was wishful thinking and did it for the sake of a little man who no-one wants to disappoint with the reality of the damage that big dams can do to little rivers and its aquatic life.

Along the way we also saw a beautiful Fish Eagle and a little Woodpecker. Yet again startled long before I could get the lens cap off. Apart from that and a lot of monkey and baboon poo, there wasn't much to get excited about. Being alone in the "wild" was just amazing, and I can imagine what it must feel like to be really away from civilization.

Friday, December 2, 2011

South Africa Meets North Africa

I guess the only thing that South Africa has in common with Algeria is that both countries are in Africa. They are as far apart as north is from south, and that is literally true because South Africa sits at the most southern tip of the African continent while Algeria is at the northern point of Africa. I've only been to Algeria once in 2007 where I spend some time in the Sahara Desert close to the Libyan border. The desert made a huge impression on me and when the first sandstorm hit us one day, I could very well understood why the local Berbers were wearing those weird looking turbans and long dresses. The wind and the sand didn't seem to bother them at all and I could just imagine what they were thinking while I was scratching sand from my ears, eyes and teeth.

Last night I had another taste of Algeria. This time however I was invited to dinner with an Algerian family that lives in Angola. They also invited a few Algerian friends, and amidst all the Arabic, Berber, French and whatever else they were speaking, I managed to have quite a good evening. I am always a bit worried when people from different countries tell me that they are going to make you some traditional food, you might end up with things like haggis, frog legs or something that stares back at you on your plate. Fortunately for me the Algerian cuisine was most palatable and lying quite still on my plate.

As a starter we had Shorba. I learned that the word Shorba actually means soup, and I have to admit that is exactly what I thought it was when it was poured into my bowl. Apparently you have to put some lemon juice in it as well, but when I was offered the lemon I was already more than satisfied with the taste and heading for my second helping. It was really good and very spicy. I like spicy food and this did not disappoint at all. They had a lot of side dishes, and for the life of me I cannot remember all the names and ingredients. What I do know was that everything was quite tasty, spicy and hot. Even the Algerian Spring rolls, or Bourek as it is called, was a good match for its Chinese counterpart. The main meal was an Algerian Couscous dish with lamb. Apparently couscous to the Algerian people is like rice to the Chinese and bread or potatoes to the South Africans. It is even referred to as "al taam", which means "the food" and was served with vegetables and a side sauce or salsa. I am not a big fan of couscous and would rather prefer rice as an alternative, but last night I actually enjoyed it. I don't know what the traditional drink is that goes with this food, but my hostess handed out two cans of soft drink to each of her guests before we even started. I am pretty sure there a bit of a deviation form the word "traditional", but the Sprite helped sooth my mouth after the chili sauce I added to my meal turned out to be hotter than I expected. The dessert was definitely not Algerian. Semi-Tiramisu that was made from the only ingredients my hostess could find in Angola, which was not much. Despite that it was very nice and rounded of the evening well complimented by a small cup of coffee.

South Africa and Algeria might not have much in common, but I am sure they can share a few laughs around a table if they stick to a common language like Bad English and their traditional cuisine.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Brazilian Food in Angola

Brazil and Angola share a lot of ties, mainly because of their colonial past. For a start both of them are ex-Portuguese colonies. In the past Angola exported slaves to Brazil, today it is mainly oil. When asked what I wanted to eat, with "Brazilian food" as an option, I went for the "Picanha". If Brazilian food was anything like their women, then I was in for a real treat...or so I thought.

One cannot look a gift horse in the mouth and/or complain about the food your host offers you, but when you freeze for a second or two when you open your take-away food container with "What exactly is that?" on your face then I guess being ignorant is the best excuse you have. So my picanha arrived, and even though I was told beforehand what I had ordered was meat, I had no idea what else to expect with it. The meat was a bit dry and bleak, but it was the brown mushy stuff that had me worried. I didn't want to ask, so I moved it around with my work and accidently dropped some on my shirt. "Stained for life", I thought. Eventually I asked. "It is black beans", I was told, "typical Brazilian food".

I looked on the internet and found a few pictures of black bean dishes. I have to admit, it tasted a lot like the beans we eat at home, it was just a weird colour. I also believe that it could be better prepared, if I go according to the pictures on the Internet. I had a bite or two, but honestly didn't have the stomach to finish all of that. It is always here where I start thinking about people who would give anything for that meal, so I ate a bit more. In the end it wasn't bad at all, but my first experience of Brazilian food was not the best ever. Maybe I should go try it in Brazil next time and not in Angola....