Monday, May 28, 2012

Gluten-free, dairy-free meals

The vast majority of food I cook these days is both gluten free and dairy free. That sounds like it would be super difficult but I've found there are plenty of yummy meals I can make as well as delicious recipes for baked goods. Of course most of our meals are also vegetarian (and the remainder include some element of seafood). A few people have said to me that they think making vegetarian meals is really difficult - it's definitely not. In fact I find preparing vegetarian meals is easier than cooking with meat.

Anyway, I recently stumbled across a blog where most of the recipes fit in with our dietary requirements. I've tried three recipes out so far and they are all winners in my book and have been added into our repertoire.

The three I've tried so far are :
Chocolate brownie
Don't be put off by the ingredients for this brownie recipe - cross my heart you will love the result!

Banana, date and orange cookies
These cookies have been extremely well received and are perfect for lunchboxes and for tramping snacks.

Creamy lentil soup
Does the thought of lentils put you off? Don't let it. This soup has an amazing flavour and I've made it twice in two weeks. This soup will be a main staple through winter.

These three recipes are just the tip of the ice-berg - many more yummy recipes will be tried out in the next little while.

I'm not going to share the recipes here. Instead I have added links into the amazing Emma's blog - My Darling Lemon Thyme. Emma is a kiwi who is living in Australia - the bonus being that the ingredients are readily available to me. I struggle with recipe blogs from countries further afield sometimes due to lack of availability of ingredients.

Pop by Emma's blog and say Hi (and get cooking!).

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Beach, a lighthouse and sandflies!

The day after finishing our walk of the Abel Tasman in April we headed off to do a walk down to Kahurangi Lighthouse. We had been looking at all sorts of tracks in the Kahurangi National Park but stumbled across this walk to the lighthouse and the thought of it really appealed. After a quick food restock and an overnight stay in a holiday park (ridiculously expensive for a tent site but the hot showers were pretty darn good!) we headed off to the beginning of the walk. We drove to Turimawiwi River and parked] the car there and headed to the beach to start walking. Here's a map so you can see where we were. Sadly Blogger seems to have cut off some of the map image - the coastline shown is the west coast of the South Island up towards Farewell Spit.

The entire walk from Turimawiwi to the DOC hut should take 3 hours from the Turimawiwi River or 4 hours from the Anatori River (if you don't have a 4-wheel-drive you will probably walk from Anatori instead). The walk from Turimawiwi is all on the beach so it's easiest to walk at something other than high tide.
Like the Abel Tasman walk there were some low-tide crossings that we needed to do. The first one was the Aneweka River. This was pretty straight forward. The current in the river was a little swift and there were holes in the river bed that we needed to be careful about but we all managed to cross with no incident.

 The second crossing was of Big River which proved to be more problematic. We investigated crossing right at the river mouth but it was too deep to cross there. We headed inland a little to where the river widens into a calm estuary. After attempting to find a shallow way across the estuary, darkness was falling and so was the rain. At this stage we decided that it would be prudent to set up camp for the night. Low tide was due again first thing in the morning so we'd figure out a place to cross in daylight hours.

We found a place to camp in amongst the bush and focused on getting a fire going and getting the campsite set up. We got the fire sorted and cooked up some dinner before heading into our tents and sleeping bags for the night. We woke to a much nicer day and broke up camp quickly so we would have a chance of crossing the estuary right on low tide. 

After some investigation we couldn't find a really shallow spot to cross so decided to strip off and cross anyway. The water was up to waist deep in places and pretty cold. All bare flesh was fair game for the sandflies to attack us so that kept us moving at a brisk pace. After crossing the estuary we carried on walking along the beach until we got to the hut. After hanging all our gear up to dry we had breakfast sitting in the sun on the deck. There was no-one else staying in the hut while we were there although over the Easter weekend there had been over 40 people.

The hut used to be the lighthouse keepers house so it's a little different from a lot of the other DOC huts we've stayed at. There are several bedrooms with bunks and a large lounge / dining / kitchen area. There's a woodstove in the kitchen which has a wetback - and there's also a bath! 

After sorting out our gear we packed a picnic lunch and headed off to some sand dunes to the south of the hut and to walk out to the lighthouse. The sand dunes were huge. In the map above you can see a long white smudge just south of the lighthouse / point. That's the sand dunes.

The walk back from the lighthouse along the coastline is supposed to be done at low tide. We'd managed to mis-time this so we had fun running along sections between the waves. There were some curious formations on the tops of some of the rocks. Perfectly round rockpools. It's hard to believe that they were natural but they must have formed where a round rock, made of a softer material, had been in or on harder rock. Erosion from the sea and wind would have eroded the soft rock completely to leave these amazing rock pools. Very cool! Sadly I didn't take a photo of the pools. Maybe next time.

The downside of being on the West Coast of the South Island would have to be the sandflies. We get sandflies all over New Zealand but the ones on the West Coast are brutal. There seem to be a lot more of them and they are particularly adept at finding flesh to munch on. Even after applying repellant they will find that little bit you missed beside your watchstrap and bite you there. Needless to say we went through a lot of insect repellant while on the West Coast. 

After dinner that night we had heated the water enough for us all to have a bath - sheer luxury!

The next morning we packed up, had a good breakfast and retraced our steps to return to the car. Again the crossing at Big River was deep and cold but we'd accepted that we wouldn't find a shallower route. An upside of this walk is that you can do the whole thing in bare feet.  There's not many walks I've been on when you could do that.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Easter 2012 - Abel Tasman

At Easter we had the opportunity to walk the Abel Tasman - this track is one of New Zealand's better known walks and is popular with both tourists and New Zealanders. The track itself is 54.4 kilometers long and follows the coastline between Wainui Bay and Marahau. The Department of Conservation provides 4 huts at various points along the track which must be pre-booked. In addition there are 19 campsites - these must also be pre-booked, at a reasonable price,  through the Department of Conservation. We decided to commence our walk from the northern point of the track at Wainui Bay.

We had a late start to our first day, finally getting underway at 4:45pm. The first part of the track is a climb over a hill about 600 metres high. The good news is that this is the highest climb on the track. The views during the climb were fantastic. This photo is of Wainui Bay at low tide as the sun was starting to go down.

From the top of the hill we descended down to the first campground at Whariwharangi Bay. There seemed to be quite a few people staying in the hut at this campground. We now joined the coastal track and headed along to Mutton Cove where we stopped and had dinner. By now it was pretty dark. From Mutton Cove we headed off to Anapai Bay where we decided to camp for the night. This is not where we had booked for our first night but it was pretty late and we found ourselves a spot in the campground (this is one of the smaller campgrounds on the track - 6 tent sites in amongst the trees).

We awoke the next morning to a glorious day. This brilliant weather continued for the entire walk - at last we got summer! Today we walked through to Onetahuti Bay campsite. On the way we had a leisurely lunch and swim at Goat Bay before reaching Awaroa Inlet where we had to wait for low tide before crossing the estuary. The crossing wasn't too bad, below waist deep, although the beds of shellfish were pretty uncomfortable to walk over.

The Onetahuti Bay campsite was a little larger than Anapai Bay. Again this wasn't the campsite we'd booked but we'd walked enough for one day. There were a bunch of people from a Wellington kayaking club staying the night along with some other campers so the campsite was humming. There was still plenty of room for us and we had a nice little site by some trees just off the beach. The moon that night was a spectacle. Sadly our photos didn't do it justice, although we did get some nice sunrise photos.

Day 3 was spent walking to Anchorage. We had a leisurely lunch break at Torrent Bay where we swam and lazed in the sun while waiting for the tide to start going out. After Torrent Bay there's another decent estuary crossing to do. We timed our arrival pretty well and after a small wait we got started on the crossing. Again the shellfish beds were present which made it a little rough on our feet. The Anchorage campsite was not far from the estuary crossing and it was nice to get there in the daylight and have some time to spend around the campsite and on the beach before the light started to fade.

The night at Anchorage was the worst of the trip. We bagged ourselves a great campsite by one of the few fireplaces in the campground. After a nice dinner we were relaxing by the fire when we were approached by some South Americans who had turned up some time after us. They asked if we could provide them with some hot water. After some discussion we realised the group were not well-prepared for a night of camping - no stove or cooking equipment. As it turned out we also found out later that they also didn't have decent sleeping bags. We found that out at some ungodly hour of the morning when they descended on the fireplace by our tent and spent some time crashing around trying to get the fire going to keep warm. After yelling at them they retreated back to their tents but turned up again around 5am. We were less than impressed at having our sleep so disturbed - luckily for them they packed up their tents and left the campground soon after.

Today our goal was to complete the Abel Tasman walk at Marahau. We had another bright sunny day so the views along the way were beautiful.

We stopped for a lunch break and a swim at Tinline Bay before walking to the end of the track and the car.

The walk was a real pleasure to do and was not physically difficult. There are loads of little hills to climb and descend along the way but nothing extreme. You definitely need to be clear on the tide times to be able to cross the estuaries. We did the walk over Easter so there were a lot of people on the track and at the campsites but we had no problems finding a spot for us. Your campsites (or huts) need to be booked prior to commencing the walk. We had booked all our campsites but never stayed at any of the ones we had booked at. This didn't seem to be a problem but could be a hassle over busier times such as Christmas, etc. If you don't want to walk the whole track it is possible to pre-arrange water-taxis.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

WOMAD 2012

We had such a good time at WOMAD last year that we decided to repeat the experience. In the middle of March, with a pretty good weather forecast, we packed the car up and headed off to New Plymouth. The Taranaki area had had a big storm a few weeks prior and the damage we could see during the drive was incredible. Entire pine plantations with trees snapped off partway up their trunks. Many trees were uprooted. Some farm buildings were flattened.

We arrived at New Plymouth, set up camp and then headed into the Brooklands Bowl for Friday night's entertainment. The event itself runs for three days with a wide variety of international music. After seeing some awesome acts in 2011 we were looking forward to a whole new set of artists to entertain us and we were not disappointed. I can't exactly remember who we saw when but here are some of the acts that were particularly good.

The first act that was of interest to us was a couple of guys playing accordions. Yes I know. Accordions. Sounds like the performance could have been pretty lame but these two could play the heck out of those instruments and produced a unique sound. The guys were Toninho Ferraguti and Bebe Kramer from Brazil. It was a great act to get us into the mood of WOMAD.

The other act of the evening that we enjoyed was Gurrumal who is a blind Aboriginal performer - a man with an amazing voice and extremely talented. His performance was chilled out on a lovely sunny evening. Later in the evening we listened to a trio from West Auckland called The Nukes. These guys played original music on their ukuleles and had the crowd tapping their toes and smiling. After their performance the time had come to retire to the campground to rest up for the next two days of music.

Saturday dawned bright and sunny. The music started at midday and the first act of note for us was Paul Ubana Jones. Paul is the son of a Nigerian father and Yorkshire mother. He has lived in New Zealand since the late eighties. He is a wizard on his guitar and has a distinctive, gravelly voice. He was a pleasure to listen to and was amusing and entertaining.

The next standout performance on Saturday was Dobet Gnahore. She is from the Ivory Coast and performed with an incredible energy. Some of her dance moves (wild leaping around the stage) and her stage presence made her performance exhilarating to watch and was invigorating for the crowd.

The day was going well, with icy cold cider slipping down quite nicely. Now it was time for a truly unique performance from one Adam Page. Adam plays many different instruments and utilises loop pedals (I apologise for my lack of knowledge of these things - to me it looked like some sort of recording device where he could capture snippets of different sounds and then replay repeats of them, layered with other sounds - so that's loop pedals maybe?). The sound he produced with all those layers was incredible. At one point he even played his beard and added that into the mix. Adam has a great sense of humor and the chilled out crowd were very appreciative of his show. He lives in Wellington so we're hoping to see more of him in the future.

We had a sluggish start to our day on Sunday. I put that down to too much whiskey consumption the night before. We found a shady spot to sit and listen to the Tori Ensemble. This Korean band played some interesting instruments and we enjoyed the sedate pace and the distinctive sound they produced.
Next up was a repeat of The Nukes. This time round we could sing along to some of their songs including their infamous Worm song (sadly they haven't recorded this song yet, otherwise I would provide a link to it).

We found the performance by the Pascals amusing and fun. This was a large group from Japan - they were slightly wacky but a joy to watch and listen to. The final performance for us was Band of Thousands - this was Adam Page performing with Riki Gooch. This act proved to us that we would be finding out more about the techniques Adam uses and also that we would need to see him perform again.

On Monday morning it was time to pack up and head for home. The weather collapsed as we left New Plymouth and the area was struck by yet another storm with high winds causing damage to property. Thank goodness the storm held off until after Womad had finished. For the second year running we'd attended this event in brilliant weather. Fingers crossed that it's like that in 2013 too.