Haydninvienna's (Richard's) Adventure
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As you may know, I went on an Adventure. Out of Doha to London on the red-eye on 27 March, to catch up with wife and daughters, then to Zambia for the conference of the Commonwealth Association of Legislative Counsel, a professional organisation of which you have doubtless never heard. The conference was held in a resort hotel right on Victoria Falls. Then to Durban for a quick meet-up with hfglen, and then on to Australia to catch up with sons (including the Son who Cooks), and hopefully get the remaining books out of storage.
Well, it all worked out pretty well. All missions were accomplished, and since I promised pictures, I thought I'd create a new thread basically for the pictures of Zambia.
I'm not absolutely sure that I haven't posted this before, but at the risk of offending against both of the Pub's rules simultaneously, I saw this sign outside a church in Bicester:
I arrived at the Avani Resort, at Livingstone, Zambia, in the early afternoon of 30 March. The resort was modern and quite comfortable:
but we had to share it with the resident wildlife:
The next day (my 70th birthday) we went on a day tour to Chobe National Park in Botswana. The guide was a big jovial bloke from Botswana (Botswanian?) who did an excellent job and really seemed to enjoy it. I took lots of pictures. These are mainly taken with an SLR with a 70-200 mm zoom lens.
Nice! The resort looks like it could be in Pueblo country here in the US. Is it adobe or some other mixture of local mud/clay or just made up to resemble it? I love the local wildlife. I used to stay at a resort in Montana that fed a herd of elk in the winter. They hung around pretty much all the time.
The next 3 days was taken up with the conference. The Commonwealth Association of Legislative Counsel is a professional body of legislative counsel from the Commonwealth of Nations (the group of nations that was formerly called the British Commonwealth). However, legislative drafters from non-Commonwealth countries can join as associate members, and there are quite a few from the USA and Ireland. The plenary conferences are held every 2 years and basically seem to swap between the "old Commonwealth" countries such as the UK itself, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, and the "new Commonwealth" such as India, Sri Lanka and this time Zambia. We had 3 days of papers on (some examples):
On the last night I went on a train ride.
The train ride was a dinner excursion. The whole run might not even be 10 km, and it goes pretty slowly. I had a good look at the track, and it looks even to my inexperienced eye that no faster would be possible. we were told that the rails were the original ones laid by Rhodes' company late in the 19th century, although now on concrete sleepers.
Basically, the train runs out to Victoria Falls just before sunset, stops on the bridge downstream from the Falls until everyone has run out of film (or the electronic equivalent), and then goes back onto solid land for dinner.
The dining car interior:
>5 haydninvienna: The majority group in Botswana are called baTswana (singular: moTswana).
I like the idea of sharing my accommodation with impala (which, by the way, make good eating when they get too numerous).
The dining car looks like an ex-SAR model of some 80-90 years ago: a very pleasant museum piece.
The animals at the resort took little if any notice of human beings. Almost every evening on the way back from dinner I would pass small groups of impala quietly chewing their cud. One night I almost bumped into a sleeping zebra, which was standing close to one of the footpaths. I didn’t see it until it was almost within touching distance. It took no notice of me at all.
>6 Bookmarque: As far as I could tell, the construction was concrete. The floors in the rooms were certainly concrete (waxed, I think).
>10 hfglen: Our attention was drawn to the carriage windows, which had “RR” on them, oriented to read correctly from outside. The restoration job was impeccable as far as I could tell.
ETA: >13 Thanks!
I still have to describe the dinner! We are not talking braai here. It was a meal that would have passed muster at the establishment that employs Son Who Cooks. In fact I photographed most of the courses and sent the pics to him course by course. Also kept a couple of copies of the menu, one of which he took to show his boss.
Amuse-bouche: Chilled cucumber soup (served in a coffee cup, with a coffee spoon) (I didn't photograph this one, unfortunately)
And a photo of the chef to remember him by!
I didn't get his name, unfortunately, but you may be sure I expressed my appreciation for an excellent meal.
Both hfglen and I have described our whirlwind night and morning on Thursday and Friday. Here's Hugh and Rene at Mamma Luciana's in Durban (another excellent meal, I might add):
I have also described the dramas I had getting out of Johannesburg that night. However, I finally reached Canberra. I lived in Canberra for 36 years and there is definitely a part of me that has never left. I have described the dramas during the week, getting the storage unit cleared. Elder son David, who most fortunately was on his uni mid-semester break, was a huge help in this.
I didn't realize that the horizon was so tilted in Africa.
This seems to be turning into a thread about food! Of course I had to visit the establishment that employs Son Who Cooks. But first, something else I should have mentioned previously: the swag bag from the conference. The bags were produced by a group of local women:
>17 suitable1: And we had barely started on the wine! Actually, it's a picture on the wall behind Rene.
Philip's employer lived up to my expectations. No pictures this time though. I had:
First course: Pork belly with pickled grapes and almond puree
Main: Veal backstrap with sautéed mushrooms, carrot crisp, fried enoki
Dessert: Poached rhubarb, white chocolate mousse, chocolate twigs, crumble (this looked spectacular and was as delicious as it looked).
I feel like I've said in another thread that the fellow at the next table, who also had the veal backstrap, was cleaning his plate very thoroughly indeed. Quite right too. Philip does the pork belly entree and the carrot crisp for the main course. He also does another first course that I didn't try: "Savoury fennel crème caramel, pear, walnut, witloof, aged balsamic". On the Saturday afternoon I was expecting to hang out with him but he had to work longer than usual to finish another batch of them.
For the rest of the week I tended to eat mainly in the Canberra Labor Club, which is a licensed club affiliated with the Australian Labor Party. It's reasonable pub food at a reasonable price. I went there in particular one night to hang out with a former colleague who was my first supervisor in the noble art of legislative drafting. (Hugh: this is the other railway nut.)
On the last night that I was actually dining in Canberra, Philip and I went to one of his former employers, which he had left after having difficulties with another of the staff. They still appear to like Philip though, and he said that the present head chef, whom he knows, offered him a job. I think Philip is better off where he is now though, because he is learning more. Still a good meal though.
And that's pretty much it except for one last surprise at Sydney Airport. When I went to board my flight to Doha I was already holding a boarding pass that Qantas had given me when I checked in in Canberra earlier. I handed it and my passport to the gate agent. She flicked it under the scanner, which gave one of those disquieting double beeps, and I could see that the little screen said "Seating issue". To my great surprise she picked up another boarding pass that she had there and showed it to me--it had my name on it and a seat allocation of 1K. In other words, I got my flight to Doha, all 15 hours of it, in Qatar Airways' first class. Qatar Airways does First only on the A380, which it uses only on a few routes--Sydney is one of them. Qatar doesn't do "suites", but their first class is still pretty damn nice. Including their food. Marron (West Australian crayfish) cocktail with tomato and anise jelly. Duck leg cooked slowly in olive oil, with braised lentils with figs and honey. And one of their signature desserts (at least I think so)--just a bowl of mixed fresh berries with, on the side, a small jug of light syrup flavoured with rosewater, simple but perfect. All their food is halal, but I don't have a problem with that.
Thanks for sharing your story and your pictures. The on premise zebra seems suitably exotic to my northern mind, the dinner car looked very nice - I would had liked more train-related pictures but realises that it might get too much for general tastes - and the food looks like it was delicious.
>21 haydninvienna: If you ever come and stay long enough to do some serious touring, I'll move heaven and earth to get you to Cape Town. Attractions other than those listed in every guidebook / tourist web site include the CAFDA bookshop (Cape Town's answer to the Kloof SPCA), Clarke's in Long Street (equivalent to Ike's, but not as friendly) and the Biesmillah, which has to be my favourite eatery in all of Cape Town. It's traditional Cape Malay, and the name will tell you it's strictly halaal.
If your friend the railway nut comes, a visit to the Umgeni Steam Railway's yards and the Railway History Society museum at Inchanga is compulsory.
>20 haydninvienna: what is 'witloof'?
Thank you for sharing these photos! You have a very good eye for composition. I especially like the crocodile.
>7 haydninvienna: heartening pictures. especially lovin' the grin at the bottom.
Thanks for sharing the stories and pictures from your adventure! I am very envious of the wildlife, food, trains, books, meetup with Hugh and everything else! I'm glad you had a good time and made it home safely.
I would love to travel in person, but your photos and descriptions are the next best thing. Thank you for sharing them with us, and I'm glad the trip was fairly "hitch" free.
Thank you all for the kind words. I had a bit of a battle with the picture of the conference bag because it was taken on my phone and the picture kept uploading with the bag oriented on its side. After I got that right I gave up pictures for a bit. But Ive now remembered one very important part of the trip: Victoria Falls, the Smoke that Thunders.
Sunset from the train window:
A footnote to the Adventure (at least I hope that’s all it is ...)
I got an email from my wife in Bicester last Thursday (today is Saturday) forwarded from TNT, who were the shipper for my 11 boxes of books. It blathered on at quite some length about the need to apply to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs for a “transfer of residence” concession or else various awkward things would happen, and that alternatively I could just fess up and pay whatever duty HMRC assessed. This caused me to hyperventilate a bit because I am not UK tax resident and some awful things would happen if I were. As it happened I was visiting Bicester anyway the next day so I undertook to phone TNT.
I did so and the woman I spoke to was friendly enough but what she said amounted to, ya gotta do it so just do it. I read as much as I could stand of the HMRC document that was attached to the email and ended up with the firm conviction that I wanted nothing to do with any such application. After some soul-searching I decided to ring TNT back, get them to get the shipment assessed for duty and I would pay it. I didn’t expect it to be much anyway, because after all it’s about 500 very secondhand books, which I have owned for many years, and books are zero-rated for VAT anyway.
So I rang TNT back and for a while the whole place seemed to have left for the pub—it was Friday afternoon after all. Finally a voice spoke and I had evidently lucked onto one of the senior people. I gave him the consignment number and he looked it up and his first words were “This is ridiculous.” He asked me to confirm that the shipment was books, that the books were mine, and that they were not for re-sale, all of which I did. He then undertook to have the remainder of the shipment (I omitted to mention above that TNT delivered 3 boxes out of 11 on Thursday afternoon) cleared over the weekend and delivered on Monday. I asked him to have a extra pint at the pub for me that night.
We’ll see what happens on Monday.
I too have vicariously enjoyed your travels. Although I am now exceedingly hungry!
>32 -pilgrim-: if it wasn’t the dinner on the train, lunch with the Glens in Durban, or the dinner at Son Who Cooks’s place in Canberra, was it the n’shima that made you hungry? There actually is a surprising amount about food in this thread, but I don’t seem to have mentioned n’shima. That’s the local name for what is called mealiepap in hfglen’s neck of the woods—white maize meal cooked to a porridge. The starch staple across most of Southern Africa. It’s completely tasteless but great at mopping up gravy.
>33 haydninvienna: Or Putu in Zulu, when it's the consistency of polenta. Or krummelpap, when it's drier and forms crumbs; then it best for soaking up gravy.
>33 haydninvienna: Since I appear to have a problem digesting wheat-based products, this actually does have some appeal.
>34 hfglen: This might be another one for your taxonomy, Hugh, although perhaps it's a bit basic. Cooked maize meal turns up in a lot of places under a lot of names, as polenta, mush, grits, n'shima ... and so on. And then of course it's part of the "genus" porridge: "meal (that is, coarsely ground grain or seed) cooked in a liquid".
ETA: >35 -pilgrim-: try it by all means. I understand you to be in the UK somewhere, and I know that my elder daughter went on a cooking binge a couple of years ago with a Kenyan friend in Cardiff that involved it, so there is probably somewhere near you to buy it.
>31 haydninvienna: I got an email from my wife in Bicester
One in every port?
>37 suitable1: Not that adventurous. One wife at a time is enough, thanks.
>38 haydninvienna: "One wife at a time is enough, thanks."
Based on current known physics, 'one in every port' would imply one at a time, wouldn't it...? ;-)
Footnote to the footnote: I'm told that the rest of the books have arrived. I forgot to mention in #31 that my last exchange with the fellow at TNT was him saying "we will deliver on Monday", and my wife (my only wife, I stress) interposing that she was thinking of being out on Monday afternoon and my therefore saying to the TNT man "make it Tuesday and we've got a deal". He was evidently as good as his word. I hope he had the extra pint.
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