Wednesday, January 28, 2009


I enjoy good food. When I am not on the road, I do a fair bit of thinking about food, or at least I try to make time to eat tasty things at least once a day. When I am on the road, and biking, eating plays a huge role in my life. Additionally, food preferences vary from one place to the next, and one of my favorite things about traveling is diving into a new food culture. Along the road on this trip I hope to share recipes that I collect from others and information on local foods customs and availability.

Here are a few things to get me started:

1. Zeena's Butter Chicken, Cape Town, South Africa

On our first night in Cape Town, Alvin took us over to crash his friend Zeena's dinner party (she had given him the o.k. to invite people, but I don't know if she was expecting five of us!). She made a bunch of Indian style food, including two types of delicious bread, roti and naan, and some chicken curry. The chicken curry had an amazing sauch, tangy and rich and smooth. After asking for the recipe, I realized why---all the butter and cream! Anyway, it is good.

6 (1kg) chicken breast fillets (Note: I am not sure if she means 1kg total or 6 x 1kg fillets, but 12 lbs of chicken seems like a whole lot)
2 tsp garam masala
2 tsp ground coriander
3/4 tsp chili powder
2 tsp grated fresh ginger
3 cloves crushed garlic
2 Tbsp white vinegar
1/4 c. tomato paste
1/2 c. yogurt
40 - 60 g butter
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 cinnamon stick
4 cardamom pods
1 tsp salt
3 tsp sweet paprika
4 medium tomatoes or 425g tin tomato paste
3/4 c. chicken stock (180mL)
1 c. (250mL) cream

1. Cut fillets into 3 pieces each.
2. Combine the first three spices, ginger, garlic, vinegar, tomato, and yogurt in a large bowl and marinade chicken in this mixture overnight.
3. Heat butter in a medium frying pan and add the onion, cinnamon and cardamom. When the onion has browned, add the marinaded chicken mixture.
4. Add the salt, paprika, puree, and stock and simmer uncovered for 10 min. Add cream and simmer (don't boil!) for ~ 10 minutes or until chicken is cooked all the way through.

2. Springfield Estate Pie:
I am really into the South African fast food phenomena of pies. Every little town has some place that sells a turnover with a flaky, buttery crust and a delicious, usually meaty, filling. My favorites so far have been the Salami and kaas and the Spinach and kaas ('kaas' means cheese in Afrikaans), but they also do variations like the Cornish (basically, beef stew with potatoes in a crust), the Russian (crust wrapped around a sausage), steak & kidney, steak & onions, chicken & mushroom, curry, and pepper steak (South Africans love their meats).

When we were staying at Springfield Estates, Marie made little pies filled with a creamy chicken filling for her paying guests. I didn't get a detailed recipe, but I will write down an Old-fashioned recipe: one without quantities. Consult a real cookbook for working with puff pastry, and you can probably find recipes for the chicken as well.

Puff pastry
Stewed or baked chicken
Chicken stock
Ground clove
Crushed, minced garlic
Green onion or scallion

1. Prepare the puff pastry according to whatever the package says, cutting it to a size appropriate for the size of your desired pie. Marie used little muffin tins to shape her pie.
2. Shred the chicken, adding chicken stock to moisten. Season the chicken with the nutmeg, clove, and garlic. Distribute filling amongst puff pastry crusts.
3. Prepare sauce of mayonnaise, scallion, and egg, mixing well to combine. Spoon a little sauce over the filling in each crust.
4. Cover the filling with a second layer of crust.
5. Bake the pies---I'm not sure at what temperature, but it might be 350F.

3. Road Truffles
Quinn is always making interesting concoctions on the road. I was pretty impressed when he pulled out this recipe:

Cocoa powder
Peanut butter

1. Mix above ingredients to achieve a rollable consistancy. May refrigerate if you are in a house, and roll in cocoa powder or confectioners' sugar. I'd suggest adding unusual spices.
2. If you have an avocado, Quinn says the above ingredients plus avocado = pudding. I haven't seen this yet, but it would be worth a shot.

4. Road Sauerkraut

Empty water-tight jar (perhaps after you've eaten all your p.b.!)
Hot sauce (optional)

1. Cut cabbage into the jar, layering liberally with salt, garlic, and hot sauce (if desired).
2. Leave the mixture in your bag, letting out stale air every so often. Check preparedness by smelling, poking, and perhaps tasting.

Maybe in future posts I will investigate the food phenom of peri-peri sauce, rooibos, Milo, biltong, and rusks.

Port Elizabeth

We arrived in Port Elizabeth yesterday afternoon. We are staying with Romano Satanassi and three of his lovely daughters, taking at least a day off so far to upload pictures, make some posts, make some changes to our bikes, and figure out a route north. The previous two days were our longest yet: we did 83 miles on Monday, and over 110km on Tuesday, both days with a lovely tailwind and cloudiness for parts of the day. Hope to make a few more back posts before taking off.

Fishing in Cape Town

It was the seagulls I noticed first, that caught my eye, though it had also taken me a second to notice them, white swarm against the blue, blue sky, hanging in the air like a cloud. We were taking a driving tour of Cape Town in Alvin's little white car, all six of us, me on Orian's lap in the front seat.

"Down by the water," Alvin said. "They are fishing."

There was a crowd of people, perhaps fifty or more. Some, especially the old-timers and the women and children, milled about the beach. It was a fun time, a spectator sport for them. The men were in the water, at the water's edge, gripping a long net in a communal effort, reining in the net against the action of the waves. Alvin pulled off and we popped out to have a look, yearning to take part in the action but not certain where to begin, where to enter the fray. The men shouted commands to each other in a language that was not English, working in sure, steady movements. They pulled in part of the net, rolled up the net with the fish in it to try to keep the long net from tangling, moved back towards the water to rein in more net. The pulled net out of the water for an impossibly long time, there was so much length. They were pulling in net the whole time were were there and had not finished by the time we left half an hour later.

The fish in the water looked so orderly. There must have been a school of them, perhaps come close to shore to spawn and then caught in the net as the waves pulled them to and fro at the shoreline. They were caught in the net by their gills, their heads poking up above the water, all standing up at attention and alert, like a little fish army.

High up on the beach were the first parts of the net to have been pulled out. This is where a few old-timers were helping, moving along the net, pulling fish out and throwing them in buckets. We wanted to help, to become more than just spectators, yearning to pull the fish out of the net. Eventually Quinn and I timidly approached the nets and reached for the fish.

But taking out the fish was not as smooth to our inexperienced hands as to the practised motions of the old-timers. First, we had a hard time getting to the fish: we could see the fish through the net, but where were the edges of the net, how could we pull them out? Once we located a fish with our hands, we discovered that the gills tightly held each fish into a hole in the net. How great the force of the ocean, or the urgency of the fish to get himself so tangled in the net! Quinn and I clumsily pulled at the fish, getting more scales than anything, the fish staying behind in the net. Eventually, an old man came over and pulled out a fish for us, speaking a little English.

"You must pull the fish out this way," he said, grasping the fish and pulling it head first out of the whole in a motion that was too quick for me to understand what he had to to free the fish so quickly. He indicated that pulling the tail end of the fish would damage the gills, and then they were no good for smoking or fishing or eating.

Where these locals? Were the fishing for sustenance, commerce, both? They seemed like a single community, a single ethnic group, with the same language, the same build: slight and wiry. I don't know. They were not rich, but they also did not seem like the poorest of the poor. It was a sunny afternoon in Cape Town and they were enjoying their day.

Note: I am not sure what type of fish they are. They are popular in South Africa along the coast, not high in quality, but a decent protein source.

Sleeping Places

At the end of a day on the road, it is a pleasure to lay down and let sleep wash away the worries from the day, the frustrations of a head wind, the shoulder aches, the bruised bottom. Or a time when you can hold close to you the new friendships, the funny events during the day, a full belly. When you are so tired, any place you lay your head, however hard or lumpy, is a good spot.

But sleeping space is not the only thing we consider when we choose a camping spot. When traveling with a group of five people on a budget, there are many factors involved. Price is one factor: we prefer places that are free. Safety is another factor: we do not want to be disturbed in the middle of the night by wild animals or people interested in our stuff, so we need to be able to keep a low profile, which involves a bit more planning when there are five. Since leaving Cape Town, we have had several different types of places that we have stayed, and I would like to tell you a little bit about the places we have camped and the people who have put us up for the evening.

The Off-Road Campsite

This type of site is nice because it is free...the main concerns are finding a spot with low-visibility (again, you don't want people to stop by who are interested in your stuff and you also don't want to be awoken in the middle of the night to be asked to move in the middle of the night by concerned neighbors or law enforcement) and making sure you have enough water. We take care of the water bit by strapping empty 2L soda bottles filled with water to our bikes, and making sure we have enough filled when we settle down to camp at the night.

So far we have had three nights out of fifteen where we slept by the side of the road. We have been very lucky in these sites so far...each has been charming in its own way.

Gordon's Bay Campsite:
Our first night on the road we camped off a lookout point on the road just past Gordon's Bay. There was a cliff there with a reasonable slope. Closer to the water the slope leveled off even more before dropping more sharply into the bay. This level section was rocky and brushy, and kept us invisible to the road, while we could relax and look over the landscape. From where we sat we could watch the beach town community of Strand, with its funky architecture, and further away we could see Cape Town. A small group of right whales spouted in the bay and a group of seals played in the waters at our feet.

Some of the funky buildings in Strand:

Wilderness Campsite:
2km shy of a beachside community called Wilderness, on a long climb, we pulled of to the side to camp under a bridge. The bridge was more to stabilize the road in that place than to bridge a distance, as one side was right up against the hill, the right side open and looking down upon a ravine below. It was nice, open, dry and not buggy, protected from the rain and not visible to the road above. Orian ran down to scope the place out and pronounced it fit, so we all waited for a lull in traffic from both directions. By the time the lull had come, some people were walking down the hill towards town. It is okay for a few drivers to see you sneak your bikes off the road, especially if they are not cops, but you don't really want locals on foot or bicycles seeing you...too close to an invitation for them to join the party.

When you are camping in this type of spot it is better to minimize your use of lights after dark, because lights can give you away. Find a spot early enough in the evening for you to do your cooking and get organized without use of lights. As Orian says, "It would be okay if someone found you in the morning and asked you to leave, because that's what you are going to do anyway, but you don't want someone coming in the middle of the night". This night we saw some lights across the railroad bridge on a premontory overlooking the sea, and we did not want them to see our lights and come over to investigate, so we went to sleep early.

Before Humansdorp:

Our third campsite of this type was in a drainage culvert before Humansdorp by ~30km. It was our longest day so far...we had ridden 80-odd miles with a partial tail wind at our back, but we had begun early and it was getting late with grey clouds rolling in with some mist. For about 10km we kept pulling off to the side of the road and Orian and Quinn and Nate would scurry up and down the banks to see if there was a way down to the farms below the bridge. We were riding along the N2, a national road, and in this section there were many big farms or ranches amidst the dry landscape, but none had direct access from the road, miles and miles of barbed wire fence up. At the fourth stop there was a drainage culvert, a large tunnel beneath the road that was at least 10ft in diameter and suggested some pretty heavy flash floods during the rainy season. The way down was quite steep, but short and navigable. We pulled our panniers off of our bikes and passed everything down the hill assembly line style as quickly as possible.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Don't forget Nate!

With five of us on this trip, and so many things happening each day, encompassing the full experience is a difficult task. We each have different writing styles, perspectives, and things we want to write about.

Maybe you can't get enough of us, or maybe Karen and I left out some we invite you all to visit Nate's blog too (we posted the link Matembezi Angavu on the right), hopefully bringing you even closer to our experiences.

Really full on homemade italiano pizza! Bon appetito!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Watch Out for the Baboons!

Saddle sore. Ostrich! Hurts. so. much. Gazelle! headwind. so. strong. Zebra! Can't. pedal. further. Baboon?

And so our journey has begun...

This is the beginning of a place where adversity and excitement are one in the same thing. A place where pain is unbearable, challenges push your physical and mental limits, but always, always there is a glimmer of something amazing that distracts you from your pain.

We have been riding for many days on dirt roads from Capetown, along the southwestern coast of South Africa. Between the incessant shaking from the corrugated roads and dust eating from the cars, we have glimpsed into the beautiful countryside of South Africa. It is a landscape of large open farmland like eastern Washington and Montana. But passing shantytowns, seeing all the strange animals and the funny signs that warn us of baboons remind us that we are in Africa.

Sometimes as I look out onto the farms, I am brought back to the plantations of colonial America. The fields are filled with black laborers working under the hot sun; the men in blue overalls, and the women with aprons and their heads wrapped in cloth. The roads are frequent with these people trying to hitchhike, perhaps back home to their families.

But the African people have surpassed our expectations. Everyone waves to us, honk their horns when they pass us, and give us plenty of encouragement to push on. There is no way to thank all the people enough who have voluntarily offered their homes and hospitality in just the past week. Like driving to the campground to give us breakfast. Or treating us to many many cups of coffee, and dinner. Giving us all five of us a roof over our heads. And even giving us a day long tour of the aloe factories, museums, game parks in Albertinia. All the pushing our bikes through sand, severe sunburns, rattling our brains was all worth it to meet these people.

As we continue to busy ourselves with making projects from the trash off the side of road, until next time...minwah

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Cape Town 101

Arrived in Capetown Sunday morning without much of a hitch. The four of us traveling together, Orian, Nate, Minwah, and myself, almost weren't allowed to get on our connection in London to Cape Town...apparently, South Africa requires an exit ticket if you enter the country. We were allowed to purchase some tickets from Johannesberg to Swaziland for Jan. 15th (which we don't actually have to use).

Alvin, the fiance of Susan, whom we met at a potluck in Wisconsin last weekend, picked us up from the airport with a trailer that fit all of our bikes. We all drove to his house, where he put us up until today (Tuesday the 13th).

Anyway, getting low on minutes at this Internet cafe. Basically, we are all safe and hitting the road after a few adjustments.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Introducing the Cast...

Minwah Leung and Karen Noiva Welling
Minwah and I chose some pictures that we felt were representative of the personalities of the people in the group, to familiarize our lovely readers with members of the cast they may not know. To the left is Minwah and myself in the midst of gorging ourselves on spareribs and German chocolate cake in Pomeroy, WA on our last bike trip.

Minwah returned Dec. 18th to the States after 14-months of traveling, working, and wwoofing in New Zealand and Australia. Immediately before that she was on a 3-month-ish cross-country (US) bike tour with me, Mike Seager, and Ariel Welling. We're planning to be on the road in Africa until August, so she'll have been on the road for quite some time! She thinks she may like to work for a non-profit upon her return, settling down for at least a little while. Minwah's working nickname (courtesy of Seager from the cross-country bike trip) is Admiral Misses-the-Point.

My working nickname (also courtesy of Seager) is Captain Obvious. Will we live up to our titles? Will we be laid off from our jobs in the faltering economy and take on new roles? Will the other cast members acquire nicknames? Stay tuned to see how group dynamics play out on this trip.

I am not sure what to say about myself. It is exciting and intimidating to be visiting a continent and experiencing cultures that I have only had intriguing glimpses of through readings and other media. I'm looking forward to drawing a few pictures, learning some new recipes, and seeing so many new things.

Quinn Baumberger
Below we have chosen a picture of Quinn. I hope he doesn't hate us for choosing this picture of him, which Minwah and I unanimously agreed was one of the most excellent of his goofy pictures on Facebook. Quinn rode from Alaska to Argentina the year after Orian did. He is also a snowboarder par-excellence, and judging by his Facebook photos will be an entertaining member of the cast.

A master of many things including funny hairstyles and train riding. He has ridden many miles on a bike, beginning at the age of four. He completed his first century ride at the age of 10.

Totaling up the mileage from his two cross-country US rides and his Pan America tour (Prudhoe Bay, AK to Ushaia, Argentina) Orian has ridden the length of the circumference of the globe.

Orian hopes to document the trip with video footage using a sweet little camera some MIT friends gave us for our wedding in June 2008. He plans to send this footage back to BJ in Wisconsin so he can edit it with the fancy video editing software he has, and then post the footage to youtube. Look for links to videos on this blog.

Orian expects to eat meat at points throughout our trip. Orian is normally a vegetarian by taste, but during travels will eat meat out of courtesy or extreme hunger. He has eaten: sea cucumber, pigs' ear, feet, and hoof, deep fried maggots, road kill rabbit and deer, and cold, boiled llama meat with fur on it. I wonder what sort of meats we will confront during this trip?

Nate Hurst
Nate Hurst is putting his ultimate frisbee career on hold to bike with us in Africa. He had an entertaining escapade on the way back to Wisconsin for Christmas this year involving a blizzard, locked keys, a locksmith named Wally, a closed highway, and a towed car.

Nate is hoping to chronicle our adventures in a book. Orian and I have had visions of something like that, too, and I hope this inspires us all to more prolific writings that will leave our blog readers with some meatier stuff.