Friday, July 22, 2011

Tigers, they're grrrrrrrrreat!

For our joint 30th birthday present, my amazing family got Dan and I a trip to the Indian jungle to find ourselves a tiger. What an unbelievable gift, an experience we will treasure! This is how it went:

We flew from Delhi to Nagpur and then were driven to Kahna National Park where we checked into Banjaar Tola, a property run by &Beyond and the Taj group.
The rooms were beautifully done, the circular bed leading onto a massive bathroom and a private balcony with a serene view of the river and jungle. Everything was finished in natural materials, which gave a overall earthy feel.

At the crack of dawn, we climbed on board an open range rover, exactly like the South African ones, and met our naturalist (a game ranger). We collected our guide at the park entrance and as we drove through the gates for the first game drive, I was taken by the sunrise at the beauty of the jungle, being used to the dry African bush, the dense beauty and the way the light filtered through the trees was totally unexpected.
It really felt like something out of the jungle book.  Khana is actually the forest which inspired Rudyard Kipling; his story was apparently based on a real boy who was found near a wolf’s den.

The first thing we came across was a tree full of Langur monkeys. They were all sitting on branches, checking us out while dangling their legs. We saw many more trees full of monkeys and could not help but stop and laugh at their funny monkey ways.

We saw Barasingha (a species of swamp deer that was brought back from the brink of extinction), wild dog, jackal, a million spotted deer and lots of gaur (really big bison).
There are no radios allowed in the Indian parks, so the naturalists have to use the old school method of stopping and asking each other what they’ve seen. By our third drive we still had not seen the elusive tiger and the game drives felt like thrilling hunting trips - listening for alarm calls, shouting stop at every orange bush and putting out tiger vibes.
When we finally saw a massive tigress coming over a small hill, our stomachs flipped, our heart leapt and everyone ignored the rules and stood up to get a better view.
Even though she was quite far away and it was hard to get a great photo without a hard-core camera lense, it really was quite a thrilling encounter.

In the early mornings, the tame elephants and their riders track the tigers and when they find one, they allow the guests to view the tiger from the back of the elephant. We broke my number one ‘bush rule’ - never ever miss a game drive - and slept in, missing out on this amazing opportunity.

After two nights at Khana and one tiger viewing, we drove to Pench National Park and checked into Baghvan camp. Even though this lodge is also run by &Beyond and the Taj Group, it is completely different to Banjaar Tola. The rooms have a modern Indian style with magnificent pieces of furniture and the bathroom is separated by a stairway leading to a private, outdoor, king size bed where you can sleep when the weather is manageable. The rooms have an outdoor shower area and are surrounded by a tall dense teak forest. There is a feeling of complete solitude with hardly a building in sight.

Even though it is only a few hours away from Khana, the Pench forest might as well be in a different country. The forest is less dense and is intersected by the massive Pench river. When we saw the river for the first time is was hard not to compare the landscape to a golf course. It looked so picturesque and manicured, that only the huge herd of spotted deer made it feel like we were in ‘the wild’. We had two tiger sightings at Pench, which were just as thrilling as the first one.

On our last evening, we were having a drink in the lodge lounge when the naturalist told us that there were flying squirrels outside our room. We raced back to our room to find a romantic dinner set up on our balcony instead. It was beautiful and wonderful, but not as exciting as a flying squirrel. We were enjoying our meal when a large black animal the size of a house cat scrambled up the tree about 2 meters away from us. We jumped up, got a flash-light and watched this animal teetering on the top of the narrow tree. And then… it jumped… and glided across the clearing to the top of another tree. It was a flying squirrel. Possibly one of the most exciting moments of my game viewing life.

This is the thank you card I made for my wonderful family (my married name is Berkowitz, Berk for short):

Friday, July 8, 2011

Traveling around our adopted country

Where have we been?
*deep breath*
Leh, Manali, Shimla, Delhi, Agra, Samode, Jaipur, Udaipur, Khana National Park, Pench National Park,  Varanasi, Mumbai, Goa, Kerala, Chennai & Pondicherry.
Lucky us 

Dinner party

The first time I made dinner for my new friends. The conversation was pretty one sided.

Who died in the kitchen?

When I asked Ganga to get some washing up gloves from INA for me, she returned with these.
Post Mortem Gloves.
So, post mortem gloves are readily available? Good to know the next time I want to practice CSI at home, or maybe feed sum wun who pissed me off to da peegs.
When I wash up the dishes, I give them the evil eye and let them know that I'm gonna give em a good scrubbin, before I tear em limb by limb and bury em in mi pot plants.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Mannequins are creepy...

...especially when they are kept in a deep dark basement.
I needed to buy a dress form and my hunt lead me to a hole in the ground filled with plastic people.
Totally creepy.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Chicken for dinner

Kristin sets off for Bagsu

An awesome Indie party in Delhi - FINALLY!

Spinns in Kailash Colony have an indie music night, every second Tuesday. Annalisa told me about it and so, Kristin and I met her there, not sure what to expect. (I have never had a truly great dance evening out in Delhi.)
Well the music turned out to be epic and we danced danced danced. The bar is cool. Decently priced drinks which is wonderful. Friendly owner. And most importantly, totally wicked flashing lights which make for great photos.
Thanks Kris and Nalis for a totally kiff evening.


We have been living in our apartment for 2 years and it is finally starting to look full. We have picked up some truly beautiful things which, one day, are going to have to be packed up and shipped off to Cape Town.

An alternative reality

We have been in Delhi for 2 and a half years. It is a completely surreal feeling to think about what has happened since we have been here. It feels like I have been living in an alternative reality and the other Casey, the real Casey, is still in Cape Town going along as normal, and I am writing this blog for her.
I wonder how she is doing...

Trees and birds

When my darling mother came to visit me, we explored the nurseries of Delhi and turned our little balcony into a piece of paradise. We found some beautiful big Bonzai trees. They were Rs1000 each which is like R150. Imagine a Bonzai costing R150 in Cape Town?
We also planted some basil, coriander, peppers and tomatoes which are coming along nicely.
The tea boxes were a little more of a challenge - it was the hardest I have ever had to work for something free, but they were totally worth it.
Let's hope everything survives the summer, coz I'm not sure I will.

All of this beautiful greenery has been attracting a few friends. After yoga in the morning, I have a coffee and see who's coming to visit.

Learning how to cook lesson 1

South Indian steamed fish and chickpea salad.

There is an excellent South Indian restaurant round the corner from us, they make the most delicious, spicy fish steamed in a banana leaf. Each time we eat there, I try sneakily find out another ingredient from them. I kind of pieced the recipe together in conjunction with internet research and thought it was a time to give it a try.

It turned out pretty well, not nearly as spicy and yummy as the original, but delicious none the less.

I made it with a chickpea salad.

White fish fillets- 2 x 200gms (I used sole because of what's available in Delhi, but I think other fishies would work too).


Half tsp chili powder

1 tsp yoghurt

Half tsp lime juice

Quarter tsp cumin powder

Half tsp coriander powder

Salt- to taste


Onions- 1 large, roughly chopped

Ginger- 1 tbsp

Garlic- 1 tbsp

Quarter tsp Fenugreek powder

Half teaspoon Turmeric powder


1 tsp Vinegar

Quarter cup Coconut milk

1 tsp mustard seedsMustard seeds

Curry leaves- a few sprigs

Salt- to taste

1 tbsp coconut oil (or olive oil)

Wash and clean the fish fillets and marinate with all the ingredients in the 'to marinate' section. Keep aside for about 15 to 20 minutes. (I think even more chili powder can be added to the marinade if you like spicy).

Heat some oil and add the mustard seeds. When they are popping, add the curry leaves and onions and cook on low heat, till the onions are see through.

Add the chopped ginger and garlic for a few more minutes

Add the turmeric, pepper and fenugreek powder and mix well. Add the vinegar.

Increase the heat to high and when the gravy starts to simmer, and its somewhat thick in consistency, reduce the heat and add the coconut milk. Check for salt, add more if required. Mix well, take it off the heat and transfer to a bowl.

Sear the fish for a few seconds on either side.


Cut the banana leaf to a good size so you can wrap it round the fish. Add half of the gravy at the bottom, place the fish fillets on top and cover with the rest of the gravy. Fold the banana leaf around the fish like a little parcel.

I added tomatoes, which was a mistake as it created a lot of water.


Can of chickpeas, carrots, radishes, feta cheese, parsley. Chop all this up and stick it in a bowl, pour some olive oil, lots of lemon juice over it. Also add cumin powder and paprika for an extra little spice.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

How to get Holi out your hair

Once again, I came out of Holi with a hangover and multi coloured hair. This festival would never take off in Europe.

I turned my bathroom into a chemistry lab and tried every cure I could find on the internet.
Here are my findings:
Lemon juice - removes maybe 2% of the colour
Mayonnaise - useless and smelly
Ketchup / tomatoe paste - Kinda works, but I think you would have to repeat the process 10 times to get rid of everything.
Baking Soda - Didn't do anything
Vinegar - Not much difference, but my hair did feel good after.
Baking soda and then add vinegar on top - AMAZING. It took 90% of the colour out my hair. When I added the vinegar, the baking soda literally fizzled and I think this reaction is what sucked out all the green.

Note: This worked for me, but please be careful if you try anything I have suggested as I was fully aware that my hair might all fall out and am kinda thanking my lucky stars at the moment.

Animals are funny

I brought my umbrella just in case it rains.

These are MY fish.

Rickshaw wisedom

Monday, March 7, 2011

Kerala, well, if God lives there...

Dan and I have been fortunate enough to have a long train of visitors over the past 5 months and as they have been close friends and family I happily tagged along to their travels around India.
The most interesting part of all these trips, is which places have garnered the most interest and in which order they are seen.
Everyone wants to first see Mumbai, Delhi, Agra, Jaipur, Udaipur and Varanasi. This is usually done in 10 days. The second tier of desired destinations are Kerala, Goa & Manali.

The only down side of this is that when the visitors started arriving, I found a few destinations repeating on me.

So when my parents planned their second trip to India, my excitement to see them was slightly tainted by having to see Chinese fishing nets, Kathakali (local dance) and Vasco Da Gama's grave... for the third time. They wanted to go to God's Own Country - Kerala.

My first trip to Kerala was wild. Lior and I found a fabulous rickshaw driver - Rinu (09895167727 / 08907999904) who raced us around town to show us all the usual things (even let us drive his auto) and then took us to a restaurant in the back of a house in the middle of nowhere, I was tentative to say the least. We sat under a coconut tree, drank palm wine and ate the tastiest fish covered in curry powder. I am a fussy eater so I had to put my brave face on to handle this and it was more than worth it. The tastiest dish of 2010. Actually it draws with the french toast and fruit breakfast we had at The Kashi Art Cafe.

The second trip with Dan and his parents was a completely different experience. We were traveling in a little bit more style. The Malabar House in Cochin and The Raheem Residency in Allepey. Both were beautiful and really showed off the high end of travel in Kerala.

When my parents arrived, I packed my bags with a sigh, wishing we were going to Darjeeling or Pondicherry or some other unexplored (by me) destination.
But Kerala would have none of my bullshit. It made me swallow my sigh and realise how little I knew. The place was still fascinating, third time round.
Our guide told us that The Trade Winds get their name from a course along which the winds can be expected to blow in the direction of travel. The winds blow from the Cape up to India, around and back down to the Cape. This is the path the Portuguese used to get to India in the 15th Century.
The highlight of this trip was the Kerala style cooking evening we did at The Marari Beach Lodge (part of CGH Earth, an amazing group dedicated to ecologically responsible travel). The single table restaurant is in the center of a thriving organic garden, filled with every sort of veggie, herb (and snake) one could imagine. We picked our own ingredients and were taught how to crackle mustard seeds and what on earth a gourde is. The food was delicious and we were sent home with a recipe book - which has found a very comfortable home in my kitchen.

When I left, I knew I would probably never go back to God's own country and I was pretty sad to say goodbye. Then again, we have a few people coming to visit us this year...