Diary of an Adventure

Harbour Town Adventures

Butterflies. Sweat. A bit of blood. Howling wind. Dust. Homtini Pass. Four hours. The longest ride in many years. Breakfast at the Garden Route Trail Park halfway through the ride ensured that my blood sugars didn’t go crazy.

Homtini (The name is apparently of Khoi origin and means either “mountain honey” or “difficult passage”), is one of the more beautiful of the passes in the string of passes between Knysna and George. Covering 5km, it winds down 45 corners and curves through the thick indigenous forest.

‘Pincushion Macro’ Small acrylic on canvas paintings I have been trying to get done for ages, based on the photo’s Kirsten took of pincushion protea on the table at River Deck after our walk on the wild side. Do wonder how they would work at 2mx2m!

Vietnamese dinner with the last of the recipes for the book on Diabetic Sensitive Vietnamese food. Ga Rang Gung (Ginger Chicken) and a fish option, served with the classic Vietnamese salad and dipping sauce. A starter of the pork and prawn rolls, with a couple using salmon rather than pork. Good Hope Pinot Noir (Stellenbosch) and Chardonnay (2014) from Newton Johnson (Hemel and Aarde), and Stoney Brook (Franschhoek), with a 2013 Radfordale (Paardeberg) all worked well with the subtle flavours of the Vietnamese dishes.

The ‘Wall Easel’ hanging system installed in the studio. Flexible for the various canvas sizes I have used over the years, it can also be used as a painting easel for the 2m canvas I have waiting.

A great feature in the Kalahari Review of a collection of my small paintings.

https://www.facebook.com/KalahariReview/posts/1510364305707383

Advertisements
Diary of an Adventure

Harbour Town Adventures

With the alterations to the studio out of the way, and the new track lights not available for another week, the hanging system for the paintings still needs to be sorted.

A trial, ‘Wall Easel’, aesthetically pleasing and practical. Both for wind and for adjustments to take paintings that need to dry. This while maintaining the clear simplicity of the new space. The trestle table top planned for the studio a tad frustrating.

Sunrise Phantom cycle. So pretty riding down a ribbon of light. Sunlight playing in the dust.

Test Kitchen. Vietnamese fried wantons from Hoi An, and fried spring rolls from Saigon on the menu for Wayne to sample. Wet, or dry? Cook immediately, Or they stick turning into stodgy balls of mush.

The fried oil thing, horrible to work with. The air-fryer didn’t give the greatest results.

Tomato, pineapple and onion sauce not necessarily the best as a diabetic sensitive meal. When they work. Scrumptious. Champagne a definite.

‘Sleeping Rough’, an acrylic and marker pen illustration of boys outside the station in Knysna. I managed to do the underpainting for the portrait of the women in Hanoi.

‘Catfish and Mandala’ (Andrew Pham). A poignant, crafted book that brings our experiences of Vietnam into shimmering reality. The chapter headings are particularly fascinating, the Hyphenation in Pham’s journey. A depth of story in themselves.

http://phangvictor.blogspot.com/2009/11/catfish-and-mandala-analysis.html

Diary of an Adventure

Harbour Town Adventures

‘Pushing the Oars’

Oil on canvas 120cmx40cm

Water. Hills shrouded in cloud and welcome rain falling. Heart stopping phone call about water cascading out of the apartment. An open tap on the patio following a day of of water outages due to pipe burst in Town.

Not the best news after earlier finding a leak in the painting storage area. Fortunately wine boxes the only casualty. Especially with the delivery of a few large canvases on the floor and not in the storage racks.

‘Pushing the oars’. Sampans on the busy waters of the Mekong Delta, searching for the slowest part of the river flow. The brown waters not what I wanted to dominate the painting, and while acknowledging the strength of the women who ply the eight foot oars of the boats, it was the delicate butterflies of the Delta the feeling I wanted.

Sweet potato gratin, with ribs on the Weber and a zucchini and pesto salad (Taste magazine), with a touch of Pinot on a beautiful evening.

Beach. Prince the reluctant follower, skirting the scary waves, before deciding that his mobs-kennel was the safest place. Progress of sorts.

Cast off Terry’s arm and she is starting to try out her new wing. Still going around in circles a bit as it’s a tad weak after the six weeks in plaster. The ‘transact’ a reminder not to do too much.

Very special to have Lesa and Alan visiting for a few days.

Diary of an Adventure

Harbour Town Adventures

SOLD

‘Flower Sellers’

Acrylic on canvas 150cmx70cm

King Arthur’s carousel horse from Disney. Music box playing in the early hours. Wind stirred memories.

‘Pushing the oars’, a dance of purple. Sampan boat rowers. Mekong Delta, Vietnam. The initial scratching on the canvas conveying so much that the subsequent painting only seems to detract.

A bowl of ripe tomatoes, ideal for the feta and tomato tart in the Taste magazine. The philo-pastry base not an option, or the flour that the recipe called for. Fortunately, aubergine an alternative, with a cream-cheese and cremefraiche filling.

Wines from the J9 collection, Newton Johnson, Walker Bay Pinot Noir and Radfordale ‘Frankenstein’, 2013, with the crispy Weber grilled duck.

A tad clumsy. Cold fingers. Headache. Slurred speech. Been awhile since my blood sugars have stayed this low.

Riding on the Jeep track above Simola, that heart-stopping moment when passing what could be elephant dung. Sweat stained glasses and a bit of imagination. Dislodged earth from the embankment.

My painting schedule thrown out of kilter to make space for the Garden Routes summer brilliance. Cascade of red. Yellow hibiscus on the patio. Purple agapanthus at Steenbok, and delicate red flame lilies, with their ‘tongues of fire’. Watsonia in dazzling shades of pink on the drive through to Nature’s Valley.

AUBERGINE QUICHE

1 hour 15 mins

TOTAL TIME

1 hour 15 mins

An Aubergine Quiche with roasted cherry tomatoes, and feta cheese.

Recipe type: Dinner or Lunch

Cuisine: Vegetarian

Serves: serves 4

INGREDIENTS

• 1 large aubergine, sliced into 1 cm slices.

• 150g halved cherry or baby plum tomatoes

• 300g feta cheese crumbled into little chunks

• 150g cream cheese

• 60 ml cremefraiche

• A good grating of parmesan

• 5 free range eggs

• Generous drizzling of olive oil

• salt and black pepper, garlic salt

• basil or parsley leaves for garnish

INSTRUCTIONS

1. Preheat the oven to 180

2. Line a quiche or lasagne dish with foil and brush with a little olive oil.

3. Lay the sliced aubergines on the oiled foil, and brush with more oil and seasoning , making sure they get a good coating on both sides.

4. Put in the oven and after 20 mins or so, add the tomatoes, which should also be oiled and seasoned.

5. To make the quiche mixture, in a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and cremefraiche together, whisk in the eggs one by one and add seasoning and a good grating of parmesan.

6. Whisk together to make a smooth creamy custard and lastly crumble in the feta cheese,

7. After another 20 minutes when the vegetables are softened and browning around the edges, remove from the oven.

8. Make sure the aubergines are covering the bottom to form a vegetable base.

9. Pour the cheesy quiche mixture over the vegetables, allowing some bits of veg to poke through.

10. Sprinkle over the fresh herbs and cook in the oven

Diary of an Adventure

Harbour Town Adventures

Cold fingers, despite higher than usual blood sugars after a Christmas lunch of pâté de compagne and Il de Pain bread, with trifle as a dessert.

Black, mud-stained feet from playing with Prince at low tide. The noise of the waves still too much for him.

Vietnamese flavours for the Christmas Eve dinner. Fresh spring rolls with pork and prawns. Duck breast with Asian salad. Fish simmered in ginger and caramel sauce. My spring rolls, defined as ‘clumsy’. The wooded Chardonnay the best wine for the various flavours in the Vietnamese food. Minimizing the sugar used in the caramel sauce did mean that there was none of the ‘stickiness’ that we had in the meal inHanoi, but it didn’t kick my sugar levels out of kilter either. Another three weeks before Terry’s cast comes off!

The end of a quiet day, with the street outside the studio busy with holiday traffic and the alcohol fueled chatter of people walking home. Oodles of pink flesh on display after a perfect, sun filled day.

‘Crumpled’, my portrait of a 92 year old women in Hoi An, Vietnam. The simplicity I was striving for being lost in the contours and crumpledness of her face. The complexity of the years driving the painting? Raw Sienna, permanent magenta, Ultramarine blue and Naples Yellow with Alizarin crimson the key colours. I did include touches of Cerulean and Cobalt blue.

Became part of the ‘mechanical’ mountain bike family, managing to trash the crank assembly on the way up Phantom Pass. Did find another reason to be ‘flat-pedal’ cyclist, in that wearing trail shoes you can jog with your bicycle. However, I was glad it wasn’t too far before Coreta rescued me.

Diary of an Adventure

Harbour Town Adventures

Boating Pond

It isn’t the cleverest idea to burn ones fingers, and an even worse idea if you are a finger painter! Testing the edges of my limited ability in the kitchen, with Terry still out of action for another month with her broken wrist.

Fortunately, it’s only a couple on my right hand, which are more of a nuisance on the bicycle than in the studio. The singed fingers a result of not realizing how hot a pot from the oven stays after you have finished using it.

Ginger, garlic, chili (It needs a special warning about the lingering effects on your hands that burns your eyes after you have removed the pips) red onion, cabbage, tomatoes, lettuce, carrots, fish-oil, salt, pepper, sugar for the ‘banana flower’ salad, pork stuffed calamari and galangal carmalised fish. Sugar and flower free sponge cake and creme anglaise for the trifle.

Testing Vietnamese recipes, using local ingredients that are diabetic sensitive, for the recipe book we are planning. The influence of Vietnam, with a hint of Christmas!

Managed the chopping stuff without blood. My leg, however, a bit worse off from coming into contact with the painting racks and my arm from playing with wild-child. Somehow, managed to get blood and paint spread all over the place.

On the easel I have an old women from Hoi An in Vietnam. A very traditional looking women that is challenging as I strive for simplicity. Her weather beaten skin, full of harsh reality, however it’s the twinkle in her eyes that remain the essence of the painting.

Spectacular morning light shining on the waters of the estuary. Gazillion reflections from the visiting yachts as we headed out up Phantom as the sun was waking up.

Messing About with Paint

Review of what to pack for painting Travel

In the five weeks, I painted 20 pictures on canvas, linen and paper.

Of the limited pallet of 11 colours (Ultramarine blue, Burnt Umber, Cadmium Red, Cadmium yellow light, Titanium White, Alizarin Crimson, Cadmium yellow deep, Cobalt Blue, Naples Yellow, Phtalo Blue Green and Cerulean Blue) I hardly used the Cadmium red and I would leave the Burnt Umber out next time.

I found the dark mixture of Burnt Umber and Ultramarine blue disappointing. I did need the additional tube of white paint that I didn’t take along, and both the Cadmium yellow deep and Naples yellow ran short as I did not anticipate the huge amount of yellow colour everywhere in Vietnam.

Phtalo Blue Green, Alizarin Crimson and Naples Yellow made a wonderful rich grey color that contrasted fabulously with the Cadmium Yellow.

Diary of an Adventure

Vietnam – Terry’s Random, Accidental Observations

We’re sipping iced coffee amongst the orchids at the airport. The world of international travelers wafts around us and our internal landscapes have shifted to all that awaits us – dinners, friends, work, and busy schedules, such as they are, in Knysna. In short, reality.

Behind us, five weeks of anonymity, if, as westerners, we can be anonymous in an Asian world. Language alone encapsulated us and kept us apart. Our engagement only by choice, through smiles and nods.

On Sunday we drank our jasmine tea to the sound of Church bells, the Catholic steeple on the horizon of our neighborhood. Walking distance to an area outside the boundaries of our limited city map is Cholon, the Chinese district. Along the road is an all encompassing temple that includes all religions. Everywhere in between, coffee is the common culture. And the constant traffic is a background white-noise.

Opposite our trendy air conditioned coffee shop, an old man stands bare chested in the heat. Children play badminton on the sidewalk of this major arterial into the city outside the coffin-seller’s shopfront, while he naps on a bench the size of a coffee table at the entrance – hoping to catch the 41 degree breeze.

In our apartment, we take another lukewarm shower with the go-to brand of body wash in all the establishments we’ve stayed in: Lifebuoy. For him, and for her. 

Our two day trip to the Mekong Delta was an excursion, once more, into commercial tourism. Fortunately we were a group of six, and all easy going. Our guide took charge of us and we boarded and disembarked boats and busses as directed. The clouds were heavy, but didn’t rain on us. The grey-brown water was worthy of a Kipling description, and the palms and mangroves on the banks, beyond the stilt houses, felt heavy with silence. The American movies come to life. 

We were conducted through rice-wafer baking and coconut-candy processing, rice-paper and rice noodle making, and the charms of snake wine, scorpion wine, and grilled frog,snake and rat over the BBQ. Our lunch, fortunately, of river fish, chicken and broth. 

The city of Vinh Long was modern and trendy with wide streets and boulevards. Funky coffee shops played contemporary-rap through their speakers.

When our tour guide realised our group was fit enough for a change to the itinerary, he arranged a cycle around one of the island villages to visit a temple. Lush, humid, muddy – but friendly! Children calling ‘Hello!’ And high-five-ing us. Women doing their washing on the water’s edge. 

The floating market was grey and drab, with more tourist boats than merchants. Their living conditions basic, both in the boats and in the stilt-shacks along the river banks. It felt intrusive to be viewing and photographing them. But they were trading with smaller boats that came to buy the wholesale fruit and veg to sell on to their local neighborhood markets. 

It was exciting to recognize our streets and local coffee shops and minimarts when our minibus entered Saigon again. And it was with a sense of belonging that we settled into our regular seats, at our regular table and placed our regular order without even asking! They knew us so well there, that for me, it was an emotional farewell today. 

According to our tour guide, Ho Chi Minh City is a political name. For him, ‘Saigon City’ is written in his heart. 

And so it is that we say: Thank You, Saigon.

Diary of an Adventure

Vietnam Adventures

HCM

Our time in Vietnam rapidly shrinking. Particularly, time for painting, as even acrylic paints need time to harden before the canvases are rolled to travel. With the Mekong Delta taking a couple of days and the last day needed to pack and hand back the apartment, I’m down to a handful of painting days. Afternoon thunderstorms reduce the light levels so that even with the good light in the apartment, by mid afternoon it’s too dark for my lousy eyes. I want to get the larger canvases I brought painted, as I have carried them around for almost a month!

The flowers sellers in Hoi An old town, one of the subjects on my painting list that I wanted to do on the larger canvas. The hotel room in Hoi An too small to work in. Here, I have a table which is also a tad small but workable, if messy. The last of the cadmium yellow deep squeezed from the tube and a last gasp from the Naples yellow.

A new dinner adventure: hot pot of Lau ga la giang all in Vietnamese and a picture menu. Essentially- a piece of chicken, a spicy broth, banana flowers and other unknown greens all cooked over a little table-top stove. A frustrating process.

Our corner restaurant has proved to be an excellent spot to sit and capture candid street photo’s. Particularly interesting portraits to add to my painting list.

Squeezing through the tiny alleys of the market, and trashing display piles of plastic containers in turning to avoid an impatient Granny. Shopping with gesture and the remarkable power of smartphone photos and translate, searching for elusive kitchen bits and cashew nuts.

Lightning, flashing across the sky. The instantaneous transformation of those on scooters into ponchos. Rain turning the streets into knee deep rivers. A drowned rat seemingly the only casualty of the ferocity of the storm as restaurants, shops and commuters carry on as normal.

In one of the corner gardens, a small yellow iris flower. Delicate. Perfect.

Diary of an Adventure

Vietnam Adventures

Flower Seller

Acrylic on Linen 40cmx50cm

Hoi An
My list of paintings waiting for canvas, paper, fingers and paint grows ever longer. The pad of paper for illustrations is finished, and tube of white (should have brought the additional tube I had planned to bring) almost, creating a new bother as I either need to make a trip to Danang, which isn’t appealing, particularly with the APEC conference on the go, or wait until Shanghai, which is a week away. I can use the light Naples yellow for some of the mixes rather than white and I have the linen pad as well as three large canvases to paint on.

No end of puddles to stomp through. Mud splattered legs. The arrival of Typhoon Damery, with flooding in the old town. Chaos with the market having to relocate, and be squeezed into one of the only streets not covered in water. We criss-crossed alleys dodging the boats, scooters, pedestrians, bicycles and the horde of rain-poncho sellers who seem to materialize out of every puddle. 

Miss Ly’s recommended as the place to have the best unwrapped fried wanton’s, a speciality of Hoi An. Dodging through the market stalls, we found ‘Cafe 62’, and a seat that allowed us to get fresh air. The wanton, made from rice flower with a topping of tomatoes, carrot, cilantro, pineapple, garlic, chilli, and spring onions. Messy but tasty and minimal impact on my sugar levels.

Amongst the stressed boat evacuations, and the ferrying of fresh water onto the islands, it’s a bit like a carnival with people laughing as they wade through the waters, or huddle under bits of cover drinking rocket fuel coffee waiting for shuttles or deciding how to manage a day with so much closed or flooded.