Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Travel Photo Thursday May 5th.

In Ethiopia, the national dish is njeera, a round, flat, greyish, sponge rubbery or tripe looking bread made from Tef, a staple cereal harvested from a grass that grows extensively through northern Ethiopia. In the markets you'll see huge mounds of it being sold. Quite a small seed, a few millimetres big in a flat circular shape, similar to sesame seed. Njeera is traditionally served on platters made of woven dried grass. Cheap, easy to replace, and biodegradable when thrown away. Different sizes for single serving, or sharing. Normally a group will be served one large platter about 60cm wide, with 6-8 different vegetable or meat dishes ladled onto the njeera itself. You break a piece off with your right hand, capture a little of the desired meal, roll it up and eat. The range of dishes can be all vegetarian or a mix. Enjoyable, tasty with a wide range of spicy or bland tastes.

And the best part is- no washing up. You ate the njeera dish! The woven serving platter is reused and eventually discarded.

Here's a wonderful photo of njeera platter artistry!

The artist explores many different complex geometric patterns and colour contrasts.

The artist's store at Axum, Ethiopia.

The artist proudly displays her creation.

If you enjoyed these, check out Nancie's Travel Photo Thursday here-
Her photo of blossoms in Korea is well worth the visit. And there's a lot of other interesting photos listed also. All great photos every Thursday.




Feeding the Eels at Nga Manu Nature Reserve.My Land:

Taming the Monsters.

Fishing for eels.
Growing up in New Zealand, eel fishing was part of my life, as it was for most young boys. Long, hot summer days spent trying to catch them with baited hooks, or spear fishing. Real exciting kid stuff. We kids were warriors battling the demons in the murky waters. Wasted a lot of those slimy, horrible, looking snakey things. Even ate a few of them too. I spent my early life on the Canterbury Plains in the Kirwee area, west of Christchurch. We lived 2 miles away from the wee town, and spent so much time roaming the forest plantations, farmer's fields or playing in the irrigation ditch that crossed through our property. We'd dam it, create a swimming hole and spend hours there, and pull out the odd trout or even better, an eel.

But kids grow up and as I did, a deep interest in wildlife developed also probably fostered by that early carefree, raw with nature life that was sorely missed when city living.

Eels became interesting creatures, no longer slimey monsters, but creatures in their own right- fascinating subjects to study, and where they fit in our natural environment. Sure, when my own boy was young, off he would go eel fishing as I had done. But on a holiday in the Takaka area of Nelson's Golden Bay we took our children along to see the tame eels there. I was hoping that he would also learn to appreciate them as the incredibly beautiful fish that I see them as today.

Feeding tame eels.
Recently at a our local Nga Manu Nature Reserve, I was able to step back into my childhood and take part, along with many other children and adults in feeding the eels. Every day at 2pm the public are able to observe and to feed the eels.

Enjoy the video and marvel at how these fish have perfectly evolved to the environment they live in. Long slender supple bodies for even the smallest of waterways. A perfect shape of form for function.


Some facts-
New Zealand has 3 species of eels or  Anguillidae family of fish.

Longfin eel (Anguilla dieffenbachii), found further inland  and the largest growing, sometimes more than a metre long.

Shortfin eel (A. australis), found in estauries, and rivers close to the coast.

Spotted eel (A. reinhardtii) found in some northern rivers.

All begin life in the sea then live adult lives in our rivers, lakes and streams.
Spawning of the longfin eel is up around Tonga, and the shortfins thought to be near Noumea.
Eels were once plentiful but deforestation and pollution have destroyed much of their habitat, and numbers have plummeted. Damming rivers for hydroelectric stations has also affected them. The longfin eel now thought to be critically endangered.

Respect eels.
So spare a thought for these misunderstood beautiful creatures. Sure they may awake in us our primordial fears of snakes or slimey monsters in the unseen waters, but they have a place in our environment. An important treasure, or as our Maori would call them  a Taonga. Enough species are facing extinction without our losing these. After all, they do have a strange and fascinating beauty about them, once we put aside our fears and see them for what they really are- beautiful!

You can feed tame eels at many places in New Zealand. Here's a few-

Jester House - Ruby Coast, Tasman region.

Bencarri Farm Park Takaka, Tasman region.

Nga Manu Nature Reserve  Kapiti Coast.

Mt Bruce Pukaha  Wairarapa

How about hitting the Share button, and Stumbling, Facebooking, or digging this post for us thanks? It's a good, interesting and informative post about a Nature Reserve I admire for the preservation and education work they do, and the world needs to know more about the place!


Tuesday, May 3, 2011


Snakeman Jim at Snake Temple, Penang Island 1989.

I love snakes- a misunderstood, maligned and persecuted reptile that is such a beautiful example of Nature's form for function in the animal world. Perfectly evolved to be  able to slither quietly through their environment, climb trees, lie quietly in wait, and even swim the oceans. Their lithe, supple bodies take them anywhere there may be a meal awaiting to had, be that a mouse or a man!

Snakes are the stuff of our deepest fears, the serpents of legends, the giver of swift death from their venomous fangs...and yet most are quite harmless to man. We can look at the Australian scene. Check out Bob's info  here-

Australia has 140 types of snakes and only 12 can kill. They also have sea snakes lurking in tropical waters but there are no known human fatalities from them. Their mouths are very small and fangs are less prominent. But if you're unlucky enough to stand on one on the beach, it'll be say your prayers time! Deadly. Keep your eyes open.

Sea snake we almost stepped on in New Caledonia! 1994.

Of 41 deaths from snake bite from 1980 up to 2009, almost half are thought to have occurred when the victim trod accidentally on a snake. Commonsense, and a wee bit of education and you'll be fairly safe.
Walk noisily, use a torch at night, carry a long stick, walk in clear pathways, avoid long dry grassy areas. Almost all snakes will move away from you- they don't want trouble, just a meal, and you're too big for them.

So since a few have killed, we persecute them all.
Meantime more people die from bee stings or horse riding accidents!

My hands on experience with snakes started in China 1984. Early days for tourists into China, and hardly anyone spoke English then. We toured for a day from Macau, then a Portuguese colony. We were taken to a city centre market where snakes were being sold for medicinal purposes. I'm not very keen on Traditional Chinese Medicine's exploitation of wildlife, in fact I find it deplorable with today's insatiable demand for any animal thought to have some beneficial quality. That's an issue we'll go into at another date.

Anyway, this very experienced world traveller walks up to the Chinese snake vendor and asks-

Snakeman in Guangzhou, China 1984. What a cool looking dude...the snake that is!

"Are these snakes safe to handle?"
"Yes." came a cheerful reply.
"They are non-poisonous, right?"
"Can I handle them?"
"Can you get some out and let me feel them, please?"

Snake vendor gives me snakes to handle. They felt incredibly smooth, sinewy, and muscular with great strength rippling through their long bodies as they glided up from my hands and wrapped their bodies around my arms. I was fascinated, enjoying their beauty. My horrified wife did manage to snap a few photos.

"Thank you for letting me hold them.You can put them back now."
We wander off along the market street. I 'm telling my wife how exciting the whole adventure was. Kay says "The whole time you spoke to that man, he only ever answered yes!"
Uh oh....

Did that man really know what I had meant when I asked him if they were safe to handle?

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Sunday, May 1, 2011



Z  has to be for zebras- what else? Enjoy some great pictures of zebras seen at Etosha National Park, Namibia and Kruger Park, South Africa. Zebra are not completely black and white- you'll notice a light brown stripe in between. No two zebra are patterned the same, each uniquely different. It is thought the stripe patterning helps confuse a chasing predator when the herd all run together. And camouflages a zebra standing still in tall grass or scrub: the lion being its main predator being colour blind is less able to see them. There are 3 species of zebra, Burchell's or Plains, Grevy and Cape Mountain Zebra.
The following photos are of Burchell's or Plains Zebra. I reckon zebra are one of the most interesting animals to photograph, no matter how they stand or whichever angle you shoot them from, you still get an amazing pic!

Kruger National Park, South Africa



Yearnings For The Home : War and aftermath.

A man is strong: he doesn’t cry
You’ll never see revealed inside
He keeps it deep, so never try
To read what he does need to hide.

You took a boy, sent off to war
Just like his Dad who went before
And sent him from his gentle shore
Taught him to kill and so much more.

A lad you took from home restrain
You taught him how to kill and maim
Showed him Cairo’s sex – free rein
And then just sent him home again.

You gave him an Egyptian whore
And destroyed his social more
Then sent him home with wounds still raw
You never asked him ever for
To talk about that bloody war.

A man is strong: he doesn’t cry
You’ll never know what he may hide
How he could ever justify
Why he took his child not bride.

His boy is strong, but sometimes cried
For a Dad who was not his guide
His sisters all messed up inside
And one who prematurely died
Of drugs, abuse and suicide.

The cause of pain he left behind
Still affects his younger kind
If you could look inside you’d find

Your war completely fucked his mind.