Cape Town is running out of water. This is good news for wine drinkers. Droughts usually result in an excellent vintage. I’m going long on the 2018 vintage.
A few hundred miles up the Garden Route there is an abundance of water as I abseil 25 meters (about 80 feet) down a cliff into the Salt River in Plettenberg Bay. I am the guest of AfriCanyon, a local canyoning adventure company. There’s a lot of adrenalin on offer involving abseiling, zip lining, shooting rapids and jumping off cliff edges into deep pools of water. The most memorable part however, involves swimming through a veritable Indiana Jones landscape.
We wade across a seemingly impassable narrow crevasse. At first glance the landscape is still. Then I notice the dragonflies flitting across the motionless surface of the water. I paddle into the middle of the pool and float on my back. I am surrounded by a tumble of African plant species. Above me are palm fronds, their leaves swollen with moisture. There’s a small waterfall, its beauty almost ethereal. The air is heavy with its mist.
I feel like Mother Nature just smacked me in the face with her precious beauty and I fell through a rabbit hole of civilisation. Time slows down. Four hours pass. I am completely and utterly at peace.
I travelled a long way to find peace of mind – a 12 hour flight to Cape Town followed by a 5 hour drive to Plettenberg Bay. There are cheaper and easier ways to find peace of mind. One could go to a mindfulness class in London or New York instead. There’s nothing wrong with hanging out with a group of cute narcissists looking for the meaning of life in 30 minutes, squeezed between morning lattés and pilates. You get to burn incense and chant the half dozen foreign sounding words your teacher picked up on her two week yoga retreat in the jungles of asia (actually, it was a spa at Aman Resorts in Bali, but truth mustn’t get in the way of mindfulness).
Here, deep in the wilds of Africa, I don’t need a teacher to show me how to relax. This is the real thing.
Afterwards I am at the home of my friends Rogan and Kaarin Hindmarch, who started AfriCanyon four years ago. We drink a 2012 Steenberg MCC (Methode Cap Classique -the South African equivalent of methode champanoise) while I fantasise about this year’s vintage. I make a curry dinner for everyone (one of my recipes follow).
The glories of nature, good food, a bellyful of wine, the company of friends; this to me is the true meaning of life.
Kadala Thel Daala (stir fried chickpeas)
I like to serve this popular Sri Lankan street snack as an appetiser. It takes about 10 minutes to prepare and goes down a storm.
1 can of chickpeas, drained
1 yellow onion, chopped
2-3 teaspoons of crushed chillies (chilli flakes). Be brave!
1-2 teaspoons mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 sprig fresh or dried curry leaves (where available. Otherwise throw in 3 or 4 bay leaves)
1/2 teaspoon chilli powder
1 tablespoon vegetable oil (avoid olive oil which tends to have a strong flavour. Sunflower or coconut oil works well)
1/2 cup chopped fresh coconut or dried coconut flakes. At a pinch, you can use shredded unsweetened desiccated coconut.
Heat the oil in a pan, then add the mustard and cumin seeds. Fry for a few minutes until you can smell the cumin release its flavour and the mustard seeds start popping.
Add the rest of the ingredients except the chickpeas and fry till the onions are translucent. Finally add the chickpeas, and add salt to taste. Fry for another 2-3 minutes. Serve hot.