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Archive for July, 2009

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Square Festival, Borth

Saturday, July 25th, 2009

I would blog from the Square Festival in Borth, but it will take several hours to upload my photos and, well, I’d rather go to the Festival.

Xandros Linux on the EeePC sucks hard 🙁

Spotted Chilli Squares

Saturday, July 11th, 2009

Spotted Chilli Squares

I remember not long ago the sun was shining, I was reading Ian McDonald’s Brasyl and thought happy thoughts about Trinidad & Tobago, and further back, Venezuela.

In Venezuela we ate black beans nearly every day. They have since become a staple in my kitchen. I vaguely remember trying my hands at Feijoada once, Brazil’s national dish, without much success. The version a friend of ours cooked was delicious, but I wasn’t going to try again—not that I have the right ingredients anyway. It was time for the next-best thing: black bean chilli.

Now the clouds have returned, the air is clammy and I’ve lost my appetite for hot chilli and samba rhythms. But I can always fit in a spotted chilli square, a great way of using up leftover and some of the cheapest grub you can make (works great with veggie chilli or dhal as well).

Take a tortilla wrapper, spoon on some chilli (chilled works best) and shape it into a square, then fold over edges until they just touch, covering the filling.

Press flat and fry, folded side down, in a little oil until crisp underneath. Turn with a wide spatula and fry the other side, then turn out onto a plate.

Serve spotted with Chipotle sauce.

Best eaten piping hot, crispy and greasy. The tortilla wrap doesn’t actually absorb the oil (most of it stays in the pan), so this is healthier than it looks/feels.

Catching up: Dolphins of Sarawak

Thursday, July 9th, 2009


My recent surprise contact from somebody who knows of our 1985 exploits involving Ganges dolphins (Platanista gangetica) has resulted in me searching for more info on same (the area we visited is now a dolphin sanctuary), and some of my other haunts as well.

And behold, there is a blog dedicated to the dolphins of Sarawak. Apparently, Irawaddy dolphins (Orcaella brevirostris) are still relatively common in the area, although by-catches and pollution pose problems. There was a fledgling dolphin watch enterprise in operation while I was there (I never noticed it) and—even better—a local kajak enthusiast who might even have set me up for a field survey! If only I had known *sigh*. But there is now a research initiative and a conservation movement in place and proper guidelines will hopefully ensure responsible dolphin watching which will bring income to local operators.

Read through Pesut’s blog and—if you can—book a trip with FH-2-GO, the kayak operator. I’ll envy you!

[EDIT: with regard to my previous post, this is what I consider fair and responsible eco-tourism. I doubt that any of the local operators would ask for “thousands of pounds”. I also have a feeling that a discount is on the cards if you want to go out every day for a week in order to make notes ;)]

Why Tourism Gets In The Way of travelling

Friday, July 3rd, 2009

Langkawi beach, palms

Recently, I watched a two-parter on the BBC about a woman and her plucky field-tech who studied red-capped mangabeys in Gabon. (The tech was the ingenious one, but he kept referring to his boss as ‘the doctor’ as if she was some female time lord). The woman was virtually rubbing her hands at the thought that people would pay “thousands of pounds” to come and see the monkeys.

I hope not, because if they do it would almost certainly destroy the small local community. But they probably won’t. People are paying thousands of pounds to interact with chimpanzees or gorillas—red-capped mangabeys or manatees don’t come even close. Unless, perhaps, you let them play with the pulley system that draws water from the stream and allow them feed in a few bits of data so that they, too, can feel like real adventurers and scientists.

And there is the problem with tourism, be it eco or otherwise. We’re expected to turn up, hand over fistfuls of money, and in return the operators/locals will put up with us for a few days and then we can kindly piss off again.

My problem is that my money is short and has to last a long time. I’m a winter refugee. I just want somewhere to stay that doesn’t give me SAD and the flu. If there is something interesting to do—or if I can contribute in some way—so much the better. But I don’t want to ‘contribute’ by handing over all my moolah to some dubious eco-charity. Even if I had any to spare, I’m tired of the tourist traps and the touts.

If I don’t go to Bangladesh this winter, you’ll probably find me on the west coast of Thailand or somewhere in Cambodia (although the idea of having to do Angkor Wat is putting me off). I want to chill for a few months and be left alone. That’s all.