Andiamo*

*Here we go

Buon giorno!  Part 1 of our Italian exploration is now up, so here are the things which have surprised, delighted and (very occasionally) horrified us during our 11 days in this fabulous country.

  • There are people on bikes EVERYWHERE.  From glamorous young ladies who manage to cycle / smoke / text all at the same time, to grannies doing their shopping, to men-who-should-know-better riding in just a pair of shorts (tanning v important around here), to serious roadies on state of the art carbon machines.  The latter often come clad in hi-vis, sleeveless jerseys (see note above re tanning) and certainly not wearing ‘regulation’ socks.
  • Only the ‘serious’ cyclists say ciao.
  • So many cycle tourists, that no one talks to each other.  Ed says I’m starting to look desperate for friends. There may be some truth in this.
  • Despite their terrible reputation (and, having driven in Italy, I dare say deserved), the drivers are very courteous to cyclists.  Even the trucks. Maybe everyone also rides a bike?
  • There are so many bike paths and marked routes.  More so in the flatlands near Bologna, but I don’t think a day has gone by without us riding a good chunk of our route along the FVG3, or the E2, or similar.  No idea where any of them go, however!
  • In addition to all that, we’ve seen a ‘Bike Point’ with all sorts of free facilities for cyclists, every bench beside a bike path has a bike rack (for when you need to stop for a cigarette, obvs), and every Decathlon has a set of bike tools available outside.  Italy LOVES bikes.
  • We knew it would be pretty, but the vine-covered hills of the Grappa and Prosecco regions blew us away.

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  • Everyone grows tomatoes.  And sometimes aubergines, courgettes, etc.
  • So.  Many.  Pears.
  • Coffee is very cheap.
  • Ditto for pizza.
  • Croissants may be the pride and joy of the french, but the Italians go one better by filling and coating them with deliciousness.

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  • Mozarella costs 55 cents in Lidl.  Do not be surrpised if we are somewhat round and squishy when we return.
  • Supermarkets have a wide range of vegetarian and vegan options.  AND cafes often have vegan pastries. (aside:  In an ideal world, I would be vegan.  But, cheese. And butter. I’m highly supportive of the concept though!)
  • It is nigh on impossible to buy porridge oats.
  • The only screwtop wine in Lidl is surprisingly drinkable.  And less than 3 euros.
  • Even the ordinary towns have ridiculously beautiful old buildings, peaceful squares and occasional cobbled streets (although that part is less good for us!) We particularly liked Este and Bassano del Grappa.  Also, Vicenza, although that has a star on the map so p’raps it’s not quite so ordinary.
  • Campsite prices started at a staggering height, but have since calmed down, thank goodness.
  • Pitches tend to be lumpy.  Unfortunate for those of us in tents.
  • There are millions of tents, rendering the above somewhat surprising.
  • In addition to standard campsites, there’s a lot of ‘Agriturismo’ which sometimes extends to ‘Agricampeggio’, offering a more charming, rural experience.
  • Free wifi is not a foreign concept, but it is often rubbish.
  • There are A LOT of tourists.  From all corners of Europe.
  • It’s really hot.  Particularly in the evenings.  Maybe that isn’t THAT surprising, but it has taken its toll on these poor softies after several months in cooler climes!
  • It has also rained nearly every day.
  • Lots of gardens contain small dogs.  Who do not like us very much.
  • There are loads of insects in the trees, and they are REALLY noisy.
  • There are also loads of mosquitos, and they are particularly vicious .
  • There do not seem to be any public toilets anywhere.
  • We did not get around to eating proper gelato!!!!  Good job we’re going back in a few weeks…..

Yesterday, we conquered the mountain range that lies between Italy and Slovenia.  It nearly broke us! But that’s another story.  Let’s just say that serious recovery substances were required 🙂

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Just in case we have any new readers, I feel I should share the link to our more sensible and informative cycle-touring journal.  Here you go: http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/unprofessionaladventure2017 

You can also follows us on the F and the I, @unprofessionaladventurers.

Ciao for now.

 

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Down Under, done.

And just like that, our Australian chapter comes to a close.  This enormous country has exceeded our expectations for sure! Here are our highlights from the last 5.5 weeks.

Wildlife

Before my previous trip over here in 1999, I was obsessed with the idea of seeing a kangaroo.  I was similarly obsessed that Ed should see one on this trip, but there really was no need. We’ve seen approximately a million!  Still love them though.

We were pretty darn excited to see LOTS of whales on our day trip to Augusta last week.  All from the coast, some as close as 50m. We saw both Humpbacks and Southern Right whales, doubly cool.

Continuing with the mammalian theme, we’ve also seen dolphins, a wombat, possums and an echidna. No sign of the elusive duck billed platypus, but you can’t (quite) have it all!  We didn’t go anywhere that had native koalas, although we did see some in a very natural looking pen. Crazy cute even when captive.

We’ve loved the colourful and/or noisy and/or MASSIVE Aussie birds too, particularly the Kookaburras, even if they did reliably wake us up at dawn while camping.  The Ningaloo reef’s fish are also worthy of a mention – some real big’uns there too.

Wine

Not sure if I’ve mentioned this one before 😉  To avoid boring you all to death on the topic (again), can I just say that we LOVED Margaret River.  Fabulous wine aside (and there was plenty of that), it might just be the prettiest wine region we’ve visited to date.  


Camping

If I’ve counted correctly, we camped for 25 of our 38 nights in Australia.  While we’ve thoroughly enjoyed all of it (freezing temperatures in NSW notwithstanding!) we’d both pick the basic, ‘bush’ camping as our favourite.  We’d even go so far as to say that Australia ticked our camping box in ways that NZ was a little bit of a let down. In terms of specifics, Dunn’s Swamp over in NSW, plus Chapman’s pool down in South WA probably top the list.  Incredible surroundings, obliging wildlife (see above), millions of stars, and successful campfires made those extra-special.

We also had a wonderful time camping at Bullara cattle station further North.  There was just something about that place, and I’m not only talking about the adorable baby kangaroos!

More ramblings about camping can be found in our previous blog.

National Parks

Blue Mountains.  Just wow. Having been on my previous trip, I was a bit ‘blah blah blah’ about this one, but it actually knocked my socks off.  And Ed’s. Incredible views and great hiking, which we really did not do justice.

We also absolutely loved Kalbarri national park in WA.  Great coastline and amazing river gorges with ‘typical Aussie’ red rocks.  Bonza.

Have to say that we weren’t as blown away as expected by the Ningaloo reef…..we had a lovely time snorkelling but the coral wasn’t a patch on our recent trip to Ko Kradan in Thailand (AKA we’re ruined for life!!). I guess it’s completely amazing if you aren’t as broke as us and can go swimming with the whale sharks / manta rays / et al.

Cities

I was definitely excited about seeing the Opera House and Harbour Bridge again, but wasn’t prepared for how much I was going to like Sydney.  Beautiful old buildings sit alongside the spanking new, all framed by green spaces and that glittering harbour. And don’t even get us started on the coffee!  

Perth is pretty darn cool too, despite its isolation.  And it’s just up the road from Margaret River….what’s not to love!!  

Trees

You probably think we’re a bit weird here, but we really love Aussie trees.  They’re just different from European trees. And lots of them smell really good!

Waves

Australia does beaches very well, but as mentioned above, it’s not that long since we were in the paradise islands of Thailand.  They don’t have waves there though. The waves here are BIG. We’ve spent a good chunk of time in various places just watching the waves – and the surfers!  We could have done with slightly calmer conditions for our snorkelling escapes on the Ningaloo Reef, however.

And that, folks, is that.  Next stop Italy*!

*Spoiler, we’re actually already here, although our body clocks aren’t yet convinced…..

Camp like an Aussie

Hello from Perth, where it is raining so heavily that water is coming UP through the drains, a phenomenon I foolishly presumed was unique to the rainy old UK. Fortunately, we had far better weather for the majority of our recent camping trip up north through Western Australia!

Whereas in New Zealand we felt like we spent nearly all of our time surrounded by other Europeans, our Australian experience has been very, well, Australian.  Aussies take their camping very seriously, to the extent that even the most seasoned camper from overseas might find themselves ‘doing it all wrong’ and looking like a hapless tourist.  So here is our guide to camping like an Aussie, mate.

Camping equipment

You might THINK you know what you’re doing.  You might have all the gear, and a fair idea.  But I’m afraid that just won’t wash over here. We definitely fell into this category, with our (moderately fancy pants) MSR Mutha Hubba tent, super duper lightweight sleeping bags and thermarests, and (every adventurer’s dream) MSR Whisperlite stove.  We were quite pleased with the upgrades to our set up, involving the purchase of two Woolworths camping chairs and a $20 duvet to help with the chillier nights. But I’m afraid we were sadly deluded.

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No no no….

Tents are totally out, unless they are of the rooftop variety.

A campervan really won’t do (what are you, a tourist?)

To really camp like an Aussie, you need an OFF-ROAD CARAVAN.  The bigger, and shinier, the better

Of course, you’ll also need a suitably massive 4×4 for towing purposes.  Preferably white, with a snorkel exhaust. Ya know, for all the off-roading* and river-crossing you’ll be doing.

*I’m yet to be convinced how many of these actually go more off-road than the gravel tracks to campsites

You will also need to accessorise appropriately.  Bonus points for including as many of the following as you can physically strap to your vehicle:  barbie (goes without saying), bikes for all family members, hammocks, fancy outdoor furniture (we are not talking $10 Woollies chairs here, a full kitchen/living/dining set up is essential), solar hot water system, solar panels, and don’t forget the satellite dish.  

Pets can also come along, but they’re not welcome in the National Parks, which does seem to have curtailed their popularity somewhat.

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Yes really

And your boat. Don’t forget your boat.  If you’re already towing, just strap it to the roof of that 4×4, no dramas.

Where to camp

It turns out that our appetite for cheap, rustic camping is fairly well aligned with that of the Aussie camper.  Cheapskates may wish to start at the top of this list and work down!

Roadside rest areas (free!):  we were nothing short of astounded at not only the existence of these free camping options, but also their popularity.  By late arvo, they were absolutely chockers. These glorified picnic areas are provided by the Aussie highways people, and definitely don’t offer a lot of peace (although the main highways in WA more like a British B-road than the M6). But in some cases, they were actually quite nice, with shady off-tarmac areas for the tent people (that’ll be us then. Just us). For anyone following in our footsteps, we stayed at Galena Bridge and Nerren Nerren, and would recommend both!

Free campsites:  even more astounding than the roadside rest areas, these bonafide campsites are provided by the local council.  True, you don’t get a lot more than a couple of loos and the occasional fire pit, but both of the places we stayed at were absolutely ocean front.  Freshwater Point and Cliff Head, if you’re wondering!

National Parks ($6-11 per person):  this is a slightly sore point for us, as we couldn’t camp on the shores of the Ningaloo Reef due to everything having been booked online months in advance.  These facilities are wonderfully cheap, meaning that people don’t actually bother turning up in many cases….but the National Parks aren’t organised enough to resell the pitches. Boo! We previously had a great time camping at Wollemi National Park over in New South Wales, so it’s definitely an option to investigate. We DID camp at Yanchep National park, but that is a very odd place.  Think koalas in a pen, a fairy-lit cave available for weddings, and a PUB. 

Station stays (<$30 for two people):  in this area at least, many cattle stations have diversified to offer accommodation options.  Recommended in the Lonely Planet for providing a ‘fair dinkum outback experience’, we stayed at the 250,000 acre Bullara Station, and couldn’t recommend it highly enough. Suffice to say they have plenty of space for campers.  Add to that charming facilities, an exceptionally friendly Aussie welcome, a communal fire pit with nightly damper, and obscenely cute orphaned kangaroos hopping around, and we were sold. The snag is that they are usually down long gravel roads, which are off limits to most rental vehicles (at least officially).

Tourist Park ($35-50 for two people):  we don’t mind camping at tourist parks.  It’s quite nice to have showers once in a while, and perhaps do some washing.  It’s been too cold to make use of the swimming pools, but we did like the ‘jumping pillow’ in Kalbarri, and I enjoyed beating Ed at pool in Carnarvon.  The latter also offered bowls but unfortunately we arrived too late to join in.

What to do

While we mostly content ourselves with plentiful cups of tea and cooking pasta on our little stove, the Aussie camping experience follows a particular formula.  It’s essential to arrive at your chosen camping destination with plenty of time for kicking back in the sunshine with your favourite tipple (beer for the men, wine for the ladies).  You’ll certainly be cooking your dinner on the gas barbie that you’ve brought along, but not before you’ve spent a good hour or so spinning a yarn with your neighbours (and we thought the Kiwis loved the chat!) If there’s a fire pit, you’ll have pulled off the highway into the ‘bush’ to stock up on firewood on the way – perhaps you even brought your chainsaw to facilitate this!? In any case, festivities usually wrap up pretty early, or become confined to the inside of those voluminous caravans, meaning a fairly peaceful night for those of us in flimsy tents (bogans permitting).

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Living the dream.  Solar shower out of shot.

Ten days left in Australia! We’re heading south tomorrow to visit Margaret River wine region.  The forecast isn’t brilliant for the next few days, so we’re booked into a YHA, but keeping our fingers crossed for clear skies and more camping, otherwise we’ll have no money left for Italian pizza.  Strewth.

On the Aussie road

Surprise surprise – we’ve been changing our minds again. I really do not know why we bothered making a plan, let alone booking flights. Suffice to say we’ve learnt a valuable lesson there!  New plan – 6 weeks in Australia, then back to Europe (and back on the bikes) mid-July.  We have a lot of fun to pack into this short time for sure!  Here’s a diary of our Sydneyside roadtrip.

Saturday 9th June

Weather – drizzle and low cloud

Did my 50th parkrun this morning 🙂 St Peters – a really lovely one in beautiful Sydney Park, with great views from the top of the hill.

Have campervan, will travel!  Actually, ‘campervan’ might be overstating things somewhat.  It’s a Toyota Corolla with a bed in place of the back seats. It’s also ten years old, has 360,000 km on the clock, and looks (and sounds) like bits might fall off at any moment.  Not to mention the mildly offensive paint job but, hey, it was cheap, and it will surely be warmer than sleeping in a tent. And I’m quite relieved that it doesn’t say anything blatantly misogynistic on the side (as many of them do) as I am not sure my rampant feminist self would cope.

Lots of traffic leaving Sydney and climbing up into the Blue Mountains. General tardiness meant night was falling as we tackled the steep, winding road towards our intended campsite.  It’s not the best idea to drive in the dark here due to the nocturnal habits of many large animals, and a quick perusal of the rental details confirmed that we weren’t actually insured to do so anyway.  Fingers crossed the campsite wouldn’t be full on this bank holiday weekend…..

Found a space, phew!  Couldn’t see much in the dark, but the toilets were clean, and it didn’t even rain tooooo much while we made dinner. We also just about succeeded in staying married throughout the process of installing the bed, and getting into it.  There isn’t a great deal of space, to say the least.

Sunday 10th June

Weather – Early cloud, clearing later

Wildlife sightings – KANGAROOS, kookaburra, cockatoos, red and purple/green parrots

Despite the best efforts of raindrops from the tree dripping onto the car roof, we slept reasonably well.  It was a bit on the chilly side, but we’d borrowed all manner of extra insulation from Rachel and Ian (our friends in Sydney), so at one point I was actually quite hot and had to take off a few layers.  

We headed to Hargraves Lookout for some Blue Mountains views before setting off in earnest.  We anticipated a short drive to Orange that would leave us with some time and energy for wine tasting.  However, by the time we’d followed the temptation of the ‘tourist drive’ and taken approximately a million photos, it actually took forever and a day!  We did get to drive through a cave though, AND saw our first kangaroos, so it was definitely worth it.

Hooray once again for Australia and its wonderful free campsites.  This one, at Macquarie Woods, is huge yet pristine. You don’t get many facilities for your $0 save for pit toilets and bins, but you do get peace and quiet (birds and campers with generators not withstanding), stunning views, friendly kangaroos and amazing stars.  Stars mean cold though, brrrr, we’re at something like 900m here!

Monday 11th June

Weather – perfect sunny day (but cold, starting with frost!)

Wildlife sightings – galahs, pelican, many other flamboyant birds that we can’t identify

Finally on the wine trail!  We started at Habitat, where the friendly lady had to wipe dust off the glasses, and we had chickens running around our feet.  Things were rather more polished at award winning Rowlee, but it didn’t have the same charm for us, and apparently we aren’t cultured enough to properly appreciate their expensive wines.  We ended on a high at Brangayne, tasting some excellent Chardy plus some fabulous reds. Add to that a visit to Lake Canabolas and a quick jaunt up The Pinnacle for some sweeping vistas of the area, and we were done for the day!

Now back at Macquarie woods campsite for more kangaroo / bird spotting before the long winter night draws in. Good job we have plenty of snacks (and a bottle of Habitat pinot….)

Tuesday 12th June

Weather – Cloudy and cold start but cleared up throughout the day.

Culinary experiment of the day – cheese toasties in the frying pan.  Highly successful.

Today was all about driving to Mudgee, although we did manage a short detour to ‘historic’ Millthorpe beforehand (nice enough but probably wouldn’t bother going back.)  Pretty views across arid countryside, until Mudgee itself which is a little more lush. Our best option was a proper campsite, which meant showers, hooray! And a camp kitchen with a fire pit, around which we chewed the fat with some very Aussie Aussies.  All for the princely sum of $25.

Wednesday 13th June

Weather – the coldest start to the day but lovely once the sun was out!

Notable wildlife sighting – WOMBAT!

Ed galantly offered to drive me around the wineries of Mudgee.  We visited three: Lowe, Huntington and Moothi, for a series of excellent (and free) tastings. A good time was had by all, although I need to learn that pre-lunch drinking is BAD.

Later, we headed across country into Wollemi National Park, and along a very bumpy, dusty road to Dunns Swamp campground.  What a wonderful spot. No swamp in sight, rather a flooded river and stunning limestone scenery. We took a short walk before dusk got the better of us, and were slightly over-excited to spot our first wombat!  No platypus though despite a visit to platypus point.

We were then hounded by possums all evening, while sitting around a marvellous camp fire.  $6 per adult, for which you get free firewood, in addition to the beautiful and immaculate campground!  Fortunately Ed is pretty adept at firestarting.

Thursday 14th June

Weather – colder again.  Who on earth decided camping was a good idea?

Thank goodness for the incredibly intense sunshine around here, otherwise we’d never get up in the mornings.  Quick brekkie and then we headed back around the waterfront and up to the Pagoda viewpoint. It’s so stunning around here.  Still no platypus though.

We emerged back into relative civilisation, and headed back to the Blue Mountains.  I was absolutely shattered so needed a nap once we got there, but despite this (and Ed’s increasing sniffles) we managed a bit of exploring.  Kudos once again to the Lonely Planet for directing us to some excellent and uncrowded spots (Govett’s Leap, Horseshoe Falls, and Bridal Veil Falls).

Bit of a stress later on as we realised we had some damage to the sidewall of one of our tyres.  Fortunately our bargain basement rental did come with a decent spare, so we Ed swapped it over at the campsite.  

Another cold evening (with Ed wearing the most clothes he’s ever worn all at once) but some cute feral cats provided distraction, not to mention a very noisy group having a campfire.  Fortunately they took their noise elsewhere at a reasonable hour!

Friday 15th June

Having gone to bed wearing all of our clothes, we woke up absolutely boiling in the middle of the night.  I could not camp like this for a longer period without having a serious sense of humour failure!

Headed to Katoomba for coffee, Leura for cheese-shopping and then Sublime Point for sublime (sic) views of the Three Sisters minus the crowds.  We then relocated to a viewpoint for lunch, agreeing we had ‘done’ the Blue Mountains so didn’t need to do another walk and would head straight back to Sydney.  However, the spectacular surroundings proved too tempting so we ended up doing a really great walk along the undercliff for fabulous views of Wentworth Falls. So windy though, the water was being blown uphill!

Then it was back to Sydney for our last night camping in relative civilisation.  

Saturday 16th June

Early start to tick off another excellent parkrun (Greenway) before heading back to Rachel’s to clean the camper (yet more joys of a budget rental).  No problems with the return, phew. Always feel a bit like these companies are out to get you.

We had a wonderful time but this particular camper did not leave us with the warm fuzzy feeling we’ve had with previous rentals.  It was just so small, and we’re too old / square to feel comfortable with all the stares its inappropriate paint job attracts. However, it was very cheap, took us where we wanted without incident, and did stave off the onset of hypothermia, so all good really!

Now for our West Coast road trip in a somewhat higher quality vehicle!

Back on it

Believe it or not, this used to be a blog about cycle-touring!!  After a whole lot of backpacking and bus-riding, hiking into the hills, and drinking til we dropped, we actually mounted our trusty bicycles, and pedalled a few miles, fully-loaded once again.  From Blenheim, we headed North-West to the small town of Havelock, the last stop before we’d head into the Marlborough Sounds for a camping adventure.

Not much happens in Havelock, but we entertained ourselves with a short, scenic hike, and did our shopping for the planned trip.  We’d visited the Sounds on our NZ holiday 5 years ago, and it was one of our favourite places, if not THE favourite, so we were pretty excited.

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View from Cullen Point

We awoke the following day, packed up our stuff and headed to the campsite office to double check the weather forecast.  Oh dear!  Heavy rain was coming our way, with weather warnings and watches a-plenty.  Not really camping weather…..the weather changes here a lot more often than we change our clothing!

Sighs were sighed and we hastily altered our plans.  We cycled to Picton, holed up in a hostel (taking great advantage of their free Netflix, breakfast, soup and chocolate pudding) and wondered what to do next.  Should we bin off the Sounds and just head straight to Wellington??  The snag being that we’d then have an awful lot of time on our hands before heading to Auckland, without a whole lot more to see.  Or should we head into the Sounds as originally planned?  The snag being that we’d have to backtrack along the impossibly scenic Queen Charlotte Drive for a whopping 20K…..in hindsight, it was a bit of a no brainer!

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Views like this were no hardship

We had various camping options alongside beautiful Kenepuru Sound which would dictate the length of our journey.  The closest campsite at Moetapu Bay was out because it floods during a king tide….quite glad I read the info AND checked the tides beforehand!  The arduous terrain soon ruled out the furthest option, so we actually ended up camping at Nikau Cove, where we’d stayed at in our camper in 2013.  As we couldn’t remember much about it, this wasn’t a huge downside!  Amusingly, digging out the old photos I now realise we actually camped in exactly the same spot…..

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Higher levels of luxury 5 years ago

Funnily enough, not many people are keen on camping in the southern-hemisphere equivalent of mid-November, so it wasn’t exactly packed, and there certainly weren’t any other tents around!

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In a bid to sit still for as little time as possible, we took our campsite cookery to a new level, and made flatbreads!  They need work, but turned out pretty well and were an excellent accompaniment to our instant curry and mash.  Shame no one brought any wine…..

We didn’t actually freeze despite my concerns (and thanks to $20 worth of blankets to supplement our summer sleeping bags) but we didn’t repeat the swim from 5 years ago either.  We also didn’t drown in the king tide – I was worried, Ed just laughed at me.

Oh, and the stars were pretty awesome.  We have even figured out how to find the Southern Cross (how many astrophysics PhDs does it take blah blah blah….)

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We slept pretty well, meaning we had the energy to repeat the hilly journey all the way back to Picton the next day for more of these views…..

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and more chocolate pudding!!!

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Still no wine though.  Standards really are slipping.

My Emirates app informs me that we have just 17 days left in New Zealand.  We are SUPER excited about getting to Australia (assuming they let me in, obvs, given previous debacles!) but also really looking forward to one last hurrah on the bikes, taking the TRAIN all the way to Auckland, and catching up with the very lovely Jihanny Baby once again!

More weather warnings for tomorrow…..this time for wind.  Wish us luck on the bumpy ferry!  Travel sickness tablets have been purchased in anticipation…..

 

 

Cooking up a storm on a camping stove

I love to eat good food and, fortunately, I also love to cook 🙂 While cooking on a camping stove (especially our MSR Whisperlite, which is basically OFF or VERY HOT) does present an additional challenge or ten, I am hoping to encourage fellow travellers to be a little more adventurous than the staple of pasta and sauce, at least when in the vicinity of a reasonable supply of ingredients.  So here goes!!

Before I launch into the recipes and instructions, here are our top tips for successful campsite cookery:

  • Most carbohydrates will cook if you simply stand them in boiling water, with the lid on.  If it’s cold, it’s better to isolate the pan from eg the ground, and perhaps use a ‘pot cosy’.  It’s surprising how hot things stay!
A pan full of pasta
Pasta cooking away from the heat. Note that it is placed on the lid from the other pan to isolate it from the cold ground.
  • The key is to be very organised.  Chop your ingredients, open your tins and have everything to hand before you even light your stove.
A selection of ingredients
All set to make the sauce
  • Bring a sous-chef if (like me) you find point 2 challenging!
A man opening a can
A bit of help can come in useful at critical moments if you’re as scatty a chef as me! 

 

  • Some stoves (looking at you, Whisperlite!) don’t really have much temperature control (although it does help a bit if you don’t have the Whisperlite on full gas).  You can get around this by taking the pan off the heat from time to time – so that it boils / cools down rather than actually simmering (which is pretty much impossible). You can even take a break from eg cooking your sauce and give your carbs a boost.
  • We carry a small store-cupboard around, usually containing oil, garlic, soy sauce, veg stock, curry powder, and chilli flakes.
  • If you don’t want to carry oil around, and haven’t picked up any of those handy portions of butter or marg, skip onion and just use garlic.  Reduce the quantity slightly, chop it as fine as you can and simply cook it in your sauce.
  • It’s worth having some sort of well-sealing container for carrying leftovers.

Note:  everything in this blog assumes that you have two pans, and that at least one of them has a lid.  If you were thinking about skimping and leaving one at home, we’d highly recommend that you think again!

Now for some recipes for inspiration!  All vegetarian, and all can be made vegan (eg use tofu or chick peas instead of halloumi in the curry).
Pasta with simple bean and tomato sauce 
Level:  beginner
You will need:
  • Oil or butter / marg (see top tips for a way around this)
  • Garlic and/or onion, chopped
  • A tin of tomatoes
  • A tin of beans (optional, we used cannellini. Lentils would be good. You could also use soya mince, if you can get hold of it).
  • Seasoning of some description (we use soy sauce; salt or stock powder would also work)
Optional extras:  other veg (eg peppers, courgettes, mushrooms), chilli powder
Get everything ready and arrange it so you don’t have to move far!  Then you can light your stove.
  1. Boil a pan of water for the pasta.  Tip:  boil a bit too much so you can make a cup of tea 🙂
  2. When the water is boiling, add the pasta and bring back to the boil.  Then pop the lid on and remove from the heat.  Try and isolate the pan from the ground if it’s cold – we use the lid from our other pan.
  3. Put the oil in the other pan and add the onion.  Fry until softened (you may need to keep lifting the pan off the heat occasionally to prevent burning).  It will brown more than you might like, but that’s fine.
  4. Add the garlic and any other veg and cook until softened, but don’t worry too much as it will cook in the tomatoes.
  5. Add tomatoes and beans cook until you’re happy with the consistency.  Again, you may need to keep lifting the pan off the heat.
  6. When you’re happy with your sauce, drain the pasta and stir it all together.  Season to taste.  Done!
A woman stirring food in a pan
Sauté that onion 🙂
Adding beans to the pan
Add tomatoes and beans 
Adding soy sauce
The all-important seasoning 
A finished pasta dish
Mix it all together and hey presto!

 

Coconut curry with halloumi

Level:  intermediate

You will need:

  • Oil
  • Onion and garlic, chopped
  • Other veg, chopped (we used green beans and red pepper)
  • Curry powder
  • Coconut milk (we used powdered, but tinned would be fine of course!  You could use tomatoes for a different type of curry.  If using powdered, follow the instruction to make it up with warm water)
  • Halloumi, chopped into large chunks (or tofu, or chick peas)
  • Optional:  some sweetness for balance.  We used chopped dried peaches because that’s what we had!  Raisins would work, or honey, or sugar.
  1. Boil water for your carb of choice.  We used couscous.  For couscous, simply soak in an equal volume of water.  It’s best to ‘fluff’ the couscous after 5 or 10 mins, otherwise it does tend to solidfy!  Add some oil or butter and seasoning.  If you really have to have hot couscous, make it when your curry is ready.
  2. Saute the onion in the oil.  As before, you may need to lift the pan off the heat from time to time to prevent burning.
  3. Saute the other veg until slightly softened.
  4. Add the curry powder (1-2 tsp) and stir in for 30 secs or so.
  5. Add the coconut milk and stir well.  Reduce a little if required.
  6. Add the halloumi and cook for a couple of minutes.  Again – don’t be afraid to lift the pan off the heat to moderate the temperature through the whole cooking process.
  7. Season appropriately (including sweetness if required).  Done!
Adding vegetables to the pan
Sautéing the veg 
Stirring a pan of curry
Stirring well after adding the curry powder and coconut milk 
Halloumi cheese in a pan of curry
The halloumi will melt slightly in the sauce. Yum! I’m prepping dried fruit in the background, as ours was a little bitter. 
Curry served with couscous
The finished dish, served with couscous

 

African peanut stew

Level:  advanced

This is a slightly ridiculous thing to try and cook on a camping stove, but actually it worked really well!  The recipe originates from our friends over at letsgoanddofunstuff.wordpress.com, who nagged me to write this post in the first place.  Not sure they expected this one to feature 😉  If you want some more precise quantities, please see this other post that I wrote a while ago.  We made an absolute mountain on this occasion – good job we have a tupperware for leftovers!

You will need:

  • Onion, garlic and ginger, chopped.  (TIP:  you can peel ginger with a spoon!  Try it!  Thanks to our good friend Luce for that tip 🙂
  • 1-2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 or 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped into small cubes (it would probably fine if you didn’t bother peeling).
  • Tin of tomatoes
  • Tin of beans (we used a mix but any variety will do)
  • ‘Half a cup’ of peanut butter (two big splodges)
  • Veg stock (couple of tsp?)
  • ‘Some’ leafy green veg (we used some left over pak choi), torn into smallish pieces.  (We used a lot less than we’d use at home, due to availability and also pan size!)
  • ‘Some’ tinned sweetcorn (we used about 2/3 of a tin.  The recipe asks for frozen peas but we couldn’t get any – sweetcorn adds similar sweetness and was very yummy)
  1. Boil water for your sweet potato
  2. When boiling, add the sweet potato.  Bring back to the boil, then set aside with the lid on, preferably isolated from the cold ground.
  3. Fry the onion in the oil until softened.
  4. Fry garlic and ginger for 30 secs or so.
  5. Add the coriander and stir briefly.
  6. Add the tomatoes and beans. Heat it through again (until it bubbles).
  7. Add peanut butter and stir well.  It takes a little while to ‘melt’ into the sauce. As ever, take the pan off the heat to regulate the temperature if you’re using an MSR.
  8. Add veg stock powder, and as much water as you need to keep the sauce at a ‘good’ consistency.  I don’t add water at home, but the MSR cooks much hotter, so I kept adding a splosh from my water bottle.
  9. Stir in greens and sweetcorn.
  10. Check that the sweet potato is cooked, then stir in.  Ours was well cooked, which surprised me.  Another option is to set the stew to one side, and give the sweet potato a boost on the heat.
  11. Season to taste, and serve!
Man peeling a sweet potato
Even more important to prep in advance for this one. Wine optional 😉

 

Sweet potato cooking
Get the sweet potato going first

 

Adding tomatoes to the pan
Sauté your onion, garlic and ginger, then add the tomatoes

 

Stirring stew
Add the beans, then stir in the peanut butter and stock powder.  Watch the heat, it can easily stick!  Add water as required.

 

Pan full of stew
Stir in the greens and sweetcorn, and finally the cooked sweet potato

 

Woman stirring a pan of food
Season to taste

 

Two bowls of stew
Done! We topped ours with extra peanuts. It was honestly just as good as at home!

So there you go!  Even if you don’t fancy trying these very vague recipes, I hope that this post has given you some inspiration.  It’s surprising what you can do on the humble camping stove!  Please drop us a line if you have any questions.

An administrative aside:  for regular readers who were disappointed by the lack of a flickr link in yesterday’s post (all 2 of you 😉 please check out our latest album here:  https://www.flickr.com/gp/126636200@N07/xKa08m

As ever, you’re welcome to follow us on Facebook and Instagram, @unprofessionaladventurers…..  Updates somewhat infrequent at the moment, apparently it’s harder to find free wifi in New Zealand than most of South East Asia…..

More soon 🙂