It doesn’t matter where in the world you travel you will always find someone baking bread. And there is nothing better than eating freshly baked bread…
It could be a baguette in a back street bakery not too far from Avenue des Champs-Élysées, or a Grissini expertly baked in the shadows of the Colosseum, it could even be one of the many Indian flatbreads, a Naan maybe, baking in a tandoori oven, or even an Injera in Ethiopia.
In the Australian Outback where a never-ending blue sky meets the parched red soil it will be the drovers’ staple, a golden brown damper, kneaded and expertly worked before being baked in a camp oven, or maybe just directly over hot glowing coals…
A freshly cooked damper, still warm, is best eaten smothered in golden syrup, the residue running down your hands, waiting to be licked from your fingers…
Camp food… bonza mate!
As Monday rolls around it is time to reflect on another great weekend in the mountains with family and friends.
On Saturday morning we boarded The Landy and headed to Turon Gates, a rural property not too far from a great Australian wine growing region, Mudgee, to the west of Sydney.
It is a comfortable three-hour drive in the The Landy, which is no speed machine, especially when towing our T-Van, a specialist camper trailer designed for extreme travel. This weekend it would not be put to its full potential, and with plenty of mountaineering and overseas travel over the next 12 months, it is unlikely to see the red bull-dust of the Australian Outback anytime soon.
We did pass some of my favourite climbing areas on the drive, but this weekend was about relaxing, eating, and eating, and relaxing, with Janet, TomO and family friends.
Crikey, did we eat or what?
And don’t you just love camp food prepared in a camp oven and dining under the stars beside a crackling camp fire…
Now I must say, Janet and I both love experiencing different foods from around the world, and enjoy a night dining out. But it is hard to beat cooking up and dining on some camp grub!
And no camping trip would be complete without Janet knocking out one of her (world famous) dampers. Lavished with Golden Syrup, or Cocky’s Joy, as it is commonly referred to, it is simply the Bees Knees. From the time it is pulled from the camp oven, to the time when the last piece is devoured, you won’t hear a whisper from anyone, just the sounds of the Australian Bush punctuated by the groans of delight as the Golden Syrup trickles down your hand…
Joining us for the weekend were our good friends The Todd’s; Bob and Annette, and David and Stephen. They’re like family to us and we’ve been travelling this great country of ours with them for as long as we can remember. A work colleague of Bob’s also came along to experience the Australian Bush…
The Todd Boys, The Boys, as we affectionately know them, are like brothers’ to our son TomO, and talk about being as thick as thieves.
Apart from growing taller, The Boys and TomO haven’t changed much. Although, the conversation seems to have moved from toy cars and teddy bears to girls these days…
Strewth, we’ve even spent a great New Year’s Eve on the small island nation of Nauru, at the Nauru Phosphate Club, helping to de-stock the Nation’s supply of Foster’s Lager, but heck that is a yarn for another day, if I ever get around to remembering it.
I’m sure Bob was a pyromaniac in another life-time, but rest assured he can set the best camp-fires ever and then cook up a storm in his camp oven. The Todd’s feasted on roast lamb and vegetables, while we settled for a good old rump steak on the barbie.
Now I must do a couple of call-outs here.
I have been fortunate enough to have found a fantastic blog called Picture Real Food, by Marisa, which has some wonderful recipes. This weekend I tried out her Bull’s Blood Mushrooms, and all I can say is if you are into mushrooms give this a go…and if you’re not into them still give it a go, because you’ll end up a convert!
The other call-out is to a mad-as-a-cut snake New Yorker who goes by the name of Icescreammama. Recently she had some really nice things to say about some Aussie bloke so I drank a toast to her on his behalf and the recent success she has had in a writing competition.
Geez, I actually had a couple of beers, a bit unusual for me ahead of my preparation for next year’s full-on mountaineering calendar.
Blow-me-down, I thought people like Icescreammama only existed on those American sit-coms you see on the Telly, when it is working. But there she is, larger than life. Mind you, I’m betting she is one of those New Yorkers’ that drinks cor-fee instead of coffee.
And did I get around to mentioning one of my favourite parts of any camping trip.
And this is after we get our fill of vegemite on toast, after all it wouldn’t be Australian to leave it at home!
There is something that is good for the soul about a lazy start to the day, getting a fire going, and then throwing a couple of jaffle irons onto the coals with your favourite filling stuffed between two slices of bread!
Janet made up some savoury mince, and her jaffles were the ant’s pants; seriously to die for.
And no outing would be complete without someone falling into the water. Usually it is TomO, because he was a fish in a previous life, but this weekend it was my turn as I filled up the water bucket – it must have been those two beers I had the night before that gave me a wobbly boot.
Geez, you just gotta love getting “Out and About” – bring on life!
And hey!… Don’t forget to Like The Landy on Facebook to catch up on more photos and happenings while he’s “Out and About”…
Besides with only 29 likes he’s starting to think he’s more “off” than an “Outback Dunny” in the mid-day sun!
Just for a change we aren’t heading to the mountains to climb this weekend, but we are packing “The Landy” and heading for some camping. In the mountains, of course…
It is hard not to like the mountains at this time of year, well, at anytime for that matter, but there is something very renewing about being Out and About in Spring.
Okay, “The Landy” does have ropes stored inside it, just in case…
Our destination is Turon Gates, situated not too far from the Mudgee wine producing region. An area that also has a history steeped in gold mining.
There is a creek running through the property and as it is coming into yabbie season we are hoping to get a feast of these sweet crustaceans’ to eat. TomO, our son, is good at catching them, and I’m not too bad myself.
Although Janet, my wonderful partner, has suggested she packs a leg of lamb that can be cooked up in the camp oven, just in case the boys’ fail to catch any there aren’t any around, and of course an adequate supply of the staple food of every Australian, a jar of Vegemite.
Now I know some of you are saying we’re a weird bunch for liking this savoury delight made from left-over brewers’ yeast.
But strewth, I could give you a hundred reasons why we are weird, but eating vegemite isn’t one of them…
Besides, you wouldn’t be a ridgy-didge Aussie if you didn’t smear your hot buttered toast with this delightful tar looking substance for brekkie each day.
And we’re not unique in having our own special breakfast…
I mean, it’s a bit like our good American friends and their door-nuts and cor-fee donuts and coffee, or the Poms and those bloody smelly kippers they throw down for brekkie, (no wonder they’ve got a chip on their shoulder) or for that matter, the Germans and their half-dozen steins of whatever beer they can get their hands-on.
Come to think of it, the way the Germans’ drink beer you’d think they be all over something that is made from brewers’ yeast…evidently not.
Seemingly, the good people at Kraft are yet to make an alcoholic version of vegemite (note to self).
Strike-a-light, if they did make an alcoholic version, the cops, never to miss an opportunity, would be down at the local child-care centre breath-testing any kid riding a tricycle. It’d be like a turkey shoot…couldn’t miss.
After all, every Australian kid grows up on vegemite; no wonder we’re such a rugged, sturdy bunch.
Granted, I did read that on the inside of a beer bottle top…but still, sounds plausible!
I mean, I read somewhere else, might have been an old copy of News of the World, that some people cake their faces in mud, and lie back with a couple of slices of cucumber covering their eyes. Pretty sure that isn’t happening in Australia, otherwise it would have shown up on that “weird list”.
But given I can be a little bit naughty am a research freak, the one time I smeared it onto Janet, she thought I was getting all weird in the struggling paddock.
You know, the bedroom!
Truly, I thought I’d try my luck wasn’t getting weird, and rest assured after I got the black yeast onto the new satin pillow cases there was no chance of that happening anyway…
Crikey, she was fuming.
“Fair crack of the whip” she screamed…
“Why did you go wasting the vegemite like that” …still yelling at me!
Anyway, I’ve sort of digressed a little bit and can’t even remember the point of this yarn I was spinning telling you…
So let’s just finish it off on this note, when in Rome, do as the Roman’s do.
When you foreign tourists that keep turning up, ringing our doorbell down in the customs hall of Sydney International Airport with the voracity of an Avon woman on uppers, get with the program, get adventurous, and get some of our vegemite into ya!
And don’t you worry, we’ll be sure to return the courtesy, especially when we visit Germany!
Good weekend to all….
The other day I was relating a story about the early days of living with Janet, my partner, in a small cottage with two sofa chairs, one bed, and a Great Dane Dog.
It was a lovely cottage set in a suburb not too far from the centre of Brisbane.
We loved that cottage, our first place together, which was nestled away in a small street, surrounded by plenty of greenery and flowering trees.
A real little love nest…
Anyway, the subject line is true, but possibly I’m being a little harsh on myself, although Janet has just called out that I did kidnap the dog,
“pure and simple Baz…”
But let me explain.
Firstly, I love Great Dane’s they are so majestic looking and all the ones I have met have been very well natured. Mind you, a suburban back-yard is probably not big enough for them to run around in and perhaps the reason you don’t tend to see them in the city.
Back in those days we had little money to spare, not that we needed it, crikey, sitting in those two sofa chairs, gazing into each other’s eyes, before retiring to the only other piece of furniture we owned, the bed, popping jellybeans into that jar like rabbits on a mission…
Mind you, we’re still happy to do that these days, but a 12 year old son, who is on the cusp of puberty, usually walks in just at the inopportune time.
We didn’t own any white goods back then, you know, a washing machine to clean our clothes, so this was done at the local shops where there was a Laundromat. Now I can say that is a place I haven’t been in a very long time, a Laundromat…
Every few days we’d make the trip together, happily sitting there watching the dryer spin around until it was time to head home and sit in the sofa chairs, well you know, until it was time to
put another jelly bean in the jar retire again…
Anyway, on one particular evening Barney, the Great Dane turns up, he looked lost and was hanging around. And even if I say so myself he took an instant liking to me.
A Great Dane, my favourite!
It didn’t take long to convince myself that he was an orphan, after all he had no tag and he was rummaging around the bins seemingly looking for a feed.
So I quickly dashed home in Janet’s little Ford Anglia, a Harry Potter car, to get him a feed of mince. It didn’t take long, but by the time I returned Janet broke the news. He’d left.
“How could that happen” I asked?
This dog loved me.
Concerned for his well being I hopped in the little Ford Anglia and headed down the back streets to find him, to give Barney a good meal,
to kidnap him, and a good home. After all he was neglected, clearly, surely?
My heart raced, there he was, looking forlorn, standing dejectedly outside a large home with a large wooden gate.
Yes, he recognised me.
Okay, in hindsight it might have been the mince I had in my hand that I was offering up, but strewth, I was as happy as a pig in
Now this was the tricky bit, but I did get Barney inside that little Ford Anglia, eventually. It was a bit squashy, especially once Janet hopped in with a basket of clean washing.
We I was excited as a new dad bringing the family home for the very first time. And Barney settled in well, those first couple of nights he just sat back and lapped up all that attention. But geez, have you seen what these things can eat?
Bloody hell, this was at a time in our lives that we managed baked beans on toast every couple of days if we were frugal. We didn’t even have two brass razoo’s to rub together. And a good night out was spent in the sofa chairs starring lovingly into each other’s eyes…
A few days later, as inevitable as the sun rising in the east, there it was, a lost notice in the window of the local shops.
“Much loved pet, a Great Dane, lost a few days ago in the local area. Brown in colour.”
Whoops, the description sounded just like Barney.
The person at the other end of the phone sounded lovely, distraught, and anxious for any news.
She didn’t live too far away so we decided to walk Barney “home.”
And home was behind a large wooden gate, yep, the one in which I had coaxed Barney away from with my offering of mince only a few days earlier. His owner was elated, and Barney reunited himself in a scene reminiscent of Fred and Dino straight out of the Flinstones…
She couldn’t thanks us enough for looking after her best friend while we tried to track her down.
Yes, we loved Barney, and still think of him fondly, but I’m sure he would have sent us broke before heading back home.
Yep, I think he had
us me sussed from the outset, live it up for a few days and then move back home!
Thanks Barney, we loved your visit…
Australia is renown for its large variety of fresh seafood and Sydney has a great seafood market not too far from the city centre were you can purchase almost anything that tickles your fancy…
As I am still on holidays, and with my sister currently visiting us for a few days, I took the opportunity to pop down and check out what was on offer.
I wasn’t disappointed, settling on blue swimmer crabs, a small crustacean with a sweet meat that are delicious to eat.
Janet, my partner, found a great recipe, Blue Swimmer Crab and Black Pepper, which we prepared over a few ales and a couple of wines. A lovely Gewurztraminer from the Marlborough region of New Zealand. Fitting as I was climbing in New Zealand’s south island only a couple of weeks ago.
Yep, caught in the act!
It was my brother-in-law and usual partner in crime for all kinds of activities that usually involves some form of strenuous exercise. And occasionally our infamous bike ride.
Infamous only because it is a one kilometre ride along a pathway to Newcastle‘s Albion Pub, not that we do it too often…but I’m digressing!
He was on to me, my animated state was a dead give-away, after all I had a few of these wonderful beers under my belt by now. I just knew he would be suggesting some sort of exercise, and he would now make it harder knowing I was having a couple of beers!
He did just that, bloody Kiwi’s are like that…
Ray, and his partner Leah, Janet’s sister, live with their son, Aubrey, in Newcastle, a city about two hours drive to the north of Sydney. And we visit regularly to kayak, swim, and train along the beach, or in the mountains to the west.
“Baz, see you tomorrow afternoon for a run up Heaton’s Gap”.
There was a snicker in his voice and little doubt he was going to make me earn the beers I was enjoying. You’d think he’d be over that 20 kilometre walk that I turned into a 40 kilometre walk, but that was some time ago. Clearly he is still traumatised by it.
Heaton’s Gap is a favourite training area for us and involves a fairly steep climb up the side of a hill along a power line track, followed by a run back down as fast as we can travel.
I was praying that we would only do “one lap” as I was feeling some effect from the wonderful meal of blue swimmer crabs and the beers and wine from the previous night!
Phew, one lap only…
He does have a heart after all.
Or so I thought!
Over dinner last night he casually mentions that I should be up and ready at 6am this morning for a 10 kilometre run down along Newcastle’s picturesque harbour foreshore…
Strewth mate, I’m thinking to myself, I’m still on holidays, but dutifully I was at the front gate ready to go at the appointed time. And I must say we put on a cracking pace, in fact we were both surprised at our time, especially after Heaton’s Gap yesterday afternoon.
Perhaps I should get into this holiday mode a little more often, mind you I’m heading for the day-bed right now for a snooze, he’s just told me we are kayaking the harbour this afternoon – thanks mate!
You could be forgiven for thinking I’m living a charmed life at present. Currently I’m sitting in the wonderful setting of Yasawa Island, overlooking the beach, eating my way through a sumptuous breakfast of fresh tropical fruits and lobster omelette, under a balmy, but slightly overcast sky.
The food at Yasawa has been fantastic! I’ve eaten far too much already…
And what a change that is to only one week ago when I was climbing in the Southern Alps of New Zealand’s south island. It was freezing cold at Pioneer Hut, even the thought of extracting yourself from a warm down-sleeping bag took some effort, and food was basic camp food.
Not that I’m complaining about that mind you, after all there is something very comforting about camp food, a warming tea, sweetened with sugar, before heading out onto the glacier.
My week of instruction under the guidance of Dean Staples, one of New Zealand’s most accomplished high altitude climbers was fantastic. And with eight Everest summits to his credit it puts him in a very elite club, so I count myself very lucky to be able to tap into his knowledge.
After a gear check at Adventure Consultant’s Wanaka headquarters, the nerve centre for its climbing operations that span the seven continents, Dean and I headed for Foxtown on the west coast, a drive of around 3 hours that takes you over the top of New Zealand’s dividing range.
It was a great opportunity for me to hear about the climbing that Dean has done around the world. It also enabled me to discuss my climbing ambitions and what I was looking to achieve during the week ahead.
We spoke of Cho Oyu and Mount Everest in a way that there is no reason why either won’t be possible for me to achieve. Ambition, mental drive, fitness, and climbing skills can be achieved by those who desire it badly enough.
It is all up to the individual!
Originally we had planned to fly into Pioneer Hut by helicopter on the Saturday afternoon, but low cloud in the valley meant this would not be possible, so we stayed in one of the Alpine Association’s huts at Foxtown, or Fox, as it is known to the locals.
The Fox Glacier is the town’s drawcard and there are numerous helicopter companies offering flights over the glacier, which is situated very nearby.
We managed to fly into Pioneer Hut on the Sunday morning, along with Caroline from Adventure Consultants, who was taking a few days off from work to ski in the backcountry with her friend, Aviette.
The 15 minute helicopter ride straight up the glacier was spectacular, in fact it is hard to find the right adjective to best describe it, so I’ll leave it at spectacular!
I had to take a couple of deep breathes to take it all in as I stood there watching the helicopter depart, apart from the air being a little thinner, the scenery was simply breathtaking. We wasted little time and headed out for some time on the snow, to give Dean a chance to assess where my skill levels stood in terms of glacier travel, cramponing, and ice-climbing. We did a little of all these things, including climbing a small peak, before heading back to the hut in the freezing cold and deteriorating weather.
It was a great opportunity for me to test out some of my new gear and those thousand dollar boots…
It all worked perfectly and those boots were as warm as a piece of freshly popped toast!
The following day was snowing and visibility was severely limited so we spent the day doing some skill-based training in the hut. Dean literally had me hanging from the rafters, prussiking and doing self-rescues.
The rest of the day was spent in the warmth of my sleeping bag!
But we were rewarded with great weather on the Tuesday and with snow shoes strapped on we headed towards Grey’s Peak. Now I must say judging distances across the snow is perhaps a learned thing as it didn’t look that far away, but it still took a number of hours to get to the summit, and travel slowed as we made our way across the glacier.
Dean had to slow my pace from time to time as I was trying to push it too hard. He was quick to point out that good mountaineering means travelling at a pace that you can go all day and the higher you go the harder it becomes, adjust your pace was his catch-cry, advice well heeded!
The hut was quite full on Tuesday night with a couple of other groups flying in and swelling the number to nine. But the atmosphere was fantastic as we had our evening meal, before settling into those warm down-sleeping bags for the night.
I would have loved to stay another night, but as I was leaving for Fiji in a couple of days I could not afford to be “snowed in” at the hut. And the weather looked like it was deteriorating once again.
Note to self, next time you climb in New Zealand’s Alps do it just before heading back to work, that way you can happily be snowed in, on the boss’s time!
Wednesday morning we made our way down the glacier towards Chancellor Hut, a distance of about 8-kilometres, although distance is better measured in time. Travel was slow initially as the snow was deeper and the slope made travel in snowshoes too difficult, especially with some ice in parts.
And how was that view!
We stopped on the glacier against the backdrop of Chancellor Dome. We were debating whether to climb it, which would take around 3-4 hours up and down, or find a suitable crevasse to do some ice climbing and rescue training.
We decided on ice climbing and rescue training, eventually finding the perfect spot for it. I’m glad we elected to as it was a lot of fun. It did wonders for my confidence and helped build on my skill base.
Closer to Chancellor Hut travel became slower as the snow was much softer by now with the temperature rising as we descended in altitude. And despite still being near sub zero temperatures, travel across the glacier was hot and hard work, especially with a 25-kilogram pack on my back!
It was a wise move to choose to leave Pioneer Hut on the Wednesday as the cloud base was sitting not too far above Chancellor Hut on the Thursday morning, and around 8am we could hear the thump-thump sound of the helicopter making its way up the glacier towards us. Loading the helicopter with our gear probably took longer than the ride back down to Fox.
By mid-afternoon we had arrived back in Wanaka and after saying our good-byes I was on my way to Queenstown and an early Friday morning flight back to Australia.
And as I cleared customs, Janet and TomO were waiting eagerly, glad I had a great time, and wanting to know all the details…
It was a great week and one in which I can anchor my climbing ambitions to.
The feeling of standing on top of Grey’s Peak, a small peak by any standard, was one of great satisfaction and something that will remain with me forever, no matter where my climbing takes me…