So anyways, it’s Friday. As this goes to post, we’re heading south for our annual camping trip– although to call it camping isn’t strictly correct:
- There’s no sleeping in tents- well, except for my brother- but that’s his choice
- There is a flushing toilet and a working shower in the place we stay- although there is also an outside dunny with no door and a view to the bush and any passing kangaroo
No, we call it camping for other reasons:
- We cook outside on a campfire using camp ovens, jaffle irons and fire pits
- There’s no TV or cellphone reception- except for this one point just outside the kitchen window
- There are sleeping bags involved
- We’re on a bush block quite a way from the nearest town (Jindabyne)
- There are usually kangaroos involved
- We do some (fairly tame) off-roading when we go up high looking for snow
We go down with my brother and his family to my Uncle’s property in a locality called Eucumbene. Eucumbene is in the south of NSW near the Snowy Mountains, about a 40 minute drive from Cooma and the same from Jindabyne. This is trout fishing country- not that we do the fishing thing…
We stay in what used to be workers cabins from the Snowy Mountains Hydro Scheme. We sleep in sleeping bags, huddling against the drafts coming through from the walls that don’t quite meet and windows that don’t quite shut. I use the term “sleep” loosely- as I don’t…sleep, that is. This in itself is fortunate as it means I can get up regularly to stretch my back out and top the fire up.
During the day we take drives up the mountain to find snow for the kids to play in, rivers for the 4 wheel drives to do their thing in, and country to explore. We take walks with the kids to look for kangaroos, practice our whip cracking skills, pop popcorn and toast marshmallows on the fire… and we prepare food for the campfire- strategizing over how many coals are required for a curry versus a pudding or bread.
The year before last we didn’t need to go too far to find the snow- it was sheeting down at the house. We still cooked outside on the fire, but didn’t need to walk in and out to get our beers.
Each year we look forward to this weekend possibly more than any other thing we do. Here are five reasons why:
It’s an excuse to wear a real flannelette shirt…
Yes, I’m aware that the fashion flanny is in this winter, but the flanny I’m talking about is the outdoor flanny. Even if there’s no snow, it’s cold enough for beanies and gloves and lumberjackets and flannelette.
It’s a reason to visit a boating, camping and fishing type of store…
We wander the aisles and fantasise about loading up a landrover and heading out into the middle of nowhere with all of our super camping accessories. Of course we rarely buy anything and would probably never do the real roughing it thing (I like a flushing toilet and a comfy bed too much), but it’s fun to dream.
You get to use a jaffle iron…
Sure, you can have your electric sandwich makers, but I’m talking a real, heavy, takes ages to cook (and even longer for the contents to cool) jaffle iron. This year, inspired by Masterchef, there’s a bit of a challenge involved in the jaffle making. The rules, though, remain the same:
- The contents should be comprised of leftovers or pantry staples
- You should be able to eat it in one hand, leaving the other free for a beer
- It looked good on Masterchef, but the true jaffle needs no faffing about with garnishes and pretty bits on the plate.
Let’s just say that every evening meal this week has been planned with leftovers in mind…
Cooking in a camp oven is a challenge…
The theory is that anything you can cook in a normal oven, you can cook in one of these babies. That’s it in the pic above. In theory. The reality is different. We’ve had some roaring successes, and some serious fails. I still recall the night our slow cooked lamb (containing 2 bottles of very drinkable red wine) boiled dry in 20 minutes. Now we know it has something to do with the boiling qualities of alcohol, but back then?
The thing with a camp oven is that it doesn’t go on the fire as such- the temperature is controlled by it’s proximity to the fire and the coals above and below it. Yes, it’s technical.
These days the boys spend a lot of time digging the oven pit, and much more time tending the fire. This year I’ll be experimenting with a butterscotch self-saucing pudding and a chocolate brownie damper. Watch this space.
It’s so quiet out there…
The bush has its own noise, but it’s different and more effective for the removal of stress than any number of prescribed beta-blockers.
There’s the wind through the trees, the rustle of leaves, the sound of a roo bounding around through the scrub, a cow somewhere nearby. The birds sound different too. Out there the magpies warble and the kookaburras really laugh. There’s the occasional flash of colour as the red or blue breast of a wren darts between branches. Even snow, that falls so softly, has all sorts of cracks and creaks associated with the melt.
Yet, after Sydney, the sound of the bush wipes away the noise in my head.
As for the stars…don’t even get me started on how beautiful the stars are at night.
Do you camp? Or glamp? Any favourite jaffle or camp oven recipes you’d like to share?