Ketchup’s Bank Glamping

I distinctly recall the last time I stayed in a tent. It was in a caravan park in Mallacoota – we were living in Bombala at the time – and I must have been about 13.

It was a 6 man tent and the 4 of us kids lay in our sleeping bags at the back of the tent, with a divider down the middle separating where Mum and Dad were. An annexe at the front held our kitchen stuff. I remember plenty about that experience:

  • How uncomfortable it was to sleep
  • How there was no privacy
  • How you had to climb over everyone and go to the amenities block to use the toilet
  • How uncomfortable it was to sleep

I also recall how when the wind came up we couldn’t leave the tent in case it blew away…but that’s another story that we all still laugh about.

We had camped before that trip – in sleeping bags on hard ground on a bush block outside of Merriwa – where we were living at the time. The toilet on that occasion was a spade with a toilet roll on the end. We still laugh about that too.

To say I didn’t enjoy the whole camping/tent thing would be a gross understatement. In fact, I vowed I’d never do it again – the camping or the tent thing – despite the laughs nearly 40 years later.

Age, however, mellows…or something like that… Since we’ve been in Queensland I’ve been flirting with the idea of both caravanning and camping – even though my husband has:

  • done a cost-benefit analysis on owning a van vs staying in country motels – including the fuel consumption of towing a van, site fees and…I could go on
  • pointed out how I need a bathroom under the same roof
  • pointed out how I sleep so lightly that a frog farting in a car on a highway 5 miles away is enough to keep me awake
  • pointed out that I have trust issues with regards to space, privacy and the ability to lock myself away securely.
  • pointed out that my hair has a tendency to go to dreadlocks when out in the great outdoors

Sure, he has a point – several, in fact – but I’ve pointed out:

  • how much fun it is to cook outside
  • how much fun it is to eat outside
  • how great it is to get away from noise
  • how the bush has its own sounds
  • how the stars are so clear in the dark
  • how amazing birds sound in the country
  • how much we both enjoy our Eucumbene trips
  • how we need to push boundaries every so often
  • how he keeps telling me he was a boy scout
  • life is too short to worry about dreadlocks
  • Adventure before dementia

The compromise? Glamping. And that’s where Ketchup’s Bank comes in.

The location…

Ketchup’s Bank is located in the Scenic Rim region of South East Queensland – just an hour from Brisbane and the same from the Gold Coast. The closest town, Boonah, is a 15-minute scenic drive away – longer if you stop for photos.

There are restaurants, pubs and a huge IGA supermarket in Boonah – for all your camp kitchen needs.

The Eco-tent

Take every preconceived notion you have about tents and throw them out of your mind. Are they gone? Good. This tent is certainly nothing like that brown and orange tent of my memory.

For a start, it has a bed – and a very comfy queen bed it is, with fluffy doonas and proper pillows. There’s a couple of chairs, a bar fridge for your supplies, a TV for DVDs only (thankfully no TV reception) and a small collection of DVDs.

Then there’s a bathroom – with a toilet that flushes and a shower that’s hot. You can leave the curtain and the tent flap open and shower with the bush, the birds and the wallabies. I chose not to scare the wildlife.

There was also a covered deck area that was obviously built just for me to do some copy editing from. As an aside, that whole business about writing drunk and editing sober is a fallacy…just saying.

The rain poured down on Friday night and we were warm, cozy and dry in our tent. I will admit to feeling a tad exposed without a door that could be locked, but I managed to get over that.

The Kitchen…

It’s a camp kitchen – but amped up. As well as a campfire with plenty of firewood and a few different sized Dutch ovens, there’s also a barbecue and most of the utensils you’ll need to whip up a great meal.

We prepared beef stroganoff on the first night, cooked up an incredible breakfast the following morning using the provisions in the breakfast hamper that we’d pre-ordered, and had pork chops with sauteed potatoes, green beans and a creamy pepper sauce on the second night. All prepared, cooked and eaten outside. You even boil the kettle for your tea on the barbie – or the billy. Don’t worry if you can’t do without your morning caffeine hit, Ketchup’s supply ground coffee and a plunger.

Somehow those eggs tasted even better knowing that we could personally thank the ladies who’d laid them for us.

Because we weren’t sure what we’d find in the way of nibbly things at Boonah, we’d also ordered an antipasto platter to accompany our drinks on Friday night. It was so generous we saved it for lunch on Saturday instead.

Around the property

There are a series of walks around the property – the scenery and birdlife are fabulous.

At night the stars are clearer than stars have a right to be, and in the late afternoon and early morning, there’s always the possibility of a visitor of the wallaby kind. As an aside, when driving into the property, keep an eye out – they have a habit of bursting out of the scrub and bouncing across the road.

Other bits and pieces…

Ketchup’s Bank currently has two eco-tents. The other was occupied on the weekend we were there, but we saw and heard little from our “neighbours”.

They don’t cater to children and there is no cellphone reception – although there is wi-fi, enough to allow you to post to Instagram or google the following days’ activities.

If you want more information, you can find it here.

Will we do it again? Yep. I’m a convert. Hear the serenity.

While in the Scenic Rim…

Scenic Rim Brewery

Don’t miss the chance to visit the Scenic Rim Brewery. With beers named Digga, Shazza, Fat Man and Phar-Que how could you not? We were there because we’d heard the bitterbollans (Dutch meatballs) were amazing – which they were.

They also have a loaded chiko roll on the menu…don’t ask!

Kooroomba Vineyard and Lavender Farm

I nearly didn’t mention this place – mainly because we rocked on up on Saturday (in the rain) and they were closed without explanation. So why am I telling you? Partly because it’s one of the main attractions in the area – seemingly with a humungous marketing budget and poor communications – but mostly because I wanted an excuse to post the pictures of the lavender that I got soaked taking. That’s why.

Bunjurgen Winery

This was a gem of a place – and possibly the most enjoyable and least pretentious wine tasting we’ve ever had. Dave pulled up a chair and a table and sat down and we chatted. There’s nothing sleek, posh or whatever about Bunjurgen – and that’s a great thing.

They grow 2 grape varieties – chambourcin and shiraz. When the climate does the right thing by them they make wine – rose, a mixed red, and a couple of ports – and when it’s too hot and wet to make wine, they make grape juice or verjuice. Too easy.

I reckon that I learnt more about winemaking in this climate than I’ll ever need to know – and so much more – but all via stories and good humour. We could have stayed and talked for ages.

It’s Lovin’ Life Linky time…

It’s Thursday, so it’s time to look for our happy and share it about a bit. The Lovin’ Life Linky is brought to you by Team Lovin’ Life: Deep Fried Fruit, DebbishSeize the Day ProjectWrite of the Middle50 Shades of Age,  and, of course, me.


On the road again…part 2

For part 1, check out last weeks post.

Canberra to Eucumbene 169kms

After another sub-freezing start – gotta love Canberra in the winter – it was off to Eucumbene with a stop in Cooma for groceries, alcohol and the cheapest but worst sausage roll of the road trip. Normally Cooma sausage rolls are reliable, but this one was – horror of all horrors – microwaved. Sacrilege.

Although it was as cold as it usually is there was no snow this year. Substantial falls were forecast on the day we left. Such is life.

It was also drier than we’ve seen it with the dam all but empty.

Clancy of the Campfire

Don’t worry, we do have an indoor toilet too

In terms of the #clancyofthecampfire cooking challenge, there was plenty of amazing food – all prepared and cooked outside in either camp (Dutch) ovens or on the Oz Pig… or a combo of both.

We had bread and damper, and frankfurts two ways – cooked in the billy and wrapped in the damper and cooked on sticks in the fire.

Yes, folks, I give you the damper dog.

We had camp versions of coq au vin and boeuf bourguignon. Note to self – I must learn how to style and photograph brown food.

We had brownies and golden syrup dumplings (cooked in the billy can), and we also had French Savoury Cake. I’ve previously posted the recipe for that one here.

My personal fave for the weekend, though, was steamed dumplings with chilli soy sauce. Super yummy – and goes to prove that there is no limit to what you can cook in a camp oven.

Naturally, there were also jaffles – to use up all the leftovers.

In terms of weather, we had howling winds, driving rain, clear blue days and starry starry nights. Just the usual mixed bag really – and enough to give us a challenge in the outdoor cooking stakes.

Eucumbene to Cowra 363kms

It was raining when we left Eucumbene and we took the unsealed shortcut road across to the Snowy Mountains Highway, coming across black ice and other hazards.

ummm…move off the road… please?

The rain had turned to snow by the time we got to Adaminaby and was falling quite heavily as we began the climb up the mountain. As an aside, it’s compulsory for two-wheel drive cars to carry chains on this part of the road during the winter months (AWD and 4WD vehicles are exempt.

Even with 4WD engaged it wasn’t the easiest of drives – but the approach into Kiandra was very pretty.

Until the establishment of Cabramurra, Kiandra, an old gold-mining town, was the highest town in Australia. It’s also said to be the birthplace of Australian skiing. There you go.

Tumut

We pulled in at Tumut for a sausage roll (incidentally the second best of the trip) and a coffee. I’ve always liked this town – the rolling hills and the countryside around here are lovely (and a tad greener than most other places at the moment).

Aside from being the gateway to the Snowy River Scheme, Tumut was one of the towns short-listed to become what is now the Australian Capital Territory. Albury, Armidale, Dalgety, Tooma and Orange were some of the other towns on the list, but the House of Representatives favoured Tumut and the Senate favoured Bombala. It was after that stalemate that Canberra was chosen.

Young

Young, the cherry capital of Australia, was our lunch stop. Young also has the dubious claim to fame of being the scene of the Lambing Flats Riots during the gold rush and was the first town in Australia to install electricity into both streets and homes. Wilders Bakery also does a pretty good chicken and vegetable soup.

Cowra

Our overnight stay was at Cowra.

During WW2 Cowra was home to a massive prisoner of war camp. In 1944 over 500 Japanese POWs attempted a mass breakout. The casualties are buried in the Japanese War Cemetary here in town. A Japanese Garden – the largest in the southern hemisphere – was also built to reinforce the cultural links between Japan and Cowra.

I took a drive up to check out where the old POW camp was, but the light was fading too much for me to visit the gardens.

if you look closely you’ll see a roo I surprised

Where we stayed: Cowra Services Motel. After three nights in sleeping bags, the king-sized bed at the Cowra Services Motel felt like the height of luxury.

Where we ate: Cowra Services Club

Cowra to Armidale 584kms

Today we covered scenery and towns that I haven’t been through since we used to do the Merriwa to Tumbarumba run back in the mid-late 70s. Although interesting scenery, today’s drive was not one for great stops. Wellington – a really lovely town – was too close for a morning tea stop and anywhere else decent was too far away or by-passed.

After going past Gulgong (the town on the old ten dollar note) we ended up at a rest area and another billboard on the solar system drive.

Pluto at Birriwa, north of Gulgong

With the local trading post and somebody done somebody wrong songs on the radio we drove into Werris Creek for lunch where we found two points of interest – one being the town’s status as Australia’s first railway town, and the second being that Werris Creek was used as a location in Angelina Jolie’s film “Unbroken.”

Armidale

We finally made it into Armidale just after 4pm when the local temperature was just 2C with a wind chill factor bringing it below freezing.

This is possibly my favourite town in NSW. We stop here whenever we do the Sydney – Sunshine Coast run and it’s a place I especially enjoy in the winter. Being a university town it also has a great secondhand bookshop and I went a tad over the top on some travel memoirs.

Where we stayed: Armidale Pines Motel. This was probably the best motel of the trip. Good sized, comfy rooms and no road noise at all. Plus we were just a block and a half away from our favourite pub…

Where we ate: The White Bull. This place has a great fit-out, a good vibe, and does an amazing steak. We eat here whenever we’re in town.

Armidale to Sunshine Coast 589kms

Very little to be said about today’s drive other than we both just wanted to get home.

It was too early to stop at Tenterfield for one of the best pies on the highway at Federation Pies, so our morning tea stop was at The Church at Thulimbah, just north of Stanhope. I had a go at recreating their orange and almond cake over the weekend.

Other than that? A forgettable lunch stop at Gatton and home by mid-afternoon.

In total, we travelled just over 3600 kms and visited some fabulous (and some not so fabulous) towns. We saw first-hand the impact of the drought, and also saw other areas which, although still drought-affected, were faring slightly better.

We had a ball staying in motels and eating at local pubs and clubs – and found something interesting and endearing in each of them. As for our next road trip? I’m thinking Sunshine Coast to Port Douglas (1700kms) and maybe back via Longreach (another 2400kms)…Maybe next winter…

It’s Lovin’ Life Linky time…

It’s Thursday, so it’s time to look for our happy and share it about a bit. The Lovin’ Life Linky is brought to you by Team Lovin’ Life: Deep Fried Fruit, DebbishSeize the Day ProjectWrite of the Middle50 Shades of Age,  and, of course, me.


That’s a wrap – the Bundaberg edition

sugar cane just outside of Bundaberg

So, the week that was…and a mini break to Bundaberg…

I could tell you about how busy the partition job was, I could tell you that I got my copy edit back for I Want You Back, and I could tell you about a new place we tried for lunch on Friday – Chances at Mooloolaba. It was good.

I could also tell you about the lecture I went to on Tuesday about the state of the reefs around the Sunshine Coast – it was put on by Reef Check Australia and it was seriously informative. But I’m not going to tell you about any of that. Instead we’ll talk about the mini break we took this weekend… Oh, and a warning…the weather was dull – really dull…so my photos are too.

Where we went

Bundaberg, or Bundy, as it’s known locally.

Originally a timber town, Bundaberg today is known for sugar and rum – and is the gateway to the southern islands of the Great Barrier Reef.

It’s a few hours drive north from my home on the Sunshine Coast, and we could only manage one night away, but a break is a break, right?

What we came for

I wanted to see sugar cane. I had images in my head of fields of tall sugar cane against an impossibly blue sky. Sadly, all we got was grey skies and drizzle. I managed one shot with some blue sky behind it.

It’s not all about the sugar cane though. The soil around here is incredibly fertile and we saw fields of rockmelons, fields of berries, and fields of sunflowers.

Meanwhile back home in Buderim

The rain sheeted down. We’ve had 2 months worth of rain in 2 days – with more to come.

Where we stopped

All good road trips – even mini ones like this – need a good stop. On the way up we stopped in Maryborough. Yes, it was raining, but this town, on the banks of the Mary River, has some beautiful heritage buildings. One of its claims to fame is that PL Travers, who wrote Mary Poppins was born here.

We had breakfast at a little café in Customs House, A Spoonful of Sugar, and marvelled at just how high the floodwaters had got over the years.

This is a town that I’d like to spend more time in. The history fascinates me and, well, let’s just say I’d like to get under the covers some more.

Where we stayed

Bundaberg Spanish Motor Inn. It was clean, comfortable, blissfully quiet and a great price. The hosts provided a really friendly welcome. I’d absolutely recommend it.

Where we drank rum

Nope, I’m not a rum drinker – unless it’s in a cocktail by the beach. The thing is, Bundy is known for its rum and this weekend happened to be the Bundy Rum Festival – or something like that.

Despite the weather, they’d turned up in hordes to drink the stuff. Some dressed for the occasion, others just covered up in plastic ponchos.

Where we drank beer

The Bargara Brewhouse in Bundaberg. We each had a tasting paddle – and the beer was good. We were there a bit too early for lunch, but I’m told the sliders and chicken wings are worth sampling.

Where we sampled other fizzy stuff

Another thing Bundaberg is known for is ginger and, specifically, ginger beer. They do make other flavours as well – I use the lemon, lime and bitters to make scones, although apparently the ginger beer is good for this too.

I don’t really drink soft drink so the tasting was wasted on me, but you can really taste the fruit in their range – mostly because they use fresh fruit to brew the drinks. Yes, the soft drinks are brewed – just like beer is. At the end of the process though, the alcohol is heated off so you’re left with just the taste. Cool, hey?

Oh, and if you’re on their website, check out the recipes. I think they should turn the recipes into a cookbook…just saying.

Where I would like to spend more time

Bargara. Ok, the beaches aren’t like Mooloolaba but, let’s face it, I’m pretty biased about what I like to think is my beach. The black rocks are quite striking, and it’s a great foreshore area with, I think, the best ever playground I’ve seen.

We had breakfast at Rick’s on the Esplanade. I had the corn and zucchini fritters with bacon and eggs and it was good.

What I’m coming back some day for

The turtles.

Regular readers of the old and anyways blog know that I have a thing about sea turtles. They truly represent sea voyages and exploration and are the sign of the navigator. Anyways, female turtles also return to the beach where they were hatched in order to lay their eggs – and Mon Repos, just north of Bargara, supports the largest concentration of nesting marine turtles on the eastern Australian mainland and has the most significant loggerhead turtle nesting population in the South Pacific region. I borrowed that last sentence from the website blurb.

The turtles nest between November and January and then 6-8 weeks later, from January through to late February/March, the little hatchlings emerge to scurry down to the sea. What makes this truly special is just how much the odds are stacked against these babies – just 1 in 1000 are likely to make it to maturity. I could go on, but I can see many of you glazing over already.

Suffice to say, I’ll be back.

How was your week?