Clancy of the Campfire…

We’re about to head out on a road trip. Our destination is a locality called Eucumbene – in the south of NSW near the Snowy Mountains. It’s about a 40-minute drive from Cooma and the same from Jindabyne and in the winter that means it’s cold.

We’re meeting my brother and his family down there. When we lived in Sydney it was something that we did annually, but from South East Queensland it’s more of an expedition. We’ve decided to turn that expedition into an adventure and see some of New South Wales that neither of us has seen in years. On the way down we’ll be stopping in:

  • Narrabri
  • Cootamundra
  • Tumbarumba – to visit some of my father’s family
  • Canberra – to catch up with hubby’s mother and some friends

On the way back? We haven’t quite decided yet. Parkes, Forbes, Cowra, Dubbo are definitely on the list in some way.

We’ll be in Eucumbene for a long weekend, staying in what used to be worker’s cabins from the Snowy Mountains Hydro Scheme. We sleep in sleeping bags so, in a way, it feels like camping – or at least glamping – so that’s what we call it.  My brother, however, is made of tougher stuff and sleeps outside in his swag.

the swag

Although we have a kitchen inside, we cook outside. There’s a bathroom inside as well as an outside dunny with no door and a view to the bush and any passing kangaroo. We have a television for DVDs – there’s no TV reception -and aside from one point just outside the kitchen window, there’s no mobile reception.

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.

the popcorn maker

Mostly though, it’s about the campfire and the cooking. Other than breakfast, everything needs to be cooked outside – even when it’s snowing. One year it was sheeting down, and we still managed to turn out excellent meals but didn’t need to walk back and forth to the fridge for our beers.

Each year we look forward to this weekend possibly more than any other thing we do. Here are some of the reasons why:

It’s an excuse to wear a real flannelette shirt…

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 an old 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.

Last time I picked up this enamel mug that I now drink my wine out of. I’m all class.

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. A good jaffle should:

  • be comprised of leftovers or pantry staples
  • should be able to be eaten in one hand, leaving the other free for a beer
  • need no faffing about with garnishes and pretty bits on the plate.
spag bol jaffle

This year I’m doing a variation on the jaffle with a Kiwi classic – the cheese roll. Watch this space.

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 cast iron babies – in theory. That’s it in the pic below. The reality is different. We’ve had some roaring successes and some serious failures. I still recall the night our slow cooked beef (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? No idea – and with Jindy and Cooma so far away dinner that night was cheese and bikkies for us and 2 minute noodles for the kids.

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. As a result, the boys spend a lot of time digging the pit for the camp oven, and much more time tending the fire.

Each year we have a culinary challenge that the bulk of our weekend is centred around. One year it was curries, another year it was the lunchtime pizza challenge and the jaffle challenge. This time around each family must plan and produce a 3-course meal prepared and cooked entirely outside. Thankfully none of us is competitive…much!

So far we’ve already produced one cookbook – Clancy of the Campfire: The Spirit of the Snowies– and anything from this year will go into a part 2. Who knows, one day we could be on the shelves in camping stores…

It’s so quiet out there…

The bush has its own noise, but it’s a different noise. It’s also more effective for the removal of stress than anything else I know – except perhaps the ocean.

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 the snow that falls so softly, has all sorts of cracks and creaks associated with the melt.

if you look closely you can see a couple of roos…

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?

This post has been adapted from one that appeared previously on my old website – and anyways…

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.


17 Replies to “Clancy of the Campfire…”

  1. Love the roos in your header photo, and the names of the various towns. I know what you mean by the quietness and the stars. Have a fabulous road trip, Jo! Look forward to your posts and pics.

    1. It is super fun. We all love cooking & we all love eating. I think anyone travelling with us who didn’t like those things would have a very ordinary time!

  2. I’ve never heard of Eucumbene before but I have been to and stayed at Jindabyne and spent some time at Thredbo. That is the one and only time I have seen snow. I was in my early 40’s! This sounds like a fabulous trip you’ve got planned. The camping/glamping will make it all the more adventurous! Can’t wait to hear and see more! 🙂 #TeamLovinLife

    1. You turn off on the road between Cooma and Jindabyne. It’s part of the Snowy River scheme & huge trout country. You should see whats on our menu!

  3. You know me! I absolutely love getting out into the great outdoors camping or caravanning. I’m not so sure about doing in such a cold climate however. It all sounds fantastic but I hope you don’t freeze to death! Do the cabins have heaters?

    1. We have a wood stove inside Kathy…it does get pretty cold though! My sleeping bag is rated to -2 which is OK for inside.

  4. Wow, that time already. I love your cooking comps and prep you do for these trips, but yes…. it’s a bit further away now. It sounds lovely – a nice break away and some family time which sounds good! x

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