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.


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.