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Making tracks around Oz, Issue 1 - latest tips from the road
October 15, 2016

Issue #1 October 2016

Welcome to my first edition of Making Tracks around Oz!

In this month's issue:

  • Bringing home-schooling to life locally
  • I try my hand at camp oven quiche
  • Maximising your car boot space (Kumar’s contribution)
  • How to get around road closures

To help this newsletter be as good as it can be, please let me know any feedback and comments you have. I look forward to hearing from the meantime, enjoy.

Oh, and before I forget - I will contact the winners of the five Dreambaby prize packs in the next few days and announce them next month...

Home-schooling comes to life

I often get asked about home-schooling. So far, we have been lucky enough to avoid this often challenging part of being on the road. This trip, our kids will miss one school term and we have been tasked with providing ad-hoc education activities while they have an extended leave of absence.

One great way we have found to complement their journal and maths tasks is to take advantage of local tourism set-ups.

Often small town information centres and museums have excellent, interactive displays which bring otherwise boring topics to life. The staff or volunteers are usually enthusiastic and knowledgeable and happy to share their personal experiences with the kids. And because you are there, at the source of it all, the education has real relevance.

It’s ‘on-the-spot’ education, like one big school excursion.

The great spin-off is that you are also doing your bit for local tourism, by making a donation or buying an entrance ticket, or buying some local products that have a story behind them.

Not to mention…it’s all food for thought for that day’s journal entry!

Recipe: Quiche in a cake tin

In the first week on the road, I was getting back into the swing of camp cooking versus home cooking. This is a home favourite, that I risked adapting to the camp oven!

Kumar’s score: 8/10, not bad for my first attempt

Filling ingredients:

250gm tinned salmon

3 eggs

½ cup cream

½ cup grated cheese

1 small onion, chopped

1 grated zucchini or a handful of chopped baby spinach

Shortcrust pastry:

1 cup plain flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

Pinch salt

60 gm butter, soft

2 tbsp water

  1. Get the camp fire started and down to coals. Put the wire tray inside your camp oven. Check your cake tin fits inside nicely.
  2. To make the pastry: put flour, salt and baking powder in bowl. Rub in butter to make breadcrumb like consistency. Gradually add water until it comes together in a dough. Knead gently on floured surface, then roll out to a 3-4mm base with an empty water bottle (rolling pin!). Place in your cake tin to cover sides and base. Fork in a few places.
  3. Put pastry in camp oven to pre-cook for 15-20 mins at a moderate heat.
  4. Meanwhile, mix all filling ingredients together in a bowl (or reserve cheese to sprinkle on top).
  5. Once pastry looks firm, and somewhat golden, remove from camp oven. Pour in quiche filling (and top with cheese). Return to camp oven and cook for 35-40 mins on a moderate heat.
  6. Once the quiche feels firm in the centre, remove from oven to cool. Serve with salad or veges.

Note: you could replace the salmon with bacon, feta, or your other favourite quiche fillings.

How I could have improved: A more spread-out fire with coals around and on top of oven would have worked better.

Our fire was in a gas bottle fire pot. It was too hot and all underneath the camp oven, so it was difficult to manage the temperature and evenness of heat. This meant, inevitably, the pastry burned a little. Kumar liked the burnt bits, but the kids weren’t so keen.

Maximising your car boot space – one big compromise

(Kumar’s contribution)

Specific advice on this is virtually impossible. But I don’t want to waste your time on a useless article that offers zero advice, so let me tell you what I have learned based on our set up. I’ve picked up some pointers after endless re-jigs on our trips.

Before you start: Think about your car’s storage set-up.

This will dictate how you pack your boot, and what you store there (instead of other places), e.g.

  • A 4wd or ute?
  • Drawers or open tray?
  • Cargo barrier?
  • Third row of seats?

We've got a 4wd drive wagon, with a cargo barrier. The Pajero also has rear seats that fold into a recess. We removed the seats and now use the recess as storage space (more on that soon). We don't have drawers or an extra fridge in the car.

Rule #1: You cannot have easy access to everything (Jill is still in denial about this!).

I think the primary purpose of your car boot should be to store things:

  • You don't need specifically as part of your camper set up.
  • You do need or may use mid-journey, or when unhitched.

Rule #2: Treat it like a game of tetris.

Think about your boot as having zones, all related to how accessible they are. Here’s how I do it…

Least accessible area: the recess for the extra seats.

Car stuff: Recovery gear, air compressor, jumper leads, small tool box, shovel, tyre repair kit and snatch straps. If I need this stuff, I’m happy enough to dig for it.

Less accessible: Back of the boot Spare clothes suitcase: We can only fit so much in our camper, so we store the alternate climate based clothes here, e.g. jumpers when it’s hot, or swimmers when it’s cold. We swap them around as and when we need to.

More accessible:main boot, right-hand (hinge-side) of the door.

Kid stuff: Boogie boards, scooters, helmets, sand toys, fishing rods. Plus occasional use stuff like backpacks and picnic blanket. Keeping this stuff on the hinge side of the door means they're not in the way of the more frequently used items.

Diesel jerry cans: Filled for long stretches between available fuel stops, otherwise empty. We also squeeze in our recovery Treds (too big to fit into the recess).

Most accessible: mid-boot

Big esky / cooler box. This doubles as a solid storage box when not filled with food or drinks. It’s a great place to load groceries mid-trip, or pop in a packed lunch if you're on the road for the day.

On top, 2 x 5lt Willow water jugs that we always keep filled. You should always carry extra water in the car in case of emergencies, or extra thirsty kids!

Rule #3: Do your best and ignore the complaints

Back to rule one. Everything can’t be quick to access. Some items go where they go because that’s where they fit best. Other things have to be prioritised based on how often or how important they are to access.

You can’t please the whole family all the time, so just please yourself! I don’t know about you, but I’m the person who has to dig around in there the most – so I get the final veto on what goes where.

Good luck,


Getting around road closures

You are likely to come across road closures during your road trip, even if you travel with the weather and seasons in mind. But it can be difficult to plan your itinerary around major detours, especially on inland and flood country where there’s not always an easy alternative route.

Take our experience just last week.

We had our hearts set on heading due west from Brisbane, and taking the Strzelecki track from Innamincka to Lyndhurst. Not only was it the most direct route, but it was the most adventurous, which is always a big lure for us.

We were excited about the prospect of travelling through some of Australia’s true desert country, at a time of high rainfall. But this same rainfall was threatening to throw our plans out the window. What to do?

Should we choose a different route (possibly just as scenic), or push on with a potential backtrack of several hundred kilometres?

We realised we just needed to make the call.

After all, it is just another decision. Once you’ve made up your mind, you’ve usually already accepted the potential consequences.

After much lament, we decided to hedge our bets and push on west regardless of road restrictions and closures in the west. Our hope was that sunshine and strong wind would prevail and roads would re-open.

Our bet paid off, and we squeezed through between rainfalls. The flipside was that we couldn’t take our time, and the Innamincka Regional Reserve was closed due to flooding. But we had a delicious taste of channel country, and we’ll be back.

At times like this, your best laid plan needs to be one ready to change.

Before we even crossed the border, the extent of flooded Queensland roads took us by surprise. Who knew that a flood truck was operating to cross the river in Thargomindah? We were lucky, we could unhitch and just fit aboard. My parents, who are travelling with us in their 21 foot caravan, weren’t so lucky. They had no choice but to turnaround, and take the long way around to South Australia. So, after a 765 kilometre detour they met us in Leigh Creek. It was a big price to pay.

All you can do is be prepared… and prepared to change.

We tried our best. It’s all you can do: Make your decision. Stick with it. Review it daily. Change it if you must. Plus:

  • Have a chat. Always check local road conditions in each town you come to. You’d be surprised how much information never makes it online or to phone hotlines.
  • Safety must come first. Never cross flood waters. Carry plenty of fuel, water and provisions. Stay put if that is the safest option. Travel with others if you can, and let someone know your plans as they change.
  • Keep an eye on your time. If you can’t afford the time to wait out road closures, or to commit to a big detour, don’t try it. You’ll put yourself under too much pressure and you’ll take the fun out of the journey anyway. There’s always next time.
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