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Making tracks around Oz, Issue 2 (Nov 2016) - latest tips from the road
November 15, 2016

Issue #1 November 2016 Welcome to issue 2 of Making Tracks around Oz!

It’s a family affair this month, with Dad adding his two cents worth to the mix:

  • Dad’s favourite portable fire-pot
  • Recipe: wraps on the road
  • Pantry tips for border crossings
  • ”School-of-the-car”

A big congratulations to the winners of the Dreambaby prize packs last month: Kaye from SA, Catherine from WA, and Sarah from QLD. I hope you enjoy them!

Thanks to everyone who provided feedback too. To help this newsletter be as good as it can be, please let me know any comments or ideas you have. I look forward to hearing from you...in the meantime, enjoy.

Dad’s favourite portable fire-pot

A few days into our current trip while I was drafting issue 1, my Dad kept coming up with ideas for newsletter articles. My parents are travelling with us for the bulk of our trip, in their big 21 feet rig.

In particular, Dad wanted me to write about his most recent purchase for the trip. Now that I’ve seen it in action, I thought it was time to give it the worthy mention it deserves!

He can’t get enough of his gas bottle fire-pot.

This was not my first exposure to a recycled gas bottle fire-pot. A friend of ours had one made by his father and it is fantastic. But I didn’t know they were commercially available. As it turns out, they are. Dad bought his from his local Men’s Shed, after asking a fellow traveller about it. What’s more, they are affordable, at about $80.

They make a convenient contained fire, where you can’t have ground fires.

Perfect when you are travelling alone and want to cook a quick dinner or just get warm, the gas-bottle is just right. With metal rods across the length of the bottle ‘top’, you can easily rest a camp oven on top. Dad also has a grill plate that sits on the rods, making it perfect to barbeque a couple of steaks or some snags.

It has a side door down low to allow oxygen into the fire, which is important because it has a relatively small top opening. It helps to radiate the heat outwards too, if you are looking to get warm as well as cook.

If I’m picky, there are a only couple of drawbacks.

I tried to cook my camp oven quiche in Dad’s firepot, and it was not ideal. Because the heat is almost all from below, it is harder to maintain a consistent temperature for ‘indirect heat’ cooking. But, this makes it perfect for other camp cooking, like stews and soups, and for boiling the billy.

Also, beware that you cannot build a flaming bonfire mountain on one of these. I’ve seen the size of some camp fires, and the flames are reaching for the stars. If that’s what you are looking for, go for your traditional ground fire circle or pit – and be safe about it!

Finally, think about how you will store it before you buy it. If you are limited on space, you might need to leave it at home. Dad stores his in a milk crate, which is almost designed for it. But there is still an element of messiness, so you need to work that out too.

All in all, what a wonderful way to give a gas bottle new life!

I really love these gas-bottle fire pots. They are a great way to support your local Men’s Shed community, while getting a great portable fire-pot at the right price. Have fun!

Recipe: wraps on the road

This is an old favourite in our household, which turns out to be even better when we are away. It’s a very Aussie slant on the Mexican burrito or fajita.

I don’t know if it is the camp oven, or the slap happy ‘chuck it all in’ style I use when we are on the road – either way, the kids love it!

Ingredients:

  • 8 soft tortillas or some other sturdy flat bread
  • 400-500gm beef mince
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 1-2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1-2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 clove of garlic, chopped (optional)
  • 1 tbsp ginger, grated (optional)
  • 1 capsicum or zucchini, chopped (only if you have it)
  • 1 can of red kidney beans (optional)
  • chilli to taste
  • Salad, cheese, sour cream and avocado, to serve
Steps:
  1. Fry the onion and mince in a frypan, until soft and browned.
  2. Stir through the paprika, cumin and coriander, garlic and ginger if you have it.
  3. Add kidney beans / capsicum / zucchini, and chilli to taste.
  4. Simmer for about 5-10 mins, until mince and veges are cooked through.

(Or chuck all the ingredients above into the camp oven and cook covered over the fire for about 15 mins, stirring occasionally, until cooked through.)

Wrap the tortillas/flatbread in some foil, and put them over the camp oven to warm, or under the grill, or on the gas flame (but beware of burning!).

Cut up veges and grate some cheese. We usually grate a carrot, chop some tomatoes and cucumber, and some salad leaves.

It’s self-service when you dish up.

Everyone gets a wrap to design the way they like.

Dollop on some sour cream and avocado, then mince, then cheese and salad. Our kids use some foil to wrap them in, so it is easier to eat. Yummo!

Light on the washing up too!

Pantry alert: Beware borders & restricted zones

When heading outback, or to other less populated areas of Australia, it is really important to stock up your camper pantry. I load mine with a combination of long-life goods and fresh foods that perish at different speeds so that we can keep eating sensibly for an extended period.

But you run risk of losing it all when you cross state borders and other restricted areas.

This is one that still catches me out. Not least of all because each region is different. Here are some particularly sensitive borders, but please check within each region for the latest guidance:

  • South Australia – no fresh fruit, and limited fresh veges can be brought in.
  • Western Australia – limited fresh fruit or veges, no honey can be brought in.
  • Tasmania – no fruit or vegetables, no honey can be brought in.
  • Victoria’s fruit bowl region (along Murray) – no fresh fruit can be brought in.
  • Queensland – other states may limit fruit entering from Qld because of fruit fly infestation.

And don’t let your drink go down the drink.

Another one that can catch you by surprise is alcohol restrictions. Many Aboriginal communities, and other remote towns and regions are alcohol restricted areas. It may be that you can bring in alcohol but be limited on how much you can purchase, or it may be that you are only allowed to carry a certain amount or type. Some, but not all, of these areas are marked in red on your Hema map, so you’ll need to enquire locally about the actual quantities and types of alcohol restricted.

What are your options?

Of course, you could try to wing it, and work around the rules. But think carefully before you do this. These restrictions are in place for valid reasons and it is up to us to respect them. Also, inspections are common, fines are often in place, and the cost and inconvenience of your items being confiscated is not worth the risk.

A much better option is to plan ahead so that you don’t pay the price:

  • Find out what foods/drinks are restricted and plan to use those items up beforehand.
  • Don’t buy restricted goods when you stock up.
  • Investigate your options, e.g. swapping bottled beer for cans, or spirits for pre-mixed drinks.
  • Consider /dried/frozen/jarred alternatives, e.g. frozen berries or tinned corn.
  • Cook or freeze fresh food to preserve it for longer and take across borders. Chopped onions and garlic cloves freeze really well.
  • Find out where the next place to stock up is, and ring ahead for supplies.

A good starting point is the Australian domestic quarantine website .

Find out more as you go.

Always ask at tourist information centres as you approach state borders, and check your map for Aboriginal communities and other marked zones to find out more about local restrictions. Check out local road signage as you approach too.

”School of the car”

Home schooling has reared its ugly head, and we’ve found out it’s a tricky little beast. We're all looking for any tips to make life easier with ‘on-the-road’ education, which is why I thought I’d share our recent discovery.

Often road-trips involve at least portion of every day or so in the car. Of course you can use this time to encourage school activities, but it can get tedious, especially since it is somewhat difficult to help.

That’s where small personal whiteboards come in handy.

We picked ours up at Daiso for a few dollars, and they have been a dream. The kids can use them for lots of different exercises, and then hand them to the front for ‘marking’. They provide a great way to do ‘working’ for more complex maths’ problems, and are especially good for spelling bees.

We have a container full of different coloured markers to make it fun.

When not being used for ‘official’ school work, the kids also have fun drawing and scribbling their own ideas or games, like hangman. They are low mess, and save on storing stacks of scrap paper in the car. They are also rigid enough so the kids don’t need something to lean on.

As a bonus, they can help with your admin tasks too!

Disguised as homework, we also end up giving the kids some extra admin tasks to keep them busy on the road. Their whiteboards are the key to them taking up the challenge.

For example, I’ll give the kids a series of numbers to add or subtract, and give them a reward if they get it correct. These numbers are actually the distance markers on the HEMA maps, to work our out how far we will travel, or to compare routes.

Add a calculator, and Kumar gets them to calculate fuel efficiency too!

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