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Happy new year! Making tracks around Oz (#4) - latest tips from the road
January 16, 2017

Issue 4 January 2017

Welcome to issue 4 of Making Tracks around Oz!

Happy new year! As our trip comes to a close, we’ve been battling for position on the roads and in camp spots with the rest of the holiday crowds…inspiring the articles in this issue:

  • Stay safe during emergency stops
  • Give the kids a ‘holiday within a holiday’
  • Recipe: Lou’s perfect pancakes
  • De-clutter your camp

And a question: should I continue this monthly newsletter once we’re back in life’s usual hum-drum?

Please take a moment to drop me an email to let me know your opinion. Let’s hope my creative thoughts keep flowing when I’m not on the road!

I look forward to hearing from you...and enjoy.

Stay safe during emergency stops

Suddenly Christmas hits and the roads are packed. On many Aussie roads, there is not much room to misjudge the centre line or cut corners, but many people still do. It makes for a stressful journey, especially when you’re towing.

The danger increases 100 fold if you need to make an emergency stop.

Coming down the scenic (but very winding) Strathgordon road, Mum and Dad were forced to stop when their caravan and tow ball came loose from their car unexpectedly. They were at a standstill in the middle of the narrow road, right on a blind corner. With their 21 foot, 2+ tonne caravan ground into the road behind them.

There was no way to move off the road until they re-hitched.

There was a big chance their stopped rig could cause an accident. Thankfully early on, some other travellers stopped to help. They were able to pass a message on to us, back at the campground, and help direct traffic safely.

With any kind of road incident, safety needs to be the #1 priority.

Mum and one of the travellers went in opposite directions to slow cars coming up to the corner. Meanwhile Dad and the others worked on jacking up the caravan and re-hitching. Luckily Dad had the spare parts to fix the problem. If not, we would have needed roadside assistance – tricky since we were a long way from anywhere with no mobile service.

They did all the right things, but what about next time?

Sometimes situations like this can’t be avoided, but there are ways you can be as prepared as possible for the unexpected. The experience has reinforced some of our good practices, and highlighted some other ways we could be better prepared:

  • Take a defensive driving course (and a 4WD course if you haven’t already).
  • Upgrade your roadside assistance to the maximum included tow distance (it is usually only a nominal extra cost).
  • Drive with your lights on so others can see you earlier and more easily, especially on winding roads.
  • Invest in a safety triangle if your car doesn’t have one, and a couple of high visibility vests.
  • If you breakdown in the outback, never leave your vehicle.
  • Make sure you always carry plenty of drinking water.

All’s well that ends well.

Mum and Dad got back on the road in record time with no further incident. But it could have been much worse, especially during peak holiday season. Take care on the roads and always be considerate to your fellow drivers. Why do a 4WD course?

Having a holiday within a holiday

What, another holiday? As I type, we have pulled up camp for a week on a stretch of relatively quiet Victorian coastline. In our four months away this will be our longest stop. Sometimes everyone, especially the kids, need a little holiday from travelling.

It’s like a big long sigh at the end of a half-marathon.

We usually get itchy feet after a few days, or sometimes the weather drives us on. But finding a nice stretch of sand, or waterhole, with basic amenities and not too many people can be the perfect place to reset and revive the whole family.

Long-term travelling can wear you out at times. If you have travelled for an extended period before, you’ll know exactly what I mean.

Resetting means different things to each family member.

For Kumar it means having time to potter around the camp and fix any little problems, or sneaking away for a daytime catnap.

For me, it means catching up on life’s admin and paying bills, chilling out with a book, and doing crafty stuff with the kids.

For the kids, it means simply hanging out, exploring the camp, making friends, making up new imaginative games.

However you do it, it is important reset now and again.

Build in a little time when planning your itinerary to stop a while in one place. It might not be a week, but I find anything longer than three nights starts to do the trick, especially if you don’t go anywhere by car for a few days. And enjoy it! Read more about planning your itinerary...

Recipe: Lou’s perfect pancakes

Everyone has a pancake recipe. But this one’s tiny twist on the basics turns out perfect pancakes every time. You’ll never make pancakes from a shake bottle again. A special thank-you to our travelling friend Louise from the Hunter Valley for sharing her secret.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup self-raising flour
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1/2 tsp bi-carb soda
  • 1 tbsp sugar
The secret is in the steps:
  1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl, except the flour.
  2. Sprinkle flour over the other ingredients, and stir lightly with a fork until combined. Don’t worry too much about the lumps.
  3. Heat a frypan or BBQ plate to medium heat if possible. Melt a teaspoon of butter before you pour the batter each time.
  4. Add spoonfuls of batter to frypan in batches. Turn after a couple of minutes, as bubbles or a skin forms on each.
  5. Serve with butter, jam, Nutella, honey, or bacon and maple syrup. Louise’s delicious recommendation is peanut butter, with banana sliced on top, and drizzled with golden or maple syrup.

I double this batch for our family for breakfast. It is easy to increase the quantity as required to make whatever size batch you need. You can toast any leftovers for afternoon tea, they still come up nicely!

De-clutter your camp

I find that 'stuff' builds up in your camp the longer you travel. While we do ditch stuff as we go along, we seem to accumulate at a greater rate. This is especially true after Christmas, with presents consuming even more precious space.

Eventually the clutter drives me mad and it’s my catalyst to do something.

The exercise is much the same as a spring clean at home, only on a much smaller scale. Because space is a premium, it is even more important to be ruthless. Even though I start the process, it is inevitable that the kids and Kumar will be dragged into it at some point.

Time to use up, clean up and chuck out.

I open every section of the camper for inspection (except the car boot, I leave that to Kumar, it’s his domain!). The first thing I notice is that I usually have double-ups of things, for example, I thought I had run out of toilet paper, but actually I still had a roll. Or, that I have three different half-empty tubes of sunscreen tucked away in useful (useless) places.

I make it a priority to use up any dregs, or combine them in one place.

Next, I take a good look at what we are NOT using. The things that are buried in storage areas that never get taken out, or are always relegated to the back of the cupboard.

Sometimes these things can be used for a new purpose, especially containers of any kind. If not, unless someone can come up with a great reason for keeping these items, they go to Vinnies (or in the bin). Be tough! Once these things are gone, their storage spot can be given to something else.

If it hasn’t been used for a month, it probably doesn’t deserve a spot in your camping life.

A wonderful spin off from all this de-cluttering is that I end up giving my storage spaces a good wipe out from all the collected road dust, or at least a decent tidy up. As a result, I can fit more in and put things in a better place than before. The whole exercise makes me feel organised and gives the camper a more ‘minimalist’ look for a few days (if such a term can be used for a camper!). Never declutter these essentials...

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