Friday, 28 March 2014

We finally made it to our official starting point!! Port Augusta SA

So we finally made it to our official starting point Port Augusta this morning. Yesterday we made our way from Bordertown through some of the Barossa Valley, through the Clare Valley, up to Port Perie where we picked up some awesome seafood & then into Mt Remarkable last night. What a shock to the system. Parks SA want $10 vehicle access & $18 camping fees per night. Crazy for a national park. It did have showers & toilets, but still! So we set up a quick camp & had a cheese & nibbles dinner with a lovely bottle of wine (Mat even let us stop at a winery!) to celebrate our first official night. 

We then made a hasty exit the next morning & reached Port Augusta our official starting point.  After a couple of mandatory photos, filling up with fuel (we got diesel for $1.519 we couldn't believe it, so cheap!!) we then made our way to Streaky Bay. Luckily we rang & booked a campsite as we got the last one, we discovered the races are on tomorrow. So now the big decision is if we go to the races or not!! We will decide tonight over some fresh tuna steaks & another bottle of wine, life is tough!!  The plan is 3 nights in Streaky Bay, then onto Cactus beach, then Fowlers Bay. Apparently the squid, whiting & crabs are biting at the moment (that is evident from fisherman at all 4 fish cleaning stations here at the caravan park, cleaning buckets loads of fish!), so Mat is itching to get fishing. 

Port Augusta

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Murray River Chilli Beef

For this recipe I had a bag of diced beef that needed using. I decide to go down the Mexican track & do a chilli beef. As with most of my recipes I put in whatever needs using up & flavours I know will go together. So you can supplement in any ingredients that you have, I have given some serving suggestions below as well. The tomato relish in the recipe worked really well it is not something I would normally add, usually I put some sugar in most of my tomato based recipes, but we were given a lovely jar of relish by Mat's Nan, so thought I would give that a try. If you don't have any you can put in a teaspoon of sugar instead. 

We cooked this beef in our Hillbilly camp oven on a butane stove due to it being too windy to light a fire in the Drifta fire pit. The stainless steel wind guard was fabricated by Mat's cousin Adam & worked a treat, thanks Adam :)

800g diced beef
1 onion diced
4 cloves of garlic chopped
1 carrot diced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chilli powder
1 teaspoon all purpose seasoning
1 teaspoon dried mixed herbs
1 beef stock cube
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tin of Mexican chilli beans (I found this at Coles it is a mix of red kidney beans, tomatoes, spices)
2 tablespoons tomato relish
1 tin of water (the tin from the beans)

- Fry off the onions, garlic, carrot until starting to soften. 
- Add the diced beef & fry until browned. 
- Add the spices, herbs & tomato paste. Fry off until toasted & it coats the beef & veggies. 
- Add the bean mix, tomato relish & water. 
- Stir until combined. 
- Let this come to the boil. 
- Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer & cook for 1.5 to 2 hours. The longer the better. Stirring every 20 mins or so. Add more water if getting to thick. 

We served ours with warmed tortilla wraps & grated cheese. 

You could serve this with rice, mashed potato, crusty bread, corn chips or pasta the list is endless. It would also be nice with some sour cream & guacamole.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Murray Sunset National Park camping at Pink Lakes

After camping on the Murray River near Mildura we made the short drive down through Ouyen (stopping at their awesome bakery) & then out to the Murray Sunset National Park to Pink Lakes turning off at Linga. We arrived about midday to the camping ground at Lake Crosbie & had the place to ourselves. We drove around & found the best campsite & set up the trailer right on the edge of Lake Crosbie, a very large salt lake. 

Another free campsite, wow we still can't believe it, this one had a toilet & about 12 campsites to choose from & even a tap with untreated rainwater. It's hard to describe this campsite, so I will let the photos do the talking, it is stunningly beautiful and yes the lakes are pink!! 

Because we arrived so early we decide to go for a drive that afternoon. We went up towards Mount Crosbie (there is also another campground there, it's okay but not as nice as the one on the lake). The area is dominated by small scrub & sandy hills, we ended up just doing a 30km loop road as it was all a bit same same after a while. We then went back out of the park to collect some fire weird for the night & by the time we got back to our campsite we had one neighbour for the night. 

We cooked up a piece of roast beef for dinner & watched the sunset over the lake. The silence at the lake was quite eerie. There wasn't even any insect noise. It felt like there was a ringing in your ears it was so so quiet. We sat around the campfire watching the stars until it finally got to cold & we went to bed. 

The next morning it was still pretty cold, there was some cloud cover & a nippy breeze. We decide to go for a walk along the lake to warm up. We walked for about 2 hours checking out the scenery, the birds & weird plants & moss that grow around the salt lake. 

When we got back we did a short drive around the lakes that explains the history of the place. It is very interesting. For many years they harvested the salt from the lakes & exported it all over Australia. Initially it started with shovels & wheelbarrows, then moving onto horses, camels, an ill-fated tram line & then trucks. It must of been a hard life in those first years as they moved all the salt in the summer months. The heat, glare & thirst must of been unbearable. There is lots of old machinery, log ramps & salt stockpiles around the lakes.  Definitely worth a look. And while we are on the information session!! The reason the salt in the lakes is pink is because only one type of red algae can live in that harsh of conditions & they are pink in colour due to beta carotene. The salt water in the lakes is 800 times saltier than sea water, WOW.

It was an awesome place to visit.  I also got to get some more photos of some Mallee ringnecks as well. We decided 2 nights was enough though, so it was then time to head to Bordertown to visit my Grandma for one more stop before we set off to Port Augusta.  

Murray River camping on Psyches Bend near Mildura

There are various free camps along the Murray River on both the NSW & VIC sides. While on the NSW side we decided to have a quick look at one of theirs, as we drove off the highway into the camping area the first sign we came to had that many rules on it about what you weren't allowed to do, that we drove straight back out & continued on to Mildura. Mildura is a lovely town, it has all of the shops you could possibly need, beautiful houses & grape vines everywhere. 

The first free campsite we checked out was the Karodoc sandbar area, while the sites were okay, we decide it wasn't really for us.  We headed back towards Mildura to check out a couple of others, Kings Billabong & Psyches Bend. In the end we chose Psyches Bend. It had nice large designated camp sites, with a picnic table & fire ring in most of them.  It was popular with caravans, but was nicely spread out, we had a choice of about 6 campsites all right on the edge of the Murray River.  And they were free & with no rules other than the normal common courtesy things!! We couldn't believe it, if this was QLD or NSW you would have to pay for sure. 

So we set the trailer up & got ready for the night. As we cracked our first beer a houseboat motored up the river in front of our campsite, it really was a lovely place to sit & relax. Mat put in the yabby pots & went for a fish & I chased around some more birds with my camera (see the Mallee Ringneck photos below).

The next morning was the buy a new car fridge morning!! But after that we treated ourselves to a pub lunch to drown our sorrows about needing a new fridge!!  We went for a bit of a drive around Mildura on our way back to camp & then enjoyed the sunset over a few beers & cooked up our Bush Rissoles. 

The next day we drove further along the Murray River up from our campsite & discovered even more campsites, a boat ramp, more houseboats & some flash restaurants on the other side of the river that the houseboats moored at to go in and have their posh lunch!!  

When we got back to camp the wind had really picked up & it was starting to get quite chilly!! We had been really lucky with the weather so far, that we were feeling it! We had decided earlier in the day that tonight would be our last night on the Murray & we were going to head further south to the Murray Sunset National Park to Pink Lakes (check these out in our next post). So we set about packing up what we could that afternoon, it was too windy to light the fire so we packed all of that gear up as well. We made some Beef Chilli for dinner (check out that post too) & ended up in bed a bit early because it was so cold in the wind.  The next morning we said goodbye to the Murray & set off to Pink Lakes. 

Overall our Murray River camp at Psyches bend was great & definitely worth doing. The worst part is getting used to daylight savings!! It is a bit foreign to us Queenslanders!!! It feels really strange it not getting daylight until 7.30am in the morning and not getting dark until 9pm at night, it does make cooking dinner on the fire a bit easier, but still feels weird!!

Friday, 21 March 2014

Bush Rissoles

While camped on the Murray River near Mildura,we made some bush rissoles.  We cooked them over a campfire, using our new Drifta fire pit.  These are like any rissoles, you can put anything you like in them, and they will turn out great. These had a very yummy camp fire smokiness about them.  On this night we just served them with fresh steamed green beans and corn.  They also go great with mashed potato, gravy, any other vegies, or even on some bread as a sandwich.

Bush Rissoles

- 600g of beef mince
- 1/2 an onion finely diced
- 1 cup of breadcrumbs
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon of all purpose seasoning
- 2 tablespoons of BBQ sauce
- Salt & Pepper to season

- Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix really well.  I use my hands to really get it all mixed together, you want to mix it until it starts to get sticky, this helps them stay together when you cook them.
- Form into patties, you can do big or small, I did 4 large ones.
- If you have time you can place them on a covered plate back in the fridge for 30 mins or so, this will also help them stay together when cooking.
- When you are ready to cook them, place them in a preheated pan. Cook for 12-20 mins depending on how large you make the patties.  These took about 20 mins. We coooked ours over a bed of coals with just a little bit of direct flame at the start to get them going.
- Serve with your veggies and your favourite sauce.

Murrumbidgee River, Hay NSW. Our first camp spot

As mentioned in our earlier post, we decided to break up the drive to the Murray River as it was too far to go in one day, now we were in the laid-back holiday mode! After looking at the maps, Mat suggested somewhere near Hay in NSW.  I had been through Hay many times as a kid as that was the way we would make the long trip down from Wandoan to Bordertown to see my Grandma every second year for Christmas. All I could remember were those big long flat tree less plains, with nothing out there. We used to see how many Emu's we could count on our trips to make the time go a bit faster and I am sure during the drive through the Hay plains were the times we used to fight the most between us kids in the backseat, driving my parents to despair!!!

So it was with some caution that I agreed to do a bit of research into the camping areas out there. And so I discovered the Murrumbidgee River, how could I have forgotten about that??  So we checked out the Camps Australia Wide book and the Campee app and found a place called the Illilawa Reserve just off the Mid Western Highway about 10km from Hay. It was a free campsite right on the Murrumbidgee.

It turned out to be a great campsite despite our fridge dramas mentioned in our last post!! We got there about 1pm and decided to have a bite of lunch before setting up.This turned out to be a great idea because it gave us chance to have a look around and find the best spot. We were the only campers there, so the only things we had to consider was keeping our trailer out from under any potential falling tree branches from the River Red Gums, and finding a flat piece of ground to park the trailer.

We found a great spot and setup right on the banks of the Murrumbidgee, what followed was a great couple of days (despite the fridge).  It was a very quiet spot, just what we needed. We spent our time, swimming (it was freezing!!!), fishing, bird watching (see the Rosella and Red Rumped Parrot photos below,I was in heaven!!), taking photos, relaxing and having a look around. Firewood and water were abundant, so it was a really easy first camp.  We stayed for 2 nights and then headed to the Murray River near Mildura, more on that in our next post.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Really.... on the first day??

After all the planning, organising & saving it was with some trepidation & anxiety that we set off from Lithgow at 5.30am on Monday the 17th of March. We had visited all the family in QLD & NSW and it was time to finally start camping. We planned to spend some time on the Murray river near Mildura. As it was about 870km away we decided to break the trip up & spend 2 nights camped on the Murrumbidgee river near Hay and the continue on to the Murray. 

We set off early and it wasn't long before we were travelling along those big flat tree less plains on the way to Hay. We had found a free campsite near Hay in the Camps Australia Wide book that looked good. We found it relatively easily, so stopped and had a look to see if it was suitable. We found a flat campsite right on the edge of the Murrumbidgee that was perfect. 

So we set about putting the trailer up for our first night. It all went to plan & we had the camper up, everything out & a fire pit dug by about 3pm. We decided it was time for a beer & fish down at the river. Life couldn't get much better. 

That's when it all turned to shit!! Mat went to get the beers out of the fridge & saw the thermostat was reading 9 degrees. WHAT!! That couldn't be right. What followed was a series of checks to see what the problem was. Cords, plugs,12v sockets, 240v, fuses were all checked but nothing, the fridge would not work.

Luckily we have two 40L engel fridges in our set up. We plan to run one as a freezer & one as a fridge, but this time as we are only travelling for a week or so before visiting family again we only had one turned on. So we turned the other one on & transferred all the food across to it. 

We pulled the fridge out of the car & pulled it to pieces. Checked every connection & but still nothing. When Mat asked for me to pass him the hammer I thought oh god here we go!! A firm tap on the motor & the fridge started working! Really? We couldn't believe it. We left it running for 15 minutes & the temperature was dropping, it seemed to be working. So we put it all back together, turned it back on & nothing!! It wouldn't work again!! Far out. 

So then came the conversation over a few beers about whet we were going to do. A new fridge, repairs, how long would it all take, where would we get a repair or new fridge??

In the end we decided we need the fridge to be reliable. Also we didn't have the time to wait for a repair. So we decided to bite the bullet & buy a new fridge in Mildura & donate the old one to the recyclers at Mildura. 

The great thing about Mildura was that it had lots of competition for fridges. In the end we got a great deal from the guys at AusTrek Outdoor Adventure Centre in Mildura. 

So this afternoon we need to get the fridge all set up in its bag with the tie down handles on ready to go. We still can't believe the fridge died on our first day of camping, but what can you do?? So we now have two brand new fridges, so here's hoping that is the last drama we have....

On a happier note here is a sneak peak of our view from our campsite on the Murray. We will write up that post soon. 

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Ruby and the Camper get new Tyres

Tyres were one of the bigger decisions when we were setting up both Ruby and the Camper. Early on we decided that we would run out the factory fitted Dunlop Grandtreks on Ruby (while I complained about them every time we drove Ruby in the Bush) and the camper had 2 pretty good Bridgestone A/T's on it and a very average spare that would have to do in pinch.

The original tyres on Ruby the photo above just before we replaced them at 40000km & the below photo the original unused spare. 

The original tyres on the camper trailer. 

This gave us some time to do some research on price and performance and also to make the biggest decision of all; whether or not to step up a size.  In the end that proved to be a relatively easy decision because we could not legally fit 285/75/16 tyres on Ruby's genuine Toyota 16" rims, and with no desire to buy another set of alloys we were forced to stay with 265/75/16 tyres.  This has the benefit of meaning the tyres were slightly cheaper, lighter and should make slight overall difference in fuel economy, however we have traded off some diff clearance and off-road ability with the smaller tyres.

Next choice was what tread pattern. We have owned both Mud terrain and All terrain tyres in the past and have had good and bad experiences with both.  This time it was decided that we would try and find a compromise solution, with one of the more aggressive A/T tyres that have recently come onto the market.

Having worked in open cut mining and having owned a few four wheel drives for a number of years, I already had firm opinions on what brands of tyres I would and wouldn't consider.  Overall I prefer American made brands, and have owned Goodyear, Cooper and BF Goodrich tyres in the past, and also driven on a number of others in a variety of circumstances.

When Cooper first released their ST Maxx tyres as a replacement for the Cooper ST there was a lot of interest to see if they could improve previous issues with chipping, and a few other common issues that many owners experienced.  When these tyres were first released a medium sized mining contractor at the mine I was working at put them onto all of their supervisors utes.  These utes were being driven 2-300km a day both on bitumen and on mine dirt roads and tracks, a perfect comparison for the type of driving we are planning on doing.  After 12 months and 50,000km the tyres were still going, which in a mining environment is a noteworthy outcome.  It is not uncommon for mine vehicles to get new tyres every 20,000km due to the harsh operating conditions and less than sympathetic operators.

So having made our decision we started to shop around for the best deal.  We were looking within  300km radius of Rockhampton, and given that we run 2 spares on Ruby and one for the camper as well we were looking for 9 tyres overall.  The tyre dealers we approached were either not interested in doing a deal at all (apparently Cooper set a pretty small price band for re-sale) or told us that they couldn't do us much of a deal.  We eventually approached a new dealer in Emerald at a small trade show and were happy to hear that they would do us a good deal for 9 tyres and 3 new steel wheels for the camper.  The overall cost per tyre was nearly $60 cheaper each tyre, than the most expensive quote and their steel wheels were also cheaper, Bargin!

The new Cooper tyres on Ruby. 
Having driven almost 5000km on the ST Maxx's now were happy to report that so far we are happy, they were a little unpredictable at first on bitumen at high speed, however with some pressure adjustments and after adding some more weight to Ruby this has improved considerably.  So far we are very impressed with these tyres on the dirt, they have heaps of grip, and overall would be the best tyres we have ever used on the dirt.  Only time will tell if they will deliver good mileage and continue to perform as they wear.  I will give an update on the Coopers sometime later in the journey.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Pantry items for the food box

As you can probably tell I love to cook. When we normally go camping we do a meal plan based on how many days we are travelling for & where our resupply points will be along the track. This time as we are travelling for a year I wanted to have a really good pantry staples box. This would allow me to have a lot of the initial cost up front before we left, have lots of variety & also reduce the amount of items we would need to buy in small towns with limited shopping & high prices. 

Below is my list of what I thought I would need. I ended up with all of this, plus some. Lucky we have a big food box!!!  But it is super heavy & I really need to cut it back!!  So we are planning to camp along the Murray River on the way down so I will reassess in those 4-5 nights & try to use up some of the bulkier items!!

Pantry items
Peanut butter
Plum jam
Tomato sauce
BBQ sauce
Worcestershire sauce
Sweet chilli sauce
Soy sauce
Tobasco sauce
Raw sugar
Brown sugar
Bread flour
Plain flour
Baking powder
Bi carb
Corn flour
Icing sugar
Pasta - spaghetti & spirals
Dried potato
Dried veggies 
Packet soup for cooking
Packet soups for lunches
Tin soup/stew
Tin veggies 
Baked beans
Tin spaghetti
Sundried tomato
Tin pineapple
Kidney beans
Oil - spray & liquid
Salad dressing
Stock cubes
Curry powder
Tomato paste
Tin tomatoes
Tin mushrooms
UHT milk
Powdered milk
Dried fruit
Muesli bars
Vita wheats 
Asian sauce mixes
Lemon squeeze
Cling wrap
Baking paper
Snap locks
Freezer bags
Garbage bags
Toilet paper
Foil trays
Custard powder

I didn't end up with a photo of the box fully packed as I just shut the lid when I did get it to finally close!!  Below are a couple of photos of some vacuum packing & labelling that I did. I also used Lock & Lock containers for most of my cooking ingredients. 

A tip is also to remove as much packaging as you can. A lot of things come with 2-3 layers of packaging. Getting rid of it before you put it in the food box saves space & weight but also means less rubbish to carry around & dispose of out in the bush. 

Posted by Jess on the blogger app

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Camp Oven Bacon & Egg Pie

This recipe is a great breakfast dish, but would also make a great lunch or dinner as well.  You can also eat the leftovers cold, which are very yummy.  We cooked this pie when we were camping at Goodedulla National Park and had plenty of time to play around to cook it.  I cheated a little bit and had actually made my pastry at home and had it ready to go wrapped in some cling wrap and in a snap lock bag in the car fridge.  The pastry is very simple though, so it is easy enough to whip up whilst camping.

While I rolled out the dough and got the ingredients ready, Mat built a fire and got some hot coals ready for the camp oven.


- 125g of cold butter chopped into little pieces
- 2 cups of plain flour
- 1 egg lightly beaten
- 1/4 cup of finely grated Parmesan cheese
- 1-2 tablespoons of water

- 200g of bacon cut into strips
- 1/2 cup of grated tasty cheese
- 4 eggs

Camp oven
Cake tin

- Place flour and butter in a bowl and rub the flour into the butter with your fingertips until you get a mixture that resembles breadcrumbs, mix through the Parmesan.
- Add the egg and about half the water and mix the dough until it just comes together, adding the rest of the water if needed.  I usually use a butter knife to bring the dough together.
- Knead very lightly just until the dough is smooth, combined and forms into a ball.
- Pat out into a circle shape and wrap in cling wrap and place in the fridge for about 20-30 mins to rest (the dough can be made up to a couple of days before you need to use it, or you can double the recipe and keep half for another pie).
- Remove the dough from the fridge and roll out to the size of your cake/tart tin or you could also do it free form on a tray.  Place the rolled out dough in your tin on some glad bake to stop it sticking.
- Scatter in the bacon and the grated cheese.
- Place on a trivet in a warm camp oven, and put the lid on.  Place the oven over some hot coals (just on the bottom of the oven).
- Bake for 20-30 minutes depending on how hot your coals are, we want the pastry to be almost cooked through at this stage.
- Remove the camp oven lid and crack 4 eggs onto the top of the pie.
- Replace the camp oven lid, and put a shovel full of coals on top of the camp oven to cook the eggs.
- This takes about 5 to 10 minutes, depending on how runny you like your eggs (we like ours runny). 
- If you don't want runny eggs, you could crack the eggs in at the start of the cooking time.
- Remove from the camp oven, and cut the pie into wedges and serve.
- This pie is yummy by itself, or you can serve with some tomato sauce or tomato relish.

Camp Oven Egg & Bacon Pie

This recipe is very versatile as well, which is always great for camping.  You could use any type of meat, ham is also nice.  Some grilled onions would also go really nicely with the bacon, or may be some sliced ripe tomatoes.  You can also beat your eggs up with a little milk and pour into the pastry, like a quiche and you could add in any extra veggies you like.

Posted by Jess