Mexican Mince with Avocado and Coriander was one of the easy and delicious meals I cooked during our road trip.Go straight to recipe here.
Hello dear readers, and it's great to be home after a 3 month road trip, although it still seems strange not to be "on the road again" each or every second day. It is also nice to be back in our own bed and my own kitchen.
I thought I would do a little review of some of the things we learnt along the way and some tips for next time, if you are interested in taking such a trip. We covered a lot of kilometres and visited a lot of towns and I'm also testing myself to see how many names I can recall, without resorting to looking at the map. I won't be mentioning everywhere we visited though in this small space:)
We left home at the end of January, with our Toyota Fortuna packed to the hilt, and a pod on the top carrying various camping gear items. We are now home, whereas many southerners are only just beginning their trip North to avoid the southern cold weather. Mother's Day to Father's Day seems to be the time frame for southern travellers to travel to North Queensland and over to the Northern Territory and Western Australia, and through the Red Centre.
Our main accommodation as our primary place of residence was our tent, a Black Wolf 240, 2.4 metres square. Plenty of room for us and light to carry and assemble. I can hear you all gasping from here, but Mr. HRK is passionate about camping and it is good fun. We began purchasing all of our equipment online from Snowys Outdoor camping shop in Adelaide a couple of years ago, and from whom we have received excellent service. We also visited them when we were in Adelaide on this trip and topped up on a few items and it was great to visit the store that we had only previously visited online. They were all very friendly and helpful.
Essential to us at our age is a good nights sleep and to own very comfortable bedding, and many options are also available from Snowys. However we never camped for more than a week at a time without then staying in a Holiday Park cabin for a couple of nights, or with relatives and good friends or very occasionally in a motel.
|The Bowra Hotel|
We had a great pub meal here at the Bowra Hotel in early February when we stayed at Congarinni North near Macksville in NSW, with my cousin Myles and his lovely wife Katie and their beautiful family. We wouldn't have thought to visit this area if Myles hadn't invited us to stay, and it is a beautiful part of the world, with lots of great beaches and surf.
Sometimes the weather forced alternative accommodation as well. A lot of tourists (primarily grey nomads) travel in caravans, mobile homes or camper trailers and mostly source free camps using wikicamps by the road along the way. No-one travelling in vans likes paying for accommodation. There are many free campsites along the road. However camping in a tent means that in some Holiday Parks we could camp on the best sites available overlooking the ocean and beautiful scenery, which caravans couldn't access.
|Camping at Penguin on the North West Coast of Tasmania overlooking the beautiful ocean.|
|Our simple campsite at Penguin|
The most we paid for a tent site on our travels was $30.00 a night and the least was $5.00, at the Mt. Pleasant Showgrounds in the Barossa in South Australia.
It helps to have a budget in mind, particularly when travelling for 3 months. We aimed at budgeting an average of $140 a day, and did pretty well with mixing up accommodation, cooking most of our own food and staying away from the cities whenever possible. Finding parking for a 4 wheel drive with a pod on top in the large cities, proved to be almost impossible and also expensive.
Fuel was the biggest expense for us on our trip. Our Toyota 4 wheel drive runs on diesel, which cost an average of $65 per day. It pays in the outback to keep the fuel tank as full as possible just in case the next service station has shut down or is just closed for the day, which does happen. We weren't towing a caravan or a camper trailer, although we did have a pod on top of the car, so our fuel consumption was very good compared to what some rigs on the highway must be paying for fuel. Hence the need probably for caravanners to find as many free camps as possible.
Our trip was a little longer than I thought it would be. We drove through the scenic Yarra Valley to Melbourne, caught the ferry to Devonport and then drove to Avoca to stay with friends, Lynne and Rob for a couple of nights with whom we sampled some very nice Tasmanian wines and foods in the area.
|On board the Spirit of Tasmania in Melbourne and setting sail for Tasmania, with the Queen Mary 2 in port as well.|
We camped in the Barossa for a couple of nights at the Showgrounds, under cover in the open shearing shed, as storms were brewing and the tent withstood 70 km winds. It was wild weather.
|Our tent under cover and firmly secured to withstand the wild storm|
Our friends, Joanne and Allan were camped there in their mobile home as well. If they hadn't been there we would have stayed in a motel that night because of the weather. The manager of the Park was so accommodating and couldn't do enough for us. I wasn't sorry to leave there though as the weather was cold, wet, windy and miserable. However we survived and our tent with awnings securely fastened remained in the ground. Lots of delicious curries and local red wines with friends on the first night warmed us up nicely.
We drove through the Red Centre via underground and opal studded Coober Pedy to Uluru and the Olgas. Truly majestic country. The real outback camping started from here. Our destination was Cairns and the drive from Hughenden and along the Kennedy Development Road was highlighted by a camp overnight at Porcupine Gorge. The Gorge is beautiful, although the 1.2 km steep uphill walk back to the top to the campsite nearly killed me. A few days in Cairns with our daughter and her partner in their home, and then another enjoyable camping trip with them to Davies Creek National Park near Mareeba, on the Atherton Tablelands inland from Cairns, and then home to Mackay.
|Davies Creek National Park falls|
Cooking and Meals
2 tablespoons Olive Oil
2 onions, finely chopped
500g beef mince
1 green capsicum, diced
4 rashes bacon, finely chopped
1 can of tomato soup
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 stick celery, finely diced
1 cup macaroni or elbow pasta
2 cloves crushed garlic
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
finely chopped coriander
1 chopped ripe avocado
Gently fry the onions in olive oil until transparent. Add the beef mince, white pepper and bacon and cook until mince is browned.
Meanwhile, boil the macaroni in a separate saucepan until cooked.
Add the celery, garlic, oregano, and capsicum to the beef sauce and cook on a low heat for 10 minutes.
Add the tomato soup and water and simmer until mixture thickens and vegetables are cooked.
Add the macaroni to the beef mixture and mix well.
Serve with chopped avocado and coriander as a garnish.
I have also served this with some corn chips on the side. It's a crowd pleaser.
Our car frig was packed with lots of frozen meals that I had cooked in advance when we began our journey. This really works for us and takes the pressure off needing to carry lots of supplies, and cooking a meal at the end of a day of travelling. In most holiday parks and campsites, except for the remote Outback ones, there are excellent and well equipped Camp Kitchens available with a stove or a microwave for reheating. Many campers and young travellers and backpackers don't even bother carrying much cooking equipment now and rely on the camp kitchens. I soon learnt though that there are a lot of Chinese tourists travelling through the southern states and particularly along the Great Ocean Road in Mobile campers and they know how to cook up a storm in the camp kitchens. I was quite fascinated to often walk into a camp kitchen and find a Chinese family chopping and dicing lots of cabbage and numerous vegetables on the benches, and always with a pot of rice bubbling on the stove. They had some excellent equipment as well such as a small food processor for mincing meat, compact saucepans and the ubiquitous soy sauce. Not many could speak very good English, however we often found a way to discuss what they were cooking. I loved that. Mostly they were gracious and stood aside so that others could use the stove etc. Discussing food overcomes a lot of obstacles, don't you think?
We topped up with fresh fruit and vegetables, milk etc along the way at Farmers Markets and roadside stalls. However fresh fruit and vegetables can't be taken over the border into most southern states and by the time we arrived in Melbourne most of our frozen meals were eaten anyway. It works well for us to stay in a cabin occasionally as I often then cook a large meal and freeze portions for later. Whilst we often shouted ourselves a good coffee in the morning when travelling, buying meals can be very expensive when travelling.
The fresh fruit and vegetables available in Tasmania was often obtainable from roadside stalls and markets, particularly apples.
|Pop's Garden, An economical roadside stall in Tasmania|
We didn't camp in Cygnet, we stayed up in the hills behind Cygnet on Jetty Road in a delightful one bedroom cabin called Kings Hill Accommodation. The owners Vicki and James made us feel at home and have decorated and fitted out the cabin beautifully. We enjoyed a wonderful couple of nights there, enjoying the pristine country air and the views.
We camped about an hour's drive from Uluru at King's Canyon campsite. This was much more economical than staying at the resorts adjacent to Uluru. It was very hot when we were there with lots of flies annoying everyone, although we didn't succumb to the face nets like most people were wearing. Uluru was everything we expected and more.
Needless to say we didn't take the King's Canyon Rim Walk, although 20 years ago I might have given it a go. The Kings Creek Walk doesn't lead into the canyon anymore which is disappointing because of damage from rain and landslides a couple of years ago.
The Olgas were magnificent and the walking tracks there and into the gorge were relatively easy to access. The domes of the Olgas to us were as impressive as Ayers Rock, possibly because of their accessibility.
There is so much more I could write about this trip however that is probably enough for now. As I work through our hundreds of photos I am sure to be inspired to share some more of our experiences with you. We were very thankful that everything went well without any dramas and that we stayed healthy. Although I did need to hunt down a dentist at Ulverstone when we were camped at Penguin, which thankfully was just down the road. I was a bit nervous about it at the time but he was excellent, and a really nice young man.
Thanks for reading and safe and enjoyable travels if you are taking to the roads.