Camp cooking by the Murray @ Loveday 4x4 Adventure Park

Travel Tucker : 9 Great Camping Staples

While it’s alright to have a packet of chips and a few biscuits here and there, if you’re going on a road trip or a camping holiday, you can’t rely on junk food to keep you going. Here is a list of food staples that are cheap, healthy and easy to prepare.

 

Tinned tuna and chicken

Get your daily dose of protein from a can!  Tinned fish and meat has a long shelf life and taste great on crackers, in sandwiches and salads, and even in soups and stews.  If you’re game, try SPAM – it’s really not that bad.  We have experimented with a few recipes – Turkey Burgers, Bacon Carbonarra

 

SPAM Bacon Carbonara

 

Eggs

Eggs are little portioned nuggets of nutrients that are cheap, delicious, versatile and easy to prepare. Scramble eggs for breakfast, fry them on a BBQ for sandwiches and burgers or hard boil for snacks.

 

Breakfast in Port Campbell - featuring Dave's egg boat.

 

Peanut Butter

A great energy and nutrient dense food that is rich in monounsaturated fat, which is good for your heart, and the B vitamins help your body release energy.  It can be added to curries, spread on your flatbread with some cheese or banana, or spooned straight from the jar into the mouth for a quick and easy snack.

 

Cookie Dough - peanut butter

 

Oats

One of the most popular breakfast options for a reason – oats taste great, are easy to prepare and support a healthy heart.  Simply cook them in a billy with water or milk, or prepare Overnight Oats.

 

Yes, oats contain gluten, which may not be great for people with celiac disease, but they can be replaced by other grains like rice, quinoa or buckwheat.

 

Rice

A great source of gluten-free energy, rice is easy to prepare, goes with most things and can be stored for up to 3 days.  While white rice is quicker to cook, brown rice is the healthier option because it hasn’t been stripped of its vitamins and minerals.

 

Once the rice is cooked, you can mix it with anything you want: tuna and soy sauce, diced vegetables and chicken pieces, yoghurt and fruit, or olives, parsley and a lemon vinaigrette dressing. Or you can make some yummy rice pudding

 

Rice Fruit Slice

 

Carrots

Packed with antioxidants and fibre, carrots are a great choice for any camper.  They last for a while in the car fridge and can be added to soups and stews, grated in sandwiches and salads, or eaten on their own as a quick snack.  Increase their crispness by putting a paper towel in the bag to absorb moisture.

 

Flatbread

Instead of lugging around a loaf of spongy bread that takes up heaps of space and is easily squished, get flatbread.  It takes up minimal space and comes in a zip-lock pouch for freshness.  For the carb-conscious, try nori sheets or cabbage leaves.

 

Cloncurry

 

Apples & Oranges

Fruit is a great option for a mid morning or afternoon snack.  Citrus fruits like oranges and grapefruit come in a wrapper (peel) and contain vitamin C, while apples and pears will contribute to your fibre intake.  Plus, fruit tastes awesome and can be added to desserts and salads to spice things up.

 

Herbs & Spices

Add flavour to your meals with herbs and spices.  Dried herbs like thyme and rosemary are just as good as the fresh stuff and can be sprinkled on chicken or lamb chops.  Cinnamon is great with oats while cumin and paprika will add character to any meat dish, like Meat Biscuits!  If you’re not confident with mixing spices, then get pre-made blends like bush spices, Italian herbs or Moroccan seasoning.

 

Meat biscuits in a laco with sweet potato

 

So that’s our list of camping staples.  We always try to mix things up when it comes to food – sometimes we’ll get bananas instead of apples, but we find they get bruised really easily in the back of the troopy. Other times, we’ll swap rice for beans or lentils, but Dave’s not a huge fan of legumes.  What are your camping staples? Do you have any favourites to add to the list?

 

 

Cape York

Experience : Cape York – Part 1

Cape York

 

Cape York was not what we expected.  We thought it would be lush and tropical with thick rainforest everywhere, but it wasn’t like that at all.  The roads were dry and dusty, and there was a lot of mining activity around Weipa because of the bauxite mine.  Also, an unusual blanket of cloud was cast over the sky for a number of days, which was both welcomed because of the coolness of the days but cursed because sometimes you just want sunshine.

 

The landscape of the Cape is very diverse and includes areas of bush scrub and heath lands, pockets of rainforest and coastal scrub with coconut trees and mangroves.  All the rivers rise from the Great Dividing Range, which extends all the way to the Tip.  The road conditions are also variable, with corrugated dirt roads broken up by sections of sealed road, as well as sandy or eroded 4WD tracks.

 

The main attractions of Cape York are the Tip and the Overland Telegraph Track.  Many 4WD enthusiasts flock to the Cape for some serious off-road action, while a picture at the northernmost point of Australia is worth framing.  There is also plenty of fishing to be done, as well as camping and bird watching.

 

Before you head to the Cape, check out information on camping permits, alcohol restrictions and quarantine zones.

 

DAY 1

We woke up at Rifle Creek Rest Area just south of Mount Molloy and got going fairly early.  The plan was to get all the way to Coen before dinner and we had about 450km to travel.

 

As we passed through Mount Carbine, we saw the open mine to the right, and stopped at Bob’s Lookout as we travelled along the windy road past Mount Desailly and Mount Elephant.  We had a quick lunch at Musgrave Roadhouse before finishing the last stretch to Coen.

 

Cape York

 

Coen

A very small town with all the basics – the SExchange Hotel, a post office combined with a grocery store, a takeaway joint and a mechanic, as well as a health centre and other government buildings.  It was established as a fort on the river in 1873 due to a gold rush in the area.  We went straight to the SExchange for a beer and were a little surprised that we were the only ‘white fellas’ in the place, other than the tiny Asian bar wench.  It’s to be expected, considering that 80% of Coen’s population are indigenous.

 

That night, we camped at the Bend a few clicks out of town.  It’s a beautiful spot right on the Coen River, with clear water for bathing and plenty of birdlife to gawk at in the morning.

 

 

Day 2

Today was Dave’s Birthday and his present was a tilt level orb for the Troopy – it couldn’t have come at a more perfect time with all the 4WDing that was ahead of us.

 

We continued on the Peninsula Developmental Road for another 25km and arrived at the quarantine check point, where we learnt that we can bring fruit into the Cape but can’t take any fruit that we’ve picked off trees out of the Cape.  Many pest insects have blown over from PNG and infected fruit trees such as mangos, bananas and any other tropical fruits.

 

Weipa

The road to Weipa was shithouse – full of corrugation, bouncy bumps and bull dust with only a few sections that are paved.

 

 

Weipa is an odd town, with a landscape ruined by the local mining industry.  It’s not organised like other towns – there is no main street with all the shops that you need, everything is spread out, which is a little inconvenient.  There’s a Woolies supermarket for stocking up on groceries, Telstra reception (but no Optus), cheap fuel ($1.63 for diesel), and camping permits can be booked at the caravan park.

 

Our first stop was the Albatross Hotel for a drink, and we were inundated with friendly locals who, after about 20 minutes, revealed their motivations for chatting to us – they wanted a lift to Mapoon, about 90km to the north.  We then moved to the Weipa Bowls Club for Dave’s birthday lunch.

 

Weipa

 

Once we had done everything we needed to do, we did some sight-seeing near Evan’s Landing and continued our journey to the Tip.  On the way, we crossed the Wenlock River and noticed a sign in the tree…

 

Cape York

 

Moreton Telegraph Station

With no free camps in the area, we pulled in at Moreton Station.  It cost $10 each to camp and we had the luxury of a hot shower and flushing toilets but the annoyance of generators running until about 10pm.  Camping permits can also be booked at reception.

 

Day 3

In the morning, we were woken up by the hideous squawk of birds that sounded like the freakish score from Psycho.  We packed up, showered again and hit the road.

 

Bramwell Junction Roadhouse

This is a great place to stop before embarking on the Old Telegraph Track.  Get information about the condition of the track, top up your fuel tank or tuck into some food.  There are also toilets and a tap with drinkable water, if required.

 

Cape York

 

Old Telegraph Track

The OTT is remnants of the original telegraph track from the 1880s that connected Cairns with Thursday Island.  The last Morse code message was sent in 1962 and then systems upgraded to microwave repeater towers.  The Cape York Developmental Road replaced the track in the 1970s but it’s still used today by 4WD enthusiasts.

 

We loved the Old Telegraph Track – check out our post here.

 

Cape York

 

Jardine Ferry

The price for the ferry might be extortion, but it’s the only way to get to the Tip by road.  Not too many years ago, you could follow the OTT all the way to up to the Jardine River east of where the ferry runs.  The crossing point has now been conveniently dredged and is unpassable, thereby forcing everyone to use the ferry.   The $129 fare is supposed to maintain the ferry and other stuff, but we didn’t see how that could be true considering the state of the place.  The ferry is owned by the Northern Peninsula Area council, who hiked up the price in 2013 because they were financially screwed.  Until they build a bridge, tourists heading to the top are going to have to pay the piper.

 

Croc Tent

We cruised through the aboriginal communities and headed straight for the Tip, but we did stop at the Croc Tent, and we recommend that you do too.  It was by far the most informative place we stopped at since we left Mareeba.  The guy gave us a free map of the Tip, and made a few recommendations on where to camp.

 

Cape York

 

The Tip

We made it to the Tip car park just before sunset and because the tide was down, we walked along the beach to the rocky headland to find the infamous sign.  The Tip of Australia is located 10° south of the equator and is only 180km from PNG.  After Dave made a phone call to a mate, we headed back to the Troopy for some dinner.

 

Cape York

 

In the meantime, a guy we met on the OTT, Tony, rocked up with his friend Tim.  After a quick chat in the dimming light, we went to check out a nearby abandoned resort for a potential place to camp.  We found an overgrown driveway, slowly inched the Troopy in but found the whole place way too creepy, so we slowly inched the Troopy back down the driveway and CLUNK!  We couldn’t figure out what we had hit so we turned the Troopy around and went back to the beach.

 

Tony and Tim were just about to set up on the beach when we returned.  We let them know that the resort was not an option, and the beach was too risky because of the tides, so we ended up setting up camp in the car park.  This is when the CLUNK revealed its point of impact – the Troopy’s bumper, which bent upwards to jam the back door – where we sleep, where our food is, where Dave’s tools are to fix the bumper.  We spent the rest of the evening laughing at how funny it all was, while Tony and Tim helped out with tools and beer.

 

Cape York

 

Day 4

We had a slow start in the morning because the bumper and rear lights needed to be put back on, and we didn’t leave the car park until about 10am.  We explored the abandoned resort and it was much less scary than it was the night before.  We then went to check out a camping spot near Somerset that was recommended by the guy at the croc tent.

 

Somerset

Despite being a dull, cloudy day, the beach at Somerset was beautiful but there was still a lot of junk everywhere.  There was even some sort of junk shrine, decorated with thongs, bottles, buoys and hats.  The hellish toilets show no sign of benefitting from the Jardine Ferry fare and the campground was scattered with collapsed humpies.

 

Cape York

 

5 Beaches Track

Following the coast in a south easterly direction from Somerset, the 5 Beaches 4WD track crosses rocky headlands and sandy beaches, and is a relatively easy track with some great views.  There is plenty of colourful washed-up rubbish and coral on the beaches if you’re into fossicking for crap that may have potentially floated over from PNG.  We spotted bush tucker on the side of the track too, and would have tried to get some if the bushes weren’t infested with green ants.

 

 

Once we got to the 4th beach, we found a track leading to a clearing of oak trees that was reasonably sheltered from the wind.  We set up camp and tried a new SPAM recipe – Spam Bacon Carbonara – which ended up being quite good.  Check out the recipe here.

 

 

SPAM Bacon Carbonara

Recipe : SPAM Bacon Carbonara

SPAM Bacon Carbonara

 

Just in case you’re thinking that we store SPAM as a regular staple in our pantry, we don’t, but after the few recipes that we’ve tried, we might have to include it.  Tinned tuna and sardines can get tiresome after a while so when fresh meat isn’t available, SPAM does the trick.  Here is another delicious recipe that we tried out while camping at Somerset on Cape York – super easy and super yummy, we had to add it to our SPAM series.

 

Ingredients

  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 1 tin of SPAM with bacon
  • 1-2 tsp minced garlic (depending on how much you love garlic)
  • 1 head of broccoli
  • 1-2 tsp butter
  • 1 packet of quick Carbonara pasta (we used San Remo)
  • Spring onion, pepper and chilli flakes to taste

 

 

Method

  • Dice the SPAM and finely chop the broccoli.
  • Heat olive oil in a pot and cook spam, broccoli and garlic together for about 5 minutes or until the SPAM is browning.
  • Add the required water for the Carbonara recipe and bring to the boil.
  • Add the butter and contents of the Carbonara packet. Stir and cook for the required length of time as specified on Carbonara packet.
  • Add chopped spring onion, pepper and chilli flakes to taste, dish out and eat. Serves 3.

 

This meal was delicious, even as leftovers the next day.  Really tasty.

 

SPAM Bacon Carbonara

 

Lorella Springs

Experience Paradise : Lorella Springs Wilderness Park – #1

Lorella Springs

 

The world is divided into two kinds of people – those who have been to Lorella Springs Wilderness Park, and those who haven’t been to Lorella Springs… yet.

 

We caught wind of Lorella Springs not long before we got to Darwin.  While we were only supposed to stay in Darwin for two months max, it was drawn out to 11 months and for the whole time, we had Lorella in the back of our minds.

 

Lorella Springs offers a remote wilderness for campers, hikers, 4WDing enthusiasts and everyone in between.  The property is so huge, there could be 100s of people in the park but you’d never know, and you could easily spend weeks exploring all the natural features.  The owner, Rhett Walker, has spent the last 30 years exploring Lorella Springs and says that he’s only explored about 20% of the ONE MILLION acres his property covers – his land is bigger than 29 countries!

 

Lorella is Rhett’s everlasting project – his labour of love.  He opened the wilderness park to the public in around 1998 and he has put so much work in to creating over 1000km of tracks that access hot springs, swimming holes, waterfalls, rivers and gorges so that everyone else can enjoy the beauty of his country.  Back in the early days, Rhett and his family pushed tracks through the bush with a couple of modified 4WDs.  It would sometimes take them weeks at a time to reach the new areas and make the waterfalls and swimming holes accessible.   Nowadays though, they’ve got a backhoe, but they still have to spend some time at the start of the each Dry Season re-clearing the old tracks.
The central campground sports a bar that offers delicious meals and Happy Hour between 5 and 6pm, a kiosk, laundry facilities and a book exchange. There is also Crusty Dick’s Bakery, which offers huge loaves of soft fresh bread, perfect for dipping into stews or with butter and jam.  A recent addition to Lorella’s attractions is a selection of helicopter flights to meet every budget.  Lorella Springs is closed during the Wet Season and reopens every year from the 1st of March until October.

 


Find the best deal and read what other travelers have to say at TripAdvisor

DAY 1

After 30km of shitty corrugated road that is owned by the council, we opened the gate to Lorella Springs and were greeted warmly by Marie, Rhett’s partner.  After we got a rundown of the park and were given a few maps, we sat down and had a well-deserved drink at the bar.  Dave spoke to Marie about park attractions and facilities while Juz chatted with Tim, one of the chopper pilots, about geckos and Lord of the Rings.  The day was still young so we pre-ordered our dinner and decided to go and check out some of the features that were close by.

 

On our way to a series of pools, we crossed Crocodile Springs, a pretty creek crossing with a small lagoon filled with waterlilies.  The turnoff for the pools was a few kilometres up and we decided to go all the way to the end of the track and work our way back to the campgrounds.

 

Lorella Springs

 

After crawling along in low range 4WD over the last 600m of very rocky and rough track, our first stop was Tawallah Pool.  We both jumped in for some fast refreshment, and Juz put her snorkel on to check out the little fishies.  We rock-hopped further down the gorge before heading back to the Troopy.

 

 

The next two pools were Fossil Fern and Emerald Pool.  Fossil Fern is so called because some of the rocks by the side of the pool have fossilised ferns in them.  While Juz was snorkelling in the water, Dave was trying to find the fossils.  Eventually he called out to Juz, “I can’t find the fossils!”, and she said, “That’s because you’re standing on them!”

 

 

Emerald Pool was a crystal clear pool with a white carpet of sand between the hairy water weeds, and plenty of little fishies.

 

We continued on to Wildfire Gorge & Tristan Pool.  The walk to Tristan Pool was along a rocky creek bed and marked with tape in the trees.  Wildfire Gorge was further on and the reflection of red rock in the still pool was beautiful.

 

Lorella Springs

 

The last stop of the day was Inkspot Pool.  While we didn’t go in, we could see how fun it would be to launch off the rocks.  Because it was so close to the track that leads to other locations within the park, we ended up visiting Inkspot Pool several times during our stay with other volunteers at the park.

 

We made it back to the campground just in time for Happy Hour.  Even though the drinks are marginally cheaper, it is a great social event and a perfect opportunity to mingle with staff and other campers.  The dinner we ordered earlier was served at 6:30pm and both dishes were welcomed with wide eyes and hungry bellies.  Dave’s T-Bone was satisfyingly good, tender with great flavour, while Juz’s stuffed chicken was big and juicy, and stuffed with cheese and garlic.  Both meals came with crunchy hot chips, coleslaw, pineapple and beetroot.  Super yum…

 

Lorella Springs

 

DAY 2

We started the day early and headed for the Waterslide.  We were initially hesitant (Juz was afraid she’d graze her bum), but Dave was brave enough to go first and it ended up being super fun!  We both went down the slide several times, giggling like schoolgirls. The rocky path continued beyond the slide to Indiana Falls.  While the trail was overgrown, we eventually got to the top pool and were rewarded with a refreshing swim.

 

 

Next was the Musterers Cave, one of our favourite locations.  It’s a short climb to the cave and inside it are old saddle parts from when the cave was used as storage during the wet season years and years ago.  If you take a few more steps into the cave, you’ll be surrounded by the sound of crunchy wings flapping, as massive dragonflies hover around you every time you move.  If you have a torch, you’ll be able to see the microbats too.  We exited the cave and checked out the rock art and amazing views around to the left.  We also saw a friendly Northern Spiny Tail Gecko with amazing eyes and a spiky tail.

 

 

Our next destination was the Arches, but the path disappeared in a dry creek bed and we got lost.  We ended up climbing an escarpment to the left instead of heading right.  Sure, we had nice views at the top, but it wasn’t the Arches, so we went back to the Troopy and started again.  We eventually found the Arches, and after a rest, we found the (now obvious) path that brought us back to the Troopy.

 

Lorella Springs

 

Our last stop was the Valley of the Springs.  Rhett told us great things about this place but we were so exhausted, we only got about 200m from the Troopy before we realised we didn’t have the energy to continue.  We turned back and ducked into Inkspot for a refreshing swim before returning to the campground.  When we got back and told Rhett, he said we only had to breach the hilltop and the amazing rock formations would have been there.  Bugger…

 


That afternoon, we had a therapeutic dip in the Magical Spring that is only 30 meters from the bar.  It’s a shaded, banana tree-lined pool with very friendly fish that will nibble on you if you give them the chance.

 

After we cleaned ourselves up, we went to the bar for a quick drink before attempting the Sunset Walk.  About halfway to the top of the escarpment, we saw a rainbow, and then the dark clouds dumped a bunch of rain on us.

 

Lorella Springs

 

By the time we got back to the bar, we were soaked through.  We did a quick costume change and returned for more socialising with the other campers.  We met two fellow travellers – Mel and Kell – who had just spent the last few nights at Nannies Retreat.  Mel is an entomologist and Juz loves critters so they had plenty to talk about, including that beautiful gecko that Juz spotted at Musterers Cave.

 

Lorella Springs

 

DAY 3

It was a rough start after the previous night’s revelry, but we were determined to complete another section of Lorella Springs and made our way towards Teardrop Falls.  It was slow going for most of the way because of the rocky track, and we even burst a tyre on the way.

 

Lorella Springs 2014-05-16 498

 

When we finally arrived, it was all worth it.  Water sprinkled into the lower pool and the sun cast a rainbow in the spray.  We climbed up the mountain to the top pools, one of which was down in a rocky basin.  We scaled the sheer wall and had a refreshing dip in the clear pool, and even saw the reason why it’s called Teardrop Falls.  This was definitely one of our favourite spots in Lorella, and is also a really popular destination for the chopper flights.

 

 

We checked out the Mountain on the Edge of the Clouds on the way back – a great lookout into Gateway Gorge and Little Rosie River below.   We continued along the track to where the river crosses the track and there was a canoe waiting for us.  Dave took control of the oar and paddled Juz down the river while trying to sing like a Venetian gondolier.  Juz told him to shut up so that she could enjoy the tranquillity of their surroundings.

 

 

We briefly stopped by Hidden Pools – three cascading swimming pools, before setting up camp at Snapping Handbag Billabong.  Juz cooked up some SPAM Turkey Burgers while Dave fished in the billabong.  As we got ready for sleep, we could hear splashing and sploshing, which were probably cane toads, fish and/or crocodiles, and these noises continued throughout the night.

 

A cane toad at Lorella Springs

 

Experience : Lorella Springs Wilderness Park #2
Volunteer at Lorella Springs

SPAM Turkey Burgers

Recipe : SPAM Turkey Burgers

SPAM Turkey Burgers

 

We had already tried SPAM ham with cabbage and onions, and liked it, so Juz was keen on another SPAM Recipe – this time, Turkey Burgers!

 

Ingredients

  • 1 tbs oil
  • 1 can of SPAM turkey breast, cut into four slices.
  • Mustard, mayo, butter or whatever sauces you prefer
  • Spinach, lettuce or whatever greenery you like
  • Cheese slices
  • Bread

 

Method

  • Cut SPAM Turkey into four slices.  Heat up pan and put slices in for cooking.
  • Once cooked on one side, flip and place a slice of cheese onto the turkey slices.
  • Once the cheese has melted, turkey is ready to be put into bread with whatever fillings you want.

 

SPAM Turkey Burgers

 

While it didn’t necessarily taste like turkey, we did notice the meat to be quite salty.  Not that it was a bad thing.  We both enjoyed the turkey burgers (with mustard, mayo, butter and spinach in Dick’s crusty bread) and said we would eat it again.

 

SPAM Turkey Burgers

 

SPAM Cabbage

Recipe : SPAM Cabbage

SPAM Cabbage

 

After listening to a Stuff You Should Know podcast about SPAM, Juz was really curious about what it tastes like.  Having everlasting ham on hand could be a good thing, right?  She decided to buy a can and experiment with a few recipes.  This is the first time she has ever cooked with the stuff, and it turned out surprisingly edible… and good, possibly because we had very low expectations.

 

Ingredients

  • 1-2 cloves garlic, diced
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • 1 tbs butter
  • 1 tbs oil
  • 1 can of SPAM, diced
  • ½ tsp each of mustard seed, Italian herbs, cumin and paprika
  • 1/8 of cabbage, shredded
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Chilli flakes (optional)

 

Method

  • Add garlic, onion, butter and oil to pan and sauté.
  • Add SPAM and spices and cook for 4-5 minutes.
  • Stir cabbage through, cover and cook for 5-10 minutes, depending on how soft you like your cabbage.  If you want it to be more moist, use a little bit more butter.
  • Add chilli and serve.

 

SPAM Cabbage

 

Dave’s first impressions were that the SPAM was tender and melted in the mouth.  It didn’t have a strong flavour, and whatever flavour it did have wasn’t horrible.  Perhaps the other ingredients masked the flavour of the SPAM too well. Would we eat it again? YES!

 

SPAM Cabbage