Happy campers map out good time


Build the story of a place with bird and tree books, history reference books loaded into a laptop or other device. HEMA maps on my phone; detailed paper maps in a folder; reproductions of old explorer maps next to them.


The four of us are sitting around the campfire, playing a simple blues tune. Over the years, we have gradually spoilt each other. Each of us now has a ukulele handmade by luthier Scott Wise in Margaret River. (Scott is patron of the weekend’s West Australian Guitar Festival.) Lesley’s is predominantly of a Victorian timber, from where she originates; Grady’s is a Goldfields gum; Virginia’s is peppermint; mine has timber from India and Africa, a fingerboard of WA wandoo and head veneer of jarrah. We have a half decent playlist of tunes, and bring a new one to add.


There’s always a camp project. One trip, it was making spinifex hooks (for hooking the flammable material out from the hot crevices under vehicles). We heated rod in the campfire coals, bent and sharpened it, and added wooden handles made from the timber around us. An ongoing project is to take old tools and rehandle them with native hardwoods, keeping its character. We’ve whittled spoons and spatulas, and on this trip added hardwood jewellery making. We take whittling and carving tools, Japanese draw saws, a light wood vice and a very small piece of railway sleeper to use as an anvil.


With a camera that will do long exposures, a simple head torch can be used for something magical. With a 25-second exposure (I like 200 ISO), there’s plenty of time to write words in the darkness. With a white light, don’t point it directly at the lens. The red setting on the torch is good, and darker. Hold two torches together. Look for other light sources, like party lights. Holding a torch on someone’s face for two seconds will make their faces clearer.


No fridge, just a couple of small eskies, and lots of fresh food. Everything from broccolini to lettuce is washed and rolled in tea towels. We take plenty of tomatoes and fruit. It’s packed carefully and it lasts. We take lots of hard vegetables for the two camp ovens — potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips, cooked slow, with some olive oil, ginger and garlic. Use a long-handled shovel to bring some coals from the fire and make a separate bed for each camp oven, to control the temperature. Chickpeas or white beans are mashed into humus. We eat fresh food throughout a two-week trip. Leftover corn is put in the coals to explode like little firecrackers.


Bread dough is being kneaded on the tray of the ute — you need a solid base and a non-stick surface. You also need coals in the fire place, carefully tended so they are glowing low and hot. And you need time. Placed in camp ovens, the dough needs time to rise evenly. Then those camp ovens need tending on the fire (that long handled shovel’s back in play). The whole “event” of bread making becomes the focus of camp for at least a couple of hours … but the resulting warm loaves are worth the time.

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