Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Trekking food

Tip number one. Get yourself a dehydrator. Make a solar one, borrow one, or even use your oven. Removing the water from your trekking meals not only saves weight, it also holds onto the nutrients better.

You have a number of options with your dehydrator. You can dehydrate individual food stuffs, or entire precooked meals. The manual that comes with the machine will tell you how to prepare produce and how long it takes and what the finished product should look and feel like. It is possible to overdo, or underdo, the drying process. Too long will lead to rubbery inedible food, not enough will result in mould and spoiling. So it's not something you want to do for the very first time the week before you leave on a long trip....

You easily cook an entire evening meal, and then dehydrate it. Package in individual portion sizes and just add hot water when it's time for your meal. There's also a little trial and error here ensuring the meal is dry enough, and that the portion size is OK. It's hard to gauge how much is enough once the meal is dried, so it's often better to portion up on individual trays whilst still wet. You will be amazed how tiny a meal can look and feel once the water is removed!

Dehydrators are essentially glorified hair dryers. They make a high pitched noise that may make you just a little stir crazy if you have to listen to it non stop for a few days. If you are dehydrating a lot of food, you will work that machine for many hours and days, so put it somewhere where it disturbs you as little as possible. Just don't forget about it or you'll ruin your food.

Yes they will draw a bit of electricity. At one stage I had 2 dehydrators and the oven going, over a period of about 10 days. Not 24/7 but pretty constant. My electricity bill was up by $20 for that period (though I can't really be sure it cost that much as I had house sitters during that period and I can't account for their usage).

I used 2 books as my starting point, both American so some of the ingredients in their recipes weren't available here. They were both great resources so I'll mention them if anyone is interested. I have put links through to Amazon, but since I haven't signed up for affiliate links, I don't care either way if you purchase them! The first was Lipsmackin' Backpackin' which is mostly a compendium of backcountry recipes from American trekkers along the Pacific Crest Trail. It has a decidedly Mexican slant, but there were a few recipes I took from it and modified. The second book was Trail Food. This one had more detailed information about the dehydration process, with some great tips and advice, as well as some inspiring anecdotes from the author's backcountry experiences.

Armed with the knowledge gained from these books, and a large amount of home cooking experience and many cookbooks, I created my own collection of recipes. Here they are.


  1. Muesli. I make my own muesli which consists of 2 parts rolled oats, 2 parts rolled rye, 2 parts rolled triticale, one part sunflower seeds, one part pepitas, one part sultanas, one part shredded coconut, all mixed together. I use a large scoop for my measurements, and it's hardly an exact science, but suffice to say, if you make your own muesli you know what's in it. Each breakfast portion was one cup of muesli with one tablespoon of full cream milk powder added and packaged in a small ziplock bag. Just add water. I usually added hot water as I would always boil water each morning for my all important morning espresso. For my next trip, I'll be adding 2 tablespoons of milk powder for a richer creamier meal.
  2. Bulgur Hash. I adapted this from one of the books. Bulgur is cracked wheat, the ingredient in tabouleh. Here's the recipe: Prepackage together 1/2 cup of bulgur, a handful of dried onion, 1/4 tsp garlic flakes, 1/2 tsp dried oregano. Before heading to bed add 1/2 cup of water to dried ingredients and leave overnight. In the morning fry the rehydrated mix in oil, add some soy sauce and then crumble over some cheese. Once cheese melts tuck in!!
  3. Buckwheat Pancakes. These were a pain to cook because my frypan didn't heat evenly, and I needed quite a lot of fuel to do an entire batch. They also weren't filling enough to sustain me through to lunchtime, until I added nut butter. Which is quite heavy BTW. Here's the recipe: Prepackage together 1/2 cup buckwheat flour, 3 tablespoons milk powder, pinch of salt, 2 teaspoons vanilla sugar and 1/2 tsp baking powder. Put in a ziplock bag as you will use the bag to rehydrate the batter. Add just enough water to make a runny batter. Some trial and error involved. To cook, add oil to frypan and pour out pikelet size portions. Cook both sides and stack on plate adding your topping of your taste. My recommendation is a fat and protein based topping e.g. nut butter rather than carbs like jam or a fruit sauce.

I either ate dried biscuits - Ryvita and VitaWeats both kept well, didn't break up into pieces, and are light - or wraps. Mountain Bread, although light, doesn't stay moist for more than a couple of days and just crumbles. I preferred to buy chapatis or tortillas instead, though they are considerably more heavy. Personal choice. There's also the option to make your own bread, but I didn't go that far...

I also had scroggin, or what the Yanks call GORP, namely mixed fruit and nuts to snack on. I rarely snacked between meals except on days when I had a longer than usual way to walk. I also brought some savoury energy bars on the first section, and after that I had mini chocolate bars or muesli bars that I had as a snack with my cup of tea on arrival at camp.

To the biscuits or wraps (in general I would eat 2 wraps or 8-10 biscuits for lunch) I would eat any combination of below.
  1. Cheese. Hard cheese keeps remarkably well. Once bought I never refrigerated it and aside from a little sweating, it never got mouldy or inedible.
  2. Salami. Purchase the ones that don't need refrigeration. Store in a paper bag. I like spicy.
  3. Beef jerky. I made my own in my oven. Google for a recipe, it's really easy to make. Don't be put off by the scary idea that you might poison yourself. Again, give yourself enough time to trial your result to ensure you have dried the meat enough. It should break when you bend it. I vacuum sealed all my jerky into individual portion sizes and stored it in my freezer. Remember to wait until your dried goods are at room temperature before vacuum sealing, or you will get mould.
  4. Hummus. I love hummus and I was thrilled at how well this recipe rehydrated in the field. I added just enough water to make a thick paste in the morning before I set off, and then had the most delicious dip ready by lunchtime. Package in a ziplock bag as it makes it easy to squish around the added water to ensure you have enough, but not too much! Here's the recipe: Mix together cooked chickpeas, tahini, garlic and lemon juice in a blender until smooth, then dehydrate on trays covered in glad wrap. I can't give you exact quantities, I always make my hummus by taste, and usually add more garlic and tahini than the recipes suggest. Suffice to say, make your hummus the way you like it, then dehydrate. Once dry and cooled down, put it back in the blender and blitz into a powder. I used 1/4 cup of dried mix per serve into a small ziplock bag. I didn't add oil, but had the option to do so in the field.
  5. Sun dried tomatoes. I dried mine in the oven and the dehydrator. A tiny amount of water added into the bag in the morning before leaving plumped them up a little so they weren't rubbery. OMG the concentrated taste is phenomenal. Any time you have a tomato surplus, get dehydrating, you will never purchase store ones again!
  6. Pesto. I actually made two different pestos. The first was a classic pesto using basil, garlic, pine nuts and parmesan, all mixed up in the blender and then dehydrated. Parmesan dries well. The other was a chive pesto, same recipe, just substitute chives instead. Can't give you exact amounts, it's been far too long since I've used a recipe to make pesto. Just use the taste test. You could also substitute different nuts. I know some people use almonds or cashews instead of pine nuts. Again, once dried and cooled, blitz in blender to a powder and package in 1/4 cup portions.


Again, lots of choices, though all were a combination of carbs (pasta/rice/noodles) plus vegetables and protein. I dehydrated bags of frozen veg (mixed veg and frozen peas) from the supermarket, as well as fresh capsicum and zucchini. I purchased dried mushrooms and dried taro leaves from the Asian supermarket. I mixed up the dried vegetables then vacuum packaged them in individual meal portions. I did the same for the mince meat and tinned salmon and tuna. When I arrived into camp and made my afternoon cup of tea I would add hot water to each packet and they were ready for cooking in a couple of hours. I brought along a small plastic container with a lid. I used this to store my rehydrating foods whilst walking, and to decant my evening packets into before adding water. No leakage, and no flies. Worked brilliantly.

I just made a guesstimate of portion size for the vegetables. Next time I'll make my portions a little larger and add more variety. You crave fresh vegetables and fruit when you get to each town, but more rehydrated veg would have helped.

Canned tuna and salmon dehydrated really well. I bought quite a few tins of the no name variety and found that it not only weighed almost nothing once dry, but rehydrated really well. I was able to be generous on portion size as a result.

Mince meat is easy to do as well. Purchase lean mince and cook it up, draining off as much fat as you can. Then rinse it well under warm water, pat dry with paper towels, then put it on trays in the dehydrator. Regularly pat dry with a paper towel to soak up any excess fat. Vacuum pack in individual portion size once it's the consistency of gravel, and at room temperature. Store in the freezer until your trip. It rehydrates well if you add hot water and give it a couple of hours to reconstitute. If you don't give it enough time it earns its sobriquet of "gravel".

I also made my own tomato pasta sauce. Everyone has their own recipe for a basic tomato pasta sauce, or alternatively I guess you could just buy jars of it and dehydrate. Being the food nazi that I am, I prefer to cook from scratch. Dehydrate on trays covered in glad wrap and again package individually. Each of my portions weighed 33g, which turned out to be a little too small for me. 

So here are my meals:
  1. Pasta with Tomato Sauce and Mixed Veg. Rehydrate packet of mixed veg and pasta sauce with hot water an hour or so before dinner. Boil water and cook 100g whole wheat pasta until al dente. Drain pasta, keeping aside a little of the water. Add rehydrated veg and sauce to water and cook for a minute or so, then add to pasta. Eat!
  2. Salmon Pasta. Prepackage 1/4 tsp dried garlic flakes/granules, 1 tbsp dried onions, 1/4 cup milk powder, 1/4 cup dried peas, 1 tsp dried oregano, 1 tbsp parmesan cheese, pinch pepper, 1 tbsp arrowroot powder. The arrowroot powder is a thickener, and is tasteless and gluten free! An hour or so before dinner rehydrate in just enough water to cover it. Also rehydrate your portion of vacuum packed dehydrated salmon (55g). Cook 100g of pasta in boiling water until al dente. Drain and keep a little water for cooking. Add salmon to pot and warm through, then add sauce and cook until thickens (not long). Add pasta and mix through. This meal is rich and creamy and delicious!
  3. Miso soup with tuna and soba noodles. This is a great recipe and particularly good for replacing salt and water lost by exertion. It's really quick and easy because soba noodles take next to no time to cook. The only limiting factor is the rehydrating of the dried tuna. Soba noodles usually come in prepackaged bundles. I divided each bundle in two and then broke the noodles in half to make them easier to package.  I purchased nori seaweed sheets that you use for making sushi and used one third of a sheet per meal. I wrapped the dried noodles in the seaweed sheet, added one packet of miso soup paste (I used the small 12g soft packets that come in packs of 12 as they were less bulky) and vacuum packed this separate to the tuna packet (55g) which was also vacuum packed. I think this helped stop the noodles from breaking into tiny pieces in my backpack. To cook, first rehydrate the tuna in some hot water a good hour or so before dinner. As this is more a soup you don't need as much time if you are really hungry. Boil water, add soba noodles, cook for a minute or less before adding miso paste sachet, tuna, and torn up nori sheet. Add extra soy sauce to taste. Enjoy!
  4. Veg, Mince and Noodle Soup. This was another awesome meal, inspired by my love of Asian cuisine. Prepackage one portion of rice noodles, one portion of dehydrated vegetables, one portion of mince gravel (see above) and one portion of spices. The spice portion is: 1/4 tsp garlic granules, 1 tsp dried onion flakes, 1 dried birdseye chili chopped, 1 tsp dried lemongrass, 1/2 tsp dried shrimp, 1/4 tsp garam marsala, pinch of salt. Make sure the spice is vacuum packed as dried shrimp is real smelly, but absolutely essential to this recipe. You could also probably add some kaffir leaf, I'm improvising here thinking about what is currently growing in my garden. To cook, rehydrate the veggies and mince then cook in water. Add spices and soy sauce to taste, then lastly add rice noodles and cook until soft. Watch everybody around you go green with envy at the smell of this as it cooks. Greedily slurp up your gourmet meal!
  5. Pasta with Pesto and Mixed Veg. Rehydrate your packet of dried pesto and packet of mixed veg an hour before beginning cooking. Cook 100g whole wheat pasta in boiling water until al dente, drain, conserving some of the water to cook your vegetables and pesto sauce in. Add to pasta and enjoy.
  6. Curry Coconut Rice with Taro Leaves. I found dried vacuum packed taro leaves at the Asian supermarket and thought I'd come up with a simple recipe that allowed me to have a meal that included leafy greens. To rehydrate the taro leaves add some cold water, but not too much, and squish the water around until the leaves become pliable. Meanwhile empty the prepackaged coconut rice mix into your billy, add at least a cup of water and cook by absorption method. Add taro leaves after 2 minutes and mix well. Add more water as needed to stop rice burning. The rice mix is: 1/4 tsp garlic granules, 1/4 tsp dried shrimp, 1 tsp dried onion flakes, 1/2 tsp curry powder, 2 tbsp coconut cream powder, 1/2 cup basmati rice. I always use Basmati because it tastes good, it cooks much quicker than many other rices, and it's good for you!


Yep, a camping trip isn't complete without a little dessert. I reapportioned packets of instant chocolate mousse and instant pudding, making sure I added extra milk powder so all I needed to do was add water. To these desserts I threw in some dried fruit and sometimes nuts. Not particularly earth shattering. More fun was toasting marshmallows over the fire after dinner and the best dessert I had was the Bliss Balls I shared with Lynda and Nikki at Yourmadung campsite. Lynda's recipe comes from a pre bought mix, but I've been experimenting at home. Below is my recipe that makes enough bliss balls for two to share if they are feeling generous, or one if feeling greedy.

Bliss Balls
  • Mix in a blender:  1/2 cup pepitas, 1/2 cup sunflower seeds, 1/2 cup chia seeds, 1/2 cup hazelnuts and 1/2 cup cacao nibs ( or 1/3 cup cacao or cocoa powder). Blitz into a powder then prepackage into 1/4 cup portions.
  • To make the Bliss Balls soak 4 chopped dates in just enough water to soften them and mash them up. Hot water works best. Once dates are mashed up and soft, add your powder mix, stir, and wait for your concoction to expand and all the water to be soaked up. If it is too dry you can add more water, but even better is to add coconut oil. Don't add too much, be patient.
  • Now using your fingers, make balls out of this gloop and roll in some shredded coconut that you brought along especially for the purpose. Then pop into your mouth.
  • YUM!!
  • If there's any shredded coconut left over, just add it to tomorrow's breakfast muesli.

As I mentioned earlier, I also made savoury energy bars for extra nutrition. I made these frequently for snacks when skiing in New Zealand and they are delicious. They don't, however, keep long unless frozen, so I resorted to frying them up for breakfast rather than throw them away when they started to show early signs of going mouldy. I'm the sort of person who scrapes off the mould rather than throwing otherwise good food away, and I've never suffered any ill effects from doing so. My energy bars, when fried up with a little oil and soy sauce, were delicious. Here's the recipe that I started with, customise to your own taste and pantry ingredients.

So there's some food for thought.....

Next time I'll review my camping/trekking gear.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Planning for a long distance walk

I actually wrote this post an entire year ago, but failed to publish it. When I got back from my trip a couple of friends suggested that there wasn't much out there on trip preparation so I'm revisiting this post and adding extra information as I go. The original post is in italics, my comments after the fact in normal font:

As I mentioned I'm planning to walk The Bibbulmun Track this year, beginning early October. For those not in the know, this is a 1000km walking trail which traverses wilderness areas between Perth and Albany in the Southwest of WA. It is not a technically difficult trail as there are no wild river crossings, rock climbing or need for advanced orienteering skills, and there are overnight shelters at reasonable distances that have toilets and water tanks to replenish supplies. If travelling at less busy times of the year (like when I plan to go) it's extremely unlikely the shelters will be full meaning it's possible to travel without a tent. But the track isn't an easy stroll, there are very rocky, slippery sections, it's possible to get lost even though there are trail markers, and then there's the harsh Australian climate with its myriad beasties. Yes, there are lots of poisonous snakes, the likelihood of not encountering snakes on this walk is zero. Hence: gaiters!!

Due to the long wet winter and the fact that the track had multiple diversions for most of the last 18 months due to bushfire damage, 2017 ended up being a very busy year for end to end walkers on The Bib. On my first night, despite it being cold, rainy, and Grand Final Day, there were 19 people at the shelter. I had my first night camping alone on Day 45, it was a lot more social than I expected.

Next time I would bring a tent. The weather was quite cold, and it would have been warmer in a tent as the shelters are open on one side, sometimes two sides. In a tent you can keep your body heat contained, plus you can camp away from the early risers who really interrupted my enjoyment of the dawn chorus. There weren't many bad snorers (earplugs are worth taking), but some of the newer air mattresses on the market are very noisy when the sleeper moves around on them. I reckoned, after listening to the noise of these mattresses, that I would find the noise quite intrusive, and was very happy with my older style air mattress which only weighs 277g.

It was really easy to take a wrong path, particularly in the early sections nearer Perth. You had to stay focussed, and look for the Waugals, as there were numerous other tracks that could send you the wrong way. Pretty well everyone I met had a story of going the wrong way and then having to backtrack or find a way around. I wasn't immune either. I had the maps, which helped with identifying landmarks, but I didn't bring the guidebooks. I found some in Balingup and photographed the relevant pages, and found them extremely useful at times. You can do the walk with neither, but I'd actually recommend taking both.

I wore gaiters every day. I didn't need them in the early part of the walk as it was too cold for snakes, but they were useful for keeping your legs protected from sharp grasses and it was easier to wear them than carry them in my bag. Once the snakes came out in abundance, I felt much more secure having them on.

My original plan had been to do the walk in 2015, but bushfires in February closed large sections of the track, destroying bridges and camping shelters, and making it impossible to complete an end to end. By now it's possible to do an end to end again, but there are a lot of diversions in place whilst infrastructure is rebuilt. Delaying by a year gives the bush time to regenerate, and there is nothing more spectacular than the Aussie bush flowering in abundance after a bushfire and a whole bunch of rain. Which, as long as there aren't more devastating fires this summer, next Spring should deliver.

It really was a spectacular season for the flowers, including the orchids. Many plants flowered later than usual because of the long wet winter, which worked well for me as I only began my walk on the 1st October. I was incredibly lucky to be able to walk the entire published track. Sure the Dookanelly to Possum Springs section wasn't officially back in action, but the Murray River was able to be waded easily and I avoided a very boring diversion along Harvey-Quindaning Rd. We were also extremely fortunate to time ourselves with the reopening of the Lake Maringup section, one of the most tranquil campsite locations along the entire route.

I might comment that a lot of people were complaining in the books along the way about the rain, or the cold. Be prepared to be wet and cold. It's the south west, not arid Australia. Pack accordingly. I decided at the last moment to bring a proper rain jacket, not just a poncho, and despite not needing it all the time, I was extremely glad of it on many occasions.

I had already begun the planning stages, having joined the Bibbulman Track Foundation, been in to get some hands on advice about my itinerary from the experienced volunteers in the office, and purchased yet more lightweight backpacking gear. I'm actually glad for the delay, because the planning is a lot more involved than I originally realised.

I met a lot of poorly prepared walkers. People who didn't pack enough food, or had excessively heavy packs a la Cheryl Strayed in Wild. I've probably spent a small fortune on lightweight gear, but I don't expect The Bib to be the only time I use it. I also got some great tips and advice from other walkers about gear for future trips.

The first step is to peruse the maps and guidebooks and website and decide on an itinerary. With a little advice from the volunteers (mainly agreeing with my choices of which sections to double hut), I have settled on a 60 day itinerary which includes a full rest day in each of the 6 towns I pass through. All have good accommodation choices and places to eat out. Nothing quite like a pub meal after a week eating out of one pot. Not to mention a cold beer! There's opportunities to arrange food drops at 10 locations so that I don't need to carry more than a week's food supply at any time. Less weight in the bag makes me very happy!!

My itinerary was at the long end of the spectrum. Most people walked the track in the 45-55 days range with the crazy ones all trying to do it in around 30 days. There were many times when I could have physically walked faster and done more kilometres per day, but I loved exploring each campsite, giving myself time to take some side trips, and of course stopping for photo opportunities. I could happily spend a few hours climbing the rocks behind a campsite, with my cup of tea in hand, and enjoy some views, a few rays, and a little solitude and meditation.

I also appreciated the rest days in each track town, though usually I spent most of that time writing my blog. Using a phone rather than a laptop to blog is a right royal pain in the arse. Period. I got better and faster at it over the time, but it took up a huge amount of my rest days. As it turned out there wasn't much to do in most of the towns themselves anyway, and a rest day is supposed to be just that. What I can report is that there are some really great coffee shops and pub meals to be found in some of those towns. Dwellingup Pub took the crown for best evening meal (both nights), and Collie had some great eating options. The Blue Wren (also Dwellingup) gets my vote for best breakfast. Ravens Cafe pipped Mrs Jones (both in Denmark) for 2nd best breakfast, though I reckon the bacon and eggs I cooked myself in Pemberton were up there too!!

The 10 food drops worked out really well. I purchased 10 prepaid satchels and sent them to myself along the track. I sent them to my accommodation in track towns, or to a tourist office (which are usually open 7 days a week unlike the post office), as well as North Bannister Roadhouse and Peaceful Bay Caravan Park, having rung each place beforehand to confirm I could send my packages. Each package was addressed to me, with expected arrival date on it, and they all arrived on time. My friend in Perth sent them off for me to a timetable I had given her, allowing 3 weeks for the postal service (it can be very slow in regional WA, I was taking no chances), but I could have easily sent them all myself before I left.

Deciding on the food to bring is the most logistically challenging part of the planning. I need to carry 48 breakfasts, 54 lunches and 46 dinners, plus snacks and desserts, spread out over 10 resupply stations.  I began food planning a year ago, by dehydrating a number of items, and storing them in the freezer. But these foods won't last another year, so I've had the opportunity to rehydrate and trial them. I'm extremely glad I have gone through this process, because reconstituted dried eggs aren't that nice, nor is rehydrated yoghurt. So it's back to the drawing board. Homemade muesli with reconstituted powdered milk is actually more palatable than the remade yoghurt, and much less hassle to prepare! I'm working on an alternative to eggs for breakfast: buckwheat pancakes with apple sauce and sultanas. Yum!

The buckwheat pancakes ended up being my biggest cooking failure of the trip. Not only were they messy to cook, but they didn't provide me with enough energy to get through until lunch. Once I bought some nut butter in Collie and added that to the apple sauce topping, it was much better. My other cooked breakfast, a recipe involving cooking cracked wheat with onions and spices, then adding soy sauce and cheese, was my favourite breakfast of all. I'd also recommend adding more milk powder than less to your muesli premix. The extra fat and protein is appreciated.

I've been busy designing and trialling recipes. First to see whether they are easy to make and taste good, and secondly to trial making them with the limited cooking implements I'll have on the trail. I don't intend to resort to noodles, beans and rice for a full 2 months, but there has to be a balance between eating well and the amount of weight I am willing to carry. The trail towns all have supermarkets, but they are small places, so some supplies may be limited. Doing most of my food preparation before hand, and just buying staples in the towns, is a more practical strategy.

I had some fantastic meals on the track, and yes I'm happy to share my recipes. The portion sizes were adequate, and although I did lose some weight, I would have been happier to have lost more!! Dwellingup and Balingup were particularly sparse for resupply options, and North Bannister Roadhouse was abysmal. The other towns had quite large supermarkets, but being able to buy dried food was limited. Northcliffe, however, had a great little bulk food co-op that would package even small quantities for walkers.

There are two options for trail meals. One is to prepare meals, dehydrate them and then reconstitute them on the trail. The second option is to bring the ingredients along, preferably in dry form, and cook them from scratch. Of course a third option is to carry fresh food, but as that means carrying extra weight in the form of the water within the food, I only intend to do this for the first day or so of each section.

Many of the fast walkers didn't carry stoves, and did their resupply in each town. Their food probably weighed more than what I was carrying as it wasn't dehydrated. None of my food packages, including the 8 day package, weighed more than 3 kg, most were well below that.

Many people purchase prepackaged dehydrated meals. Since I'm a bit of a food nazi that's not an option for me, plus they're expensive, the portions are quite small, and I've heard mixed reviews as to tastiness. Anyway, I already own a dehydrator so it seems wasteful not to use it!!

It appears that the dehydrated meals have improved and there are more companies making them so there's lots of variety. Most people were very happy with the taste and portion size of their prepackaged meals, and I think it's a good option for a short trip, but too expensive for an extended trip. The other thing I noticed is that the packaging is excessive. My smaller vacuum packed meals took up less packed room, and less garbage afterwards. Your garbage bag can get quite large after a few days...

The general consensus, from the books I've been reading on trail food, is to settle on a choice of 2 or 3 different breakfast options, snack type lunches that require minimal cooking, if any, and a selection of 10 or so dinner choices. Along with a few judicious spices, the menu shouldn't get boring. And even though I don't normally eat desserts, planning for a few sweets along the trail as little treats is also recommended. Let's face it, when you spend all day burning calories, a little dessert won't hurt will it?

This was my best piece of advice and I am glad I heeded it. I ate really really well on the track. I loved my meals and enjoyed choosing what I would eat each day. My lunch choices were also really yummy and I would always be looking forward to each meal. I also had a few jealous fellow campers eyeing up my meals.

It's actually quite a lot of fun making up these little one pot wonders. I'll be travelling with a single pot and a frypan, so I do have a little flexibility. Getting the dried ingredients together, packaging meals in single serve portions, and weighing them. Then rehydrating and cooking them on my little alcohol stove to make sure they work out OK, taste good, and most importantly to get an idea of fuel usage. Yes, I am getting very anal about this trip....

Bringing a frypan along gave me a little more flexibility. Yes I could make pancakes, and my cracked wheat breakfast, but it was a bit of a hassle as I had to bring a separate tripod as my cooker was too small to balance the larger diameter pan on it's inbuilt pot stand. This may have been the cause of the burnt fuel tubing that occurred one morning when I was cooking breakfast. When my home made savoury energy bars started to get a little mouldy, I fried them up for breakfast rather than throw them away. They tasted great, and I had no repercussions in the intestinal department.

So yes, preparation paid off. I'll share my recipes in another post.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

A New Year and a chance to slow down

It's been a month since I arrived home from my many trips in 2016. It's given me time to reflect on my last 18 months since I retired. To evaluate my budget to see whether I can continue to support my self funded retirement for another 7 and a bit years. And to simply relax in my own little sanctuary beach house.

What I learnt from 2016 is that although I did a huge amount of different trips which I enjoyed immensely, I always had concerns about my home in the back of my mind. No matter how good or bad your house sitter is, there's a lot of emotional attachment to your little piece of paradise. It means that your time back home between trips is all about fixing things, sorting things or having a little talk with the house sitters about boundaries.

I'd like to be able to let go of that attachment. Not permanently by selling up, but by creating a professional arrangement through leasing my house. That way I not only get an income, but can spend some of that income on ensuring the maintenance gets done. But that first means spending some money getting the house in shape.

When you live in your own home there are a myriad issues that you put up with, that you work around, that you commit to doing in your own individual way because it suits you to do so, and the results work for you. But a tenant doesn't quite see it that way, so you need to make allowances for that. I'm not ready to let a tenant ruin all my hard work of 15 years in my garden, or to flood the house because they are too lazy to mop up after a shower. So I need to fix things.

I love living here, and I've got quite a few possessions that I'm not willing to give up, so my solution is to renovate my disused double garage into a self contained flat, move in to it, and rent out the rest of the house. There's ample parking already, and the garage hasn't been accessible to cars for years since I walled up the vege patch, so it's not much of a stretch to create this scenario. But I can't do it by myself, I need to employ tradies.

Last year I spent a good portion of my yearly budget on a ski trip to Japan. I had planned to return there again this February, this time skiing independently with my friend Kathy. I've now decided to spend that money instead on the renovations required to get the house ready for leasing. Plus I'm somewhat exhausted after my last year of travel, and I'm really enjoying being home for a while.....

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not giving up the travel game any time soon. I'm just staying put a while whilst I regroup and survey the situation. And sort out an income stream.

I'm currently planning my next walk. A 100km one week stroll through the tail end of the Snowy Mountains to Canberra with my brother and a few other walkers we've each met in our travels. It's the final section of the arduous Australian Alps Walking Trail, which has been on my bucket list even longer than the Bibbulmun Track. (Thanks mum for pointing out that I have been spelling The Bib wrong all this time). I'm absolutely thrilled to have my brother joining me. We've never spent this sort of time together as he was a mere 10 years old when I left home. He walked a few sections of the Larapinta Trail in July, and has caught the walking bug as well!!

In April I'll return to New Zealand. Early because my friend Sonja has asked me to house sit their pad in Christchurch whilst her and Chris go trekking in Nepal. This is a little contingent on whether their house is or isn't undergoing renovation for the damage caused from the earthquake 5 years ago. Yes, bureaucracy moves very slowly...  I'm yet to purchase a plane ticket, but a few weeks doing some tiki touring and tramping instead seems an attractive alternative.

Then it will be down to Wanaka for the whole ski season. I'm going to apply for a part time job doing some ski instructing during school holidays and weekends, and resit my Level 2 exam. I guess I need to rejig my CV. I'm thinking they won't need to know quite so much detail about my former career....

So right now I'm doing a lot of clearing up. Sorting unwanted possessions into saleable items for a big garage sale or throwing them away, and employing tradies to do the work needed on the house. I'm doing a little windsurfing, but I'm picking my days rather than spending all my time at the beach. The hard truth is that if it's windy it's usually cool enough to do the garden jobs I need done, and if it's troughed out and hot I can stay inside doing the sorting and other myriad chores. Like scanning all my old film negatives, or importing my old videos ready for editing. Meanwhile listening to a good couple of years' worth of "Conversations with Richard Fidler" podcasts.

But if there's good wind and big waves, I'll go.

I'm really enjoying this time. I was feeling quite overwhelmed when I returned home, but I still have almost 4 months to sort all this stuff out, and it's not like I have to go to work all week as well. The garage is almost emptied out ready for a garage sale and for the builder to remove the ceiling. Once I find a builder....