Tag Archives: food

Camping in Freycinet National Park

Rocks at the north end of Friendly Beaches, AustraliaIt’s only after a half-hearted dip and slip down some slimy rocks at the northern end of Friendly Beaches that I read in a guidebook:

Tempting as it may be, it is advised that people do not swim. The water is perishing for much of the year and there are rips.

Water droplets sit on top of goosebumps. I haven’t even wet my hair.

D-man goes for the full submerge. ‘You’ll feel good. It’s not too cold once you’re in,’ he says. I try to recall that sticky heat feeling of our Wineglass Bay to Hazards Beach walk, but it’s no good. I can’t do it. I scoop up handfuls of chilly water and shriek and shiver with every torrent that I pour over myself.

It’s done. I’m not convinced that I’m clean, but I’m refreshed. I’m also a little envious of D-man’s submerge; I’d love to feel fresh-haired but I just can’t bring myself to jump in.

Back at camp, wrapped in down jackets, we set up the camping chairs in a sunny spot at the back of our van, and we sip local Pinot Noir and slip lemon juiced oysters out of their shells. A wallaby nibbles on the bush some three metres away, occasionally looking up at us.

Other than the wallaby, we’re alone. Anyone staying the night at this part of the Freycinet National Park has pitched up and retreated to their own little camping coves.

The wind blows my towel off its makeshift hanger for the second time, earlier warnings of an impending storm showing signs of an imminent arrival in a sky top heavy with grey.

Time, then, for one last beach stroll before retreating to the comforts of a camper van.

And time to put away the guidebook. Too late to start caring about warnings at this stage.


What’s your experience of camping in Tasmania? I’d love to hear your thoughts and recommendations. 

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Why the Police Came After Me in Tasmania: Customs Food Restrictions When Entering Australia

Tasmania police badge on uniform

© 2014 abc.net.au

I’ve never been in trouble with the police, but I guess there’s a first time for everything.

Within a couple of days of being in the Australian state of Tasmania I’d had two run-ins with the authorities, both of which could easily have been avoided with some smarts.

I had been back in Northern New South Wales for over half a year, working and settling down into some sort of normal life routine – if beaches and sunshine can ever be classed as normal life – and finally I was off to see a part of Australia that I’d heard again and again was the most beautiful place to enjoy the outdoors.

With a head full of trail and trek ideas, my mind wandered a million miles away from anything official, into a land of fresh air and unspoilt landscapes.

As I walked through the arrivals gates at Hobart Airport, then, I didn’t expect to be greeted by three police officers and a sniffer dog.

The dog was evidently interested in my bag. I saw D-man glancing at me, wondering what I might have that was of interest to the dog. I smiled and kept on walking, my heart beating faster as I realised the dog was sticking by my side. This wasn’t going away. I took a breath.

The officer stopped me. Was I carrying any fruit, she asked. Ah, fruit! Easy answer: no, of course not, but the dog persisted, sniffing at the bursting leather bag that I’d slung across my body. ‘Can I take a look through your bag?’ asked the police officer.

Full of wide-eyed innocence, I opened it for her, pulling out notepads, a t-shirt and toiletries. There, underneath everything, lay a little red apple. I cringed. Handing it over, I waited for the reprimand, but instead she rewarded the dog for a job well done and sent me on my way. No $130 on-the-spot fine, this time. Thanks Tasmania. I’ll be good next time.

A couple of days later I made my way from my friends’ house to a part of Hobart that reminded me pretty much of the industrial and rundown part of any given city. I’d booked a van, the last van in the whole of Tasmania, if online booking sites were anything to go by, and had come to pick it up.

Cleaning of all vehicles was in full swing when we arrived so D-man and I sat inside reception and waited, and waited and waited. With the usual cleaner off sick, the stand in was doing his best to get through the Monday morning returns. In holiday mode, we were forgiving, happy to not get wound up, but when half an hour turned into two hours we started to sense our day hike at Mt Field was slipping away.

We finally set off in a van equipped with pretty much everything including dried tea dribbles on the cabinets and an indoor light cover that refused to stay put, and we were on our way. Out of the city. Bring on the countryside!

It wasn’t long before we saw the lights flashing behind us, the sirens only just kicked in. I looked at D-man. What now? A police officer walked to the driver’s window.

‘The vehicle you’re driving is unregistered’. He stood stern. My jaw dropped. A costly offence, this wasn’t something we were prepared to accept. Handing over everything we could from the hire company we waited and watched vehicles driving by, faces looking at us wondering what the silly tourists had done wrong this time.

He finally returned from his vehicle. ‘You’re not in any trouble,’ he said, ‘but you need to give this to the company and return the van immediately.’ We placed the slip of paper, worth $200, on the dash and headed back to the hire car place.

The vehicle’s retracted registration was a surprise to the owners, apparently. A retracted registration, we researched, is almost always to do with the vehicle being deemed unsafe, unroadworthy, so why would they send us off into the Tasmanian wilderness in a ticking timebomb? Is the gamble worth the money? Their squirms, wine offering and half day refund wouldn’t make up for the fact we had one week to explore Tasmania and over half a day had been wasted waiting, returning and waiting some more for substandard vehicles.

Our day plans ruined, we gladly left Hobart behind in a new-to-us-yet-equally-unclean-van, but not before calling the company again due to an engine fault warning light displaying. ‘It happens on those older vans,’ they told us, ‘you’ll be fine.’ We hoped so.

So the lessons learnt? Don’t carry fruit into Australia, even between states, it would seem. I can imagine other police officers would be a whole lot less friendly. And the car hire situation? Better time management and holiday planning, maybe? Giving myself more time to book through a reputable company might have saved me half a day and a dollop of grief.

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Wordless Wednesday #16: The Best Food Find in Tasmania?

A roadside stall selling raspberries.

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Wordless Wednesday #14: Tasty Tasmanian Mountain Pinkberry

Tasmanian mountain pinkberry speciality - Leptecophylla juniperina subsp. parvifolia

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Queensland local legends

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Queensland Roadtrip Day 8: Palm Cove – Charters Towers (via Cardwell and Townsville) (510km)

I’m not really someone who gets excited about meeting anyone famous, but this wasn’t just anyone, this was Robert Jesse, acknowledged by those well-regarded folk over at The National Geographic, Robert Jesse, local commentator on both the Cyclone Yasi aftermath and the subsequent  Prince William 2011 trip to Cardwell in Queensland, Australia.

Buying a pie in Cardwell had been one of the few things that me and my travelling crew wanted to do as we road tripped the Queensland coast up to the Eclipse 2012 festival. But, alas, on the journey north it was not meant to be. We had driven slowly through Cardwell, eyes scouting the main strip, but nothing. No pie van. No pie man.

We settled for a sub-standard snack alternative (although this harsh judgment can possibly be attributed to the discovery that my wallet was lying in Townsville service station toilets some 180km away).

This southwards return journey, however, delivered. Perseverance paid off. Here we were, parked under a tree and the Jesse’s Pies van was but five strides away.

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Jesse’s Pies, Cardwell, Queensland

 ‘Even the locals eat them!’ advertised the reputability of the cuisine, and I thought: if it’s good enough for the locals, it’s definitely good enough for three somewhat bedraggled travellers.

As you might expect, Robert Jesse himself was far more interesting than the actual pies.

I’m known now’, he said, ‘I’m famous’.  He dishes up a pie for each of us. Warm. Amply filled.

He asks what we’re doing, where we’re from, where we’re going. He’s happy to have his photo taken for the blog, all part of the fame game, I guess.

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Me and the piemeister

‘When do you think it will be up there?’ he asks as I write down my blog address. I wonder if he’s keeping track of his publicity, keeping a scrapbook for future grandkids. Local legend.

We talk about travelling and he asks about my journeying around the world and mock shudders when I talk about my sailing trip across the Pacific.

‘I travel in Cardwell’, he says, ‘I was born in Ingham’. To put things into context, Cardwell is a tropical coastal town in northeastern Queensland and has a population of 1,250. Ingham is all of 52km away, a little further south.

‘So you keep it local?’I ask. Silly question. Maybe.

‘Oh, I’ve been to Fiji’, he adds, ‘and once I visited Townsville and I was cold’. I can’t tell if he’s actually being serious but he goes on to tell me that he gets all the travel stimulation he needs from people passing through Cardwell, stopping to buy his pies. The world comes to him, see? He feels, he tells me, completely connected to the world, and totally content in his town.

‘It’s like I said in the National Geographic’, said Robert, ‘about this place being a postcard place’. I look around and think about the drive through and I keep my opinions quiet: I’m not blown away by the town. But then, as Robert goes on to tell us, Yasi has a lot to answer for and the post-cyclone clear up is evidently still in motion. Plus, today is a bit grey. Sunshine would undoubtedly put a different slant on things.

http://www.cairns.com.au/article/2011/02/03/147715_cyclone.html

Cardwell after Cyclone Yasi (pic from http://www.cairns.com.au)

It’s nearly 14:00 and Robert tells us he’ll soon be packing up and leaving for the day. He doesn’t want the local pub to think he might be stealing their customers. I can’t imagine it being a problem, and I’m sure people – like us – come to town specifically for the pies and not the pub; but his intentions are solid, rooted in caring for the Cardwell community.

We drive on southwards and pick up my erstwhile wallet from Townsville Woolworths Caltex, thanking Don King for keeping it in his care this past week. The money, unsurprisingly, is missing, something which Don takes very seriously. For the next ten minutes we scour through CCTV tapes and it is with some relief that we discover it is not one of his staff members next into the toilets. He is clearly relieved.

I am, however, clearly a bit peeved about the loss, but I try to be level. $80 may be a lot of money for a budgeting traveller but it’s also a lot of money for someone who feels the need to steal it from fuel station facilities. I like to imagine it was put to good use, maybe to buy nappies, or fruit and veg (my imagination has often served me well).

And then back in the car; turn to the west, hot sun baking the three of us into a tired slump as the air conditioning cuts out, again. We drive on along single lanes behind three carriage road trains, passed cows shading under a single billboard in the middle of nowhere roadside. Ominous skies split their guts with gusto as we arrive into a deserted Charters Towers and we use the heavy rain as an excuse to check in to a local caravan park.

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On towards Chaters Towers

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Follow the rainbow to the out of town motel

The rain, of course, stops barely a moment after we settle into our one-room house, but by then it’s too late to back out. We’ve paid up. Let’s suffer this punishment of curt landlords and a roof over our head, of a jacuzzi spa, of television movies and an equipped kitchen, of crisp, dust-free sheets and comfy beds. Ah, what a difficult life.

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Evening visitor

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When in doubt, check Papeete out (again)

Papeete from a nicer angle (*not my pic*)

Papeete from a nicer angle (*not my pic*)

After weeks at sea living in a bubble of near isolation, away from crowds and concrete and all things developed, my first impressions of Papeete – the capital city of Tahiti – weren’t positive. In fact, I’d made some harsh judgements and whilst those observations were true, they were undoubtedly subjective and they definitely weren’t the whole truth.

Further exploration of Papeete helped me to warm to the small city. How can you look negatively on a place that seems to thrive on activity, from full boats of early evening rowers to friends speed walking the waterside pathways; a town where women really do wear colourful dresses and flowers in their hair, and where markets provide a visual feast of trinkets and food accompanied by the smell of fresh pineapples?

Markettime

Market time

Favourite moments included my extended trip to the famous Mana’o Tattoo Studio where tattooist Matt talked me out of getting freshly inked (‘What you want is too small’, he said, ‘I think you can find someone who will tattoo you but it won’t look good that small’) and made me laugh with his finger moustache tat. His honesty and chat were a winner, and the various artists’ portfolios of beautiful tribal designs made me all the more keen to book an appointment. Maybe I could get a stingray, instead of what I’d initially planned? Or a turtle? Where on my body would I get the tattoo? How big?

Should I go for something similar?

Should I go for something similar? (photo from www.manaotattoo.com)

I didn’t, but I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the place. (Or to go back myself, should I ever happen to be sailing by Tahiti again!)

But the highlight of Papeete? Food related. Always a winner.

After the dinnertime rush at 'the trucks'

After the dinnertime rush at ‘the trucks’

Cooking up a street food feast

Cooking up a street food feast

Known as ‘the trucks’, this one-stop food haven is an easy walk from the centre. With all sorts of foods served out of the back of vans and a selection of traders that changes daily, this waterside place is the place to eat great street food at prices that are competitive and absolutely worth it.

Both the island road trip and further delving into the sights and sounds of Papeete itself absolutely helped me to understand its appeal. Maybe it took a bit longer to see the positives because I was having to readjust to civilisation again?

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Sucre markets make me happy

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Fruit and veg at the Mercado Central, Sucre

Dinosaurs and karaoke aside, Sucre has a more worthy sight worth visiting: the central market. Over and over I lost myself in a wander through mazes of stalls, feasting my eyes on colourful stacks of fruit and vegetables, cakes and candies, spices and sauces.

I chatted to a couple of Dutch travellers who said that back home they rarely go to the market but here in South America they can’t stay away, and I thought, yep, it’s the same for me. So what’s that all about?

The alternative to the markets are the supermarkets, of which there are two close to the centre of town. Compared to European standards, these supermarkets are teeny and they are fairly well hidden and under populated. The one time that I visited the ‘big’ one I was surprised to find a somewhat under stocked ghost shop. A total contrast to the usual supermarket experience.

The rich people shop in the supermarket’, my Spanish teacher told me, ‘they don’t tend to buy at the actual market.’ ‘But the food is so good there’, I argued. I didn’t get it.

Realistically, though, I did get it: it is about convenience and excuses.

Back in my old existence, life was full. Independent sellers had closed by the time I wound up working for the day. Fruit and veg, meat and fish, all the things that are better fresh from a proper, local source, I bought these in the supermarket on my way home. Weekends would have been the time to go to the markets and to visit these specialist shops but those two precious days off? – I couldn’t bear to give them – or a single moment of them – over to shopping. So it was a choice. Possibly, a pretty bad choice.

Because since travelling in South America, I have discovered the joys of the markets: the bustle, the colour, the fusion of smells, the scurry of crowds, the sale songs. Hacked up animal parts and snouts might not do much for me, but the fresh fruit juices and simple, cheap meals quickly became favourites of mine.

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One of many entrances to Mercado Central

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Behind the scenes

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Best place to stock up on veggies

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Chamomile and aloe vera amongt other things at Mercado Central, Sucre

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Cow snout and tongue, anyone?

It became a habit, then, that each time I arrived into a new town I had to go check out the main market. And quickly.

After my friend Max introduced me to buñelos, trojori and api, I made it a habit to breakfast upstairs in the market during my three week stay in Sucre, building rapport with the vendor and introducing other backpackers to the magic and busyness of the local way to start the day.

I quickly discovered that I preferred to drink trojori (or api blanco) over api morado, it’s thick, sweet, yellow warmth with chunks of softened corn giving me energy for the day. I heard that trojori is loaded full of nutrients and is often given to breastfeeding infants when their mothers can’t produce enough milk. Having been through the mill with continuous illness where my diet consisted predominantly of antibiotics, it felt good to give my body something wholesome and rich and warming.

And buñelos! Ah! What can I say? An indulgent doughnut style pastry over which you could choose to either sprinkle icing sugar powder or drizzle syrup. Granted, a little greasy and not particularly healthy but everyone, from businessmen having a quick bite before work to street children looking for a hand out, joined in the enjoyment of these treats.

Overall, a cheap, rich breakfast that is probably far too high in sugar and fat, but it definitely helps start the day nicely in such a chilly climate. Expect to pay 1Bs. (£0.09/US$0.14) for two buñelos, or together with a trojori or mixto drink Bs.3.50 (£0.32/US$0.50).

So… if you’re ever over South America way, don’t get scared off by the worry of chaos and hygiene in the marketplace. Instead, wind your way through the colourful stalls, sit yourself down in amongst locals and order up a home-cooked dish. You may well not know what you’re actually eating but that’s all part of the fun, right?!

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Filed under bolivia, culture, food & drink, south america

Why Bolivia said ‘no thanks’ to McDonalds

OH, IT WAS A GOOD reason to love Bolivia even more: the outright rejection and chasing out of McDonalds.

But this isn’t new news. Bolivia actually waved goodbye to McDonalds back in 2002.

So what happened? I did some research but it was difficult to find reliable, unbiased information.  Most case studies seemed to present from a very anti-capitalist stance, one documentary explored the company’s problems with some neutrality, and of course, some people refused to agree that this failure is something worth celebrating.

For some home-grown feedback, I put it to a local, Gonzales.

It’s simple’, he said, ‘they came here and tried to charge high prices for bad quality food’. ‘But isn’t all fast food pretty bad quality? Why McDonalds?’ I asked. ‘Cost was a big factor‘, he said, ‘the average Bolivian earns 20Bs. a day and McDonalds wanted 40Bs. for a meal that didn’t even contain much real meat. Burger King came along and charged a little less and their meat was better.’

This reflects the research, but I was a little disappointed. The daddy of fast food, McDonalds, had fallen on its face trying to make a mark on South America’s poorest country, but Burger King still managed to gain some ground. A country without the influence of at least one fast food giant, I realised, was difficult to find.

Business logic suggests employing a low pricing strategy to develop a brand loyal customer base in the hope that as the country’s economic situation improves, people stick with the organisation. So was McDonalds’ business model to fault? Were they not prepared to put up with a few years of loss-leading in order to beat Burger King to gaining control of Bolivia’s fast food market?

Something went wrong.              

Today, Bolivia’s economic situation is still not great on a world scale. In terms of fast food, however, Gonzales assured me that they’re not missing out. ‘We have all this great local food’, he said, ‘we can produce better quality food ourselves. Why spend a fortune on American fast food that has very little nutritional value? And if people really want it, in the cities they can always go along to Burger King.

And people do want it. Subway and Burger King outlets remain favourites of well-to-do Bolivians (an aspiration to the West?) and tourists looking for a safe, standardised eating experience. Until professional locals and young travellers alike start to place higher value on independent cafés and restaurants, fast food outlets will rule the world.

Now where is my quarterpounder with cheese? Extra fries and mayo please.

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5 ways to be Bolivian

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Dress code

TRAVELLING TO BOLIVIA AND WANT to blend in with the country folk? Here are a few tips on how to be less of a gringo, more of a local.

  1. Women, wear your hair in two plaits and dress in colourful, full skirts that reach a little past your knee, swish as you walk and leave people wondering whether you’re a little chunky or just layered up. Men, wear a wide brimmed hat.
  2. Hang out of bus windows whenever you stop or slow down to check out what’s going on.
  3. Believe in God. 82% of Bolivians are Catholics and when they question you on your faith, it’s often easier to say that you’re Christian (or any other religious denomination) rather than agnostic or atheist. Cross yourself any time you pass by a church or shrine or holy statue, whatever your age. Don’t, however, forget about Pacha Mama. Throw the odd bit of food or dribble some drink on the ground before you indulge, and every now and then sacrifice a llama or llama foetus in her honour.
  4. If travelling with a child, sling them on your back in a swaddling of bright coloured material that completely conceals them. Actually, carry any large bulks in this way and confuse people as to whether you have a child or vegetables or just a mass of material on your back. Keep chickens and other livestock separate but still covered so that if one of your hens decides to poke her head out and start pecking at a gringo’s shoes in the aisle of a crowded bus, it gives them a sufficient fright to behave on public transport. It may even raise a smile. Talking of which, don’t give out smiles too easily. Be a bit reserved, restrained. You don’t know who you’re dealing with, especially when it comes to bushy-tailed travellers, so err on the side of caution and observe these strange creatures from a bit of a distance.
  5. Guys, to deal with working at high altitude stuff your cheeks with coca leaves, so full that it lumps out and could be mistaken for a growth. Make sure you use a catalyst with the coca leaves so that your lips go a little numb.

There are of course lots of other things you should do to blend in. Unlike other South American countries, llama hats and woolly jumpers aren’t the exclusive outfit of gringos (although pick carefully). It’s cold here so everyone needs some llama love.

What else? Erm… eat meals that consist of double carbs, always something potato based alongside rice. Don’t understand vegetarianism and feel completely confident that taking out the main hunks of meat in a soup before dishing up will suffice for those fussy eaters.

And more seriously? Survive on a salary of 20Bs.-30Bs. per day (that’s US$2.87-US$4.30). Send your kids out to beg or shoe shine at known tourist spots or set them to work down the mines because although they are sacrificing their education, you need the money to survive.

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World Nomad’s Travel Writing Scholarship 2012

To link in with the previous post on travelling by bus from Brazil to Bolivia through Paraguay, here is a short piece that I submitted to the World Nomad’s Travel Writing Scholarship 2012 competition:

On buses and food, and food on buses

It’s not my finest moment but it’s done now. Submitted. End of.

The biggest challenge was keeping it within the 2,000 character limit (and that included spaces) whilst still capturing enough detail.

I don’t know if it makes any difference how many people read and comment on the piece or not… some competitions seem to work like that… but of course, as ever, I’d love feedback from you (and if it’s really bad or super constructive, maybe do it on here instead!).

Not to self: never do things in a hurry.

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