Saturday, August 20, 2011

Final - Friendships

End of the trip at the Equator Monument

From my previous experiences on Hot Rock Africa, I knew that we would build strong friendships on the truck. The people that you travel with, live with and suffer with, will be friends for life. The fun times brings you together, but when you suffer together, that's what brings out the strong bonds.

And there has been suffering, which we have tended to gloss over in this blog. The hardships, the hunger, the cold, the dust, the wind and accidents, even including a death. The death was not part of our group, but we were closely involved in rescuing a drowning boy, but we could not revive his father even after several hours of trying.

Truck bogged badly on the Salt Flats

Sometimes the grind of the trip has brought us close to leaving the truck. But leaving the truck is not so easy - you can't just hail a taxi to the airport when you are camped in the middle of nowhere. The truck tries to keep a hold of you through the hard times so you can move forward to the good times. Even when we work hard, can be good times, like when we got bogged on the salt flats.

Rebecca and Bob finding the critical fence posts.

We had been bogged several times before, but getting bogged on a salt flat is different. You break through the hard crust into bottomless soft mud. The wheels dig down until the body of the truck rests on the hard crust and you are going nowhere. I expected it would take a large tractor to pull us out and in the 10 days we'd spent around this region we had seen none.

Me digging ramps for the wheels

It took teamwork and a bit of luck to drag the truck back onto solid ground. I started digging ramps to lift us back onto the hard crust; Simon jacked up the truck to lift the body; Jonny, Tim and Ken dug out clearance for the diff; while everone else scouted around for useful items. Our luck came in the form of a pile of rocks and fence posts 200 metres away. Everyone gathered rocks in whatever container they could find: shopping baskets, bar buckets, even our cooking pots were put to use.

Boys digging out the diff.

The critical component was the two fence posts that we placed under the main bogged wheels, then filled all the remaining spaces with the rocks. Finally with Andy's driving skills, learned from several previous boggings, along with everyone rocking and pushing the truck, we just managed to extract the truck the 5 metres onto hard ground. I felt that day we all came together as a team. If anyone had not helped, we would have been stuck on the salt flats for days. That's the type of incident that brings us all together.

Everyone helping with rocks

So we had no choice but to stay on the truck. We muddled through the hard times and events changed for the better.It binds us together and makes us feel it was right to make the commitment to keep on going. But we can't wait to get off the dammed truck, to have hot showers on demand, a real kitchen to cook in and a plush couch to sit on and to spend time out of the dirt.

The final push to get the truck out.

Check out our final video for the last drive day.

Friday, August 12, 2011


The cold Antarctic waters of the Humboldt current running up the west coast of South America makes this section of coast one of the driest regions on earth. We had been heading north for several months in this region and stuck in this endless desert. It was still cold and dry right up to 3 degrees south of the Equator.

Then we crossed over into Ecuador and within a few hours driving, the landscape had changed into rich jungle. Here the Homboldt current had finally met its match from the warm waters decending from the North. We drove pass km after km of banana plantations, Ecuador's major export, and then up into the steep forested mountains.

We visited three small climbing crags in Ecuador. The first, a small sports crag high on a ridge up a tight winding road where we had to jam our camp into a tiny switchback next to a fast flowing creek. Now in the tropics, it rained quite a lot and the truck soon gathered a good layer of mud. When the rain held off we managed a few days climbing as the rock would dry quickly in the hot sun.

The second crag was under the watchful eye of Chimborazo, Ecuador's highest mountain at 6,310 meters. We camped at a lazy 3,600 metres which gave us access to good sport climbing and a selection of trad cracklines. Again we worked aroud the rain to maximise the climbing oppuntines.

Our final crag was a huge sports climbing wall next to a raging river. The was one of our best camping spots. We camped on the river's edge and it was an easy, if a bit muddy, 5 minute walk to the base of the crag. We managed a day climbing and there was potential to do more, but after 7 months we had just about had enough of climbing. So we enjoyed the excellent campground while Ee Fu baked cinnamon scrolls on the gas cooker.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Hatun Machay

The stone-walled enclosure at Hatun Machay is supossed to keep the cows out of the camping area. However, the cows seem to believe in the saying that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. By morning, all the cows are inside the enclosure. Luckily for us we had secured a small alcove off to the side of the main enclosure and with a little rock work it turned out to be cow-proof.

Camping encloure with out tent on the alcove to the left.
Those unlucky Hot Rockers in the main compound had to suffer restless nights with cows tripping over their guy ropes ripping their tents. Having cows keeping them awake with their noisy chomping of grass and doing that other thing that cows tend to do that you don't want to stand in.

Hatun Machay is one of the best crags we have climbed in South America. The rock is sandstone of excellent quality with wind-blown delicate features. The crag is nestled in a small valley adjsent to the main valley down to Huaraz. The main valley is cut with a fast-flowing river with impressive snow-capped peaks to the east.The colours of the rock and the high alpine sky make my photos jump out with impressive detail. It's what you'd expect that South American mountains should look like.

The crag is located at 4200 meters above sea level which is just below the snow level at this latitude. However, once the sun goes down we have to put up with washing our dishes in water that turns to ice before our eyes and all our tents have a thick coating of ice in the morning. But the sun rises early and the temperature is excellent for climbing by 9am.

But we have some luxury here as there is a well-built refugio with bunk beds for 20, and a good kitchen and living area. We can cook out of the wind and there's a fire to keep us warm before we retire to our tents. This makes the hours after sundown much more enjoyable and we stay up well past HRBT (Hot Rock Bed Time of 9pm) to enjoy the fire.

The first day we arrived was Marese's birthday, so we climbed the nearest peak to 4800 metres to give us spectacular views down the main valley and picnicked on a warm rock out of the wind.

As for the climbing, it is exceptional. There are enough well-bolted sports routes to keep any climber happy for weeks and there is huge potential to put up thousands more routes. Everyone enjoyed the climbing as you can see in the video. We can see that this will become a major climbing destination in the future and we can enjoy it now while it is not so crowded. Maybe in the future they will make the stone wall higher to keep out the cows!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Donde esta la fiesta?

South America, land of the siesta and the fiesta. While we'd often been at the mercy of the former when desperately seeking groceries, postage stamps and truck parts, we hadn't, in 6 months in Latin America, managed to glimpse so much as a sequin. Where was the music, the colour, the sparkle...cue the dancing girls already!

We missed the Oruro Carnaval by two days in our effort to make our Machu Picchu train booking on June 19, which we'd managed to time precisely to miss the winter solstice festival scheduled there for June 24.

So imagine our delight when we arrived into Cusco from Machu Picchu around midday and saw a massive hairy spider and a towering warlike hombre brandishing a weapon... We followed the trail of freakishly large evil-looking things to their natural source - a parade!

Never has viewing a parade been easier - we had a good foot on anyone in the large crowd of spectators in their ponchos, bowler hats and colourful blankets. We watched the parade from the side of the street, then from the lovely main square flanked by ornate colonial buildings, then from a restaurant balcony overlooking the square where we ate lunch as the parade paraded below us. After lunch, we reluctantly left the parade to check into our hostel.

An hour or so later, we returned to the square where the parade was still in full swing with brass band after brass band enthusiastically belting out the same four bars of vaguely discordant music. Left to explore the town for a couple of hours and returned to a continuing stream of still-enthusiastic brass bands and dancing folk in colourful costumes.

Later that evening, we ate a leisurely dinner before making our way back to the main square - and the continuing parade. Sheepishly we wandered back to our hostel, comprehensively outdistanced by chaotic groups of small children in oversized hats and shiny prickly costumes who, judging by the number of parade entries still lined up in the side streets, would be up past midnight, well after we were tucked up with our bunny rugs.

Next morning, we were greeted with the groggy sounds of a city awakening. The low rumbling of early morning truck deliveries, the feeble crowing of learner roosters, and the dull clatter as the city stirred awake, accompanied by the blare of trumpets and clash of imperfectly timed cymbals...cue the dancing girls....

A few photos until we have time to write a blog entry..

Haraz Peru.

Nasca and mud

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Happy Trials

Our hostel in La Paz, Bolivia, was an oasis of walls and plumbing after many days of camping, It was in a top location - near the town centre, a great mixture of cosmopolitan captial city and traditional Bolivian town, and overlooked a lovely plaza where locals milled about, practiced dance routines, and bussed in to see their incarcerated loved ones in the large grey prison directly across the square from our hostel.

Enjoyed La Paz so much we didn't want to leave...and nearly didn't. I had finally surrendered to an inevitable bout of stomach ickiness that made the planned 6 hour drive to Puno, in Peru, seem...ummm...unenticing. So Martin and I decided to wait a day for me to recover before taking an express bus all the way to Cusco and meet the others there - a 12 hour ride.

Fortunately, the very recent general strike on transportation out of La Paz had ended. Unfortunately, Canada had, inconveniently, chosen this time to remove large tracts of Peruvian soil, and the Peruvian government had chosen to let them, against the will of many folks who were perfectly capable of building sturdy roadblocks by way of registering their disapproval. So we bought bus tickets as far as Puno via Copacabana with no guarantees the roads would be open beyond that.

The 3 hour bus ride to Copacabana dumped us near the Bolvian-Peruvian border, and we readied ourselves for the next 3 hour bus to Puno. Er...the next 3 hour bus to Puno? Not today, folks. No one was getting through the roadblocks but you could bypass them with a mere 10 hour boat ride on Lake Titicaca the next day.

Discovered a couple of stray HotRockers, Rolf and Nick, who were similarly stranded so the next day we all bundled aboard a bus to the border then a minibus to the boat. The minibus disgorged us at the edge of the lake where a gaggle of confused gringoes lingered on the shore watching locals bailing out the dilapidated wooden rowing boats that we were to climb aboard for the trip out to a couple of alarmingly small day-tripper boats. Once the boats had been loaded to capacity and, to boroow from Buzz Lightyear, beyond, we set off for 10 hours on a small boat, rarely in sight of land, with no onboard entertainment and no food service. We split a packet of Pringles and a couple of packets of biscuits between the four of us for the 10 hour journey. It was...long.

Nine and a half hours into the trip, another boat pulled up next to us under cover of darkness. Our excess passengers were moved steathily to the adjoining boat, which was lashed to our boat and stayed there as we quietly motored in, without running lights, to the dock. We were met by touts who helped us collect our luggage and melt into the night.

Two hours in Puno to get money, eat and use the bathroom before climbing aboard yet another bus for the 12 hour overnight bus to Cusco, usually a 6 hour drive. We arrived in Cusco, two hours too late for our train to Machu Picchu Pueblo (Aguas Calientes). What to do? Martin recruited a very accomodating, although non-English-speaking, tourist policeman who was more than happy to advise us and insisted on having his photo taken with me as he diligently pointed out where to go on the city map.

A mere hour and a half hair-raising downhill taxi ride to Ollantaytambo, followed by a 2 hour scenic train journey on the Machu Picchu choo-choo and we made it. Hiram Bingham had it easy...

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Slam Dunk

Dry Dusty towns

We left the vast sparkly whiteness of the salt flats, destined for Oruro, a dusty brown mining town of 250 000 at 3700 m above sea level. En route, we passed through several small towns, invariably ramshackle affairs with dirt roads and earth-coloured adobe buildings in various states of decrepitude, some with a small brown town plaza but few other signs of public life and little movement or colour. Everything was the same dull grey-brown as everything else and the towns seemed almost deserted, melting into the desert that surrounded them.

We noted with surprise that the first town we passed through had a basketball court in the centre - an odd addition to a town that lacked any other discernbile services. As we drove on, town after town each presented us with a shiny new basketball court, pristine and, as far as we could tell, unused. I later pointed to one of the courts and asked a local if basketball was popular in Bolivia - it seemed odd for a nation of people who would be dwarfed by the average Australian 12 year old - he shook his head, "no", he said, "everyone plays soccer"...

Camping above the basketball court

We hit Oruro in the afternoon and it was bedlam - colourful, busy, bedlam. Pimped out minibuses with bling hanging from the mirrors trundled through, horns bleeping, while women with long black braids wearing bowler hats perched atop their heads sold all manner of items from brightly coloured blankets by the side of the road. We wound our way through the bustling town to the climbing area near the mine and ended up camping on a small exposed platform directly behind the inevitable basketball court.

We were adopted by three sisters who lived, with their ninos and their two brothers, across the road from the basketball court. They were so sweet and generous, inviting us back to their small living room afternoon after morning after afternoon, plying us with Bolivian treats and enthusiastically accepting our clumsy manglings of their native tongue - they were something special...amigas para siempre.

Oruro town

In fact, the entire under-18 population of the town embraced us, with an ever-increasing number of kids gathering around the smelly gringoes in the big red truck. Each afternoon, kids would drift up to the truck, the braver ones trying out their English and venturing to the doorway of the truck, while the timid types stood apart, jostled each other and giggled. The friendship was solidified with an intense high-altitude soccer match where a bunch of panting gringoes were trounched by a gaggle of 4 foot tall youngsters. The game was played, naturally, on the basketball court.


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Salar de Uyuni

The Bolivian Salt Flats or Salar de Uyuni as they are know are a huge expanse of salt at 3600 metes above sea level. In this part of Bolivia, it's desert dry and what moisture that drains into this basen brings the salt, which builds to a depth of 120 metres. We had hired a guide to direct us accross the salt flats as there are no marked roads, only tracks leading in many directions.

We drove into the salar west of Uyuni, which we had arrived at the previous afternoon in the middle of a dust storm. The wind toyed with all the plastic rubbish lying around the town and the dust brought the visibiltiy down to 100 metres. By late afternnon the storm had blow itself out and we watched the sunset from the local train grave yard.

Most of the Salar is rock hard salt, but with some soft muddy patches around the edges. Getting on and off the Salar is the tricky bit and that's where our guide was invaluable. We drove onto the Salar where the local Bolivians are mining the salt flats for table salt. Our guide said they extract 10,000 tonnes per year. However what they take is replenished each year from the network of underground streams running under the salt flats.

We proceeded onto the salt flats proper where the horizon dropped away to pure white salt disappearing for 100km ahead of us. Racing accross the salt flats it was the smoothest ride we have had on the enitre trip. The salt is mostly dead flat, but with some sections having a hexigonal pattern. Also there are round sections where water has bubbled up from below.

We lunched on a cactus-filled island in the middle of the salt flats. With salt surrouning the island, it was like we were docking a ship where we arrived. From the crest of the island it looked like it was surrounded by the sea.

We headed north where a huge volcano marked the northern border of the salt flats. For an hour the volcano never seemed to approach as we raced over the salt. Finally we could see a thin ribbon of water glinting in the sunlight which marked the edge of the lake. The water was 100 meters wide, through which was a vague road which we needed to stay on to avoid the soft mud. We plowed through the salt water to beach the truck for the night at the base of the volcano.  
See the video for more insights.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Bouldering at 4000 meters in Tuzgle Argentina Video

The climb up from the plains at 2600 meters to 4200 meters could be done in a single drive day. However we would be suffering from altitude sickness if we climbed that quickly. So we set up camp on a dusty and cold football field at 3000 meters. It must have been the coldest night we have spent so far as everything froze in our tents. Even the inside of the insulated truck had icicles dripping from windows due to the exhalations of the HotRockers who took the soft option to sleep in the truck.

The early sunshine soon had us warmed as we drove up over 4000 meters. All of the small creek crossings we passed over were frozen to some extent. As we crossed each stream, the ice would crack under the huge weight of the truck. We arrives breathess on the high plateau under the watchfull eye of the Tuzgle Volcano that climbed up another kilometer to over 5600 meters.

The camp was in a dusty canyon with a small stream running through it. Luckily this stream never froze overnight and we suspected it must be fed by a hot spring as all the other streams in the area were always frozen in the mornings, like all our water bottles.

See the video for the bouldering action in this undeveloped canyon.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Climbing at 4000 meters

A few photos of bouldering and climbing at 4000 meters in Argentina. See the link below for all photos.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Living expanses

When the truck arrived in Rio, Martin, Steve, Didier and I met to check in at the ambitiously named Best Rio Hostel. We had booked ourselves our own 4 bed room instead of booking beds in the standard 8-12 bed dorms. It was a few days of moderate extravagance we figured we'd earned after living cheek-by-jowl with 22 other climbers for several months.

We were directed to our room at the dead-end of a dog-leg corridor that was completely effective at excluding all natural light and air. Our windowless room was small, gushingly blue,...and small. It had the size and general ambience of a kid's cubby house, with a pair of low-set bunk beds that you could span between with your outstetched arms, a pitched white-washed ceiling, and a couple of "lockers" that seemed to be fashioned from slats of balsa wood with bent hinges, gaping holes and nairy a right-angle in sight. The only thing missing was a clubhouse flag and a "no gurls allowed" sign.

But not everything was small. What wasn't small was the industrial-sized, black, boxed fan that necessarily filled the doorway with its whirring presence whenever the room was occupied, in a brave and barely successful attempt to prevent actual asphyxiation in the steamy Rio heat. This desperate attempt at aeration meant that we couldn't close the door when we were in the room. So when we were all tucked up in our cubby hole, slumbering peacefully, we'd be startled awake by sudden floods of lights as the nameless, faceless, shameless bastards who shared our hostel but not our bedtime switched on lights to get to their windowless, airless rooms or to the communal bathrooms.

Ah, the bathrooms. Two toilet cubicles, one with a shower added, evidently as an afterthought. You step out of the shower onto the invariably sodden floor to gather your towel from the same sodden floor after having attempted to hang it on one of two short, slippery hooks next to the door - the uncloseable, concertina-style door, the flimsiest, yet noisiest door available, and situated directly at right angles to our own, perpetually open bedroom door. Ahhh, the serenity....

The kitchen would have been completely serviceable, if not particularly easy to locate, had it contained any useable utensil, bowl or drinking receptacle.

There is no paragraph to describe the common room. There wasn't one.

So it was with heavy hearts and fond memories that we checked out of Best Rio Hostel after our 5 night prepaid stay to move into CabanaCopa Hostel, a hostel with hooks in the bathrooms, lockable lockers, noiseless closing doors, windows and a ceiling fan...well, sure...but where do I hoist my flag??

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Cipo Slab Party Video and Sister Act

The super slippery slab

We arrived around 11PM after a 17 hour drive day at the huge empty campground, deserted except for a single tent . We quickly shifted camp the next morning to a shaded corner out of the hot Brazilian sun which beat down on us unrelentingly. Little did we know that the approaching holid ay weekend would turn our lonely campground into a packed jungle of noisy locals with their huge car sound systems blaring at 3 in the morning.

Bob on  the impossible slab route.

Cipo is a collection of small limestone crags scattered around a tourist town in the thick Brazilian rainforest. It’s hot and sweaty work to find the crags, but the climbing is well worth the effort, with well-bolted sports routes of excellent quality and variety from technical slabs to steep juggy overhanging walls.

Damian runs up the slab

The nearest crag to the campground was once a quarry where the local rock was turned into buildings, fountains or bathroom fittings. One particular slab had been cut slippery smooth with what looked like a huge bandsaw. A 6mm thick cable had been used to cut a sloping slab 30 metres high. This wall was almost featureless and, with a covering of dry dusty moss, was impossible to stand on.

Bob, Naomi, Ken, Damian and I spent the day playing around on the slab, trying to make any progress up the harder routes. We managed to climb the easiest route by aiding off two nut keys - placing the first 5mm of the hooked tip into a shallow hole and then standing on slings attached to the keys. I only managed to climb the easiest climb by using my cowboy skills to lasso the bolts with slings to protect some tricky moves. The most difficult climb proved impossible to us all. Bob and Damian managed the best progress by simply taking a long run up and then sprinting up the wall.

Much fun was had on this wall where most of the rock has ended up in the swish bathrooms of well-appointed apartments in Rio, 400km to the south.

Sister Act
Meanwhile, 400 km south, in a well-appointed apartment with a swish bathroom in Rio, I was on a 10 day beachy holiday with my sister, Katrina, having left the truck to meet up with her.

Ipanema Beach, Rio
While Martin was playing on the rocks, I was rocking on la playa. Trine and I spent hours alternating between bobbing about in the warm water, and sitting on Ipanema Beach while vendors walked past selling everything under the sun. Literally under the sun. We had perfect sunny beachy weather.

CocoCabana Beach, Rio

We did the obligatory tourist things - cable car to Sugarloaf for stunning views of Rio by day, staying to see the sun set and the lights twinkle on at night; cog train up through lush rainforest to see the Cristo Redentor and get a 360 degree, messiah's-eye view of Rio; single car tram up the steep winding cobbled streets of Santa Theresa with locals hanging off the caboose. But every morning started with a swim at the beach, and many nights ended with a stroll along the beachside paths along Ipanema and Copacabana Beach, stopping at one of the kiosks to sip a caipirinha and enjoy the balmy summery evenings by the beach. It was perfect.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Sao Luiz do Puruna, Brazil

Camping under a statue of Cristo should have given us protection. But the locals with their high power sound system and terrible Brazilan techno music drove us away after a few 3am nights. We moved 2km down the road and camped in a farmer's field full of pecking chickens and playful puppies. We could still just hear their music from the farmer's field, but not loud enough to keep us awake.

We had 5 big drive days to cover the huge distances from central Argentinea to Brazil. The country side gradually got wetter from the dry Argentinian plains into rich tropical forests of Brazil. The weather turned from cool dry to hot and sweaty. This also meant the arrival of mosquites, which had been blissfully absent until now.

The local climbing was a bit more friendly, with good sandstone sports climbing across all the grades from easy to impossible. I found the rock quite farmiliar to the local Sydney sandstone while other hot rockers found it challenging. Being a small compact sports crag, it was very social climbing as everyone was climbing together, each trying harder routes and all giving vocal support to push the grades.

See all the action in the following video.


Marese & Martin

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Iguazu Falls

Discovered by the Spanish explorer Alvar Nunes Cabeza de Vaca, in the year 1542. Iguazu falls contains 275 seperate falls with a height of 65 meters and median flow of 1,500 cubic meters per second. These are the widest falls in the world with a total width of 2700 meters.

See what fun we get up to at the falls in the video below.

Martin & Marese.

More Photos with this link

Monday, May 2, 2011

La Ola, Argentina Video

Sports climbing at La Ola, Argentina
We camped  in a farmers field which was surrounted by small sports climbing crags. The farmer cooked us fresh bread in his wood fire oven and we lapped up the excellent sport climbing.

Baking Fresh bread
See all the action in this video.


Martin & Marese

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Camp Cooking

It's always a relief to finish your cook duty. To wash up that last pan and pack away the kitchen onto the truck. With 25 hungry climbers on the truck, it will be another month before you have to do it all again.

Making empanadas in Cocharmo

Everyone is required to do kitchen duty, where 2 people have to cook dinner and breakfast for 2 days. So with 25 climbers it should take another 23 days before you are due to cook again.
I find it challenging to cook for a dinner party of 8 people with a well set up kitchen. Cooking for 25 people on a very limited kitchen on a micro budget requires a few extra skills they don't teach in French cooking school.

Marese showing cutting technique for Pumpkin Soup
As the day approaches, Roger, our leader, will hand you the equivalent of $US 1 per person per day to purchase your food. Back home that would buy lunch for the two of us. Now that you have your $50, you have to find somewhere to spend it. First problem is to find the supermarket, or even find a town with a supermarket. Then hope that the supermarket actually has some fresh vegetables that you recognise. This usally happens on a drive day and you have 1 hour to shop.
Now one hour is not a lot of time as in that time you must find the supermarket and do a quick scout around to see what they have. Then design your menu based on what ingredients you have found, making sure you will keep to budget - we usally go over and put some of our own cash into the budget - grab all the ingredients and get through the checkout, all without speaking the local language. Once purchased, store all your ingredients back into the truck, which can mean packing them into every nook and cranny and hope nobody steps on your fresh vegetables.
Now that you have done the cook duty shop, you have to turn around and go back to the supermarket so you can get food for your personal lunches. When you have that done, then you can use any spare time to grab a coffee and tasty treat or fnd some internet access to check Facebook, upload photos and update the blog. We have this down to a fine art and have managed to do all these things and be back on the truck in one hour.
Cooking in the rain.
As we can bush camp for many days, you may need to shop 5 days in advance and hope your fresh vegetables don't go rotten in the meantime. Then there will also be 5 days of other people's cook duty food stuffed in the truck before yours.
Now you may be saying that $US 1 is a bit tight to cook dinner and breakfast per person. There is also store's food which is looked after by Ee Fu and Rich. The truck has supplies of rice, pasta, beans, lentils, flour, sugar and limited dried herbs. So it's smart to design your menu to use as much as possible of these 'free' foods in your menu. Hence we have the 'sweet rice' breakfast. There is a bit of a collective groan when we are having sweet rice again for breakfast. Rice overcooked 'til it's like porridge, with milk powder and sugar. Typically when sweet rice is on the menu we grab our private stash of museli and a can of fruit and abstain.
Some of the young guys on the trip have  limited cooking experience, so they are in the deep end when cooking for 25. As I don't want to starve, I usally try to give them a hand with selecting the ingredents and cooking.
Argentinan BBQ for extra $2 per person.
With the budget, meat is normally off the menu, but occasionaly after a long period camping in the bush we will have a special dinner, Everone chips in an extra few dollars to buy some meat for a BBQ. In Argentina, it only took an extra $2 for us to cook a huge BBQ with steaks and sausages and heaps of vegetables.
I find drive day cook duty the most stressful as you don't have much time to prepare. Normally when on cook duty, we take the afternoon off from climbing to do our truck security and start to prepare dinner so we can have it ready around 8-ish. On a drive day we may be driving to 7 or sometimes as late as 11 pm. Then you have to unpack the kitchen and start cooking, maybe on the side of the road or in a quarry or truck mechanic's yard. When you have finished cooking, you have to put up your tent and get your personal kit organised. However, everyones knows this is an extra chore, and everyone usually helps out on these cook dutys and someone will put up your tent.

Nick cooking my bread on the wheelbarrow fire. Turned out excellent.
All up there have been some excellent dinners, pumpkin soup with freshly baked bread, empanadas, stir fries. I do enjoy the cook duty, but am also very glad when I put away that final pot and have another 23 days off.

Marese tasting the Pumpkin Soup
Watch our video below to get more of an idea about our cooking duty.


Martin & Marese