It’s incredible how a little bit of hot water can transform some funny-coloured powder and unidentifiable lumps into a lamb roast with minted peas and mashed potatoes.
Or spicy beef curry with vegetables.
Or spaghetti bolognaise.
Food is everything on the trail. It’s the one thing that can get you up the mountain (and down again). It’s the only thing that will keep your feet moving when 7km takes 4 hours. And it’s the one thing to look forward to after 11 hours of tramping in rain, over scree and through swamps.
You’re warm and safe in a hut, and the only thing you can think is “what’s for dinner?”
For Mat and I, the answer is invariably something dried. Over the past 12 days, we’ve added water to mash potato, pasta, cous cous, rice, 2-minute noodles, and countless Backcountry Cuisine meals. Actually, there were even times when we didn’t bother adding water to the noodles and just ate them dried… yep, we reached a new low!
So it comes as no surprise that our two rest days in St Arnaud saw us high-tail it straight to the Alpine Lodge restaurant for lamb shank and vegetables. REAL FOOD!
Shopping for food is just as challenging as the tramping. We have three meals to think about – breakfast, lunch and dinner – for each day on the trail. Every item has to fit three criteria:
- Light weight
- High energy
- Quick to cook (we can only carry so much fuel)
Taste comes in a distant fourth. We’ve discovered that carrying dried herbs is a great way to add flavour to instant mash without adding heaps of weight.
We’re also taking notes from other trampers on what to eat (and what not to…). The Americans seem to love peanut butter – we met one guy who was carrying two jars of the stuff. We also met two girls who were surviving on bread, muffins and muesli (they weren’t carrying a stove). A Belgian guy seemed to be trialling every flavour of Uncle Bens rice ever made. And our real favourite was a local Nelson tramper, Andrew, who sizzled up venison sausages made from the deer he’d hunted. No amount of hinting on Mat’s part could get him to give us a taste though!
But even the best laid meal plans can disintegrate when you turn up in a small village like St Arnaud and the only place to resupply is a tiny (and expensive) General Store. A tiny General Store that every TA tramper is also using for resupply. Luckily, the lovely store owner offered to put aside a box for us so we won’t miss out on the dried goodies we want.
Here’s our grocery list for the next section (5 days with 2 days extra, just in case):
4 Carbonara pasta
3 Cheese and bacon pasta (leftover from previous section)
2 Backcountry Cuisine meals (lamb roast and soy chicken)
2 pkts 2-minute noodles
3 pkts of chocolate coated raisins
2 pkts tuna and crackers
1 pkt dried apricots
1 pkt dried fruit and nuts
2 blocks of chocolate
Butter, tea and Milo (courtesy of our accommodation)
Plus, we’ll carry some fresh food for the first night (sausages, bread rolls, bananas and eggs)