Eating on Te Araroa

Confession – this is a bit of a fill-in blog, as I’m in Auckland now but disconnected from my photos, so can’t yet post a full picture of what we’ve been up to… But the topic that is constantly on the minds and lips of trampers is food, so I’m going to indulge in a reflection on what we eat while tramping. We’ve had numerous conversations about dehydrators, the merits (or not) of Backcountry meals, what to eat for lunch, how often scroggin becomes excess baggage, once you’ve picked out the bits of it you actually like. For anyone who is wondering what we are eating on the trail, this is the expose.

Breakfast: Harraway’s Scotch oats plus hot water, sweetened with freeze-dried fruit made by a company called Fresh As (available in many supermarkets – but the most variety I’ve found is at Moore Wilson’s in Wellington). These packets range from around 26-45g, and last for 2-3 days. The fruit rehydrates well and is extremely flavourful – my favourites are the feijoa, raspberry and strawberry – but we also have nectarine, blueberry, peach and plum. I’ve been sprinkling on some sugar (from little packets I scrounge from lodges or cafes, or from sugar in ‘free food’ stashes at campsites).

Lunch is kind of the low point of the day. Five or six Meal Mate crackers (or a wrap) with half of a Pic’s peanut butter slug. Yes, half, we share a slug between us for lunch. It’s cruelly niggardly – but on the other hand, a big meal in the middle of a tramping day could become digestively burdensome. We might add some cheese, or a tomato if that is available. During our ‘warm-up’ tramp in Matemateaonga, we had a special lunch treat – some dehydrated sundried tomato pesto made by our friend Sarah from Nelson. This was so delicious and Tony was so happy to have a change from plain peanut butter that he was almost rapturous.

Morning tea and afternoon tea consists of a muesli bar each. For an eight hour day, we’d generally walk for around 2 hours, have a muesli bar, walk for another 2 hours, have lunch, walk for 2 more hours, have a second muesli bar, then walk until it’s over.

Dinner is the highlight. This is where our dehydration skills come to the fore. In the weeks before the trip, we’ve been dehydrating literally dozens of cans of beans and an uncounted number of frozen mixed vegetables. To make them last longer, we vacumm packed them in dinner-sized serves. Tramping dinners are a matter of assemble, soak and serve. Into Tony’s largest pot, we put in a packet of beans (brown lentils, black beans, kidney beans or cannelini beans), a packet of vegetables (usually our own dehydrated mixed veges, or dehydrated creamed corn), a third of a packet of Backcountry dehydrated rice (this is so cheap to buy it’s not worth the effort of cooking and dehydrating our own rice); and for a sauce, a packet of dried soup (using different flavours make it more varied), some coconut milk powder and a heaped teaspoon of spices (curry powder or mexican flavouring at the moment). Add boiling water, cover and leave for at least an hour. It’s surprisingly tasty. Maybe it’s because anything tastes good when you’ve been walking all day and are ravenous.

Then there’s the essential food item, chocolate. Depending on the day, we might break into this at the end of the walk, with a cup of tea, before or after we’ve set up the tent. Or else it’s dessert. The other essential food is coffee – part of the morning wake-up ritual. Nothing fancy, just instant; black, no milk, no sugar. And on this trip, of course, we’ve added in other treats we can pick up along the way – especially ice-cream. I’m hoping to try every kind of ice cream on the market by the end of the trail.

That’s it, the bare bones of eating on Te Araroa. Although I have had the odd food craving (strangely, this was for Shrewsbury biscuits on 90 Mile Beach), it is mostly just fresh fruit and vegetables that I miss. And even though we’ve been eating as much as possible, we’ve both lost weight – so we’re shovelling in the calories now with the kind assistance of our parents in Auckland – Mum’s shortbread and homemade chocolate chip biscuits should go a long way to restore our waistlines…  

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