I found these photos on my phone this week – they’re a bit out of date, taken on a camping trip Perrin and I took in early December last year. It was a great weekend. We were in the middle of nowhere, well that’s what it felt like to me. I couldn’t tell you where was north or south and we drove a winding gravel road through farmland and scrubby bush to get to the little plot of land Perrin’s mother owns. We slept in a tent – boiling, sweating hot one night and absolutely freezing cold the next – and traipsed around in gumboots, bathed in a creek, dug a hole for the toilet – the whole 9 yards.
We had to slash down thigh-high thistles with an axe to navigate our campsite and we built a fire beneath the long, sweeping branches of a willow tree. In one corner of the property was an old, crumbling school house which looked as if a vagrant or two had taken shelter there over the years. The red brick chimney had fallen down so we negotiated the rotten floor boards to ferry bricks across the paddock to build a fire.
We roasted marshmallows on twigs whittled at the end to make a spike and we ate hot, greasy fried egg and bacon sandwiches on the first night. We wrapped potatoes in tin foil and when they were cooked, we broke them open to release the steam and nibble at the hot, fluffy insides. This sounds funny, but even now, 6 months later, I remember the potato tasting just how you imagine a potato to taste, savoury and earthy and clean, before you add the salt, pepper, butter, cheese, stock or herbs.
The second day the drizzle cleared to be fine and hot. We found broken branches suitable for hiking sticks and walked through the nearby pine forest. The forest was filled with light streaming through the trees, giving everything a silvery touch. Wild goats ran along the path in front of us before they would dart up the hillside. There were fox gloves everywhere with slender, bell shaped purple flowers and bowed heads. We found an old boot on a tree stump and I wondered which forest worker had walked out with only one shoe on.
That night, because I’m a lucky lady, Perrin treated me to boil-up. Perrin waded in the creek to find the wild watercress, and we hacked two carrots and more potatoes with Perrin’s hunting knife. If approached like pot-au-feu I can see how boil-up would be great – potatoes, carrots, sausages or chops, and watercress in a broth. Salt would have been nice, but there is something humbling in eating so simply.