Tag Archives: self sufficiency

GR11 Adventure – Day 10 R&R time to reflect

Wild camp on top of the world - GR11 Cuello Petraficha

The travelling saltygardener is on a true adventure of a different, much less watery kind. This is an adventure over the beautiful Pyrenees mountains which join the two great oceans of the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. We have around 6 weeks to hike as much as possible of the 840km route through the Spanish Pyrenees known as the GR11 – or in Spain the travesia pirenaica.

I wanted to document some of my experience as all the blogs I found seem to be written by seasoned hikers or pseudo mountain goats set to break the record time.  I am not in any race it is our personal annual challenge. Day 1 at sea level alongside the Atlantic ocean I was not at all prepared for this journey. Sure, I had a backpack filled with hiking goodies and #thebesthusbandintheworld who is an experienced mountaineer so there was no danger involved. We’d even had a trial run and pitched the tent in a Swedish apartment 🙂  What I mean is I live a fairly sedentary life which largely involves lounging in a cockpit trying to keep cool, eating a lot of yummy asian fried food and drinking our way through the latest duty free hoard. On the other hand without transport other than our dinghy we explore everywhere on foot and recently covered some jungle day-hikes on Tioman Island. I also swim quite a bit and have almost developed gills from snorkelling yet still manage to hover around 15kg over the top end of what those charts deem ‘normal’. I take no medications and am physically very healthy but in no way fit. I’m usually the one who groans loudest when the up escalator in the shopping mall isn’t working.

The GR11 hiking route from sea to sea

In 8 walking days we have covered 140km and started to ascend some of the introductory smaller peaks and passes around 1200m – the highest so far was yesterday and at 1495m was around the same height as Ben Nevis!

This recap is from our Day 10 and not any suggested GR11 itinerary. A well earned R&R day in a campsite where I have chance to reflect on the journey so far. This is the most demanding adventure I have under-taken and I’ve come a long way in distance, physically and emotionally and it is still a huge roller coaster.  I hope to post in more detail if connectivity allows, but no doubt Facebook will be there even if the Internet isn’t. Please feel free to follow along via our Sailing with Tiki page.

To start we eased in Days 1&2 with some long flat sections to get used to wearing 12-14kg on our backs and walking extended distances. Since then there have been higher highs, longer days and lower lows. The walking is good, the climbs are tough. Lots of breather stops but fitness is improving leaps and bounds and I’m starting to accept that I can really do this.

We have a little evening routine where Captain Crackers reads ahead and plans the daily route,  schedules in the rest stops and breaks the stage down. This is essential for me as after 2-3 hour stints I’m starting to sway, a little fatigued, I need some rest. Rest stops involve backpacks off, shoes and socks off to cool down and a good stretch of all these muscles. My favourite stretch is the downward dog with those amazing mountain views upside down! Also a refueling snack of cheese,  baguette and juicy summer stone fruits which are simply divine. After a gorgeous peach/nectarine/apricot I can just feel the fructose filling me with energy for the next section.

But these are just the physical practicalities. The real challenge comes when the hill gets really tough, or the slippery downward limestone terrain terrifies me. Then I need to dig a whole lot deeper than any peach can provide.  That’s when I bring out my calvary – all the family and friends supporting us in this adventure.  I place them in a line alongside me. Can you hear it guys? I’m calling on you regularly!

It’s this ‘something altogether different than muscles’ that carries me up to the top to look at these breathtakingly stunning views, so really just wanted to say thanks for being here – all of you xxx


Fixing bloggers block 101

What is happening with saltygardener.com?

 **crickets chirping**

Well for my 10 truly devoted followers you are all in for a bumpy ride over the next 3 weeks because I have signed up for a 21 day WordPress.com kick up the blogging butt. There is a daily assignment to blow out the dusty cobwebs and bring some life into both the site and the blogger I just know is within me.

Why are you blogging publicly, rather than keeping a personal journal?
I’ve never kept a personal journal. Living a nomadic travelling lifestlye aboard a sailing yacht I have so many crazy things to write home about and for the past few years I have posted fairly reguarly on Social Media. But lately Updates / Instas / Tweets leave me feeling kinda hollow. So I got to thinking about family and friends who are not on Facebook and realised I have left them without news or escapism or insight into my wierdo ways for a few years now. I also really enjoy the extended writing, the composition and the story telling of the ‘old’ email days. Well actually before email I wrote and sent postcards and letters from my travels – yes I am one of those dinosaurs.

So I am going to blog with the same intention. If a post sounds like a letter home to family and friends then good, its supposed to.

What topics do you think you’ll write about?
I am passionate about how people use plants, about growing and catching my own food, self sufficiency and the natural world. I love to travel, dive, snorkel, meet people, take pictures, try anything edible, forage, buy local and cook from scratch. I aspire to live minimally, be fearless, keep my global footprint tinier than my tiny floating home and be better at fixing stuff. I miss my family and friends. I think I’ll be writing about all these topics.

Who would you love to connect with via your blog?
Friends, extended family, vicarious travellers, foodies, gardeners, bloggers, fellow nomads, live-aboards, minimalists, nurses, ethno-botanists, sailors, first mates & crew, farmers, sales people, scientists, cartoonists, fishermen, divers, free spirits, comedians, chefs, domestic engineers, musicians, retirees, managers, analysts, artists, drivers, students…
please see above “I love… meeting people”

If you blog successfully throughout the next year, what would you hope to have accomplished?
I really hope to have found a writing style that reflects who I am so that I can wear it comfortably and continue to write from the heart. I’ll have a larger, equally truly devoted group of followers who I feel connected to and eager to update on all the highs, low and epic parts of travelling the world by sailing boat. On the site design front I will learn more so that saltygardener.com can evolve into an organised, content rich blog which is easy to navigate and looks amazing.

Stay tuned!

Tending yeasty gardens

It took a while but I’m well into cruising mode now with long spells at sea without access to supermarkets and I’m extending my repertoire of home grown products.  A herb garden you think? Umm no… I now have a garden of yeast to tend daily, woo hoo! I have pots of yoghurt, a barrel of fermenting beer,  a ginger beer bug and to-die-for yummy bread dough all on the go at once.

The yoghurt is the least demanding, just a few tablespoons of active yoghurt with reconstituted milk powder and pop it into the EasyYo thermos for 8 hours or so.  Ta – da, fresh pot of pro-biotic goodness ready for the fridge.  Lots of recipes that call for cream, milk or even water can use yoghurt and I’m really keen to try making fresh cheeses suitable for hot climates.

We have a brewing kit aboard so there is a batch of Amber Ale now in the fermenter bubbling away – that’s the little yeasts turning sugar to alcohol. In a few days when they’ve finished the job I’ll bottle the beer, store it as cool as possible in the bilge and start a batch of Dark Ale in the fermenter. Theory says the beer is ready 3 weeks after bottling and the flavour gets better both with time and low temperatures.  As we are impatient when thirsty and on a boat in the tropics it rarely makes it to the better stage. Note to self, hide bottled beer in bottom of really inconvenient locker..


The ginger beer bug is way cool. It’s grated ginger, sugar, yeast and water all mixed together to do their stuff.  After only a day in this heat there’s lots of frothy bubbly activity and each day I ‘feed’ it with more grated ginger and sugar to keep the living ginger yeasty alive and happy.  Why? To turn this into fizzy drink treats. We don’t have a soda stream and carting a months worth of coke/lemonade etc to the boat is heavy. It’s super easy, strain off the yeasty liquid and add it to a few litres of extra-sweetened fruit juice or ginger tea (simply grated ginger steeped in hot water, cooled drained and sweetened) for ginger ale and bottle it.  Make it sweeter than you think as the yeast eats the sugar to create the fizzzzz, the longer you leave it to drink, the drier it gets.  I’m still experimenting, some batches are awesome and some, well… aren’t.

And finally the bread. A wholesome boat-baked loaf is a real treat for us here in Malaysia and I use the ‘Famous New York Times no-knead’ recipe where the yeast does all the work of kneading and flavour adding.  All I need to do is mix flour salt yeast and water in a bowl with a spoon for 2 minutes and leave the bowl on the counter overnight or over the day to let it bubble and grow tasty. I also fold/flour/rest in the bowl before turning into a tin to bake – its a one bowl no mess affair on Tiki. The resulting bread is like a rustic air-pocketed chewy sourdough with a crispy crust, sooo good.

There’s quite a few more foods and drinks derived from yeasts and fermenting I’d love to try just as soon as boat space allows. Please let me know if you have any boat – friendly in tropical climate suggestions!

Photo credit: Tne gorgeous bread picture is from a food blog which I love http://www.theculinarychronicles.com  Mine turns out just the same (honest!) but I’m without a camera until we reach the next big city.

Catching and preparing crabs

Cooked Mudcrab
A really impressive first catch, cooked in salted water with a little sugar for 10-12 mins.

I’ve been on the hunt for crabs ever since we arrived in Australia as they are right at the top of my list of favourite sea foods.  It all started with family fishing trips to the Swan River and Mandurah Estuary as a child. I have wonderful memories of a massive copper pot of freshly scooped Blue Manners boiling on a campfire – newspaper laid out on the foldout table with bread buttered and white pepper and vinegar at the ready for the gourmets amongst us.  We’d stuff the warm crab meat sandwich to bursting and the buttery juices would run down my hands with each delightful bite – heaven.

All grown up and living on the other side of the world in London they were not so easy to catch – I’m no contender for the “Deadliest Catch” series that’s for sure.   I resolved to them being caught and prepared for me, which tended to leave me somewhat disappointed.  When I first met my partner and planned to move onboard a boat for a large part of the summer I straight away called home and asked mum if she would bring me over a couple of drop net pots on her next visit.  Strange thing to ask for I guess, but she didn’t even blink.  They arrived as priority in her luggage (what a great mum!) and I couldn’t wait to get crabbing again.

Sailing Brittany in northern France each summer and learning from the locals I would head ashore on the low tide to set my pots near rock and hope for a selection of small rock crabs.  They never yielded much meat but really added that essential oomph to any stock or our staple seafood bouillabaisse.  The divine brown and spider crabs which could be purchased cooked or live from the  fishmongers were brought up from a depth that my simple pots could never reach and so became a regular treat for us when dining out.

Keep an eye on these masterful houdinis as they can easily escape many containers.  Encountering this one walking around the foredeck was an interesting experience.

Which is why I am so excited to have the larger crabs back on my catch list here in Eastern Australia.  Whilst we are in northern climes with mangrove-fringed shores it is the mudcrab I’m after as they will not be around as we head south.  My first beauty crawled into the pot I had thrown off the back of the boat just yesterday and the cooked version of him is starring in this blog header – gorgeous isn’t he?  The hardest part is deciding how to cook them – an online search for recipes returns a huge list.  Not only was he the first “muddie” I’d ever caught, it was the first caught crab in such a long time for me that he got the royal treatment.  Half was consumed warm and unadorned and was eye-rollingly delicious.  The other half was chilled overnight in the fridge and meat was extracted to be served tossed through spaghettini with olive oil, lemon juice and a few chilli flakes.

Male Blue Swimmer crab caught using a tin of sardines for bait

The same pot and bait caught a couple of blue swimmers today which are currently going zzzz in the freezer.  Until I get used to the fact that they are here in my life again with abundance I will be treasuring these guys steamed naturally, buttering the bread in anticipation, a little vinegar and black pepper at the ready.

I can’t wait to try our luck at catching a few spanner crabs, or Moreton Bay bugs as we head south to explore the coast towards Sydney.  Whatever we catch I’m very glad to say that crab is back on the menu!