Wednesday, May 29, 2013

My Week on a Plate - Mining Camp Style

Dearest Readers (if I have any left!), it has been far far to long between drinks. I do have a somewhat reasonable excuse though...

I have spent a large proportion of the last 6 months in Port Hedland, working 12 hour days, often for 12 days at a time (and with only 2 days off!). And, when I wasn't in Port Hedland, Mr Alphie and I were on holiday in North America - more on that later.

Initially in Port Hedland I was staying in a company-rented townhouse with two other people, but for the last few months I have stayed in a mining camp when I'm 'up north'. There are benefits and downfalls of both.

In the townhouse I got to cook/choose all my own food; I didn't have to put shoes/real clothes on to use the laundry; and I could leave most of my site specific stuff & some food there when I went back to Perth on R&R. But I also had wash my own sheets/towels; didn't have access to a gym, and jogging outside when it's 40° and upwards of 70% humidity is not fun; oh, and also, cook my own food and do my own dishes. I know I listed cooking as a benefit, but after a 12 hour day, sometimes you don't want to have to think about dinner. In comparison, most camps have access to a gym (the quality of which varies from camp to camp), the cleaning is looked after for you, and all your food is provided - breakfast & dinner in the 'mess' and an opportunity to pack your lunch, or 'crib', at breakfast. The downfalls being that the quality/choice/type of food may not be (or in my case, definitely is not) what you would choose to eat elsewhere.

I've just returned from an eight day stint, staying in a mining camp, and I thought I might share with you, my meals in that time. It's not actually going to be a full week, as I was taken out for a celebratory dinner the frst night, as we'd hit some production milestones on site, and the second night was Mr Alphie's birthday (who also works in Port Hedland), so we went out for dinner then too, and then the third night we resorted to a late night McDonalds run, after working late (even with a 12 hour day, you can still work overtime!) and missing dinner at camp. So, I've ignored those days as they're not typical - well the McDonalds might be, but I'd rather not acknowledge that...

We start on a Thursday evening.

Thursday, 7pm: Nothing looked too exciting tonight. I ended up with a slice of roast beef, some form of vegetable noodle stir fry, steamed carrots, asparagus with hollandaise, and a mug of water. For some reason, this particular camp does not provided drinking glasses, so we are left drinking water (or cordial, if that's your thing) from ceramic mugs. Weird.

Thursday 7pm
Every camp I have stayed in so far offers a full cooked/hot breakfast selection as well as cereal, toast, fruit and yoghurt. It is not uncommon to have poached eggs and omelettes available 'to order' in addition to the usual bain marie fried & scrambled egg options.

Friday 5:30am: I opted for the poached eggs to order this morning, packing my crib while I waited. Two poached eggs on a split English muffin - not a bad start to the day.

Friday 9am: I had to dash into an office for a teleconference with some of the team based in Perth & NSW, and took the opportunity to have a cheeky morning tea break. Instant (blurgh!) coffee & a Larabar from our recent US trip to tide me over 'til lunch.

Friday 1pm: Salad packed at camp from the 'crib selection' - cos lettuce, shredded carrot, a bean salad arrangement, corn, cucumber & tuna. Plus a coconut water for rehydration & water in my fab insulated S'well bottle - a Christmas gift from Mum, and it's taken an absolute beating in Port Hedland!

Friday 4.30pm: We had a bit of a break in production, so I nipped into the 'crib room' (aka lunch room) for a snack. Fruit salad camp style - melon always features heavily, topped with plain yoghurt (Chobani - from my secret stash!), and sprinkled with all bran.

Friday 7pm: Friday is fish night at most camps, but grilled or steamed fish is usually available 'from the grill' every night. I upset the chef (or is it a cook?) when I asked for grilled fish on 'fish night', as there was already fish available, but both other options were deep fried. Accompanied by stuffed capsicum, sauteed cabbage & peas, and the mug of water

Friday 5:30am

Friday 9am

Friday 1pm

Friday 4.30pm

Friday 7pm
Saturday 5:30am: Muesli & all bran with skim milk, fruit salad, a plain yoghurt and a mug of water.

Saturday 10am: Ryvitas with cheese & tomato and a couple of strawberries - a rarity at camp, I had to grab them while they were there!

Saturday 2pm: Salad for lunch, and was much the same as yesterday, but I've swapped the tuna for chicken, and there was no bean salad today, so I went for a (Thai?) noodle salad thing instead. No coconut water today though - I didn't spend much time out in the heat, so water should do it.

Saturday 7pm: Lamb Rogan Josh with some white rice, and a stack of veggies - silverbeet, mushrooms, corn, squash & zucchini. Was keen for dessert tonight, but nothing really appealed - cake & custard, and not even any exciting ice cream flavours.

Saturday 5.30am
Saturday 10am

Saturday 2pm

Saturday 7pm
Sunday 5:30am: Back to a hot breakfast today. A poached egg on multi-grain toast, mushrooms and some beans.

Sunday 10am: Spending most of the day in the office catching up on paperwork, so morning tea was at my desk. Camp style fruit salad, topped with plain yoghurt, and sprinkled with all bran & chia (brought with me from home).

Sunday 2pm: More salad - cos lettuce, shredded carrot, some green bean salad , tomato, cucumber & tuna. Plus a Larabar, as I was super hungry by Sunday lunchtime, for some unknown reason!

Sunday 7.45pm: As it's my last night in camp, and we had quite a successful week on site, I took the team out for a drink or two before dinner. Two beers is just enough to make a ravenous, so I opted for the 'Green Curry Chicken' - whole chicken thighs in a vaguely green curry sauce - with a stack of veges. And finished off with a slice of almond cake, which I completely forgot to photograph - sorry.

Sunday 5:30am

Sunday 10am
Sunday 2pm

Sunday 7.45pm
Monday 5:30am: Back to the fruit salad, topped with plain yoghurt, and sprinkled with all bran & chia, and a crumpet with honey. I had forgotten how good crumpets are! I think I'll have to make them part of my regular camp breakfast rotation.

Monday 11am: Got completely distracted working on a pump with one of the boys this morning, and missed my usual morning tea break. I went for a quick option while catching up with some of the team back from R&R. Coconut water, Larabar & an apple.

Monday  1.30pm: Had a last minute meeting from 1pm for most of the afternoon, and given I had only just had morning tea when I found out about said meeting, I nibbled on my salad throughout. Iceburg lettuce, shredded carrot, chickpea salad , cucumber & a boiled egg.

Monday  8.30pm: Back home! Mr Alphie cooked as the flight doesn't usually get in 'til about 7.30. Winter kale & potato curry from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's River Cottage Veg Everyday. Delish!

Monday 5.30am

Monday 11am

Monday 1.30pm

Monday 8.30pm

In conclusion, just a few notes about camp food...

There is always something lacking on the camp menu that I feel I can't survive without. Luckily, we have quite a bit of freedom to supplement the camp food with regular groceries, and I usually get to the supermarket on my first or second night. Nuts, m&m's, coconut water and Chobani (I'm really not a fan of the overly sweetened yoghurts they provide at the camps) are regular items on my list. Depending on the crib options, I might also get some salad things, dry biscuits, or some tinned tuna or salmon.

I generally start each day on site with a plunger coffee. The aforementioned m&m's have pride of place on the engineering desk - I would have a handful (or more, depending on the stress of the day!) of those over the course of the day. I am trying to minimise that though, and have recently added a container of almonds, Brazil nuts & dried cranberries to that corner of the desk.

fruit/nut & m&m's jars 

You might have noticed in the photos that I generally use re-usable plastic containers for my lunch. Most camps have a huge stack of plastic takeaway containers, in varying sizes, disposable cutlery, and plastic shopping bags in the crib area. It frightens me to think how many plastic containers & bags end up in the Port Hedland Landfill, with over 2,000 people staying in one of the camps in town any night of the week. In small act of rebellion, I bring a couple of containers from home, some snap lock bags, my adorable Fred cutlery set and my usual work lunch bag up with me.



  1. Hi - I'm about to start fifo at Gateway Village, can you tell me what to expect? I need to take a stash of Chobani (the only yogurt I like..) but I odn't need to take coconut water?

    1. Is Gateway part of the Roy Hill development? I haven't had any experience with that site, and a remote site will likely be quite different to the more residential Port Hedland (where I've spent most of my site time).

      However, I would imaging it would be similar. I'm not sure what your question is though? If you feel you need coconut water you should buy/take it with you. I have yet to see a camp that supplies it!

      Good Luck!

  2. Good Afternoon. I myself ama bout to start at gateway. I'm very into fittness and was told they don't have a gym as such, Can you advise what the fitness facility is like? :)

    1. As I said above (and in the post), I was on site in Port Hedland, and haven't been to Gateway. Sorry, but I can't help.