Long weekends beg to be camped. This past weekend was the first long weekend of winter in New Zealand with daily lows of 1-2°C and highs of 14-16°C. So it was a bit chilly, but it’s all a bit warmer when your destination is middle earth. Or the closest we could get anyway: A surface level thermal area with lots of hot springs.

In a water taxi, we travelled over the fresh water of Lake Tarawera to Hot Water Beach, the site of one of the area’s hot springs with water of 68°C at the source. The hot water stream flows into the lake, generally warming the water near the shore and creating hot spots. We were frequently notified of these hot spots by the shrieks and rapid movements of the swimmers and bathers.

We pitched our tent on what was predicted to be one of the warmed up campsites and set to work preparing the food for cooking the way nature intended, perhaps. At 68°C, the water doesn’t cook anything quickly so patience was required. The plan for dinner included parsnips, carrots, potatoes, kumara, and veggie dogs. And for dessert – volcano brownies! There was some confusion with my 7-year-old, Dan, about this. We were not having fart poops for dinner, but brownies cooked in the volcanically heated water. He still thinks it’s funny.

I wrapped the vegetables in aluminum (call aluminium in New Zealand) foil sacs and buried them in different spots along the stream. I submerged one at the source and one downstream, buried one in foil in the hot ground, and put one sac in a pot submerged but with the top peaking over the surface. The pot trial was to ensure the vegetables were protected from flooding. No one wants meningitis water in their dinner!

Four hours later, I checked on the food. The two vegetables pods submerged in the water were cooked, but one had leaked. The vegetables pods buried in the sand and the one in the pot were raw. I re-wrapped the raw ones, did up some more veggie pods, and put them all in the water for later. The veggie dogs were buried in the sand and, needing only to be heated up, were piping hot for dinner.

But the pièce de résistance was yet to come. In the afternoon, my team set to work gutting oranges. We chopped the tops off and used our sporks to remove the pulp and juice. The diligent workers were paid in orange juice and promises of brownie perks to come. I had prepared gluten-free, vegan cake batter at home and carefully spooned it into the oranges, put their lids back on, wrapped them in foil, and planted them down stream from the source.

Three hours later we did the first tentative check of the brownies. The verdict: 4 out of 5 were done! The fifth was still rather liquid, but the consensus was that we should eat it anyway. Who wants to turn away delicious brown goo?

The water wasn’t quite hot enough to make volcano bread like they do in Iceland, but brownies are a pretty good consolation prize.


1 1/4 cups of gluten free flour

3/4 cup coconut sugar

1/3 cup cocoa powder

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1 tsp apple cider vinegar

1 cup rice milk (or other nut milk or water)

1 tsp vanilla

A lot of chopped chocolate bits (Unfortunately, I ate them before they were added, but on occasions where I was able to exercise more self-control, these are quite a delicious part of the brownie).


Mix the dry.

Mix the wet.

Mix the wet and dry together.

Cut the tops off 8-10 oranges.

Gut the oranges. Reserve pulp and liquid for drinking.

Pour brownie batter into each orange, leaving 1-2 cm at the top. This isn’t strictly necessarily. Spilled batter is gooey and delicious.

Lid the orange and wrap it in foil.

Find a hot spot for your brownie bomb.

Allow it to cook for 2-4 hours or until you just can’t wait any longer.