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On the Hunt for Sooty Grunter

Bivouac Junction Holiday Camp is just outside of Charters Towers in North Queensland. The Drabbles and ourselves decided we needed to go for a weekend of camping and fishing so we packed up the tent, camper trailer and fishing rods and off we went.

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It was very dry and dusty when we arrived, but we were assured there was water in the river and creek systems around the area, so we were happy enough.  Once our camp was set up, we got the fire going and started our own dinner prep. After dinner, with a few beers round the camp fire we planned the following day’s exploration and fishing.

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We were after some sooty grunter in the surrounding creeks and rivers and Drabs was the authority on where, how and with what to catch them. So, we woke early in the morning, and after a bit of brekky we found out that Di did not sleep very well last night. It seemed that the peacocks and snoring generally kept her awake. Well we could not do anything about the peacocks but we move dour tent away from their camper trailer to try and eliminate the snoring noises (just anote to say it was not me snoring by the way).

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Once we had cleaned up our camp and loaded our respective vehicles with fishing paraphenalia and lunch, we set off to find some not so dry creek beds down which we could drive in search of the elusive sooty.

Now there is always a lot of banter between Drabs and Mike, Patrol vs Prado, whose 4wd is better, who knows more about off road driving, who is the true blue “Aussiest”! This makes for some light entertainment for Di and I listening to them and their growing list of over exaggerated claims. Mike and I were relatively new to the whole 4×4 driving thing and I always deferred to Drabs on the fishing front (after all he has been doing it most of his life and I have only been fishing for about 10 years).

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Following the Drabbles we pulled off the highway onto a dry creek bed and promptly came to a halt. Drabs had got his Patrol stuck in the soft sand and we hadn’t even gone 200 yards! Well we laughed and laughed, cracking some jokes about Patrol’s vs Prado’s (like you do), as he pulled his Maxtraxs out and let his tyres down. We also reduced our tyre pressure and set off down the creek bed in search of the elusive sooty.

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We fished a few of the deeper areas of the creek and Drabs caught a couple of good sooty (I got nothing, but it was not for lack of trying). The area had narrow bands of water running over rocks with low hanging trees and good shaded areas where the sooty hang out. Perfect fishing country. After a big wet out here the creeks and rivers are in full flood, water rushing over the rocks, uprooting trees and flooding up to the banks. Unfortunatley the area had been in drought for quite a while and the creek beds were mainly sand with the creek running shallow and narrow in many places.

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Now Drabs is a diehard fisherman and he decided the other bank was the place to be so off he went, walking and swimming across the creek with rod held high out of the water. This was bit too hardcore for me, even though we were in fresh water I was still concerned about crocodiles and other nasties lurking unseen. He got to the other side with only a few little mishaps such as falling down a couple of big holes and almost losing his hat in the water, but his rod was kept dry and above his head at all times (told you he was diehard).

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As we sat on the bank relaxing and keeping an eye on him over the other side (to make sure he did not disappear down a hole or become croc bait) we heard a big whoop and he was on. He got a couple of nice sooty for his troubles. I looked on, enviously, but still not game enough to venture over. I was a bit chicken I suppose but even though I love fishing there are just some lengths I would not go to get the elusive sooty.

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After a spot of lunch, we ventured further down the creek bed and reached an area where we needed to cross the creek. Like a true blue Aussie Drabs took one for the team and went first. It took him a few attempts to get across, going backward and forward, trying not to get bogged in the middle. It was not deep but the sand was very soft (apparently, although the Prado made it in one go!). Maybe the Patrol did not like getting its feet wet!

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So off we set again and to find another likely fishing spot. As we were driving I looked out of my window to see the Patrol struggling to get up a very, very, very, small bump of sand. I pointed this out to Mike and we had a bit of a giggle. Reaching for the radio I asked if the Patrol would like a little push from our Prado to assist with the massive obstacle it was facing. For some reason Drabs did not find that too funny, although I am sure I could hear Di laughing in the background! After a few attempts the Patrol managed to climb Everest and we got back on the route down to the creek.

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Drabs caught several sooty grunters that day and I even bagged myself a little on. Unfortunately, I cannot find the picture of it, but I did catch one (honestly!). But truth be told it was a lovely couple of days spent in good company and exploring different scenery and having a few laughs along the way.

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Check out Bivouac Junction Holiday Camp and the surrounding creeks for your own sooty adventure.

https://www.facebook.com/bivouacjunction/

Crab Claw Island, NT

Before I start this blog, I would just like to point out 4 things that we learnt during this trip away:

  • A dome tent was not made for marriage tranquillity (or for us either!).
  • Listening to families getting together around a campfire, playing instruments and singing is much better than sitting on your electronic device all through the evening.
  • Just because the sign says “10mins to McDonalds” does not mean you have to beat that time.
  • Wow the tides are huge up in the top end and you run out of water really quick.

All will be revealed, but for now let me set the scene:

Crab Claw Island is in the beautiful Bynoe Harbour, Northern Territory, just 130km’s by road from Darwin. This was where we decided to go for our first major camping holiday, towing the boat. Now the road into the resort can be a bit rough and lumpy for the 36km’s from the Cox Peninsula road especially after a heavy wet season. We did not have a 4wd at the time, so my poor old Rav4 had to tow the boat in through dirt and rough terrain. So, we took it slowly over some of the bigger cracks and divots, so as not to hurt or upset her (she is a little high maintenance, but don’t tell her I said so!) but made it in without any trouble whatsoever.

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We pulled up at our camp spot and busily set about getting our tent up and getting our camp organised. We had bought one of those cheap dome tents from BCF and we both thought “how hard can this be?” well as it turns our quite hard actually. After struggling for a while with a few choice words between us we eventually got the tent up and forgave each other for all the bad things we said while doing so!

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Lesson number 1 – go out and buy a 30 sec OzTent when we get home. Most certainly a marriage saver.

Once we were all set up and I had sorted out the fishing and boat gear for the morning, we started to cook dinner and settle down for the evening. Next door to us was a couple of families that were obviously camping as a group with lots of children.  Now I will be the first to admit that kids are not really my thing, they do seem to make a lot of noise when they are running around having fun (how dare they!), so camping next door to a large group was a bit disconcerting for us. As we had finished dinner and just settling down to enjoy a nice glass of wine before bed one of the children got out a guitar and started playing. The rest of the kids (and some of the adults) started to sing along and we found ourselves listening in and enjoying the ambience of the evening whilst being sung too (albeit unintentionally).

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Lesson number 2 – there are still families out there that can enjoy time together without electronic devices and facegram or instatwitter!

The morning arrived very early with the birds tweeting and the sounds of the camp stirring. We did not get much sleep that night, not due to unruly children, but due to the humidity and lack of air in our tent. But like the brave intrepid explorers we are we got the boat down to the water and set off for a day’s fishing. Bynoe harbour is a glorious place with umpteen creeks and estuary’s that hold an abundance of marine life. Or so we are told! We were still relatively new to this fishing thing and did not really catch much that day but did get to explore and see some beautiful landscapes and ocean vistas. By the middle of the afternoon we were both very hot (and tired) so we decided to pull the boat up on the sand and take a quick drive back to the nearest Bunnings to buy ourselves a fan, so we could get a good night’s sleep.

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We put the anchor up on the beach checking the rise and fall of the tide, so we would be able to retrieve the boat when we got back (being just over a 2½ hour round trip). Other boats were pulled up on the sand, so we thought, this should be no problem, give it enough anchor rope so it does not get marooned as the tide moves, she’ll be right!

Happy that the boat was going to be ok, off we set to get ourselves a bit of old fashioned air-conditioning. The drive out was much easier not towing the boat and we soon got on the Stuart highway heading towards Palmerston and the promise of a cooler night’s sleep. We were feeling quite happy as we drove up the Stuart highway, that was when we saw the sign “10 mins to McDonalds”. Now I know this was childish, but mike and I just looked at each other, obviously having the same thought “nah we can beat that time” and he put his foot down just a little bit more. That was when we came around the corner and lo and behold a speed trap was on the side of the road. Serves us right, yes, we really should not have been speeding, there is no excuse. As the police officer heads on over to us we just look at each other and shake our heads, we were old enough to know better. Now what do you say to the police officer when he asks, “what was your reason for speeding sir?” We calmly accepted the fine and drove off sedately to finish our mission.

Lesson number 3 – The sign is not a challenge it is for information only and speeding is not clever.

So, we picked up our fan and drove back to camp (under the speed limit I may add). We got back and went to find the boat. Yay it was still anchored, it had not drifted off with the big tides. The only problem was it was not in the water as such. The tide had come and gone and left us with a 5-meter tinny sat on the sand not too far from the water. So near and yet so far when you must push, and skull drag it back into the water. We gave up and went to get some dinner while we waited for the tide to come back in a bit. Eventually we did get it in the water and then back to the boat ramp without too much drama. It could have been worse, thank goodness the anchor held!

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Lesson number 4 – Always be aware of the tides (unfortunately this is a lesson we have not learnt too well but those stories are for another blog!)

So, we eventually got a good night’s sleep (due to our old fashioned aircon) and enjoyed our long weekend, fishing and exploring the beautiful area of Bynoe Harbour without any further hiccups or issues. All in all, a good weekend with some lessons learnt and even some fish in the boat.

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Share a Fishing Passion – Join a Local Fishing Club

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When we moved to Townsville my husband realised that I needed to join a fishing club to get together with like-minded locals and find out more about fishing. Now as you may or may not be aware, I am passionate about fishing, would fish 24/7 if I could, love it, love it, love it! The only problem was I used to flounder around, not really knowing what I was doing, dropping a badly tied fishing line in the water and relying more on luck than judgement if I caught a fish!

So, in order to gain some knowledge, we joined a fishing club in Townsville. I thought this club was pretty great to start with, full of very knowledgeable people, some of who even went fishing and seemed to know what they were talking about. It wasn’t until I had been in the club for about a year that I realised the club had issues. Now these issues were the same issues that many clubs all around the world face, money and people issues! The club was very financially solvent, and this led to bickering and arguing over how to spend the money. The meetings became more about the money less about fishing! So, when friends of ours (who had left and moved to another fishing club) told us about Alice River Anglers, we went along and promptly joined up.

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Now this was a club we could really enjoy. It was all about the fishing! The first meeting we went along to we realised that this was a group of people who really enjoyed fishing and used the club as a way to socialise with people who really enjoyed fishing.  The “business” part of the meeting was short and sweet, there were meat tray raffles and members draws every meeting, kid’s categories for weigh ins and prize draws and generally a much more sociable atmosphere. Yes, this was a club we could be happy in.

It wasn’t until we had joined this club that we actually started to catch fish by judgement rather than luck (luck still plays a huge part, but we are getting better thanks to advice and assistance from the members of Alice River). The first year there I think I only weighed in a couple of fish for the whole year, but the people in the club were all very free with their advice and assistance to enable me to improve.

From this…….

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to this…….

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to this ………

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The club has a very welcoming vibe, everyone is friendly and accepting of new members. There have been some membership and people issues over the years (what club does not get them), but the President and committee have done a great job of trying to filter and resolve those issues without affecting the main club and the members. The club is run for its members, not for any financial gain or status within the community. The focus of the committee is to keep the club running smoothly and to provide a great vibe and social space for like-minded fisher people to come together and enjoy themselves. I must say they hit the target pretty well. The focus is not on growing membership (although all new members are very welcome and are made to feel part of the group instantly), nor is it on how much money they can make. It is about raising enough funds through sponsorship, membership fees and club raffles to hold two social functions a year and to provide the members with prizes for the weigh-ins.

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Club meetings

We have been at the club for about 4 years now and the year before last they introduced a female angler fishing prize. Yay! I could actually win something (as I struggle to compete with the big boys and their big fish). The club genuinely wants to encourage everyone to get out there and fish and enjoy it.

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Winner winner

At the end of September, we will be going up to Lucinda for our annual club trip away on the long weekend. This is a fun weekend where club members all fish the same area and then get together in the evenings for socialising, with plenty of eating and drinking. Photos will go on my Instagram after (only if I caught fish though!)

So, if you want to mix with people with the same interests as you in a friendly environment where you may make good friends and learn new things join your local fishing club. We did and have not looked back since!

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From the Banks of the Jardine

The Jardine river in the far north of Queensland is a huge body of water that starts in the mountains of the Great Dividing Range and meets the sea near Mutee Heads.

It is the largest perennial river in Queensland. For those of you who are a bit shy to look that up, it means it has continuous flow in parts of its river bed all year round. The catchment takes up the whole of the Jardine River National Park, about 3,282 square kilometres of mostly uninhabited country. So, needless to say, this river is huge!

It is also beautiful, remote, pristine and peaceful and has become my favourite place in Cape York.

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We had travelled to the Cape with two other couples and spent some time up at Loyalty Beach near Bamaga. We then decided, on our way down, we would camp at the mouth of the Jardine to spend a few days off the grid, fishing and relaxing. Off we set, in convoy, heading towards Mutee Heads and then down the dirt tracks to some camping areas on the banks of the Jardine. Now one set of friends were towing a camper trailer (you may be familiar with them from my other blogs, yes it was the Drabbles). That camper trailer had issues! One set of bearings was almost shot, and the brakes were welded on. So, we took the Prado off down the tracks to ensure that the slopes and conditions were ok for the Drabbles to follow.

As we came around a corner we encountered some very deep and soft sand and oops, just like that, were stuck. So out we get, removing the max tracks and started digging. We radioed back up to the convoy to let them know not to take the right fork and set about extracting ourselves from the very, very, very soft sand. Now it was little eerie in that we had no response on the radio, we were surrounded by bush in the middle of nowhere and we were struggling to get ourselves out of the sand. In the distance we could hear a strange noise, a mixture of whining and grinding, getting louder and louder. My imagination was running away with me and I decided that we were going to be captured and sacrificed to some remote god in a spectacular fashion. The noise grew louder and as I looked over onto the other track (the one we should have taken) I saw the culprit! Here came the BT-50 freewheeling down the slope whining and grinding its way through the right-hand track sans camper trailer, (without getting stuck), to then end up in front of us, closely followed by the Greens in their Patrol and camper trailer. When they had had finished taking the good old Michael out of us and managed to stop laughing long enough, they hooked up the snatch strap our little Prado and dragged us out of the sand. Off we went again.

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(no pictures as the camera lady was a bit stressed, hot and bothered!)

We got to the banks of the Jardine and sussed out the camping areas. Mike and I decided that we would go scouting up to the mouth to see whether there were better campsites up there. Yet another mistake, second time in the same day we got stuck in very soft sand. Again, we had to get the Patrol to come and snatch us out. How very embarrassing! So, considering our failure, we decided to camp at our first stop, we just could not take any more humiliation.

(still no pictures of this as I was getting a bit cranky! Can’t think why)

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We made it back to the camp area only to find out that Di had photographed a map telling us there were bad sand bogs where we had just been. Thanks for the heads-up Di!!!!!! (With friends like that……. Need I say more!)

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The area was beautiful, we were camped in the next area along from the other two couples. Not that we are anti-social at all but there were some snoring issues coming from the Green’s camper trailer and I do not play nicely if I don’t get enough sleep! So, we set up our tent and then helped the others set up a communal area to cook and eat in front of a beautiful campfire overlooking the Jardine.

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We shared cooking duties for the next few days and I must admit the cooking, company, wine and views were amazing.

So, we got back to camp with tall tales of the huge ones that got away, over a few beers and a fantastic beef stew and dumplings. Wow another beautiful day in the far north of Queensland.

We stayed at this camp for 5 days in total, mainly because we were waiting for the bearings to be delivered to Bamaga for the Drabbles camper trailer, but also because it was amazing. The scenery was beautiful, the weather was great, the fishing was fantastic, and the company was awesome. But, as with all good things it had to come to an end and we had to head back to civilisation! (picture sad face emoji).

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So, on the morning of the 5th day we woke up and started packing up ready for the trip back to Bamaga. That is when I heard Di yelling, “Oi come and look at this!” we dutifully headed onto the beach in front of their camp and promptly freaked out to see the croc tracks leading up from the Jardine to just below their camp. The crocodile had obviously found something nice to eat just under the sand and then promptly wandered off back to the water again. In the immortal words of Steve Irwin “Crikey he was a big un!”

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Maybe it was a good idea to boot scoot out of there! So long Jardine and thanks for all the Barra!

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Henrietta Creek Camping Adventure

We thought Easter would be the ideal time to do a good shake out of our new 79 series cruiser and getaway for a long weekend of camping. We decided to travel up to the Palmerston (Doongan) Wooroonooran National Park, just inland from Innisfail, off the Palmerston Highway. Now at this time of year in the tropics the weather can be pretty much hit and miss. It was very damp (as a rainforest is intended to be) but we are pozzies and as such are used to camping in damp and wet conditions!

We pulled up at the camping area at Henrietta Creek and found that a car had been left at the entrance to our camping spot. Undeterred we pulled in and got stuck into the task of setting up.

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We had bought our trusted Oztent and after I had got up on the top of the cruiser to retrieve it we set it up under some beautiful trees. We also set up the shower tent, although the camping area did have toilets it had no shower and we wished to test out our new hottap outing setup (which was very welcome on the Saturday).

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Whilst enjoying a glass of wine the owners of the car turned up with some friends. Now I am not one to judge but they were definitely trying to pull a “swifty” and camp without paying for a permit. They tried to tell us that they thought that was the campsite they had booked and when I asked to see their booking/permit they said they did not have it. Once I had informed them that NP’s require you to display your permit they then tried to tell me they had paid at the honest box. Honestly, there is no honesty box, so once they realised that I knew what I was talking about they swiftly left. I do not understand some people as the campsite is only $6.55 pp per night, a small price to pay for such a beautiful setting with amenities! No sooner had we seen these people off, we had another visitor to our campsite. A beautiful Cassowary wandered through, completely unperturbed by us.

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Resident Cassowary

We then settled down to enjoy dinner and a good bottle of wine. That was when I found out about leeches. The area was very damp, and I was wearing the good old Aussie thongs. I looked at my foot and saw a blob of what I thought was mud stuck to my toe. I tried to wipe it off and then squealed, yuk!!!! It was a leech which I promptly removed (it came off easy enough with a bit of a pull). Then Mike got bit by an ant, and he cried out. Now it is unlike him to make a fuss, but he said it was extremely painful. Well no wonder it was painful it turned out to be a bull-ant (they inject formic acid!). So now that we were really in touch with nature we both put on enclosed shoes and finished our dinner and wine.

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Nandroya Falls

In the morning we decided to go for a walk up to Nandroya falls. The rain had stopped, and we thought we could do with the exercise. We set off armed with good walking shoes, water and camera. Now the walk is a circuit that starts just west of the camping area. The left-hand fork takes you up though the rainforest with a couple of creek crossings and across Silver falls to Nandroya. The track was slippery and wet and a bit rough in places due to the rains that had happened in the weeks before.

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The scenery was beautiful, and the creeks were running very well. It did start to drizzle again on our way up, but it didn’t bother us too much as we were mainly covered by the canopy of the rainforest. We had to remove our shoes to cross at Silver falls, and I thoroughly checked for leaches before putting them back on!

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Silver Falls
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Silver Falls

We eventually reached Nandroya falls and it was amazing. Due to the rains it was running full and what a sight it was. Such a beautiful area, but very wet!!!! It was definitely not swimming weather, but we did get some fantastic photos before we got too wet.

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Nandroya Falls

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Wet but Happy

We decided to head back down and passed a couple of other people coming up to the falls, the only people we had seen on the track. There was a sign on the track saying, “alternate route 4km’s” and we thought, why not. We could do with the extra km’s to burn off the wine the night before!

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Alternate Route, Should Be Easy

Now remember I had told you the area had had quite a bit of rain in the weeks leading up to Easter? Well this track was a bit washed out, but we kept going thinking, “it can’t be that bad or they would have closed it”. In the immortal words of the young today “Yeah, Nah”! We came across our first obstacle, a fallen tree, but we managed to navigate it very well, avoiding some stinging trees in the process. Stinging trees have attractive heart shaped leaves but believe me you do not want to brush up against them. The hollow silica-tipped hairs can cause extreme pain lasting months. So, feeling quite pleased with ourselves we continued on down the track.

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Just a Little Obstacle

That’s when we came to a big tree that had fallen across the path. We could not get over it, so we had to manoeuvre around it, which meant climbing down the side of the hill and walking around and then climbing up again! Now, we are no spring chickens (and maybe a little bit unfit), but we managed the climb carefully, getting to the other side a bit muddy but relatively unscathed. Now, from this point on you will notice I do not have too many photographs as we were concentrating on getting to the end of the track alive.

We carried on, feeling a bit worried about the state of the track ahead but knowing we could not go back. We came to another obstacle and Mike had to “wait-a-while”. For those that do not know the wait-a-whiles are vines that hang down in the rain forest with hooked barbs on them that attach themselves to you and you have to stop and extract yourself from their grasp. Once he was extracted he went to walk off and flung a wait-a-while up which caught into my bare ankle. Ouch!!!!!!! I think I screamed (it really hurt as it dug in) and then was immediately worried that others on the track may of thought that something terrible had happened (if they did hear they did not come to investigate, hmm!) So, once we were extracted again we continued on a bit scraped and bloodied.

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More Creeks

We rounded a corner and my fearless husband (who was in front) tried to warn me that the path narrowed and was very slippery. Wham! He went down and all I could think of was grabbing him before he toppled over the edge and down the ravine to the Douglas river below. As I grabbed him I braced myself against the side of the cliff and dug in. He was a dead weight hanging there (I won’t say how much of a weight) as he scrambled to get his feet underneath him. Eventually he did get a ledge to put his feet on and scrambled back up to lots of hugs from me and not a small amount of hysterical laughter. That was when we noticed he had cut his leg. Now it was not too deep, but it was bleeding. The problem there was that he is on blood thinners and does not clot very well. Not a great position to be in, especially without phone signal.

Now let me just recap. We are on a track in the middle of the rainforest, we are not sure how far we have to go, and we do not know if we can get through or if we will need to turn back and go through that all again to take the other route back down. At that moment in time we were both very tired, wet and I must admit I was slightly hysterical, alternating between laughing at our situation and fighting back the urge to sit down, burst into tears and give up (yes, I know I am a sook!)

Anyhow we did continue on, with me checking on Mikes blood loss every 100 yards, and eventually got back to the beginning of the path. As we got to the fork, we saw some tourists coming up to start the trek. We stopped and told them not to go the long way as it was hazardous. This was done with a lot of hand gesturing and slow talking as they were German tourists. It was then that I looked down and saw that two of the lads had good old Aussie thongs on! I tried to tell them that they were definitely not suitable footwear for the track ahead, but I think it was lost in translation and off they went very happy! I never did find out if they made it back alive.

We got back to camp and had a hot shower (the hottap was a godsend), then rewarded ourselves with beer and cheese all the while laughing about our adventure and how we didn’t do too bad for a couple of old pozzies!

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Yum

Due to another big rain event being predicted for the early hours of Monday morning and the fact that we had more than enough adventures for one weekend, we packed up Sunday afternoon and drove home a day early. The Cassowary put in another appearance before we left, and I got a few more photos.

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See Ya Birdy

Even though we were late getting home that night, we were very glad to get home safe and sound without anything more than a few scratches and bruises and as usual one very good camp fire story.

A Shout Out to Our Friends (That Fish!)

Friends come in all shapes and sizes, from different backgrounds and cultures with differing personalities and differing reasons for being friends. Now we could get bogged down with definitions of friends’ vs acquaintances, you know Facebook or Insta friends and then the people who really mean something to you or you to them, but I would rather celebrate friends for what they are and what they do.

Now I consider myself very lucky I have a few really great friends which I love spending time with. You may start to pick up on a theme with our friends too, they all like fishing! Coincidence you ask? Probably not but what the hell, it works for us.

Let me tell you about a few of our nearest and dearest friends:

 

The Drabbles

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Dave and Di Drabble are our true dinky-di Aussie mates. We first met at a mutual friend’s New Year’s Eve party. We stayed awake and alert (well maybe just awake) to watch the sun dawn on a new year together, having a few drinks, loads of laughs and sharing a sense of achievement (that we were fairly old and could still see the night through to the dawn!). Just a note to say we have not been able to do that since, but hey at least we could say we had done it! That was about 6 years ago now and our friendship has gone from strength to strength (hopefully they agree with this, if not tough you Drabbles are stuck with us Pozzies now!).

Dave is ex-army and has a unique way of approaching things, such as DIY and fixing anything mechanical (dodgy but functional is the phrase we would use). Di is just a beautiful soul who would do anything for anybody. She is also very patient and almost saint like for putting up with Dave and his dodgy fixes!

Now just to explain Dave is my fishing husband. He is as passionate about fishing as I am (maybe more) and has taught me quite a few things over the years. We very often joke about him having two wives, the loving and beautiful wife that he spends most of his time with (yes that is Di) and then his fishing wife who he takes fishing and imparts his fishing wisdom to (that would be me). He is my Mr Miyagi and I am his, not so little, grasshopper!

We have had many a camping and fishing adventure with this pair and thoroughly enjoyed every minute of the time spent together. We had the pleasure of going on a 3-week expedition to the cape with them and it was 3 weeks filled with fun, laughter, 4WDriving, fishing and a few arguments (but that was between me and my husband not us and the Drabbles). Di is extremely good company and I love the fact that she and I have a natural friendship (even if some people think I am a posh earthy type!)

I guess we cannot be that bad to be around as we are all going away again next year for a 5-week adventure in the Kimberley’s. I am sure it will be full of exciting events such as breaking things, getting stuck, maybe having to Jump Snatch Winch and Blow (see blog of the same name) the old BT-50 etc. etc.

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Can’t wait for next year and all the adventures to come!

The Deb and Mark Effect

I met Deb and Mark a few years ago, when I joined a boot camp run by a very strange, but very good PT in Townsville. We struck up a friendship and started socialising together outside of boot camp. Now our socialising (involving cheese, wine and generally having a great time), may have conflicted with our training goals (to lose weight and get fit), but we did not let that stop us!

Deb and I built the friendship up and the fellas just kind of followed. Luckily enough (for Deb and I) the fellas get on extremely well, so we spend a lot of time socialising, going to the footy and fishing together.

Deb is my faithful girlfriend, who turns up to my charity fundraisers, even on her own, and we have an annual ritual of going to the races together, for an afternoon of fun, laughter and champagne. She is easy going if a bit disorganised sometimes (i.e. stressing about not having anything to wear for the races on the night before the event!)

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Mark (or as I call him Capt. Mark Phillips) is a very clever fella, builder with an engineer’s head and has helped us out more than a few times with our caravan renos. You can almost guarantee they will be late or “just” on time for anything, but in all honesty, they are truly worth the wait (even if it is just for the laughs the story about why they were late gives us).

Mark and Deb love their fishing as well and we have ventured out in convoy to fish the beautiful waters in and around, Townsville, Hinchinbrook and the reef. There is always some funny story to relate while supping a few beers after we get back from fishing. These stories usually have something to do with things not working for Mark (such as the sounder or electric motor) or having to come back in early due to Deb getting a lure well and truly stuck in her arm!

In fact, not long ago my husband and I were out fishing, and our electric motor refused to work, then our anchor rope got caught around the electric winch mechanism and then back at the ramp our winch post on our trailer came away from its fixing. We called it the Mark and Deb effect (due to so many things going wrong in a short space of time) and oh how we laughed and laughed (well after we got everything fixed!).

Now Mark is retiring in a couple of weeks and they are moving back down south. We are very sad to see them go but know that we will have more good times and adventures with them even if they do not live down the road.

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Oh, and Mike asks, “Are you OK Mark?” (this is in reference to a very drunken night on International are you OK day, details will not be disclosed!)

Wally and Sharelle

Now these two, beautiful people, are dear friends of ours. We met at a fishing club, surprise, surprise! They have a way of making you feel included and supported in a world that is a bit cruel and spiteful sometimes.

Wally repairs windscreens and has his own mobile business (Wally’s Mobile Windscreens) and Sharelle not only works but ensures the family (grown kids and a gaggle of grandkids) are supported and looked after. Family is everything to this pair.

Sharelle always comes and supports our charity events (which my daughter arranges for Ovarian Cancer) and Wally always answers my silly questions about fishing (and occasionally fixes my chips in my windscreens).

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They have taken me out fishing more than once whilst my husband has been away (working overseas) and we have had a great time even caught some fish! We see each other at the fishing club weigh-ins and it can sometimes be a bit of a standing joke as to whose turn it is to win the ladies prize this time.

We go for dinner with them (and our other friends Garry and Jenny) and they entertain us with tall stories of fishing, “what Wally did” and their wonderful family.

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Garry and Jenny

We first met Garry at a fishing club (again surprise, surprise!) He was single at the time and I remember my first impressions were, nice enough, bit weird! My love for him grew when I found out he knew a lot about fishing and worked at the Fishing Warehouse! Only kidding, that’s not all we loved him for, honest!

The fishing club had arranged a weekend away to Terrible Creek and Mike and I went along with Wally, Sharelle, Garry and a few other members. This was about the same time that Garry got himself a girlfriend so there was much leg pulling and teasing about him being love struck!

We became good friends through our mutual friends Wally and Sharelle and then I met his new girlfriend, Jenny, and we decided we had several things in common, not least a good Sauvignon Blanc! And so, a friendship between two couples was born!

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We like to pay out on Garry a lot (well he has got the nickname of crumpet!), so he gets teased about being short, balding and old! We tell him that we are only friends with him because of Jenny! Although this is not true, it still is fun to pay out on him! We do love you Crumpet!

Jenny works very hard running her own business (JAG MiniMart) and Garry helps out when he is not working at the Fishing Warehouse. In between doing all this we still have time for a catch up at the footy or go out to dinner with our other friends Wally and Sharelle and of course Jenny and I get to drink plenty of Sauv blanc together!

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So, I guess the moral of this story is, you do not have to have thousands of likes on Facebook and Insta to be happy. You just need to have a few genuine friends. Friends who you can do daft stuff with, friends who will support you in your life and friends who you can have a laugh and a few Sauv blancs with, sharing your travels, life and dreams.

So, thank you guys for being our friends, cheers to many more years!

Renovations in Fishing Heaven

Lucinda, the place of my dreams. As you may have gathered I am a passionate and crazy fishing lady. Love the water, love fishing and love the Hinchinbrook area. Ever since moving to Townsville in 2011 I have been in love with the waters, scenery and fishing opportunities around the Hinchinbrook area. Pristine waters giving the avid angler a real choice of creek, river, open water and reef fishing. What more could a girl ask for!

Mike (my husband) and I started going up to Lucinda for fishing not long after finding out about the place. It is only 1 hour 40 minutes from home so easy for a day trip or a quick weekend getaway. The caravan park was easy for overnight stays, pitching the tent and making the most of the time out on the water. I would say it was almost perfect, except for one small tiny inconvenience. Yes you guessed it, pitching a tent, taking up all your camping stuff as well as the boat and hot in the summer months (like dripping humidity hot!)

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We  often looked on enviously at our friends who had a semi permanent caravan at the park. They had comfort, a ready made home away from home and aircon whenever they came home from a hot days fishing. It’s true, I coveted the luxury of having a caravan in one of the best fishing places on earth!

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The Vision

I Want One

Now these semi permanent caravans are as rare as hens teeth, the park is only allowed to have a certain amount. My goal was to score us one. One morning, whilst browsing through Facebook I happened upon a post about a semi permanent for sale at the park! I could not believe my luck. So after very quick negotiations with my husband and a promise that it would be extremely beneficial for us to snag this van I contacted the person through a DM and told them we were very, very interested. After a bit of too-ing and fro-ing in the message department I was then informed that it was sold and we had missed out …………. gutted is too mild a word!!

But, as fate would have it, our friends (who have a semi permanent at the park) phoned and told us that the park owners (Shane and Genevieve) had a caravan that they would be happy to sell us!!!!!!!! Woohoo happy again. So, we promptly contacted Shane at the park and told him we would come up to look at it on the weekend. Excited much? You betcha!

We turned up on the Saturday and Shane showed us around and told us to think about it. So we did, it took all of about 5 minutes and I was in his office asking who I made the payment to!!!! Our very own bolt hole, fishing shack! Ok so it needed a fair bit of work, but still our very own fishing shack, how lucky was I!!!!!!!

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Our little piece of heaven

Now the only minus, in a world of positives, about owning your own semi permanent in your fishing mecca, is the husbands need to get everything done now! For those that do not know my husband is particular. He has to have everything done just so (ocd tendencies) and in a timely manner. He does not like to leave a job unfinished even if only for a short period of time. If he starts something he will go full pelt on it to the exclusion of everything else until it is finished! How to balance renovations (with a very impatient and task focussed husband) with the need to just go fishing? Now I am not sure how other people deal with this, but, I used bribery, coercion, compromise and a few other techniques (which I will not go in to here!) to ensure that every weekend was not devoted to the caravan renovations.

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Before reno’s

Renovations

Where to start? Well we started with the inside of the caravan, it still had the shower cubicle and old units (which had to go for aesthetics sake at the very least!). Mike started ripping out the shower cubicle, as we decided we really did not need it due to the park having very nice modern amenities, and it would give us more space around the bed. This in itself was a learning curve! YouTube is awesome for learning about plumbing, electrical work and general renovating tips! We had plenty advice and assistance from our friends; David Drabble (Drabble Inc.) and Mark Phillips, (who we call Capt. Mark Phillips although he has no royal connections). So the boys had fun demolishing and generally making a mess! Hammers, mallets and screw drivers were flying everywhere with a few “whoops”, “oh balderdash” and other words that I will not type here (children don’t need to be exposed to that kind of language!)

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Demo time

Just as a sidleine I guess I had better explain the difference between our friends in terms of construction and building styles. Capt. Mark Philips is very particular (having done construction as a full time job for most of his life) and like my husband he measures everything a minimum of 3 times so he only has to cut once. Drabble Inc. on the other hand is a cut 3 times without measuring (why bother with that time consuming activity) kind of guy. However we love them both and they both have skills which are extremely useful, especially when you have little or no idea how to do it yourself.

We spent more than a few weekends sleeping on a mattress in the annexe, which was a compromise because it meant that we did not need to spend every weekend working, we could enjoy some fishing too even if it meant the work got done a little more slowly than my husband was comfortable with. But we still had aircon, ah heaven!

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Our bedroom for a while

We modified the bed somewhat to ensure that the two of us had enough space to roll over without giving each other a black eye. Mike laid carpet tiles in the bedroom area and then it was time to get the bed back in. How exciting! Roxy and Lucas came for a visit and Lucas was drafted in to help Mike put the bed frame and mattress back in. Roxy and I gave them our full support and encouragement from the patio (with a glass of wine in hand), as our favourite Czech (Lucas) and my favourite pozzie (Mike) did a great impression of the Chuckle Brothers “To me, to you”! (I guess only pommies will get this reference).

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Our new bedroom

Well bed was in and walls were painted now time to relax and enjoy the fishing, before the next stage of renovations.

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Renovations then started on the living area end of the caravan so demolition time again! One part of the seating area was ripped out and the flooring was pulled up. This was to give us more worktop space in the kitchen, plus we were going to have a living area in annexe so did not need all the seating in the caravan. My husband worked about 5 weekends solid on getting everything demolished and prepped ready for a refit.

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Now it just so happened that I had to go Italy for 2 weeks (yes I can hear you say “Shame”, “oh you have a hard life” etc.). So, it was agreed that while I was away Mike would finish off the inside of the caravan (and yes I can hear you say “spoilt much?”). I had already painted the cupboard doors and the inside of the caravan (my contribution when not fishing), so all he had to do was put some cupboards in! Not too taxing (says she who is swanning around Italy!).

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Doing a bit of swanning at the Colosseum

Capt. Mark Phillips came to help Mike put the cupboards in and got the inside of the caravan finished whilst I was away. I popped in on my way back from a fishing competition (yes I was fishing 1 day immediatley after coming back from Italy, dedicated or what!). It was amazing coming back to a fresh, bright  and modern fishing shack (and the aircon still worked). All we had to do now was to enjoy the serenity and fishing for a while without any more renovating!

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Inside done

That sentiment did not last long! Just after Christmas we started planning the annexe renovations.

Again just as a sideline and to set the scene I guess I should define the term “we” used throughout this blog. There are varying levels of “we”, as most of you ladies will recognise. “We” renovated may mean that husband and wife or husband, wife and friends, had an equal part to play in the renovations. “We” could also mean that I did a lot of swanning around and fishing whilst “they” did the renovations. Just thought I would clear that up before proceeding.

Annexe Renovations

Now the annexe on the caravan was a soft annexe with a hardwood floor. It was very old and the canvas was torn in a few places. I dreamed of a good (lockable) and comfy room to compliment the caravan space. A room in which to sit on a sofa and watch telly (comfortably), store some fishing gear (securely) and have somewhere for guests to stay. Now I know what you are thinking, “gosh she wants a lot for a fishing shack!” but there is no point going through life uncomfortable! Our friends have a cold room panelled annexe and we thought yes, that is a fantastic idea. Our favourite Czech had told us in broken English that “when I was 14 I help father put up big room with panels for cold”, so we knew we could call on his experience if required. Mike went and spoke to the fabulous guys (and gals) at Norfoam in Townsville and worked out the plan to get a hard annexe put on the caravan.

Before we could get the annexe up we had to paint the outside of the caravan as it was looking very old and tired. So, we had to spend a weekend painting (I did take my fishing rods with me and sneaked off to the beach for a fish in between coats!). Mike also had to take the old annexe down, out with the old in with the new!

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Before and after

These panels come in a kit that is easy to erect and can be done by people with no building experience (apparently!). So, we hired a trailer and picked the kit up with a view to spending the whole weekend getting the annexe up. Mike was fully prepared with the plans, parts and tools with which to get this structure up. We got to the caravan bright and early ready to go. Capt. Mark Phillips (our construction engineer) was not available that weekend and our usual tool (Drabble Inc.) was fishing, so would not be able to assist until later that morning.

Now the caravan park is absolutely chock full of grey nomads and we just so happened to have a couple across the way from us who were not only very friendly but extremely useful too. John volunteered to lend a hand (well truth be told his wife volunteerred him, but same thing), and he came over to start the construction. Now we have found out that having a John trumps having a Drabble (sorry Dave and we still love you!). John has a wealth of experience, he is a welder and has a tool for just about every job!

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Men at work

Construction began. It was not long before the natural order of things emerged. John was the foreman, Drabble (who had arrived back from fishing) was the worker and Mike was the apprentice. I was cleaning lady and on tea duties, with the help of Di, Drabbles better half. Now us girls did not mind leaving the physical labour to the men although we did our fair share of propping up, passing tools, cleaning the worksite and generally encouraging the troops!

Now something which I learnt through the construction phase was there are varying different types of spirit levels. Now not being familiar with the tool myself I was startled to find out that you could get spirit levels with a small gap for the bubble to sit in (apparently that is the norm) or you could get spirit levels with a large gap for the bubble to sit in (that is a Drabble Inc. level). John preffered the small gap type (something to do with being more accurate) and Drabble Inc. preffered the large gap type (something to do with “she’ll be right mate”). I found the robust discussion that was had over the two types very interesting!

Us two girls (DI and myself) were given the very important task (by John the foreman) of holding the panels up until they were riveted and secured into place (we felt very important). So, all was going well at a cracking pace until ……… crash! The panels fell over and we had to start all over again.

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Hold it girls

One job girls, just one job!!!!!!!

It is a bit like building a house of cards. Until you get the full structure up it is not too strong. So the day was spent generally riveting, screwing, holding, leaning and manoeuvring the panels into place.

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Still holding it

So the value of John you will ask? It seemed that the apprentice (Mike), although well prepared for the construction with half his shed of tools, did not have the right tools amongst his hoard, but John did! Very often during the day you would hear John say “have you got such and such tool” and then you would hear him say “never mind I have one”. Luckily he was only across the way so did not have to go very far for to get them.

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Still holding it

Eventually the structure was up and all that was left was the filling, cleaning and finishing off. Oh, and the sealing strip on the outside of the roof. Which meant someone getting up there, preferably the smallest, lightest person. Why was everyone looking at me? So bravely I said I would. Now I am not a great lover of heights and I still was not a great believer in the strength of the panels. But bravely I climbed the ladder and got onto the roof. And that is as far as I got. I sat on the roof telling myself to take deep breaths when around the corner our friendly Drabble came. Saviour! He got up there instead (true chivalry) and proceeded to put the flashing on the roof. I was still having kittens due to the roof panels flexing and my imagination that told me the whole thing could come down at any moment, but he did it.

So all that had to happen now was to lay the internal floor, build the furniture and decorate with some nicknacks. So, in true Tracey fashion, the following weekend I went to the Townsville Cup with friends and Mike went and finished the caravan.

 

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Townsville Cup

After another weekend of fixing up little things and painting the caravan is almost unrecognisable from when we first purchased it. Remember the vision ……….?

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The vision

Woohoo, caravan is finished and although it may not resemble the vision picture above it is now a comfortable little bolt hole for us to enjoy fishing and relaxing in the beautiful paradise of the Hinchinbrook area.

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The finished product

And yes I am 2SPOILT!

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Thats me!