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.

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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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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.

Banks of the Jardine

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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“Go to the Beach”, they said – “It Will be Fun”, they said.

Fraser Island.

Fraser is a beautifully unique island off the south-east coast of Queensland. It is the world’s largest sand island, stretching over 120km, with rainforest growing out of the sand. The island is World Heritage listed and is a camping and 4 wheel driving mecca for many Australians and international tourists.

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Fraser Island

So, for our first real adventure since moving to Townsville my husband and I decided to venture forth and make the trip. We had booked just over two weeks off and travelled down from Townsville stopping at the beautiful Smalleys beach, in the beautiful Cape Hillsborough National Park, on the way.

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Smalleys Beach

We had booked in at the Waddy Point beachfront camping area to the north for 7 days and as we made our way over on the ferry we were very excited.

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Waiting for the Ferry

We had been told by many of our friends that Fraser can be a bit difficult to drive on with lots of soft sand, soft coffee rock, dingoes and plenty of traffic (especially during school holidays). We were also told to ensure we check the tides as getting up Seventy-Five Mile beach could be a bit tricky if you got your timings wrong.

Being excited (and a little bit naive) we trundled off the ferry at Wanggoolba Creek along with a few other tourists and hit our first sand trap about 10 minutes later. To be fair it wasn’t completely our fault. We were following a car full of Japanese tourists who decided to stop in the middle of the track for a photo opportunity! So, we pulled up and immediately sank in the sand! We did realise, after being dragged out by some very accommodating people, that our tyre pressures were not low enough, first schoolboy error! We had them somewhere around 25psi and were told they should be somewhere around 16, oops! Lesson learnt, and we were off again, travelling through the sandy roads to get onto Seventy-Five Mile Beach.

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Maheno shipwreck on Seventy-Five Mile Beach

Now driving Seventy-Five Mile beach is a bit of an experience! Not only do you have to dodge other cars, the sea, tour buses and people but airplanes too! Tourist flights land on every shifting airstrips on the beach and it can be quite unnerving to see an airplane coming in to land in front of you!

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Airstrip

On our way up to our campsite we came across another couple who were stuck half way up Indian Heads. They were towing a camper trailer and drove a Patrol (yep Toyota’s are forever pulling Patrol’s out of trouble). We stopped to assist (with our limited Pozzie knowledge) and got them out and on their way up. It just so happened that they ended up camping next door to us and thus a friendship was born.

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Fun in the Sand

With our new-found friends we explored the northern end of Fraser, enjoying the sun, sea and sand. We also explored a few tins of xxxx and the odd wine bottle, (well it would be rude not to!). We thought it would be a good idea to travel over to the other side of the island and visit Wathumba Creek.

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Beautiful Wathumba

Wathumba Creek is a beautiful place, just picture perfect with white sands and turquoise water, good fishing and abundant marine life. We spent the best part of the day exploring this area and swimming in the beautiful pristine waters. On our way back, our new-found friends told us of another beach which was, if possible, even more beautiful than Wathumba.

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More Wathumba

They pulled over and directed us to the track that led to this said beach in Platypus Bay. They told us that there was a small water crossing with a log in it then we would see the entrance to the beach. They told us we would need to gun it over the rise as the sand was soft, but it was ok there was plenty of room on the other side to slow down and get onto the beach. They would wait for us in the pub and we could catch them up there.

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The Pub

So, like good Pozzies off we trundled, got through the water crossing (no drama really) and over the sand track. We did as instructed and gunned it over the rise and then ……. thump! Straight onto the beach in soft sand with the sea directly in front of us! Bringing to mind the saying “Go to the Beach”, they said – “It Will be Fun”, they said!!! Yeah right!

We were well and truly stuck! Right up to the axle! With water in front of us and soft sand behind. After a while of trying to drive the car out (backwards and forwards) and trying to hail our new-found friends on the UHF (who were probably having too much fun in the pub), we clambered out and started to dig. And dig. And dig. And dig! This car was well and truly bogged!!!!!

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Stuck

All the while we were keeping an eye on the tide, pretty sure it was coming in!

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Keep Smiling

So, we dug and dug and moved the car about 25 metres!!! We were both absolutely exhausted, but knew we had to try and get out of there, so we dug some more. As a side note I must admit my husband and I worked as a team that afternoon, no arguing, no blame game just one focussed goal of getting out and getting on track (very unusual I know but we obviously function better together under stress!).

We were desperate and ready to give up and walk, we had both been digging, hauling and generally trying to retrieve the car for over two hours in the hot sun. Enough was enough! I was that hot and tired I thought I was hallucinating as I saw people coming over the sand dune! I have never been so happy to see complete strangers in my life! So, after some hysterical relief and hugs for the rescuers the guys tried to haul our Prado out of the sand dune backwards. It took several attempts and two other cars, but we got there eventually.

There are no photos of this great rescue, due to the fact that I was just so bloody knackered and stressed I did not have presence of mind to take any! But I will say we are eternally grateful to the guys and gals that got us out of that mess, they were awesome!

We headed back to camp (not the pub, we were too dirty, sweaty and knackered). As we pulled up to our camp our new-found friends came out to greet us, with a beer, dinner and platitudes of “we were just thinking about coming to look for you”, “oh my what happened”, “are you ok, we have made you dinner”, “here have a stiff drink everything will be alright”!!!!!! We had a much-needed hot shower and ate dinner, drank lot’s, laughed about our adventure, (sometimes hysterically!) and slept like little babies.

We really enjoyed our time on Fraser and enjoyed the company of the people we met there, so much so we took my parents the year after (without any mishaps). It really is a beautiful place and one I would encourage everyone to see at least once in their lifetime. We will be going back again sometime soon, hopefully armed with a little bit more experience!

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Fraser Island