Mt Buffalo – Day 1

We arrived at Lake Catani Thursday afternoon, later than I would have liked. I never seem to be able to get away when I want, but this poor even by our standards. Brad and the girls were already there when we arrived.

Nevertheless we set up and were pretty happy with the place. Great campground, good facilities, nice spot by the lake. We had booked 3 of the 4 camp sites in a cluster together that shared a fireplace, only 2 for tonight as Nick and Baxter was getting there the next day. So the issue was that the entire park was nearly empty (sub-alpine country in November) and yet we had someone camping right next to us. We chatted to them and it turned out it was their last night. Then some lone hiker decided to camp in the fourth one, meaning there were six camp sites occupied out of around 50, and 4 of them in a small cluster around us!

But anyway, you make the most of it, especially if it is just for one night. We went for a walk, and as it got darker we went unsuccessfully wombat spotting. There were loads of burrows and droppings but we failed to find them all trip!


Maddie and Isla were loving it.

Very sunny, but absolutely freezing!

Some of the great scenery around the lake

We got the fire ready for the night and stayed up late with the neighbours. They were all a bit odd. The middle aged daughter screamed at her Dad all night “stop snoring” which woke everyone up. The hiker refused to say anything. We also decided to skip the hot water bottles. That was really silly… it was cold that night, colder than I have slept in before. With thermals and a -5 sleeping bad I wasn’t too bad but my nose was sore because it was so cold. Claire also struggled. When Brad woke up at 6am he looked at his car thermometer and it was 1 degree. Except that is as low as his gauge would go, plus it was 6am, so not really when the low point hits. My guess is it was around -5 as that was the predicted low for the night before. We didn’t make the mistake with the hot water bottles again, but it was never as cold as that again.

 

Gorges a the MacDonnell ranges

Two things you need to know about this trip

1) After the Alice trip I got a bit sunburnt on my neck. I decided to get a better hat, and when I realised I could match my hero Russell Coight (youtube him!) well it was an easy decision. You are unlikely to see camping trips of me on here without that glorious hat

2) Claire was supposed to book us on a tour of these ranges. She didn’t. Initially we were really dissapointed when it was booked out… but it turned out to be the best thing ever! We hired a landcruiser and had a lot more fun together than we ever would have in a group of stranges. Amazingly, the cost including everything was about $10 more… extremely good value. I recommend Hertz in Alice Springs, nice people.

I didn’t expect much of this trip. You go to Alice to see the rock, right? Wrong!


I don’t know what is better, the gorge or the hat

Simpson’s Gap was first and it was reasonable, sort of what I expected. A very striking Gap.
Standley Chasm was next, again an interesting walk, very nice and I was having fun.
Ellery Creek Big Hole was pictured. Amazing. One of the best gorges I have ever seen. The water was ice cold. But I could not believe how amazing it was.

We then drove to Redbank Gorge. It was a short distance walk across the riverbed. But so many massive rocks that it took for ages. Worth it, but we realised we wouldn’t have time for Serpentine Gorge, which was apparently very similar.


The exception to the hat rule – when my hat is being used as the stand for the self-timed camera

Then we went to Ormiston Gorge which was again beautiful. We then backtracked to Glen Helen Gorge which was accessible by the public and again just as nice as anything I’d seen.


Seriously how good is the hat?

We then moved on to the Orchre pits which was very interesting, before seeing the sunset back at Ellery Creek Big Hole, which I thought was the most exceptional.

Overall an amazing and unexpected day! Australia is beautiful.

 


Relaxing for lunch under a gumtree at Ormiston Gorge

Red Centre Trip – Day 3

On our last day we took a long hike across King’s Canyon. It was a great walk and the canyon itself was amazing.

Us, right at the start.

Once again, I was really surprised by the amount of water that was present. Admittedly it had been raining recently, but you really got the idea that the desert wasn’t endless sand dunes, it was far more hospitable than you would think.

I am still awed about how indigenous people thrived out here though.

Claire at the main waterhole

Funnily enough, the clouds came racing at us, and we only just got back from the bus before a large deluge. From there it was 5 hours home, a pretty successful and enjoyable trip.

 


I wish I knew who this couple were, I would love to give them this photo.

Red Centre Trip – Day 2

So we woke up super early and headed straight to Uluru. Our guide gave us the choice about either seeing Uluru at sunrise and taking a 5km around most of the base, or taking the full 8km around the base. Surprisingly we were the only people who opted for the sunrise, but how could you pass up this view?


Note Kata Tjuta to the left

The walk around Uluru was amazing. For whatever reason, I guess the timing, we basically had the walk to ourselves. Despite the photos everywhere else, tourists were everywhere. But around that walk, especially the first hour, we were all alone. It was amazing.

Amazingly, there was water all around the rock, and some great waterfalls and pools

Afterwards we headed all to the camp and King’s Canyon and we were treated for a great sunset across the ranges. Well, actually I did, Claire went to get a Diet Coke and it took a mite longer than she expected, and she managed to miss it! But it was still nice to hang out at the viewpoint. It was so nice that we came back to it hours later and saw the stars. Being so far away from natural light sources had them really come out. But I don’t know how to take good photos, so I guess they are for my memory only!

 


Sunset over King’s Canyon

 

Joining that Elusive Club

Went to Melville Island to visit some friends for a long weekend of fishing

Except after launching on Friday it was discovered that the boat wouldn’t start… so no fishing for the friday, and the trip was looking less than ideal.

But land based fishing is still fun, so that was Saturday’s plan. Tom had heard of a place that had big barra at this time of year. But doesn’t everyone say that. If I was to describe it I would say that it looked a lot like buffalo creek.

We got there at first light, but we expected the fishing to heat up each side of the 10.30am low. A little bit of action here and there in the morning showed there was a fish around, so that was good. With no fish after an hour, Tom decided to live bait. It wasn’t long before he caught a monster black tipped reef shark. He went back to live baiting and soon hooked and dropped a barra, estimated at 60cm. So that was a good sign. Not too long afterwards he hooked another barra around 70cm and got it the bank before he lost it in the worst way possible – his knot undid.

He was pretty annoyed, but finally the third bit of livebait hooked up and he got our first barra of the day, 61cm, and we had dinner for everyone. A funny moment in that fight was when the barra hooked up, it instantly ran across my line, we crossed back right away and I was going to wind up but, I could feel his fishing fighting, even though they appear uncrossed. I didn’t wind it up not wanting to cost him a barra… It took us a while to figure out that were NOT tangled, actually, I had a 35cm Jack on!

 

Meanwhile I had been swapping my lures with regularity with one or two strikes, but overall not doing well. Soon my blue barra classic was called for, and around an hour before the low, BANG.

What followed was one of the worst performances in angling history.

My drag was way too loose, WAY too loose, so it took my line and bolted against the current and away from the snags. I couldn’t tell at first what it was, I said to Tom “It might be a shark”, Tom said “No, way it’s a barra”. Actually I thought so, I just didn’t want to jinx it.

It came back and went again and it was obvious it was a barra and my drag was too loose. Tom told me to tighten it, I hate doing it on the run, but he was right, so I did. As it charged around upstream, I was dumbfounded at how big it was and how lucky I was it didn’t go charging for the snags. Predictably enough, it came towards me, then decided to head straight for the snags. I tightened the drag again on the run, but it wasn’t enough, it went straight under one dead tree so I could see the line against it, through some more branches and onwards.

I held him firm for a bit, and Tom said he could see it in a far off drain. I thought about for a bit and decided to freespool him to see if he would sort himself out. When I tightened it again, the lure was stuck on something, but there was no action with the fish. I freespool again for a while in hope… but when I tightened it again, it was the same. It seemed the lure was caught on a snag and the fish was gone. Not wanting to lose my lure, I tightened up the drag and slowly pulled… yay! I was lucky enough to break the branch off, but it was fairly big. ‘At least I get the lure’ I thought. So I slowly heaved my stick-fish in. It got past the branches, but got caught on the second snag. It was then I could see it was a metre by a metre of tangled branches… and the giant barra still there, being dragged sideways!

“He’s still on!” yelled Tom. Yes he was.

 


 

Soon the snag was hooked on another snag, so I had to go slack again, and luckily the current sorted everything out, and I was able to slowly pull both of them in.

We measured her at 96cm before putting her in the esky, my first legal saltwater barra since March. I was utterly stoked. Tom asked me if I wished it was a metre, yeah I guess, but who can complain with 96cm and also, my performance meant I really didn’t deserve it anyway.

 


It was only 20 minutes after that that Tom hooked another barra on a lure, this one loved jumping, he got it in, and it measured 83cm. When it came up the bank it really rolled itself in mud and Tom walked across to the ocean to clean it for the photo. (Interestingly we later found the barra was absolutely full of parasites and had to be thrown out)

I also caught a small cod, because that’s what I do. It was actually hard to release. There was a well known large croc who lived there, and the banks had about a metre of mud. I tried to throw him back but he landed in the mud with a plop. I had to fetch a stick from the trees behind us to poke him back in the water, and he swam away.

I had been cycling my lures regularly as I wasn’t getting any action, and Tom was getting some bites. We saw some large threadies swim by, but they were uninterested in our lures.

About 30 minutes after the water came pouring in, I was back on the same blue barra classic and bam! I was on again. This time I didn’t make any mistakes. My drag was exactly as it should be. As she came from the snag and hit the lure she followed the water away from the snags, as I expected. I held on for grim death, even with a tight drag she was peeling it off. But I also started walking up the bank, knowing if she charged back towards them, she it would be extra distance she’d have to make up against against the rod. Walking in sand and not allowing slack required two hands on the rod! At one point she jumped in the air, and got her whole body a foot out, and you had to marvel at such a sight. Tom wanted to know if it was a big as last time, it was hard to tell because the spool was so different, though I did think she was bigger, but I denied it… I didn’t want to jinx it. In the interest of honesty I will confess to thinking “4cm bigger, please please just 4cm bigger”.

She made two runs away from me, when I got her to the bank she made one last charge for the snags, but couldn’t get there, I had added an extra 15 metres that she had to swim. And so we dragged her up the bank, put the tape measure and 100cm! It was an easy decision to release her given we had a feed and then some. Tom ran to get the camera, and I thought she was actually 101cm. I called to him to witness and he said “are you really worried about the extra cm?” which was a good point so I lugged her up with great care and posed for the photo.

 


After that was was done I was ready to release her, but suddenly I remembered the cod and realised how difficult that was going to be. No way I was wading in knee deep mud in that river. Tom’s previous idea of washing the barra in the ocean suddenly came to me, so cuddling her gently I sprinted off to towards the sea. The visibility was really good and it was only a foot or two for a while, so I felt safe and able to revive her there. She tried to play dead but with a single slight squeeze of the tail she roared to life, and powered away.

From there we had a few more red hot goes on our lures, but nothing hooked up. Things died off as the water continued to come in, so we decided to call it and head home.

 

Got:
Me: 96cm & 100cm barra… and a mangrove jack, cod
Tom: 61cm, 83cm barra… and a large shark