Hi there,

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Thursday, 8 June 2017

Lake Argyle - Chapter Two!

Lake Argyle (Wester Australia)
Distance Travelled:
5 km

fish caught

How awesome was today?!? I’ll tell you how awesome: Super Awesome – that how good it was. Having crossed the border late yesterday afternoon, we had also crossed into a new time zone, with the clocks going back by an hour. So, what did that mean...? Sleep in!

Oh yeah!

...well, not quite.

The kids’ body clocks obviously hadn’t received the memo that there was anything different with the local chronological-time-field than there had been the night before. So, they were up at the normal time and, consequently, so too were Nat and I. But, on the bright side, we had what seemed like many, many extra hours that could now be fitted into our time at Lake Argyle.

Scoffing down a quick breakfast, we headed up to the top if the ridge to check out the scenery. Looking out over the protective steel barrier at the crest of the lookout point, we were treated to breath-taking views of a simply enormous man-made lake: Lake Argyle; glistening like a blueish pearl against a cloudless sky. This massive man-made body of water supplies fresh drinking water to the entire Kimberley Region (https://leonardepsteinphotography.wordpress.com/2013/01/30/the-kimberleys-darwin-to-broome-australia-photos-poems-and-videos/)

The lake was hemmed in on the side nearest to us by cavernous walls of familiar orange red rock. But, away in the distance, there were hills and mountains of striking green, thrusting up from the clear waters. This view stretched all the way to the horizon… This was one BIG lake!

Views of the splendiferous Lake Argyle

Looking directly down from our vantage point, we could see the massive dam wall that had been constructed to keep in this behemoth of water at bay. According to a sign, which was stuck elegantly at the top of the lookout, the wall of the dam (or ‘Damn Wall!”, as the kids had an enormous amount of fun saying over and over and over again) was 98 meters from its foundation (I guess they ran out of stone to reach a flat 100?!?). It contained 1.5 million cubic meters of rock, which collectively held back 10.7 million mega litres of water (I wonder what that is in tea spoons... Oh to hell with it, I couldn't help myself... According to Google ["All hail Google"], that would be 2170860959398813 teaspoons - give or take a few).

Damn Wall! statistics for my geeky bretheren out there!

There were even a convocation of eagles flying overhead (yup, that’s the collective noun for these winged beasts), which we all took turns with the camera trying to get a good snap of (I told you they were a bugger to capture on film – or at least the digital equivalent of film).

What a magnificent bird!

As spectacular as this area was, sight-seeing wasn’t the main ticket on our agenda today. No, after breakfast I had spent precious little time digging out my tackle box from the boot of the trailer and opening the PVC tube that contained our rods, which had pretty much stayed locked since we left Melbourne. Down the road we rolled, cautiously, across the narrow culvert that has been constructed over the damn wall (“Damn Wall”, chirped the kids as we drove). Onwards we crept – down to the river below.

The night before I had been told tales of ‘meter-long Barramundi’ being pulled from this very spot only hours earlier. But, to our disappointment, arriving at the base of the dam wall (“Damn Wall” chorused the boys), we were met with a "No Fishing” sign (with capital letters and all). Not being big fish eaters (well at least, I’m not a big fish eater, and Nat can’t stand the idea of gutting and cleaning a fish – and, well, why would I want to do it if I don’t really like the taste of fish anyway [see where I'm going here...]), we gave a simple shrug, took a few photos and headed back to our number two destination (according to another of the very chipper staff members who seemed to ride pushbikes around the campsite all morning – before tending the bar in the evening). So, we head back up the hill and turned down a rough red dirt path towards a boat ramp. We all jumped out, checked with a local boatie if it was OK to fish here, and scoured the banks for a good place to set up. Unfortunately, at first glance, it seemed that other than throwing a line in off the boat ramp there was no place else to go. But, heading back up the road a little, Nat found a steep track that led down to water’s edge. There was even a conveniently placed rope to help with the descent (and consequent ascent, later in the morning).

Rope climb down to the Ord river, for a spot of fishing

So, scrambling down the bank, we found a lovely little spot to set up. Nat got out her book, maned the camera and took up crocodile spotting duty. The boys did their best to stand on every piece of fishing tackle I had, got caught up in line, and generally made as big a nuisance of themselves as they possibly could. But, finally, all three rods were eventually cast out into the water. Two, with lures, and after some delay (attending to tangled lines and snagged hooks), mine was loaded with float and bait.

On the way out of the caravan park, I’d picked up a pack of frozen river prawns. They quickly defrosted in the hot morning sun and almost before our eyes seemed to turn rancid, fermenting and exceptionally smelly before our very eyes… PERFECT, I thought – let’s give them a go!

No sooner than I’d thrown in my line than I had a bite. Not a burley barramundi, but rather a half decent catfish [scientific name and link].

First fish – a moderately sized cat fish.

Throughout our fishing escapade, we had a couple of scaly visitors keeping us company, in the form of freshwater crocs. According to the knowledgeable staff back at the caravan park, at the last survey (at the end of last season) there were an estimated 33,000 freshwater crocodiles in Lake Argyle. So it wasn’t overly surprising that a small handful would pop up and choose our stretch of the bank to sun themselves. Despite knowing that these medium to large sized critters were pretty harmless, we still gave them a wide berth – just in case one decided to go rouge and take a nip at us.

Sneaky croc waiting for our cast offs…

Another couple of catfish and a few perch-like fish later, it was time head off. The boys were having a great time and neither were eager to leave. But, with the midday sun looming and bellies getting empty, we all eventually gave in to the voice of reason reading her book on the bank and packed up.

Perch-like fish – not sure what type, but the lake was teeming with them!

After lunch, we headed to the pool for a very refreshing dip to cool off. The view from the infinity pool at the top of the cliff overlooking that massive lake was, to say the least, exceptional! I don’t think I’ve ever been to a caravan park with such an exquisite pool for weary traveller to soak their bones while gazing out across the lake towards the horizon (although, I have to admit, it was freezing cold water!!)

View over Lake Argyle from the infinity pool… it’s not a bad life, eh?

Soon, however, the kids started getting itchy feet and were keen to head back down to the lake for ‘a proper swim’ (in water that was at least above freezing) and – for my itchy fingers - another spot of fishing. Earlier in the day, the boys had heard from some of their campsite friends that there was a steep track leading down from the caravan park, ending on a pontoon from which you could jump into the lake. There was a sense of a dare in the air, as the kids informed us that their friends had been brave enough to jump off the pontoon 11 times into the croc filled waters. So, down the track we trudged. For a bit of fun, I talked up tales of crocs in the lake to see if the boys would take the bait. At the bottom, we headed – tentatively – onto the pontoon. There were lots of nervous glances into the water. There was no one else around and the waters were still and eerily quiet.

Unperturbed by my tales of nonsense, Ben was the first to pluck up the courage to jump into the lake. Although, my stories must had left some sort of impression, as no sooner as he was in, than he was up the ladder and onto the pontoon once again. “That’s one”, he panted – noting that he only had ten more brisk dips in the lake to equal his friend’s record.

Daniel was a little more cautious and, only once his older brother had made it to a count of five plunges into the croc infested waters (and scrambled out again, alive) that he decided it was probably safe enough to test it out for himself. In truth, it is very safe to swim here; but the boys didn’t need to know that. In the end, they made it to 40 dips, before they called it quits – quite proud of themselves and thoroughly satisfied.

Ben jumping into Croc infested waters – will he jump?? (I love how Daniel moves back quickly when I announce how many crocs inhabit this lake!)

While Nat oversaw much of these ins and outs of Lake Argyle, I set up a rod and proceeded to use up as much of the remaining bait as I could (there was no way that stinking slurry of prawns and fetid juices were coming along in the car with us tomorrow). Being near dusk, the fish were really starting to bite. So, over the hour or so that we stayed b the lake’s edge, I pulled in a string of catfish and perch. Once the boys got tired of plunging into the lake, they came and joined me too – taking turns hauling fish out, and flinging them back (with gentle grace and a tickle on the belly, of course). After the fish or two, I used my knife to knock the barb of the hook to make it easier to get the hook out. I don’t know why every hook I’ve been able to find in Australia always has a barb on it. Sure, they keep the fish on, but what’s a few lost fish in the name of a less traumatic experience when catching and releasing.

In the end, the dying light got the better of us. So, we threw the remaining prawns into the lake (which quickly became a boiling mass of fish – much to our chagrin), packed up our gear, and made the long hike up the hill. As we rounded the top of the cliff, we could hear live music coming from the bar – so, quickly tidying ourselves up (and scrubbing the baked prawn juice off our hands) we headed towards the source of the rhythmic noise for a quiet drink, some pre-dinner wedges and a well-earned relax.

Tomorrow, we’re off to Kununurra – so a change of scene again. It’s a bit of a short trip (only 70km, but there will be much packing, cleaning and re-packing on the cards; before we head off to El Questro station on two days time.

Bye ‘d Bye,


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