3 Weeks Up North Part 2
If you missed part one, you can check it out at 3 Weeks Up North Part 1.
Day 11; Exmouth to Coral Bay, and then Gnaraloo Station
Conscious of the longer day, we got up early, had breakfast and packed the cars as quickly as possible. We were all knackered from the previous day and didn’t get any time to start packing the day before, so it took a bit longer. After checking out of the caravan park, we took a quick drive to the shops to get some last minute supplies, and then headed out of Exmouth. I rang Gnaraloo station to double check there would be a campsite free, and was told it wouldn’t be an issue.
However, the wind had different plans for us today. It was howling in, and made it hard to sit on even 100km/h without the Exhaust gas temperatures skyrocketing. I was hoping that after we went south of the gulf the wind would die off, but it was relentless. 150km later, we pulled into Coral Bay for an early lunch and a few photos of the bay.
Coral Bay is an incredible place; one of my favourites. In the future, I’d stay at Coral Bay over Exmouth any day, and you would see why when you look at the bay. Unfortunately for us, the wind was still howling. In fact, I’ve never seen the bay so windy before; it was even cold walking around!
We were just about to leave Coral Bay when I had a look under my car, only to notice that the sway bar bracket on the driver’s side had broken. The bolt had come loose in Cleaverville, and was retightened. We had a bit of a look, and Daniel remembered an old 80 series being at the dump. A short drive out of town and a look through the tip found nothing, so we left it sitting there as it was out of the way and not doing any harm.
After filling up at Miliyana (For around $1.85) we continued on towards Carnarvon. 25km north of Carnarvon is the turn off to Quobba blowholes. 49km down that road, and you reach some of the most incredible coast in WA. You quickly pick up the utmost of respect for the ocean, as you see waves smash into rocks and salt wash fly 10 metres into the air. The blowholes are incredible too, and we looked at Point Quobba before heading off. You can stay at Point Quobba for $5.50 per night, and it’s accessible by bitumen and there are plenty of campsites.
I guess this explains why there were at least 100 caravans set up, for a very long while down the coast. Point Quobba is part of a sanctuary zone, but there is great snorkelling and different places you can fish at (outside of the sanctuary).
It was pushing on 4PM now, so we pushed onwards, past Quobba and Red Bluff, and turned into the 3 mile campground and pulled up at the kiosk. A quick chat to the lady at the shop and we were given a range of different camp sites. Unfortunately the one we had booked was in use, as we arrived early, but we found another good site that didn’t have anyone booked for the whole 5 nights. This suited us better, as we didn’t have to move sites mid way through the stay.
After picking a site, we got out and spent some time trying to work out the best way to set the tents up. The wind was howling beyond belief, which made setting the tents and gazebo up very interesting. It took 4 people to set everything up, and we used a few of the big rocks lying around to anchor the gazebo down. After a quick dinner, we hit the sack.
Day 12; Exploring Gnaraloo Station
After a fairly average sleep the previous night (due to the wind making everything flap around), we got up and had breakfast, keen to explore the station. I went up and paid for the extra 2 nights, and spoke to the lady at the shop about places to go and the weather for the next few days. The weather for today was looking reasonable, minus a bit of excessive wind.
Soon after, we loaded the cars and headed up to Gnaraloo homestead. This is about a 10km drive on relatively rough roads. You have to open and close a few gates, but not long after you hit Gnaraloo Bay, which is quite nice. The wind was relentless though; it just kept hammering us. We tried to check out 6 mile reef, but found the road closed.
We looked at various places along the coastline, trying to find somewhere suitable for diving and fishing. A number of the spots that you can drive to require a lot of walking to actually hit the coastline, which is a bit unexpected. We walked for about 10 minutes over dunes and rocks to get to the coast in one spot; imagine if you had to do that with dive gear and kayaks!
We decided to go back to Gnaraloo Bay instead. When we got there, we were met with about 10 boat trailers parked up, with more coming in by the minute. I walked down to the beach, and found a tri axle cat, around 25 foot long sunk down to the axles, with a 200 series trying to launch it.
We wandered over to give them a hand, and to have a better look at their predicament. Fair enough, it’s a 3.5 tonne boat being launched on soft sand, but there were metal tracks around that could have been used. Beach launching is not always that easy, especially with a huge boat. I asked what tyre pressures they were running, and was told ‘down’ by one bloke, and ‘12PSI’ on the 200 series by another.
Daniel was offering a few suggestions, but they were met with rude replies so we left them to sort it out. It’s funny how people can be dismissive of the younger generation, even when they are trying to help out! Whilst getting ready to dive, we watched them disconnect the land cruiser, drive it forwards, set the metal tracks up and hitch it back up.
With a bit more effort and using the boat motor to reverse it off, the boat was soon floating. I guarantee they had issues getting the boat back up again though. In that situation, tyre pressures are imperative. I’d be surprised if the pressures couldn’t have been altered a bit; a drop from 12 PSI to 8 PSI is 30% less air, which makes a massive difference.
We had a look at the sanctuary zone, and Gnaraloo has mandated no driving on any of the beaches, which meant we had to lug all of our gear down along the beach, and outside of the sanctuary zone. I mentioned to some tourists that they were fishing in the sanctuary zone, and they were very confused with the whole sanctuary zones, but moved anyway. I have to say, the DEC and Gnaraloo have a long way to go in making things clear. For spear fishers especially, the rules and regulations are totally contradictory and very unclear.
Clayton and Sarah had a fish while Daniel and I jumped in with our dive gear and spear guns. The dive was great, with heaps of coral and fish, but not too much that could be shot. I found a number of swim throughs and caves, which were a lot of fun. By the time we got out, it was nearly 2PM, so we headed back to camp for a bite to eat.
After a good feed, we headed just north of the 3 mile camp, to check out some different fishing spots that were recommended by Gnaraloo. Daniel and Clayton fished for a while at the bottom of one of the cliffs, just off the beach and rocks but didn’t get too much. Sarah and I decided we’d go and dive the lagoon, only to realize half way back to camp that all of the dive gear was in Daniels car. Oh well. Instead, we walked up the dune near 3 mile, and enjoyed a great view from the top. After a lot of photos, we headed back to camp for a shower and dinner.
The showers at Gnaraloo are pretty basic. Its bore water, heated by fires that are put on (at 3pm every day I believe). They were hot, but the water flow wasn’t that great. By late afternoon, the wind was howling again, and cooking and relaxing in the outdoors was made a little uncomfortable!
Day 13; Ballooning and Diving Gnaraloo
The weather for today was supposed to be even windier, so we decided to drive south of 3 mile, and checking out what was around. We looked at tombstones, a very popular surfing spot but didn’t see anyone out the back. Further down, there is some great coastline for diving and fishing. At the monumental cliffs, we decided to try our luck with ballooning, even though the wind was more south easterly than the easterly that we wanted. It took a while to set the gear up, and the first balloon wasn’t quite big enough to get out. The second one went out well, and I waited and waited for something to take the big garfish. Nothing did, but the fish must have gotten snagged on a reef because we couldn’t wind it back in.
Daniel and Clayton spent a few hours fishing straight off the cliff, and landed a big sweet lip and two undersized Chinaman cod. Once our stomachs started rumbling, we headed back to a good looking dive location, and got lunch out. Once again, we’d forgotten cutlery, so tuna and spaghetti were eaten with the aid of tent pegs (wiped on our shirts of course) and then the top of the spaghetti can was used to cut polony for sandwiches.
After letting the food settle a bit, we geared up and jumped in at the point. It was shallow. Really shallow. To the point where our shark shields kept getting tangled on the coral. But, there was a heap of fish. Spangled emperor, various snapper and heaps of parrot fish. The coral and marine life was brilliant, with the only complaint being how shallow it was. If you shot something, it was difficult to find a place to stand without crushing the coral, which is seriously fragile.
The first drift (which was about 300 metres) landed a decent parrot fish, and a heap of enjoyment drifting through the coral. On the second drift, I couldn’t seem to get anywhere near the big parrot fish. Believe me too, these were massive. Some of the parrot fish were pushing on 700mm, but they were so flighty it was frustrating.
On the way back in, a nice green parrot fish swam right in front of me, so I fired right through. Amazingly, it hit a second parrot fish (a much smaller red). I decided the smaller one was worth keeping as it was probably just sized. After spending a few minutes killing the fish and feeding them onto the spear gun fish rope, I pushed the spear back in place, ready to load it again. At this point, I had my head in the water, and was struggling to stay in one spot without the current pushing me along.
I turned around, and saw a wobbegong shark around a metre long coming straight for my fish. I gave him a decent poke with the gun, and he took off in the other direction. Wobbegongs don’t seem to be affected by the shark shields; they are a different species of shark and the electric field just doesn’t seem to bother them.
Great, that will be the last I’ll see of him! I found some shallow ground, and stood up to look at my spear gun. Somehow, when feeding my spear back in place I managed to get the wires tangled, so I began to fix it. All of a sudden, I thought about the wobbegong again, and stuck my head back in the water. The shark was within 20cm of my face, and I jumped backwards. I gave him another big poke with the spear, and chased him away. From then on, I’d had enough; I swam back into shore, holding onto my fish for dear life! I was pretty tired upon arriving back in shore, and was very annoyed to find that my dive knife hadn’t clipped in properly after killing the parrot fish, and had gone missing.
To top it off, we didn’t have a spare one, and I wasn’t going to drive to Carnarvon to get another one. You aren’t allowed to fillet any fish on the station, except for a few of the toilet blocks where fish cleaning is set up. We took the fish back to camp, filleted them and put them away in the freezer. Parrot fish is very nice fish to eat; it’s not too strong, and freezes very well. Whilst doing our routine checks of battery levels Daniel found his big 210amp battery was running very flat; caused by us not taking the time to set the solar up properly. Both fridges were turned off for the night, until we could get a good charge into it. A few big pieces of steak and vegetables for dinner, some discussions about what to do tomorrow and upcoming holidays and we hit the sack, keen to get a good sleep. The wind was howling once again; I could only hope that it would die down enough overnight for a good sleep!
Day 14; more ballooning and diving at Gnaraloo
Our limited fishing success so far spurred us onto an early morning. We got up when it was dark, and headed down to Monumental cliffs, knowing that the wind would be more favourable for ballooning. The Patrol alternator wouldn’t charge Daniels auxiliary battery; it was that flat, so we left the solar to do its job. About 20 minutes after arriving we had the rig set up, and released the balloon off the cliffs. The first time didn’t work as the balloon didn’t go out far enough before we tossed the bait, so we had to pull it back in again and try for a second shot. Ballooning is a lot of fun, but it’s pretty awkward as well!
The second time the balloon went out perfectly, and over about an hour we let it out several hundred metres. The helium balloon lifts the bait (a big garfish) out of the water quite regularly; apparently the splashing on the surface is what attracts the fish. Daniel went back about an hour later to turn the patrol on, hoping to give the batteries a bit of a boost.
We spent a few hours fishing off the cliff, as well as waiting for the big strike to happen on the balloon. Daniel and Clayton caught a few little Chinaman cod, and a weird wrasse thing but they all went back. After nearly 4 hours had passed, we decided to head back in. The balloon was wound in, rigs packed away and everything tied back onto the roof.
On the way back to camp, we checked out a few spots along the coast that looked good for diving. After a good feed of polony fritters, we were all extremely tired and unmotivated, and decided to have a bit of a nap!
A while later and I woke up, to see the sun shining, wind minimal and the potential looking good! We headed up to Gnaraloo Bay again, keen to head out deeper in the kayaks and get some bigger fish. We dropped the kayak and dive gear on the beach, then got busy setting up. I made sure to set the solar panels up; both Daniels and mine needed a good charging, but the clouds were not helping.
After a fair hike out, we dropped the anchor and jumped overboard. First look seemed good; around 6 metres of water with a few fish at the bottom. Daniel and I swam out several hundred metres, toward the reef, in search of some big spangled emperor, parrot fish or mackerel.
We swam for ages, and the only thing we saw was a very tame bald chin groper (which you are not allowed to shoot in Ningaloo Marine Park) and a small shark, which took off as soon as it got near the shark shields. Tired, and sick of the lack of fish, we decided to swim back to the kayak and move on. It took a long time to see the yak, given the bigger swell, but we eventually found it. By now, we were both freezing and decided to paddle into shallower water.
We found a spot closer to the coast, and jumped overboard. My snorkel clip decided to break, so I attempted diving without it. Big mistake! The first little bit of rough water went straight into my mouth, giving me a decent gulp of salt water. That’s it! I’m out! I sat in the yak for a while whilst Daniel followed various fish around, not seeing much of any worth.
Even more frustrated, we paddled back into shore, to give them the bad news! We have almost learned to take it for granted that spear fishing in such plentiful water yields great fish every time, but obviously not this time! Daniels kayak must have a bit of a leak; we drained about 5 litres of water out of it, packed everything up and headed back to 3 mile.
On the way back, we came to a caravan parked about 1 km out of 3 mile, with a danger cone at the back and no one around. A quick look underneath showed the old caravan had suffered a bit of damage. The u bolt holding the spring to the axle had snapped, allowing the axle to move back on one side and ripping the brake cables off. We drove back to 3 mile, and spoke to the lady at the shop about it; who didn’t even know it was there. I remembered commenting on the caravan on the way to Gnaraloo bay; the owners were a younger couple, taking it very slowly along the track into 3 mile (at about 1pm). The van must have broken a few minutes after we passed them!
Honestly, I don’t believe bringing a caravan into Gnaraloo is a good idea, unless it is bulletproof or the roads are in top condition. The roads are good in some places, and terrible in others. If it’s wet, you can have even more dramas, and the broken caravan is proof that the roads take their toll. The Gnaraloo homestead has about 5 caravans at their tip; I can only assume that these have all fallen apart on the roads as well. An off-road caravan, camper trailer or pop top would be the limit; even some of the boat trailers must cop a flogging on their way in.
We headed back out a few hours later to see if anyone was back, and to help them get into camp. The chassis just needed jacking up, with some decent ratchet straps to hold the spring back in place and it could have been limped into camp. No one was there though, and we met some DEC people staying on the station on the way back in who told us the owner had gone into Carnarvon to try to get parts, and his family was at 3 mile with another family.
By now, the patrol only had about a ¼ of a tank of diesel left, plus the sub tank. We wanted to check out Red bluff the next day, so arranged with the homestead to get a bit of extra fuel the following day.
Day 15; Red Bluff
After a good night’s sleep with much less wind, we filled up on custard and pears, then packed the cars, keen to check out Red Bluff. We woke to some weird weather; cloudy, cool and minimal wind. I was a bit unsure of what this would mean in terms of spear fishing, but there was only one way to find out! The drive from 3 mile camp to Red Bluff is around 50km, and the corrugations meant we had to double check the gear on the roof rack!
We saw the guy with the broken caravan on the way out; he had just gotten moving. The grader was at it again, this time doing the road into Red Bluff, which was well timed. When I first pulled into Red Bluff, the water was flat calm, with the sun shining in and heaps of campsites near the coast, which looked well protected. At that moment I seriously regretted staying at Gnaraloo over Red Bluff; the only difference is the Bluff has no showers, but it is 5 dollars a night cheaper.
We drove around for a while, and parked up at the point. I set the solar panel up, and we geared up for another dive. Looking around, Red Bluff is truly awesome. However, the wind soon picked up, the sun went away and I realized that we would probably get bored at a place like the bluff if we were there for more than a few days. Gnaraloo has heaps more coastline, and a lot more to do. Even though it’s windier, I spearing and fishing seems better around Gnaraloo.
Our dive was reasonable. There wasn’t much coral or fish, but I managed to get a big blue barred parrot fish and Daniel shot a smaller gold spot trevally. I was pretty happy, as we needed some fish for dinner that night. We were going to have lunch at the bluff, but realized again that we had no cutlery, so we headed back to 3 mile.
After lunch, we headed out to a place that we had named Parrot Heaven. Most of the diving is in around a meter deep, which makes it quite difficult at times. However, there are more parrot fish here than I’ve ever seen in one place before, and we were in desperate need of some fish to take back to Perth.
A few hours in the water, 5 turtles, 2 wobbegong sharks and a whole lot of fun we had 5 reasonable sized fish. By now, it was near on 5PM, so we headed back to camp, filleted and cleaned the fish up and put them into bags in the freezer. It was freezing with the wind howling in, but the fish made it worth it.
Day 16; Gnaraloo Lagoon then to Denham and François National Park
I’d been saying the whole time we were camped at Gnaraloo that I wanted to dive the lagoon in front of 3 mile. Every dive so far had been out of the sanctuary zones, so we could shoot some fish. However, I’d been dying to get some good photos of the marine life with my Go Pro, and decided today was the day. Daniel and I got up at 7AM, and made the decision to have a quick (very quick) dive without wetsuits.
The wind was still quite strong, but we ran down to the bay, and jumped in. At first, it was freezing but we soon got used to the temperature and thoroughly enjoyed the dive, even though it was a mere 15 minutes!
To be honest though, the lagoon is nowhere near as nice as parrot heaven. It’s got more fish, but most of the coral is dead, presumably from so many people viewing it over the years, and damaging the coral by standing on it.
Conscious of the long day ahead, we ran back to camp, got changed and started packing. By 9:30, we rolled out of 3 mile camp, making our way back to Quobba. We met the grader again, but this time enjoyed virtually perfect roads. We pulled up next to the ‘King Waves Kill’ sign and pumped the tyres up, then took a photo off the tripod. I had to leg it across the road to get back in time for the camera to take the photo, but it worked out quite well!
The wind back into Carnarvon was howling, making it a very expensive drive! After taking the scenic route through all of the fruit and vegetable farms at the back of Carnarvon, we pulled into the town centre to get more supplies. A quick shop at Woolworths (where we missed out on getting the 4 cents a litre off voucher by under 60 cents), a meal at Eagle boys ($43 for 2 pizzas and a garlic bread; what a rip off!) we packed the cars and headed off. By now, it was near on 2PM, and we were a bit unsure of whether we’d get to camp before dark.
To top it off, we had a head wind from Carnarvon to the Overlander, and we decided it would be best to sit on 100km/h due to Daniels previous fuel consumption; a whopper 19.8 litres per hundred kilometres. Once we’d turned off onto the road into Shark Bay though, the wind went away completely and we were able to comfortably cruise at 110km/h.
Despite the lack of time, I couldn’t resist stopping to check out an echidna that was crossing the road. Echidnas are incredible creatures, but this one was quite shy. After making sure it was out of harm’s way, we continued on to Shark Bay.
A quick fill up at Caltex, some DEC brochures later and we were heading out to François National Park. Upon arriving at the homestead, we pulled up at a heap of signage. In all my time travelling, I’ve never seen such a good set up. There was a deflation station on one side of the road, and an inflation station on the other side.
The signs showed clearly what tyre pressures you should be running, how to engage four wheel drive, and there was even a big bin, with ‘dump point’ written on it. Every national park should be set up like this. Great work DPAW!
I was further impressed with much more signage as we drove through the national park. Signs of what animals to look out for proper colour signs of campsites and rules and regulations. It was a huge relief, after driving through Gnaraloo, which has virtually no signage. We had a quick look at South Gregory’s, which was nice, but moved on to Gregory’s itself. We had read this had a good reef just off shore, with good diving, and best of all, no sanctuary zone. We found a big campsite in loop B, and set up camp just as the sun was going down. The beach was only about 20 metres away from the campsite, and the wind was minimal, considering what we had put up with at Gnaraloo.
Day 17; François National Park
After a bit of a sleep in, we got up and had pancakes, cooked by Clayton. He copped a bit of flak about the shapes and thicknesses, but they were edible at least! By now, most of us had virtually no clean clothes left, so it was time to do a bit of washing! We made use of the wind and sun by hanging the clothes on the guy ropes to dry, and set about preparing for a dive.
By now, my spear gun was in need of some TLC. The mono was seriously frayed, and I reckon I was about one more load of the gun away from both rubbers breaking. We replaced the twin 16mm rubbers with a new 20mm rubber, and cut the damaged mono line off, crimping it back together and feeding more line out from the reel.
Not too long after breakfast, we were all sitting under the gazebo chatting about how the wind picked up. Someone commented that we should put some better guy ropes to hold it down, and about 30 seconds later the whole front of the gazebo was picked up and flicked backwards into the bush. I just happened to be standing up at the time, and it smashed me on the elbow on the way over. It also collected my LED work light on the way through, and flicked it up into the air, landing smoothly in the bush behind us.
We removed the side wall, and pushed the gazebo back in place. Amazingly, not much was actually damaged. We then filled Woolworth’s bags with sand, and tied them to the gazebo with ratchet straps.
Once we had geared up (which takes quite a while – wetsuits, knives, masks, Gopro cameras, shark shields, weight belts, guns, gloves, booties and fins), we walked down the slope to the beach, and jumped in. By jumped in, I mean we walked out about a hundred metres before it got deeper, and then plunged into the water. Straight away, I could notice the difference in temperature; my 2mm surfing wetsuit is not suited for such cold water, and I could feel myself getting cold almost instantly. The water at Gnaraloo, Exmouth and Cleaverville is heaps warmer, so it was a bit of a shock!
Much to my disappointment though, the visibility was terrible; you could hardly see the bottom in a metre of water. Daniel and I swam for about an hour, up and down the reef. We saw some decent fish, but by the time you had sized them up and identified them, they were out of sight. I suppose that’s not so hard when you can’t see more than a spear in front of you!
We both got out quite quickly, given the poor conditions and water temperatures. Never mind, another day. After getting out of our wetsuits, and running around for a while to warm up, we had a feed and set up to take the kayak out for a fish. We had heard there were plenty of squid around, and were keen to get a feed for the evening’s meal.
The wind easily carried us out, but we couldn’t find much weed and quickly gave up. We did see a huge turtle though, but couldn’t get too close. What was hilarious was every cast the birds would try to get our squid jigs. You would think that after they’d picked it up once they would realize it wasn’t edible, but it went on and on! The paddle back in was killer; the chop meant we were getting wet, and we were paddling straight into the wind. Eventually, we made it back to shore and just sat there for a while, recovering!
Once again, we reverted to bait fishing, this time in between two reefs just off the coast. We caught a heap of small bream (only one that was size) and a few grass emperor, which were also undersized. After giving up on fishing all together, we took a walk down the beach to Bottle Bay. The shells on the beach that have washed up were incredible.
We found a couple that would have been 40cm long, and to our surprise a sea snake which wasn’t looking too healthy. We were debating whether to move it back into the water, as it would get close to the water, and then the wash would push it back again. However, on the side of caution we decided to let nature take its course!
The coast in François National Park is incredible. The red dunes meet up with white sand, which then meets up with perfect blue water. It is a sight to see; pure magic! After the walk, we were all pretty knackered, and just relaxed by the tents. Daniel was keen to get some more fish though, so he headed out in the kayak to try his luck on some bigger fish; starting a burley trail and using big mullies as bait. He caught a heap of emperor, none that were obviously size so they all went back. However, a 25 – 30 cm emperor on 4 pound line is a lot of fun!
We watched the sun go down and walked back to camp, to have a feed of fish and chips. We brought a chip cutter, which is awesome for doing a big frying pan of chips. You just peel the potatoes, pop it into the cutter, push the lever down and you have perfectly cut chips!
Day 18; Checking out François National Park
We woke to a very average looking day; the weather was cool and clouds totally obliterating any sunlight; real good for our solar panels, which meant we’d have to be careful of what we used the batteries for again. To top it off, today was the day that we had designated to check out the other places in François National Park, and to take a heap of photos. Oh well, what do you do! After a slow breakfast, we packed the cars and headed out towards Cape Peron and Skipjack point. I put my solar panel on the roof, hoping for some sort of charge throughout the day.
Cape Peron is right at the tip of the François national park, and is a special purpose zone. You can’t boat or spearfish, but virtually everything else is permitted. The dunes are awesome; bright red, running down to white beach sand and then blue water. What a place!
From the top of the dunes, you can clearly see a current running across the point, and we thought it would be a good place to fish. We were watching the water for a while on the way back to the cars, and saw a number of big tuna jump out of the water in the current flowing through. This was all the motivation we needed!
Skipjack point is an incredible place; you can see turtles, dugongs, manta rays, whales, sharks and a variety of bird life. However, today, the wind was howling in and the water quite murky. We had a bit of a look, but weren’t able to see much. It wasn’t so pleasant their either, so we quickly left!
From skipjack point, we went south, looking at Herald blight and back to south Gregory’s, then Gregory’s. We called in at Bottle Bay, which has quite a lot of campsites, beach access and boat launching is permitted. We drove along the beach for about 500 metres, and stopped at a headland where the water was lapping up. This would be an awesome place for a photo, but with the overcast weather I wasn’t so keen.
After a quick lunch back at camp (while setting rigs and rods up) we headed back to Cape Peron, keen to get some decent fish. Up until now, we weren’t so impressed with the fishing over the whole trip! Daniel got a decent bream on a silver slice, and the first mullie I threw out got pulled so hard I nearly lost my rod, but after that it went quiet. We caught a good feed of whiting, and Sarah caught a decent flat head, but still no tuna or mackerel! Daniel tried a few times to send a balloon out, which eventually worked and went out, but never got hit.
I was winding my rig back in as fast as possible after the bites stopped, thinking there was no bait left when BAM. I hooked something about 12 metres offshore, and wound it in quickly. To my surprise, it was a little Spanish mackerel; around 400mm long. It nearly took a piece out of my finger when I was getting it off the hook out of its mouth, and the strength it had even holding it in my hands was phenomenal. No wonder they are so much fun to catch. I carefully released it back into the water, and it was gone in half a second; ready for someone to catch when its 20kg! After a couple of hours had passed, we were getting bored and headed back to camp.
Daniel and Clayton headed out in the kayak to burly up and hopefully catch some spangled emperor, while Sarah and I went for a walk, keen to get some photos of the local animals. We watched the sun go down, and enjoyed the different colours as the light dimmed. François Peron National Park is truly an awesome place. It took quite a while to fillet the fish (which turned out to be quite a decent feed) and put them away, ready to be smoked the next day.
Day 19; last day at the Francois National Park
Well, we weren’t so happy that today was the last official day of holidays. Tomorrow would be the drive back to Perth, and had planned to get up early so we didn’t get home too late. On the other hand though, it was perfectly sunny; not a cloud in sight and the wind was virtually nonexistent.
We cleaned up a bit around camp, had breakfast and headed out in the kayaks again, hoping for a bit of a feed. We caught a heap of fish, mostly undersize grass emperor, weird cod and bream (everywhere we go we catch bream, and most of the time they are undersize!). We soon got bored, so headed in and set the smoker up.
Smoking fish takes a fair bit of time to do properly, but the result is well worth it. We didn’t do much for the rest of the day; we were pretty worn out. Kind of ironic, given the fact that we were on holidays! We decided that we would pack everything up that night (except the tents), so the following day would be shorter.
Day 20; back to life as we know it
We woke up at 6AM, just as the sun was starting to show itself. The tents were quickly packed up, some food shoved down and we headed for the exit of the François National Park. I wanted to check the homestead out on the way out, so we stopped there after airing the tyres up (with the homesteads compressor; awesome!).
The homestead is well and truly worth a look; there is a hot spring ‘pool’ which you can swim in, a nice grassed area with sheltered picnic table and numerous displays. Despite my urge to jump in for a quick dip, we really needed to make tracks, or we’d get back in Perth at midnight! We had also planned at stopping at Shell Beach on the way out, which is (as the name may suggest!) made up of hundreds of thousands of shells.
Soon after, we were stopped at the Overlander, picking up a few munchies for the trip home. A solid drive later, and we had pulled into Geraldton for fuel and a feed. After a meal at Maccas, we pushed on to Perth, down Indian Ocean Drive. We arrived right in peak hour traffic, and I must say all of the traffic and brake lights gave me a nasty headache. Oh, to be back in isolation again!
We arrived home at around 5PM, and unpacked most of the car. I wanted to wash it, but new it would have to wait; I had work the next day!
Things broken along the way:
- EGT gauge temperature wire crimp undone on the Land Cruiser. Removed the gauge, re-crimped both wires (the other one was also poorly done) and put it back in.
- Cheap food tub cracked into a million pieces. Moved the food into different tubs
- Shark shield stopped working for no apparent reason. Put it out of the way in the car to send back when we get into Perth
- Cracked Mirror mount on Land Cruiser. Nothing done. I will replace them in Perth.
- Idler pulley on air conditioner of land cruiser. New idler pulley assembly was purchased from Exmouth and fitted ($52)
- Rear door on GU Patrol rubbing on top of body. Loosened the bolts on the door and re-adjusted it.
- One mount on the Land Cruisers side steps snapped and various welds are cracking. Nothing done; to be replaced with proper rock sliders.
- Sway bar bracket on Land Cruiser snapped after 2 bolts worked loose. Nothing done; it is hanging out the way and will be replaced in Perth.
- Go Pro mount broke. Replaced with a spare.
- Snorkel clip snapped. Purchased a new one in Carnarvon
- Sarah’s camp chair snapped. Cable ties work a charm. To be replaced in Perth
- Bent gazebo after wind tipped it over. Also needs replacing in Perth
- Leaking kayak. Sikaflex’d the cracks up.
- Left airbag push fitting failed. Cut the hose a tiny bit shorter, pushed it back in and fingers crossed it stays there!
If you are waiting to do a trip like this, don’t put it off. It was by far the best trip that I’ve done so far, and can’t recommend it enough. What a privilege that it is to live in a place like this! I’d rate Karijini the best place, with Cleaverville a close second, and Francois National Park third. Still, you can’t really go wrong going anywhere in WA; it is an incredible place! The costs associated with the trip were minimal; you can see them 3 weeks up north part 1. I will definitely be heading back up there soon!
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