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Jesse’s Travel Diary

Friday, 29 Sep 2006

MapDay 39
We moved on from Cape Hillsborough reasonably early in the morning and headed north on the Bruce Highway. We stopped in at Proserpine to do some laundry, purchase some food, and a few items for the vehicle. We weren’t met with the nicest help or assistance from the local storekeepers when chasing odd bits for the vehicle. Anyhow, we had all the food we needed (Jesse eats a lot), and we had some clean clothes and a functioning vehicle. We stopped in at the info centre at Proserpine, and were advised to head into Airlie Beach to find the nearest National Parks Office. Airlie Beach is developed beyond belief, and is still developing. It is a huge tourist trap, and not quite what we were looking for. The lady in the National Parks office was great and explained all our options for camping from Airlie and further north. She recommended a little spot not far up the coast from Airlie that is a lot less touristy and the scenery is similar to Airlie. She also gave us maps of the coastline north to Cairns that outline all the marine parks and controlled fishing waters so we knew where we could and couldn’t line fish.

It was only about 45mins drive to the recommended spot, conveniently named Hydeaway Bay. It has a “twin town” called Dingo Beach that forms the same community which is similarly sized and located just around the headland from Hideaway Bay. The two towns are adjacent to each other and are very small. Hydeaway Bay has a caravan park and the main street with houses on either side. Dingo beach has a pub with a beer garden (chairs in the sand) looking out over the water. There are more houses in Dingo Beach, but still very quiet compared with Airlie Beach. The Caravan Park at Hydeaway Bay was unbelievable (good!), they had a BBQ, an open campfire with benches around it. The campfire was just what we were after, able to sit around the fire and push the hot coals to one end to cook food on( the fireplace was specially designed for such an operation). Even the toilet block had soap dispensers provided, there was free fuseball, a pool table and they offered the telephone for us to make local phone calls around to Dingo Beach!! It might not sound like much, but trust us, you notice the little touches when you are camping that make a place even more pleasant. That is not to mention the natural scenic beauty in this area. The bay was calm and the water was a beautiful almost turquoise colour, with orange igneous rocks (potentially adamellite) around the headlands. Across the Bay was a magnificent Island (Gloucester Island) which is a National Park and uninhabited. You are permitted to camp on the island, but you would need a boat to get out there. The Island had steep white exposed rocks near the top and with the overcast weather there was mist and cloud covering the tops of the hills. The coastline could be described as quite rugged and untouched.

That night we met two couples who were traveling together from Emerald in southwest Qld. They had a boat and were explaining just how good the fishing is here, but unfortunately the weather just wasn’t quite right while we were there. They had caught large Coral Trout just 2km off the boat ramp from Dingo Beach (usually you have to go 30km or so out to the reef to get this type of fish!). They showed us the way to use a shovel and welding gloves when preparing coals and cooking food on the fire (Their superior camp oven (cooking pot) with internal levels and sections was also a site to see – in awe as they cooked a roast and vegies, we were drooling like Homer Simpson).

Next morning (day 40) we decided to fish around the rocks just off Hideaway Bay. We were full of anticipation after seeing the quality of the waters the night before. The potential was just that – potential. We had the right bait and were there at the right time (tide wise), but the fish just weren’t biting. None the less we continued and Mat caught a few undersized spotted cod that were thrown back and Jesse caught 2 Wolf Herring (bigger versions of the long tom or gar fish – long and thin fish) that we kept and used as bait. After a relaxing day on the rocks we went around to Dingo Beach and had a few beers at the pub and had a bit of an explore around the place before heading back to the caravan park and cooking up our new favorite “budget meal” which is chicken wings ($2.50 a kilo) that we marinate in sweet chilli sauce, soy sauce, chopped garlic and lemon zest and lemon juice..mmmmmmmmmmm chicken wings!!!!!!

Day 41
We had booked a tinny for this morning to go out around the bay and “catch that big one” but the weather was not on our side, the winds were up around the 30 knot mark and there was no way we were heading out. We got in the car and headed around the bay on some dirt roads, up the side of a mountain and as we were warned by the tinny operator , there was a sign at the top of the hill before the decent that said “Stop, think B 4 U try”. So we didn’t try going down that one – it was quite a hairy decent even on foot and there was evidence on our way down of failed attempts (shattered windscreen). We fished on the south eastern corner of the bay as much out of the wind as possible. There weren’t many bites but that was ok, because our attention was drawn to the volumes of great oysters on the rocks in the intertidal zone. We sat and ate our fill, Jesse would have eaten two dozen or so! We organized to get out on the tinny for the next day and because we would be down at the boat ramp at 6am we thought an early night would be best.

Day 42
The weather was pretty bad again this morning so the tinny hire was a no go. That meant we moved on early today. After packing up we got on the Bruce again and drove to Ayr where we planned to pick up a few groceries and continue. There was nothing open on a Sunday in Ayr, except for a bakery which we just had to check out. Well, without being able to purchase anything substantial, we to leave the Bruce Highway. We turned off the Highway at Ayr and drove a little way into a small town called Alva Beach. The owner of the caravan park we stayed at accused Mat of stealing from the church plate (for paying with so much coinage) and when Jesse asked what the weather was doing in the next couple of days, he told him to ask the man upstairs?? We checked out the beach at Alva and tried for some potties in the cast net and went for a fish. Jesse caught a nice bream.

Day 43
Next day we had the full day to suss out some fishing opportunities in and around the sand flats of Alva beach. The sand from the vegetation out to the ocean is vast, approximately 400m and the river meanders in and around the sand, finding its way to the ocean. After a couple of hours chasing bait with the net (damn that’s frustrating when the tides are prime for fishing and you have nothing to fish with!). After finally getting onto a few herring, we started fishing in amongst the sand flats on the falling tide. We found a nice little spot where the water rushed off a sand flat into a deeper channel. Jesse caught a very nice dusky flathead (66cm long). If they are over 70cm they must be put back! Mat hooked up to something nice as well, but then the line snapped during the struggle. We fished on and a little while later Jesse was on again, another flathead, this time 57cm long. You wouldn’t read about it; but it was the same fish that got away from Mat, it still had Mat’s hook in its mouth (a greedy fish). Mat hooked a nice little Bream as well. We got back to the Caravan park around 1pm and we cooked up the smaller flathead for lunch, and the smell brought the older campers around to see what was cooking. We heard there hadn’t been much fish being caught in the last couple of weeks. Dinner time the larger flathead was cooked, and it was a massive fish steak of a fillet for each of us. Go the Flathead!

Day 44
Word must have got around the retirees in the caravan park, as next morning when we went out for a fish at our little “hotspot” there were about 12 other anglers fishing along the sandbanks trying to catch a flathead of their own. We met a nice couple from Killarney Vale (two suburbs from Mat’s homeland) who taught us the finer techniques of cast net throwing. It turns out the finer points involve a whole new approach, and the instructions we were given with the net when we bought it were a bit of a bumsteer. Jesse thanked the guy for the tips, walked down the beach to our spot and in the first cast, bagged approx 45 herring. We felt obliged to walk the bucket down to the couple and offer them half of the herring, as it was their technique that enabled us to have such success. All full of confidence with fresh live bait and a spot that had been previously successful we walked out and started fishing again. This time not so lucky, although we did witness the couple from Killarney Vale hook up a couple of Queenfish, Darts and a Salmon! We went back to camp, had a few beers, did some maintenance work and had a little chat to some nearby campers who were returning from the Cape – they were of a similar age to us and had a few tips to offer us.

Day 45
Funnily enough it was time to fish again (it is all anyone does in this town and why not, the area has a lot to offer the angler). We drove around further south to a beach and set about chasing the bait. Walking in and around the sandflats, through mud and waist deep water, we came away with some bait and were ready to fish again. Today we managed to catch three bream and a flathead, lunch and dinner was caught once again.

Day 46
Early the next morning we packed up camp and moved on to the Bruce Highway and found a farm selling fresh fruit and veg on the side of the road and stocked up the pantry; cheap, fresh and tasty – can’t ask for more than that! Set up camp at Townsville, to catch up on some semi final football and experience what is for us the big smoke. It was a pleasurable experience for one of the travelers when the dogs beat the raiders, viewed in the Cowboys Leagues Club) The main beach (The Strand) is an extraordinary example of how to set up an esplanade with amenities for all ages, very impressive. We checked out the National Park (Pallangola?) and walked around the headland, with the old quarantine station and gun turrets from the war. The marlin fishing tournament was finishing, so a brisk walk on the marina to check out the catches, a large black Kingfish (or cobia) was impressive.

Generally we spent our time hanging out on the esplanade, doing a bit of fishing and just touring the city. The caravan park was pretty ordinary and so we spent as little time as possible there (just to sleep).

Leaving Townsville after a few days we took the barge over to Mgnetic Island. Magnetis Island was beautiful and provided us with some snorkeling opportunities at every bay we could access. Bonus was that no matter what the wind was doing, there was a bay somewhere out of the wind. The fish are everywhere when the bay is a marine park! The youth hostel was a short walk from Horseshoe Bay where we spent a little time cooking snags on the free BBQ and watching the world go by. West point was a beautiful spot for sunsets where we spent an afternoon fishing and mucking around with the camera. Sadly our fishing skills (or the fish) evaded us during or time at Townsville and on the island with not one fish added to the tally. There were plenty of wary/timid beach stone curlews around the island. And if you get too close they let you (and all the other curlews) know all about it.

The walking on the island was also a highlight with several smaller walks to bays inaccessible by car. A mountain top walk that took us over the main east-west range with varying vegetation communities including xantherea’s and rainforest and lots of vantage points around the island.

We left Townsville and Magnetic Island (Funnily enough we headed north back onto the Bruce Highway). We caught up with a mate of a mate (Troy) who took us to a great free camp area on Ollera Creek about 70km north of Townsville. While there we had to leave the vehicle in 4WD and slowly drive along the tracks that lead downstream to the mouth of the creek. We spent three nights there, and our time included walks down the creek with fishing rods in hand, spinning lures amongst the structures and fixing birds nests. The weather was pretty ordinary with strong SE winds. WE woke on Friday morning and as we were commenting on the serenity of the site next to the creek we heard some vehicles approaching from upstream in the Creek. It was an army convoy undertaking some driver 4WD training. They hung around the crek and the tracks for the full day, getting bogged and making plenty of noise. At this camp we cooked our first roast, cooked in the coals of the fire (with gravy to boot! Thanks Gravox). It was an exceptional meal with flavours almost forgotten.

Mat lost three fish from the creek mouth (one mangrove jack spat out the hook right on the water/sand interface). Jesse on the other hand didn’t even get a bite.

From Ollera Creek we drove to Tully where the mountain range protrudes from the landscape to our left. Tully gorge looked like a good destination, but upon arrival there was a hydroelectricity plant at the end of the road and a small camp ground which could only offer a 375m rainforest walk. With slumped shoulders of disappointment we drove back down to Hull Heads. Hull Heads was a beautiful little spot with cheap camping ($3.30 pppn) and free BBQ, a jetty and a place to hire tinnys and explore the Tully River system. You couldn’t help but want to fish in the estuary system. We snagged the cast net several times on our first day and decided it was okay to retrieve the net by walking in up to our midriff. We played a game of golf at Tully (Mat won again).

The next day we hired a tinny (which we were able to launch ourselves). It was both an eventful and non eventful day at the same time. The fishing was looking disappointing with only a stingray and a small grunter caught after several hours. Then as we explored further up the north arm of the river. We had two rods each and Jesse was explaining how in an estuary it is better to have the drag not set so that when you get bites, you can set the hook easier. Explained because Mat had missed a few fish with the drag set too loose. During a very quiet patch we heard a noise like something hitting the side of the tinny. We both turned around to see only bubbles coming up from the water and Jesse with one less fishing rod in the boat. It seems a huge fish took the bait at pace and in the same flash it took the line, reel and rod as well. You can only imagine the frustration (vocalized) by Jesse. After a few minutes of shock, Jesse responded verbally to the situation (expletives not to be repeated). We continued north a little while and saw our first crocodile on the bank. This was confirmation that walking in or swimming in the water is not a good idea. We thought about our retrieval of the cast net the previous day, and decided that won’t be done again.

When returning the boat to the owner, Jesse explained the day and asked if we could go out again the next day for half price. It was agreed and on that day Jesse landed a nice Giant Trevally and also a very big, healthy Mangrove Jack. Even the boat owner was well impressed with the Jack (47cm). This went someway to redeeming himself from his forgettable incident the previous day.

From Tully we drove to Cairns; the last main city for a while. WE spent two night in a caravan park and went to watch the preliminary finals. First though, we played another game of golf at Cairns Golf Course, went to watch the football at the Cairns Leagues Club.
The next day did a bit of exploring up to Palm Cove (couldn’t get on to the resort golf course), drove around the esplanade of Palm Cove and ended up playing another round of golf at Half Moon Golf Club, probably the hardest challenging course either Jesse or I have played on. The Golf Challenge score is 3-1 to Mat ( it has to be an 18 hole game to count).