Thursday, 31 July 2014

Lake Argyle

On the morning we left Dundee beach (24th July) the plan was head down to Katherine for a few groceries & some fuel & then see how much further we could get & free camp along the road somewhere for a night. We had seen plenty of 24 hour rest stops & some of the Gregory national park camps right on the highway as well, so we thought it should be no problem. We shopped & refuelled in Katherine & headed west. The first free camp we came to not far from Katherine was empty, but it was too early to stop so we kept going, after that every single rest stop was completely full of caravans, including the Gregory ones, we called into them all, but there was no space, we kept heading west, knowing our only real options were the Victoria river roadhouse or Timber Creek. We had a very dewy pack up that morning, so we wanted to arrive at camp with at least a couple of hours to dry out the tent. In the end we pulled into the Victoria river roadhouse, it had a camp out the side right on the river that was actually really nice & unpowered camping was $7.50 each per night, so pretty good really. They had good amenities as well, so it all turned out in the end. 

We only set up a basic camp, so the next morning we were off early heading towards the WA border, we stopped just before to eat our last coupe of oranges, you can have no fruit or veggies as you cross the border back into WA. Before long we were at the quarantine checkpoint & after a quick check in our fridge we were on the road again, we got through very quickly. After that it was only a 40km or so run into Lake Argyle. 

On the way into Lake Argyle

As we drove towards the lake, we were surrounded again by beautiful escarpments & hills & as we turned around a corner you could just see the water & the caravan park perched on the side of a hill. When we arrived there was a huge line up to get into the park, mainly caravans & motor homes, great we thought this is going to take forever or we might not even get a spot. But then caravan park employees called parking attendants were running around everywhere, showing everyone where their site was, so after you go inside to pay you come back out to your personal chaperone to take you to your site, we had never seen anything like it, but it did work pretty well. We were in the unpowered section & had plenty of room. Unpowered camping was $30 a night. The park has pretty good facilitates, a restaurant & bar, boat & helicopter tours, there is no phone reception at lake Argyle, they have wifi but it wasn't working during our stay. 

The view from the caravan park was amazing over looking the lake. We were camped pretty close to their famous infinity pool, a pool that sits on the edge of a cliff over looking the lake, & it is as amazing as the photos show, it was freezing cold though, but you just have to have a swim. The rest of the day was spend soaking up the view & watching the colour changes on the cliffs as sunset. 

View from our campsite

Infinity pool

The next day we went off exploring, learning about the lake itself at all of the lookouts & you even get to drive over the dam wall & alongside the Ord river. The views are really beautiful. 

Boats on the lake

Lake Argyle

Dam wall

Ord river
Lake Argyle

We then went & had a look at the Durack homestead museum. The Durack family originally owned all of the land where lake Argyle now is, they were an amazing cattle pioneering family. The original site of their homestead is under the water now, but they removed the homestead, stone by stone & rebuilt it looking over the lake. They have turned it into a really great little museum & it is worth a look, entry was $4 an adult & $2 for kids, money well spent. There is also a video playing in the museum of how they built the dam including all of the construction, it was fascinating. The total cost of building the lake was only $22 million, they say that today it would cost $225 million to build the same thing. Very cool. 

Durack homestead

After the museum we went to a place called Dead Horse springs, a beautiful little spring on the edge of the lake. Lots of people had been camping here & if we had of known about it we would of, as it was a great spot. Back to camp to again have a lovely afternoon in beautiful surroundings. 

Dead horse springs, you can just see the water of Lake Argyle in the background 

The next day was another get sorted day. Ruby was filthy & it was driving me nuts, so we gave her a great big bath, two washes later & a lot of hosing & she was shining, if you looked closely there was still some red dirt on her, you just can't get rid of it all, but she was a million times cleaner, we then topped up her oil & the whole car & trailer got their grease points done. We were ready to head off again. This time up towards Wyndham to most northern town in WA. 

Ruby before her bath

Ruby after her bath & our campsite

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Dundee Beach

Meeting new people on our travels has been one of the most rewarding parts of our trip. We are far from social butterflies, but try to be friendly & open with everyone we meet. If you have been reading the blog you might remember we met a lovely, like minded, similar aged couple to ourselves at Home Valley Station, Troy & Jackie. They were a few months into their travels, but insisted we had to check out a place called Dundee Beach, it was amazing. We had never heard of it, but when we found out it was near Darwin we kept it in the back of our minds as an option when we caught up with the family. In the end the family ran out of time to come with us, but we just had to visit, we were so close & the beauty of our trip is we don't have a schedule, YEAH, so Dundee beach here we come. 

The drive out of Darwin was uneventful & we soon realised just how much there was to see within a 150km radius of Darwin. We drove past many signs that were very enticing to turn off into like Berry Springs, Tumbling Waters & Crab Claw island resort, but today's destination was to be Dundee Beach. 

The road in was probably 80% bitumen with patches of good dirt & only took just over an hour to get there. We had planned to stay at the Lodge Dundee, which has a camping area & also some accommodation right on the beach, it is essentially a fishing village. As we rounded the corner near the lodge, we were once again struck by an amazing coastline. Red cliffs, red sand & green water. It wasn't as spectacular as some of the WA coastline, but still very beautiful. There were people fishing everywhere & boats all over the place. We booked in for an initial 2 nights, but had a feeling we would stay longer. It was $10 per person per night, with typical caravan park amenities & also a pool. We got a spot out the back in their huge open campground, just a short walk to the beach. We quickly set up & then headed to the beach to check out the fishing. There were heaps of people fishing, but we didn't see anyone catch anything, after a look around we headed back to camp with the idea of going fishing once it cooled down a bit. In the end we got to lazy & just relaxed around camp, the fishing would have to wait until tomorrow. 

Beach at the Lodge above & 3 photos below the greener water photos taken in the morning & the darker blue water photos taken in the afternoon, pretty interesting colour changes. 

The next day after a leisurely Sunday breakfast we hit the beach with our fishing rods, finding a good looking spot on one of the rock ledges. We used bait & lures & got a few bites, but sadly no dinner. Back to camp for another relaxing afternoon of reading & beer drinking. It's a hard life. 

The next day we went for a drive into the town of Dundee Beach itself, the whole area reminded us a lot of Stanage Bay near Rockhamptoon, it had that same fishing village feel. There are lots of blocks & houses for sale, if you lived in Darwin it would make a great holiday or weekend spot. After that we went for a drive behind the Lodge, we had been told you could get down to a creek mouth. After negotiating the tight windy track, we finally found the creek mouth, it looked perfect for a fish. There was one other guy fishing with 4 lines in, so we though we were in with a chance. We started just back from the creek mouth & had a few bites but couldn't hook up, so headed a bit further up the creek to a break in the mangroves. As soon as we started fishing here, we got smashed on the bait lines. It took a while, but eventually we each both got a good sized bream for dinner. We also caught small fingermark, cod & Mat caught some weird fish (photo below) no idea what it was, I need to get the fish book out. We ended up using up the bait we had & decided to call it a day as it was 1.30pm. 

Near Dundee Beach town

Creek mouth

Fishy little creek?

Weird fish?? 

We drove back to camp & had to call in to extend our camping for another couple of nights. By this time it was 2pm & we were starving so we decided to have lunch at the Lodge. They have an amazing beer garden overlooking the water. So after a burger & seafood basket & a couple of beers, we were just deciding whether we should stay to make an afternoon of our amazing beer spot or head back to camp, when a guy came into the bar area sweating profusely asking who wanted to make $100? He had got his 4WD stuck down on the beach & couldn't get out & had jogged the 15 minutes back to the lodge. Poor guy, no one seemed keen to help so Mat offered, telling him he didn't want his money & just buy him a beer. So off they went, it was actually the guy that was fishing at the creek mouth that morning. He had moved to a new spot & got stuck. Half an hour later Mat was a back having pulled him out with the winch. They guy had continuously offered Mat the money, saying that it would of cost him $200-300 to get someone at the lodge to drag him out with their tractor. Mat said it was way to much & just buy him a beer, the guy didn't want to hang around, so gave Mat $50. Still to much, as we always try to help people out, you never know when you will need it in return. 

Beer garden views

So with the $50 burning a hole in his pocket, it was decided we should stay on at the bar making the most of the view & free beers. So as we spent the afternoon watching the view, the fishing charter boats started to come back in. They had obviously had a good day, as there were fish everywhere on the filleting tables. Mat had been keen to do a proper charter for a while now, so I suggested why didn't he go & ask if they had any free spots for the next day. After talking to a couple of different companies, he had his spot booked with Darwins Barra Base fishing charters the next day. As he had to be ready to go at 6.30am, it was time to leave the bar to go to bed to get up early the next day. 

The next morning Mat was very excited about his charter & as I watched him go I was pretty excited to have the day to myself. I spent my day reading, catching up on the blog, that had been very neglected & having some quiet time! 

So here is Mat to tell you how his day panned out: 

Had been on the lookout for a fishing charter for the last month or so, having heard plenty of fisherman's tall tails about the quality of fish around Dundee Beach this seemed like a good place to take the plunge. 

Having been burnt on a few previous charters where very few fish were caught and the guide/charter company didn't seem to work all that hard for their customers we were a bit cagey with who we spent out hard earned cash with.  After speaking to a few guides at the boat ramp (which was conveniently only 50m from the pub!!) I booked a full day charter with Darwins Barra Base Charters.  These guys have a big presence in the top end charter scene, running charters out of a number of places.  They had 3 boats working out of Dundee when we were there.

Having had the chance to meet Paul, the guide and the crew I would be fishing with the night before, I was pretty confident that if nothing else it would be a fun day.  The other 4 blokes on the boat had bought an old beat up Limo in Swan Hill and drove it to Dundee for their annual Fishing Trip, they had been out with Paul the day before as well, and were keen to have another day out as their first had been pretty good. 

We were out on the water by 7:30am with the first couple of spots returning a few mixed reef fish including a good sized Fingermark (Golden Snapper in the NT) for me.  The next couple of hours were a little quiet, with the guide following his bosses instructions and heading to a couple of local Black Jewfish holes that turned out to be total duds for us.  

Keen to put us on to the fish, Paul kept working through a number of reefs and pinnacles marked on GPS, with a few more reef fish helping to keep the boys interested.  Late in the afternoon the call was made for one last big move to try and find quality fish, with Paul taking us to a mark on a reef called "Long Lost".  This last move would mean we covered nearly 200km for the day looking for fish. Luckily the last spot delivered.  All the boys started picking up good reef fish and after 30 minutes or so the Mackerel turned up and the fun really began.  Over the next hour we put 9 Spanish Mack's in the boat with everyone on board landing at least one.  Credit has to go to Paul for how hard he worked to put us in the right spot. 

After the run back to Dundee, however things took a bit of a bad twist, Paul's boss (the owner of the Business) was stomping around the boat ramp carrying on that we had been out for too long, and should have been in hours ago.  The final insult was when he told Paul (in front of all of us that had been paying customers that day) that he was "meant to go out to the Jew Holes, and then when we didn't catch anything just come back in" needless to say this wasn't all that well received by any of us. All in all a great day out, but a bit taken way from by one idiot! 

So as Mat returned to camp that night sunburnt & buggered but with lots of fish fillets! we decided to stay one more day at Dundee beach, which was spent catching up on odd jobs & Mat complaining about his muscles hurting from catching to many fish, poor thing. 

We really enjoyed Dundee Beach & would recommend it to other campers, thanks for the great advice Troy & Jackie!!



After Shady Camp it was off to the big smoke of Darwin. We had to pick up Ange (the partner of Mats cousins, mate Baz) from the airport and Mat & I were going to stay with some of my mates that I went to Uni with. We planned to stay for 2 nights. We dropped the trailer off at Lou & Johnos place, but they were both at work, so we went to the Parap Tavern for some lunch & then did a few jobs around town in the afternoon. 

We headed out to Lou & Johnos for the night & had a great night catching up. It was strange not sleeping in the camper trailer & is the first time we haven't slept in their since the 26th of March, wow. 

The next day we caught up with the family again & checked out the Darwin Museum & Darwin Military Museum in the morning & then had a lovely lunch on the Darwin Harbour at the Sailing Club. 

More getting organised in the afternoon & then a last beer with the family. They planned to head to Roper Bar the next day, which was to far out of the way for us, so we decided we would go to Dundee Beach while we were up here & then start making our way back to WA. It was sad to say goodbye, but we had a great time with the family for those couple of weeks. It was great to catch up & have familiar faces around us for that time. So thanks guys, we hope you have a great rest of your holiday!

After we left the family we headed back to Lou & Johnos for another night of catching up. Thanks guys for letting us have a bed for a couple of nights & for using your washing machine (you don't know how nice it was to have a decent washing machine!!!) it was great catching up with you guys & it's wonderful to know friendships can last the distance of time & kilometres. 

We left Darwin early Saturday morning & headed out to Dundee Beach about 130km away. More on that in our next post.  

Shady Camp

Any of our readers that are mad keen fisherman will know all about Shady Camp in the Territory. The boys were super excited about going, but we had heard the camping wasn't great. When we arrived we were pleasantly surprised the camping was pretty good, nice & spread out & a fair few trees. There are pit toilets (which badly needed a clean when we were there) & bins, the campground is run by parks & wildlife  and camping costs $3.30 per person. On our visit there were no envelopes to put your money for camping & we were told the ranger hadn't been seen for weeks, that explained the smelly toilets. So in the end we stayed for free for 3 nights. 

Shady Camp is on the Mary River & there is a causeway that splits the fresh & salt water. It is quite a sight & a very scenic area. When the tide is out the salt water side is almost empty & you can see how many rocks there are, the fresh water spills over the causeway, but when the tide comes up the water keeps rising & eventually is rushing back over into the freshwater side, it's is pretty cool. The fish love it, but so do the crocodiles. They are everywhere! We have never ever seen so many crocs in the wild. 

Fresh water side

Salt water side


When we arrived we went straight to the causeway for a look & we could literally see the Barra on the causeway. This significantly increased the camp set up time as we were all keen to start fishing. The afternoon was spent fishing, there were some Barra caught, but only little fellas. After a break in the heat of the afternoon, we went back down on dark for another crack. As it got dark we started to use the torches to keep an eye out for crocs just in case, we soon realised there were heaps. As you shone your torch on the salt water side it lit up like a Christmas tree, with red eyes everywhere. We counted at least 25. On the freshwater side there were another 4, holy crap. We were very very cautious. The boys got a few bites, but eventually there was just too much interest from the crocs so we called it a night.

Salt water side at low tide & dawn

We were still keen so got up early for a fish as well, as we walked down to the causeway we saw a guy carrying a pretty big Barra to his ute to put in the esky. He told us him & some other guys got 5 keepers for the night. The boys fished again & caught some more little Barra's, but couldn't hook that big one. The guy came back down for another fish & you could tell he was a pro, his technique was amazing & we were all trying to copy him & see what lures he was using, ha ha. He hooked up on a huge fish, but couldn't get it in & it spooled him, so he had to get a whole new reel out. Things then got quiet so back to camp for breakfast & we then went for a drive up to Point Stuart. 

As we drove along we came to a sign for Point Stuart & someone had written on it in pen that don't bother as you will come to a locked gate in 20km. We decided to push on anyway to have a look for ourselves, and yes it was correct, we got stopped by a locked gate about 3km from the Point. Very disappointed. Back to camp for some lunch & rest before we went for a fish again after dinner. Again the number of crocs was crazy, so we didn't fish for very long. 

The next day was dedicated to trying to get a keeper Barra. All the boys caught some little ones but no big ones. Mat got a 42cm fish & Adam had a huge bite from a big fish, but couldn't hook up. The boys went down again that night, but were again chased away by too many crocs, with 3 right on the causeway that wouldn't move away. 

Mat & I really liked Shady Camp & if we had on been there by ourselves probably would of stayed for a few more days. If you like fishing you will love it, if not you will probably get bored. There is no water at the campsite, you can get some from the causeway (carefully!) for washing if you did stay for a while, but you will need to bring lots of drinking water as it is very hot. 

So a decent sized Barra still eluded us. I have told Mat we aren't going home until we both catch a keeper Barra, so hopefully we can get two when we get back to WA near Wyndham. 

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Chilli Pork Chops & Cheats Fried Rice

This was a really yummy meal. We are at Dundee Beach near Darwin & there is a total fire ban, so no campfire tonight. As we could only cook on gas I decided to do fried rice. This is the cheats version that makes it perfect for camping. I have used instant rice (90 second rice) the stuff that is already cooked through & you just have to reheat it. Yes I know it is more expensive but it is just so convenient for camping. Firstly it makes for a quickly prepared meal, but secondly it saves valuable fridge space as there is no need to have a large container of day old rice in the fridge to make the fried rice. More room for beer! You can make this fried rice as simple or as fancy as you like. For me there are some non negotiables though. It has to have the rice, egg, onion, bacon, peas, corn & the soy sauce. Why?? Because that is how I learnt to make it in year 8 home economics! It has been a family favourite ever since. It may be a highly westernised  version of Asian fried rice, but it is damned tasty!!


Pork chops
- 2 loin chops
- 1 tablespoon of soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon sweet chilli sauce
- 2 tablespoons of smoky chilli & garlic sauce
- 1/4 teaspoon each of dried chilli, garlic powder & ground cumin

Fried rice
- 500g of instant rice
- 2 eggs beaten
- 4 rashers of bacon
- 1 onion
- 1 garlic clove
- 1/2 a carrot
- 3 mushrooms
- 3/4 cup of frozen peas & corn
- 1 tablespoon of oil 
- 2 tablespoons of soy sauce


 Pork chops
- combine marinade ingredients in a freezer bag & add the pork chops. 
- allow to marinate for an hour. 
- fry off the chops in a preheated medium temperature pan for about 4-5 minutes each side. 
- allow to rest for a few minutes before serving.

Marinated chops

Cooked on one side 

Fried Rice
- chop the bacon, veggies & garlic. 
- preheat a frying pan on a medium heat with a little oil. 
- add the beaten eggs & cook like an omelette, remove from pan & set aside. 
- add the rest of the oil & fry off the bacon, fresh veggies & garlic. 
- add in the instant rice, breaking it up in the packet before adding. 
- fry off until rice gets tender. 
- add in the frozen peas & corn. 
- add the egg back to the pan. It will break up as you toss the rice mixture. 
- keep stirring the rice until the peas & corn are cooked. 
- add in the soy sauce & mix until it's heated through. 
- serve with the pork chops, you can add more soy sauce at the table for individual tastes. 

Frying off the bacon & veggies

Instant rice & frozen peas & corn, vital camp cooking cheats

All mixed together, just had to add the soy sauce. 

This rice makes great leftovers, if you don't devour it all at dinner time!