Bazz Ashenhurst and John 'The Bear' Willis, two of our writers/boaties/general trouble-makers, have embarked on an epic trip taking them from the Great Australian Bight through to the Gulf of Carpentaria. Along the way they're producing a bunch of features about the people they meet, the fishing they encounter and the things they see.
Plus, they're road-testing our next massive give-away prize - a Toyota Landcruiser Troopy, plus caravan plus boat. Watch this space for the full details.
This is a quick diary of their adventures - look for the real stories in our magazine.
The Road files - Chapter 2
The lads went for a play with these people
Now there's a man with a helm we'd all like to try out for size
Okay, so who's turn is it to play shark-bait?
My, Bazz, what big teeth you have
PANIC IN PROSTATE PARK
I’ve noticed a salient feature of caravan parks, several actually, and one of them is that most people in caravan parks are old like me. All the men have three stomachs and their wives get around in terry towelling dressing gowns and fur thongs.
But of course none of that bothered us, the two amigos, Bazz and Bear, as we anticipated carnage of all kinds and hoped it could be captured in living colour with all the gore it deserved. I speak in such apocalyptic tones because Mount Willis (Bear) had decided that our Gulf to Gulf caper would be unconvincing if we lacked the courage to leave the safety of Prostate Park and venture into that portion of the ocean occupied by great white sharks.
Which is to say, the spot known as Shark Bay in the Neptune Islands, two and half hours steam from Port Lincoln in South Australia. The islands are two bumps swarming with fur seals — the great white’s favourite meal not counting us. All the sharks have to do all day is circumnavigate the islands until a seal falls off and bingo! One Unhappy Meal to go.
The thought of joining these black-eyed meat eaters filled me with dread but Mount Willis was at his most ebullient best. His larger-than-life presence exploded like a fireworks display as he strode aboard the Calypso Star, simultaneously introducing himself to all present while covertly surveying the edible spread out before us, one of them a Swedish nurse named Ooti.
The spacious and well appointed Calypso Star conveyed us like so many sides of beef to the feeding grounds, all the way showering us with hospitality. If one is being forced to share the water with great white sharks I can think of no more luxurious way to prepare for the encounter than being delivered there in the company of such fine people. They fed us until we were plump and round and then put us in the cage, six at a time, a number the great white considers lucky.
Seeing the white terror for the first time from a cage wasn’t frightening, but only because I was pre-terrified. Sensibly or otherwise I’ve always considered large sharks a threat. The seas had been rough on our way out to the islands too and so visibility from the cage, when I eventually fell into it, was about 10m, just enough to allow a large white pointer to glide into my field of view without first having to introduce himself through the back door of my peripheral vision. A white pointer is bigger than a bus but not once did I see one coming. It was just… there. Then it swam into the blue gloom, the tail drifting lazily side to side like a pharaoh’s fan.
A white pointer generates motion with no apparent effort. His black eye never blinks and his expression never changes. When coming straight at you he wears the grin of one tonne idiot whose jaws crush granite and whose stomach juices dissolve Tupperware. I don’t know why it occurred to me at the time, but it amazes me that this creature lives an entire life without making a sound. Talk about silent but deadly.
And so we left Port Lincoln with the sound of silent sharks ringing in our ears, sad to say goodbye a place that had been so good to us. We pointed the Toyota at Coober Pedy, only we had difficulty remembering that name so we just called it Coober Doodie. With great clarity of mind, Bear suggested that we ease the boredom of the ever-straight Stuart Highway by coming up with a number of popular songs into which that phrase could be inserted. The list was long but here’s an abridged version:
Don’t Cry for Me Coober Doodie
We All Live in a Yellow Coober Doodie
I Love a Sunburnt Coober Doodie
US Forces get the Coober Doodie.
It’s a Long Way to the Top if You Wanna Coober Doodie
Coober Doodie, Coober Doodie, and
Just another Brick in the Coober Doodie.
We discovered as we left Coober Doodie, which Lonely Planet describes as “looking like a post-apocalyptic shithole”, that our play with words had entered the oratory of governance: “My fellow Coober Doodians,” said a voice on the radio as we gulped another Magnum Classic, “it is my grave duty to inform you that we have declared war on the next shithole town just up the road”.
Alice Springs here we come. I hope the war’s over when we get there.
The prettiest thing in Coober Doodie
On the road
From Bear (aka Mount Willis, pictured above), one of our roving reporters:
We finally left the fine hospitality that we had received at Cape Jervis on Monday morning very pleased with what we discovered at the Fleurieu Peninsula.
One of our tasks was to visit Sports Marine in Adelaide to pick up a Vortex engine, and interviewed the owner Max Harrop who is one of the industry's long-term survivors. He had some interesting views on the current market instability, and concentrates solely on his Haines Hunter, Stacer and Arvor dealerships. This is a large dealership with fourteen on staff providing sales, service and chandlery services for both new and used.
Whilst we were there we arranged to meet with a boating legend Joe Puglisi whose family owns four Arvors. More on Joe to follow.
Leaving Adelaide we realised we had underestimated the distance to Port Lincoln and finally arrived after shooting some great footage along the way.
We are staying at the Port Lincoln Tourist Park. It is a beautiful spot on the edge of Port Lincoln’s Boston Bay, with terrific facilities and layout. We are covering a full destination piece on the park and interviews with the proprietors.
We did an interview with an interesting couple from Ararat, Victoria, who have taken a 12 month sabbatical to travel around the country on their Harley-Davidsons. They are towing a camper trailer behind one of the bikes and a storage trailer behind the other.
I caught up with my old friend and fishing buddy Robert Forster in Port Lincoln. It seems his father Ron Forster was one of the early developers of the bluefin farming technology. Ron and his wife Janet hold numerous Game Fishing records and we interviewed them at their house. Their living room contains an aquarium that would be three times the volume of our caravan – it's floor to ceiling and approximately six metres long! Baz also got a tongue kiss from their Macaw Parrot!
It just so happens that they also own the business www.SharkCageDiving.com.au as well as a swim with the tuna attraction (amongst others!) Baz and I gratefully accepted their offer of a dive with the Great White Sharks yesterday and got some terrific footage and stills as well as some great interviews with the staff and clients who came from all over the world!
We also did a feature on their boat – a 65’ Conquest that has been recently refitted for the 364 day per year business that runs 2.5 hours to sea every day to reach the remote Neptune Islands.
Lunch was at a local vineyard/restaurant: www.bostonbaywines.com.au. You may have seen this restaurant and its entertaining owner Tony on Po’s Kitchen and also with his brothers, the abalone divers, on Robson Greens Extreme Fishing. We did a photo feature on the diver’s boat and equipment where they have a personal motorised shark cage to protect them from the ever-present Great Whites. Incidentally – Tony’s Great White Sauvignon Blanc is excellent!
Last night I went to a local hotel for a Beef and Burgundy night with locals including Greg from Why Not Charters and the ex-chef from Lizard Island. I met some interesting characters but was really taken by Glen Cooper from Coopers Brewery. His family story dates back to the early 1800s, when they started brewing on their property - right next to the Penfold family and their wines. Greg is a patriotic Aussie whose company is the last fully Australian owned commercial brewery, and he tells an excellent story of history, strength, character and fording aggressive international takeover bids.
We met with the 'godfather' of Port Lincoln's tuna fishery this morning – Joe Puglisi. He is an amazing character – full of opinions and stories of the sea, politics and the history of tuna, and other commercial and recreational fishing and the associated boats. We were treated to a tour of his 84’ Monte Fino Yacht – unbelievable! See www.montefino.com/
We also inspected his new 28’ Arvor that he tows as a tender and recreational fishing boat!
Bazz (pictured above) is currently shooting the feature for Port Lincoln Caravan Centre and I am trying to catch up on some records before I lose it all – the voice recorder is full!
Tomorrow we swim with Tuna and prepare for our departure from Port Lincoln on Saturday.
We came to feature the Eyre Peninsula but found so much content at Port Lincoln that we should stay another fortnight!
Saturday we drive to Coober Pedy, where Baz is keen to shoot a photo essay, and then on to Alice Springs by Tuesday night. I fly home on Wednesday and leave Baz and his wife in Alice Springs to continue the journey.
Our trip has been hampered by bad weather all the way and we are still crossing our fingers for the Lorella Station leg of our trip at the Gulf of Carpentaria destination north west of Borroloola. At this stage we believe all of the roads are open but will continue to monitor the situation closely.
GULF TO GULF: CHAPTER 1
The boss said to me and John Willis, “Jump in the new giveaway rig and catch fish from Spencers Gulf to the Gulf of Carpentaria. And try to come back with something useful”.
It was a funny thing to say but it sounded non-negotiable so we did what we were told. We jumped in the adventure rig, a V8 diesel Land Cruiser pulling a Goldstream poptop caravan that we would one day give to a lucky magazine subscriber, then headed for Adelaide where the real trip would begin.
The purpose of the trans-Australia trip was to drink a lot and have a good time. No it wasn’t. The purpose of the trip was to find editorial material for just about every Trader magazine, including our award winning Guide to Self-Mutilation. (John let me do that bit). It was also an opportunity to test the Goldstream poptop for Caravan World and see what bits we could break without causing injury of a personal nature.
It was a long drive: 500,000 kilometres from one end of Australia to the other. Across the red centre, the mauve sides, the fuchsia top and just about every other colour in the spectrum. We finally got out of Melbourne, a city with a lot of stuff that goes right to the edges. It takes a long time to get away from all this stuff and we would’ve got away quicker if we hadn’t kept stopping for coffee and profiteroles. By the second night we were still getting on well, but when John wasn’t looking I poured diesel in his coffee. He didn’t seem to taste it but next morning I noticed he was blowing a bit of smoke. Must have been the profiteroles.
We stopped at a lot of places on the way to Adelaide. Then John showed me how to call ducks with a tin can. You put your mouth to the can and you yell, “Calling all ducks!” I laughed so much I choked on the penultimate profiterole.
Eventually we got to Victor Harbour in South Australia, a nice looking place with a fine town centre and lots of old people held together with band-aids. Or maybe they were rubber-bands, we can’t be sure. We stayed at the excellent Beachfront Caravan Park that was right on the beach and had everything we needed.
John said that next he would like to go fishing so we headed for Cape Jervis, a small but tenacious outpost on the wild Fleurieu Peninsula. The rawness of the place with its wild-looking coastline reminded me of Cape York. Johnno met his mate Ben and they went out on Ben’s charter boat, a 9.7m Gallant with shaft-drive. Also onboard were several customers plus their girlfriends, one of whom was not altogether unattractive. When John got back that night I noticed that she featured prominently in his video.
We set up the poptop on Cape Jervis Station, a former rural property now run as rural accommodation and farm stay by the delightful Anthony and Sally Miles. Anthony let me photograph him with his 1934 Ferguson tractor parked in an old shed. I like that photograph. I had trouble though; my softbox kept falling over, which made me look stupid.
In a couple of days from now we’re driving to Port Lincoln where John says he’ll swim with white pointers, which reminds of that saying: “if at first you don’t succeed, don’t swim with white pointers”.
Meanwhile I’ll probably find another way to way to look stupid. After that we’re going to the ominously named Coffin Bay, where we hope to catch the white pointer that ate John so we can retrieve his remains for a short but heartfelt ceremony in his hometown, Seaford-On-Spigget.
Blowhole Creek Beach is weirdly named but gorgeous. The water was very blue and very cold
South Australian countryside is dry as dust in March but somehow these pinkies found the energy to bloom, lending life to a long-abandoned farmhouse
There’s wind aplenty on the Fleurieu Peninsular and at least one energy provider is taking advantage of it
The brand new marina at Wirrina about 30 minutes from the Jervis Bay township
Men on the land keep old stuff for the same reason they keep non-working dogs: the old stuff doesn’t perform any useful function but makes them feel good. Pictured here at Cape Jervis Station
The Bear hard at work
Our salubrious transport - the trusty Troopy
Tough boat...not ours, sadly
Nice work if you can get it
Clearly the locals at Victor Harbour know their fishing
Everyone but the fish looks happy
Just to prove there is variety in the local waters
A happy crew
And again - it's a picturesque spot
There's more water in town...