Friday, 26 May 2017

Catching Redclaw

We recently made 2 overnight stops beside water where one might fish or throw in a pot to catch some yabbies or redclaw. The first was at Bedford Weir and the other at Bundoora Dam.  

We bought our yabby traps in Emerald at the tourist information centre. These are opera traps and although they aren't allowed in all states of Australia they are allowed in Queensland so long as they meet certain specifications and you have 4 or less per person. 

Yabbies and Redclaw are types of freshwater crayfish. Redclaw shouldn't be in this area but they've been introduced and become quite common. Because of this if you catch a Redclaw, of any size, in these locations (not up North where they are native) then you are forbidden from throwing it back. 

With the opera traps you throw them into the water with your chosen bait held inside, and check them every couple of hours. Nights should be better for this, but the Redclaw at Bundoora Dam didn't seem to mind day or night. Theories on which bait to use vary: dog biscuits, lettuce leaves, cooked sweet potato, any leftover dinner scraps. Redclaw are vegetarians but you can catch them with meat flavours as they try to remove it from the water. Yabbies like meat. 

Redclaw is the preferred catch. They are much larger and the flavour is probably better too. 

We didn't have much luck with our pots but we got plenty of Redclaw. At Bedford Weir we happened to catch a fish. At Bundoora we caught 2 Redclaw but got a nice feed when the man camped beside us gave us maybe a dozen more. He also showed us how to snap their heads off and de-vein them before freezing them. 
Look carefully, in the left side you can see a Redclaw. Not a massive one, but okay.  

Look carefully, in the left side you can see a Redclaw. Not a massive one, but okay. 

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Visiting some National Parks in the Sandstone Belt of Qld

We recently visited Expedition National Park, Lake Nuga Nuga National Park and Carnarvon Gorge National Park. These are all part of inland southern Queensland's Sandstone belt. And we would have also visited Beilba National Park but we received advice that the road in even has the 4wd people complaining about its roughness. 

Fist was Expedition. We camped at Lonesome campground (but we weren't lonesome) and very much enjoyed the drive throughout the Acadia Valley and the spectaculair lookout. But, there wasn't much to do at the lonesome campsite so in hindsight we'd have been better off keeping going to Lake Nuga Nuga a day earlier. 

Enjoying a picnic at the lookout in Expedition National Park, Lonesome section 
Enjoying a picnic lunch (of damper made by the Belgian) at the Lookout, Expedition National Park, Lonesome section. 

Lake Nuga Nuga is really a nice place for bird watching, so its best late and early in the day. The cormorants were nesting while we were there, and there were plenty of magpie geese, pelicans, ducks, waterfowl, herons and some birds of prey. We aren't avid birdwatchers, but we certainly enjoy having a look. 

The best of these parks, and most famous (it's listed amongst Queensland's best parks) is Carnarvon Gorge. Unfortunately the National Park campsite is only open on school holidays but there's a couple of other options and we very much enjoyed our stay at the new 'Sandstone Park' campground. 

From each of the available (non school hols) campgrounds you do need to drive into the park to access its walks. We stayed 3 nights and drove in on the 4 days. The first day we attended the nightly talk and then joined the guide on the nocturnal walk. It was brilliant! We saw (many) (yellow-bellied) gliders gliding! If you don't know what I mean then you should google it. And know that seeing this in person is a real treat. 

The next days we walked: 23kms (with a 6.30am hiking start), then 12kms, and finally 5kms. We saw wonderful things! Stunning sights. The Belgian's favourite site was Boowinda Gorge. Mine was the Amphitheater. But it was all wonderful. 

camped in the new campground 'Sandstone Park' 

Camped in the new campground 'Sandstone Park'

The views from Sandstone Park are wonderful, so with them being so good and my knees not being great the only walk we didn't do was to the Bluff. 

NB. More photos can be seen on our Facebook page: The Belgian and the Aussie. 

Sunday, 30 April 2017

Fraser Island and Lady Elliot Island too!

Fraser Island is the largest sand island in the world and a treat to visit with long drivable beaches, pristine lakes, crystal clear creeks, rainforest, sandblows and even a shipwreck. Thus, it's one of Australia's top tourist destinations. 

When a European friend wrote to me and said that she planned to visit Queensland I asked what she wanted to see, and she said Fraser Island. First I recommended tours to her... 2-3 days. But then I decided it might be a good chance for H and I to visit Fraser Island too. I had been there a couple of times in my life but H was also wanting to explore it. 

So it was decided we'd go to Fraser Island with her, and invite a Brisbane based friend along too. 

Fraser Island, being of sand, is for high clearance 4wd vehicles only. So taking Blu wasn't an option. Fortunately my brother was able to lend us his '6 wheeler 4wd Mazda BT50'. I didn't want to drive but H did, so it was settled that on the island he'd do all the driving. However, I was a little nervous, H doesn't have a lot of experience driving a Six wheeler or driving in Fraser-like conditions (the beach is easy, getting on and off the beach is usually most troublesome, and inland tracks can be harsh), but we never got stuck!
The 6 wheeler 4wd Mazda BT50 we took to Fraser Island. For more info: 

The 6 wheeler 4wd Mazda BT50 we took to Fraser Island. For more info:

We spent 4 nights on the island: 2 on the beach with the first and last nights at Central Station. It rained our first nights there which made it quite miserable and although beach camping is a great Fraser Island experience we all preferred the camp at Central Station. 

We drove North as far as Orchard Beach, visiting Eli creek, Maheno shipwreck, Indian head and the Champagne pools. And while we camped on the beach some Dingoes (Australias wild dog) stopped by to see if anything was on offer (it wasn't). 

The view from Indian Head, Fraser Island.  

The view from Indian Head, Fraser Island. 

Maheno shipwreck, Fraser Island  

Maheno shipwreck, Fraser Island 

Fraser Island is a wonderful destination to visit but I think you're better off doing a tour and letting someone else clean up. Camping on sand in rain isn't much fun. 

Prior to Fraser Island we did a few other things with our friends. 

Due to cyclone Debbie hitting the North coast of Queensland it was a rather rainy at the start of my friends stay in Queensland. So we first went inland to try and avoid the wet coastal weather. 

We visited the Bunya Mountains, it's not far from where I grew up and is a great place for seeing wild wallabies and parrots. I've taken many international visitors there over the years and the young joeys in their mothers (wallabies) pouches is a typical treat that visitors delight in. 

We also visited the Dalby Cattle Sales (which is the largest same-day prime and store cattle sale in the country), and an elderly friend kindly explained the goings on to us all. 

On the way to the coast we also visited an interesting museum at Cherbourg: The Ration Shed. Cherbourg was one of the places in Australia that Aboriginal people were taken to/ accommodated at when they were removed from their tribal lands and this museum is about the facility there. It's interesting, it's a sad part of Australia's history and worth a visit, but I think some of it needs to be put into comparible context of of times that it happened in. 

In Hervey Bay we went out for dinner and I had the best meal I'd had in a long time. Thank you to The Vinyard, that Chowder was superb and H's Moreton Bay bugs looked great too. Two days latter, before crossing to Fraser Island, we bought a feed of (cooked) prawns and bugs and ate them in the park. People rate eating like this expensive but it's actually less expensive than getting take-away,  delicious and healthier, and the girlfriends enjoyed it. 

We also went to Lady Elliot Island on a day trip. To get to Lady Elliot Island they fly you out and back and so it's not the cheapest Great Barrier Reef island experience. But, for a long time I had thought that if you were willing to spend the money it might be the best GBR experience available. So, we did it!

We were not disappointed, in fact we loved it! On the flight out we saw Fraser Island from the air, and, of course, Lady Elliot Island too. We did the glass bottom boat trip and ate the wonderful lunch, but best of all was the snorkelling. I just kick along the surface in wonderment of all the things I can see. H is an amazing free diver (well I think so) and so he keeps going down for a closer look. Not that closer looks we're needed - the visibility was amazing. 

We saw many turtles (loggerhead and green sea), sting rays, and so many fish of different types and colours and corals too. H saw an octopus too. 

Green Sea turtle, Lady Elliot Island.  

Green Sea turtle, Lady Elliot Island. (Note H snapped this photo with an iPhone 5S with a cheap underwater case from eBay. Pretty good, heh?)

Lady Elliot is a splurge, but we want to go back one day. Maybe even to stay overnight, and next time in Manta Ray season. 

We hope that the girls loved this trip. We visited islands, mountains, some rural culture and aboriginal history. 

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Hiking with snakes, is our RV large?

At the end of February and into March I'd decided that we should do more hiking. Queensland national parks mostly have camping (currently just $6.15 per person per night, regardless of facility or popularity) and well defined hiking tracks.

In Main Range National Park's Goomburra section there was only one other camper, a lone man in a bus biggest than ours. He told H that he stays 3 weeks in a location and then heads to town for supplies before moving to the next NP camping. $6.15 x 7 nights = $43.05, no bills for power or water, he drives occasionally, we all have to eat .... that's cheap living!

Hiking here we saw 2 snakes and many wallaby. The first of the two snakes quickly slithered off, as they usually do, and I didn't see enough to say what it was. The second though, a 2 metre carpet python, was lying along the path and wasn't interested in moving. Carpet pythons aren't considered dangerous, but still I wouldn't want to get struck by one. I tossed my sunglasses at it and it aggressively went at them. Seeing that it wouldn't move we used a long stick to retrieve my glasses and we went through the stinging nettles to go around the snake.

The snake that wouldn't move off the path.
Next we stopped at Cunninghams Gap (another section of Main Range NP). On the hike we discovered that leeches like H more than me. I felt one on my leg before any attached themselves, but at that time H discovered he already had many attached. 

Next we went to Spicer's Gap. Apparently the road up isn't suited to large motorhome, but what's the definition of a large motorhome? Is ours large? There's bigger ones. We went without trouble, and we stopped at the picnic area and hiked from there. Honestly, the road beyond the picnic area isn't suitable for large RV's.
The view from Governors Chair, Spicers Gap, Main Range National Park.
The Governors chair is well worth the hike up.  The camping ground is really just for tents. But as it was late and had just started raining, actually 'bucketing' rain, we got online and booked a campsite. It wasn't busy up there and  we think it was safer that we stayed put. 

Next we stayed in Lamington National Park, in the Binna Burra private campground. More hiking, and we joined the lodge on a evening wildlife spotlighting hike,  it was too windy to see much (other than lots of wallaby... guide not needed!) but the guide did coax a spider from a hole which impressed me. The views in parts of Lamington National Park are quite impressive. 

Next we would have liked to visit Springbrook NP, but apparently you should book its camping in advance. It's a great park but I think it's popularity can be attributed to its proximity to the Gold Coast. 

Then, after an overnight visiting friends on the Gold Coast, we headed down the coast. Because, as I said to H, you should visit the towns of the Northen New South Wales coast. Why? I think for the alternative vibe. 
So we did, and we drove up to Nimbin too. And, despite Nimbins reputation for marijuana, nobody offered us any! (It's not that we're  buying..., I just don't to look so straight!)

A view from the way up to Cape Byron Bay Lighthouse. We cycled up!

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Turtles hatching and a town called 1770

I've been slack when it comes to writing, especially when it comes to writing about our travels. So here's what we did in February. 

This year it has been our intention to start traveling around Australia, but so far we've had commitments in Southeast Queensland to keep returning to, and so we've gone on excursions of less than a month, each time returning for whatever commitment we needed to go back for. 

Our February trip saw us travel North to 1770 (yes that's a town) with our main goal to see the baby turtles hatch from their nests and head out to sea. This seasonal event happens for a few months every year and can be easily witnessed (bookings essential) at Bargara. It was a marvellous experience, the region is best known for loggerhead hatchlings, but we witnessed the hatching of Flatbacked turtles which are endemic to Australia. 
A little flatback turtle 

A little flatback turtle

In this trip we also made a day trip to see the Great Barrier Reef at Lady Musgrave island, taking a boat from Bundaberg. That was a good trip, but although the Reef snorkelling was wonderful I most enjoyed the walking tour in the island where we learned about trees that kill birds for food. I'm not going to explain this, you should do the tour. 

At 1770 we did a LARC tour. That's a pink amphibious vehicle, traveling on land and water. We enjoyed it so much that when we're next in 1770 we hope to do their full day tour. 
We had fun on the LARC tour 

We had fun on the LARC tour

Paperbark forest walk, Agnes Waters 

There's also a nice Paperbark forest walk, at Agnes Waters (near 1770). 

That pretty much summarises our February trip.