Thursday, 1 May 2014

Karumba: Fiela's Fishing Mecca of the Gulf.

Welcome to the Gulf Country, the most expensive place to buy groceries in Australia. Nappies normally $33 are now $57, a loaf of frozen garden-variety brown bread is $5 and the milk is out of date tomorrow with every sip worth about 50 cents (this is a comment on our lack of preparation rather than the logistics and cost of freighting groceries to a small town in a remote area). Oh, apparently you can catch massive fish and crabs here too.

I'll start again.

We drove into Normanton keen to get our supplies and head to the coast and after hemorrhaging $100 notes all over town, we did just that. The transition from bush to coast scenery was pretty dramatic and seemed to occur the moment we crossed the Norman River, becoming all mangroves, marshes and birdlife… though we still saw loads of cows.

Karumba Point boat ramp, just a quiet morning?!

On driving into Karumba Point, 'Outback by the Sea' we noticed 1. Boats everywhere and 2. Sea salt in the air... Aaah, it almost feels like home. So much so that Fiela had a rush of blood to his fishing arm and decreed we would be staying for 10 nights at the Sunset Point Caravan Park. Tired of the setting up and down routine, I didn't argue too vigorously and went along with his decision. We got a spot in the shade, sweated more than I ever have in my entire life setting up, and went for a quick look around.

Boats aplenty at the Sunset Point Caravan Park.

Karumba Point is at the mouth of the Norman River and looks out into the Gulf, providing visitors and locals with beautiful sunsets over the sea, Australia with tonnes of prawns and the rest of the world lots and lots of zinc. Karumba itself, a few kilometres inland along the river, is the port for Century Mine's  zinc exports and where heavily laden prawn trawlers come in to dump their catch. There's also a pretty big tourism industry during the dry season  thanks to all the fab fishing , though whispers of the mine closing down have prompted 'For Sale ' signs to go up on nearly every shop window (and there's only a few of those).

One of many friends...
So we went for a walk, careful not to let the kids so much as dip a toe near the watermark lest a 6 metre saltwater crocodile launch itself out of the water at one of them. The beach is quite nice, and the channel running out to sea is deep and close to the side, lucky for Fiela as the sea kayak just wasn't going to cut it out here with the crocs. He managed to compose himself though and waited until the next day before fishing for the first time in a month.


So our days went, filled with fishing, sweating and swimming in the heavily chlorinated pool, though not all at the same time. Marguerite loved it as it was school holidays and there were plenty of other kids to play with. Both her and Caesar loved the chance of being with other people, so much so they began to completely ignore us altogether. This all came to a head when we left Karumba, but you'll have to wait for the next post to get the low down on that chapter of the Crying Games.

The catch from the day's boat hire.
Out on the Norman River, Karumba in the background.
Fiela went fishing most days, catching live bait straight off the beach and landing mangrove jack, juvenile black jew, some big queenfish, grunter, sharks and LOTS of catfish. He also hired a boat for a day, as his efforts at catching a ride with someone else from the caravan park by loitering longingly around anyone with a 
boat proved fruitless. He was genuinely perplexed as to why complete strangers weren't falling over themselves to give him a ride in their boat?! His motto of 'It's a numbers game' clearly applies to picking up women but not grey nomads/holidaying miners and their boats.

A nice grunter.

What are sundowners without a bit of a fish and some naked children?
Fiela caught some great Queen fish here.

The fish cleaning tables at the caravan park. No mucking around here.

The boy, watching and learning the Fiela-fishing craft.

The beach north of the Norman River.

There's not much in Karumba Point, and apart from the fishing, the best thing would have to be its tavern which provides cold beer and the best sunset drinks to be found in the Gulf. We had dinner  there twice, and each time the surly waitstaff did little to dampen what is a truly gorgeous place to watch the sun drop over the horizon.

Just another gorgeous Karumba sunset.
And just a reminder that you're never too far from home, while shopping at the once-a-week fresh fruit and vegetable truck, I bumped into some very old family friends from Newrybar, doing their own 18 month lap of Australia. Ernie and Margaret were staying at the other caravan park in Karumba Point and we caught up with them a few times. They invited us around to their Taj Mahal of a caravan (yes, I had complete and utter caravan envy- washing machine, ensuite, air conditioning, storage space aplenty... I was drooling Homer Simpson style all over the place), and had a lovely afternoon discussing people we knew and where we'd all been and where we were all going. At this stage of our trip it was just the tonic I needed- a little meal of home before the next stage of our sketchily planned adventure.

"A woman's work is never done." So said Fiela as he helped to pound the dirt out of our filthy clothing- camp washing machines simply aren't up to the task. We were also feeling pretty fat, having done little to no exercise while we fluffed around in Karumba Point.

Sunset from the tavern.

Our shady camp at Sunset Point Caravan Park. Note the 50 metre wide exclusion zone around us.

We stayed in Karumba Point about 4 days too long; Fiela had done what he could with his limited fishing gear, it was literally too hot to sleep peacefully for me and the kids were rivalling tinkers in their absolute disregard for the rules of the United States of Mum and Dad. We had enjoyed our stay, but it was definitely time to move on to cooler climes and better behaved children.

Green frog and Marguerite.

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