Friday, 27 June 2014

The Daly River and the most peaceful camp spot to not catch barramundi

It's no surprise to anyone that I'm not that into fishing. Years of long hours spent on a cold and deserted beach/ riverbank/ campsite waiting for LeRoux to have "just one last cast" to be regaled with tales on how "something massive" had "bitten the line off" and that he'd been "battling the sweep" the whole time (because didn't you know? Sheep stations rested on whether he'd actually land anything of note. It's all terribly important this fish getting business). Yes, my tolerance is limited somewhere between zero and "What the f%*k is this bait doing in the f@#$ing food freezer?"

The Daly River.

So when pleading eyes and promises of a two night stay maximum, plus power, plus phone network access, plus internet if only he could go to Daly River and try "to catch a barra- it's my last chance to catch one in the Northern Territory..." who am I kidding when I say I had the power over whether we'd go or not. Wild horses wouldn't have stopped Fiela,but having me on side would certainly make this fishing detour more pleasant.

The boat ramp at the Mango Farm, Daly River.

So we left the personality melting pot of Litchfield National Park behind and drove more winding road into the Daly River area. We were staying at the Mango Farm Caravan Park, one of four camping options in the area (an indication in itself of the popularity of this fishing spot, the main centre being an indigenous settlement holding a thousand people at best), a spot chosen on the basis that one of Fiela's patients used to come here. I was becoming less and less sold on this whole idea with every minute,  until we booked in and came upon one of the most peaceful and shaded campgrounds we'd experienced yet.

100 year old mango trees, tropical flowering bushes, palm and coconut trees shade the grounds which are right on the Daly River itself. The amenities are glorified sheds, but how they manage to keep them so spotless is beyond me. I've just realised I haven't cleaned a bathroom, let alone a toilet for three months. (insert  contented sigh) Sorry, lost you all for a moment... Anyway, the Daly River is supposed to be legendary in the barra fishing stakes. In the years they're biting that is. Which they weren't. Not for the last two years apparently.

So we set up and I didn't look twice as an older couple started setting up their Avan next to us. Except they had a dog (Marguerite honed in on that in seconds), and a boat (noticed even quicker by LeRoux), and we had small children (captivating this couple's attention around about the same time) which meant the Uys Huis was on the happiest of collision courses with the Flick and Al Show.

Peaceful, beautiful Mango Farm. They even had frozen mango you could by. And mango chutney, mango yoghurt, mango sauce, mango icecream, shrimp paste, shrimp gumbo... (Forrrrrest...)

Flick and Al were desperately missing their grandchildren and Fiela and I were more than happy to billet Miss M and Mr C out on a day by day basis, which happily turned into five instead of just two "max". Fiela and Al angling while the rest of us stayed at the Mango Farm being entertained by Flick and eating the most amazing spelt, sunflower and pumpkin seed bread she was turning out of her camp oven. Marguerite was now sporting a viral infection and Flick was able to provide that doting grandmotherly affection she'd been in need of. Al was a keen sportsman and loved to kick the ball around with Caesar at any given moment. We walked Mac the dog, spotted crocodiles and enjoyed the peace and quiet and the company of these wonderful people- the fact they liked our kids was really just an added bonus.

There are ruins from an 1880s Jesuit Mission within walking distance to the campgrounds, and I wondered what inner fortitude and faith a person would have to possess to come here and attempt to convert the indigenous people to christianity and western ways in general. Especially when a trip we'd just completed in a number of hours would have taken weeks at best back then. It lasted for a few years before the missionaries and even the Aborigines they'd converted conceded it was all a bit too hard to love God without regular food; the mission's gardens failing a few seasons in a row.

A crap photo of a big crocodil about 30 metres away from us at the boat ramp. These things are bloody scary!

Anyway,  we were leading a fairly hedonistic existence on the banks of the Daly River, despite the lack of fish (sorry one small mangrove jack) and the alcohol running out on the last day. Fiela used his last can of beer to make a roast chicken,  Flick and Al provided the drinks and we had a delightfully raucous roast chicken dinner under the Daly River stars.

Camp Uys Huis.

We packed up very slowly the next day, ever grateful to have our babysitters next door, and said a  very sad farewell to Flick and Al and Mac. We plan to catch up with them when we hit Victoria (they live near the Coonawarra wine area- winning!!) but for people we had only met 5 days ago, I was incredibly upset about leaving them. In the petrie dish of caravanning society, we seem to forge friendships in the quickest of ways, mostly because you share at least one passion immediately -travel- with all your commonalities radiating from that one central theme. Making friends is then just dependent on whether you like to fish, bushwalk, do things on the cheap, eat well, eat out, shop at woolies or the iga, surf, drive, read.... Whatever. But then when you make a strong connection with people,  saying see ya never becomes sad and tiring. Especially with types you draw parallels with from your non-travelling life.

The BoetMan, high on Flick and Al goodness.

Clearly I was still feeling some leftover Sydney funk (not to devalue the loveliness of our Daly Rivers neighbours!), as were the kids with their snot noses and devil may grandmother care attitudes... and Fiela would indeed have to leave the Northern Territory barramundi-less. What we needed was a weird natural phenomena to set us right, or at least ease our wearied  travel bones...

Daly River sunset.

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