outbackjoe

a camping trip of ridiculous proportions

kings canyon


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Kings Canyon, Palm Valley and Hermansburg

Kings Canyon is a gorge a few hundred kilometers from Uluru that we didn’t get to see last time we traveled through. Actually we missed a whole chunk of spots in the area. This time we left Uluru and did Kings Canyon, then the badly corrugated Mereenie Loop Track up to Hermannsburg and Palm Valley.

kings canyon 2

Kings Canyon

Palm Valley in Finke Gorge National Park was a standout. The awesomeness starts immediately with the track going in. The track is easy so doesn’t feel like you’re hammering the crap out of your car, but still feels like fun offroading as it follows the Finke River through some hills and arid landscapes. Often the track is actually the Finke River itself. It’s not often you get to navigate a river in a car!

Driving on Finke River

Driving on Finke River in Finke Gorge National Park

The camp grounds are also great. It’s set among some beautiful red hills and cliffs and has good facilities: water, gas bbqs, flushing toilets and even warm showers. This is all at standard Northern Territory national park prices. There’s a nice little walk out of the camp grounds to Kalarranga rock formations.

Kalarranga rocks 2 Kalarranga rocks

Then Palm Valley itself is also awesome. The short vehicle track from the camp ground to Palm Valley travels through some nice red cliffs and rock formations and through a few steep dry creek crossings. It’s much rougher than the first track into the camp grounds but it’s only a few km long.

driving to palm valley

Track into Palm Valley

palm valley rocky track

Steep rocky section of track

The Palm Valley walk is easy and a bit different than your usual gorge walk. A lot of the walk is in the river valley itself, which is a piece of cake since the valley is bed rock worn smooth by the water flow a few years ago. The palms and dark red cliffs and smooth river valley make it a unique walk.

palm valley walking trail

Here is an artistic photo of the red cliffs with the shadows of the palms on the cliffs. Most people just take photos of the actual palms.

palm valley cliff face

After a couple of nights in Palm Valley we visited Hermannsburg – an old aboriginal community that started as a Lutheran mission in 1877. We grabbed a pie at the bakery, coffee and scones at the cafe and checked out some of the old buildings.

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uluru base walk cave


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Uluru and Kata Tjuta

We we’re a bit rushed last time we visted Uluru so we had to have another look. This time, with a baby in tow, we decided against the steep, treacherous and sometimes deadly climb to the top and instead did the 10km base walk.

On the base walk we found some sandalwood bush plum. They weren’t very sweet, tasted bitter and sour with possibly a slight hint of plum flavour.

uluru bush plum sandalwood bush plums found around ulurusandalwood bush plum

The different perspective of the base walk was great. We got to see lots of different views of the rock that we had never seen before. The next day we did the valley of the winds walk through Kata Tjuta / Olgas and had a fancy dinner at Yulara Resort.

On the way out of Uluru we stayed at Curtin Springs road house. We ended up having a big night out at the bar, drinking beers and chatting with the owner of the Curtin Springs cattle station until late. In the morning we felt a bit ginger so decided on another visit to the bar for a bacon and egg sandwich before heading off for Kings Canyon.

empress springs descending ladder


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Back On The Road

Apart from the occasional short trip out of Perth, recently we’ve had a serious shortage of camping missions and outback exploring. The blame lies solely with our participation in the rat race. Fortunately this situation has been corrected and we’re back on the road for some proper long term travel around oz.

This time round we’ve made some improvements to our setup. I’m not going to list them all here, but the main change is to our solar panel arrangement, making it lighter, simpler, more aerodynamic and easier to deploy. Oh and our two person team has expanded to three.

hilux with new solar panels

Our hilux  keeping beer cold with the new solar panel setup.

new team

The new three person team.

We’re a bit behind on the blog and have already made it to Broome. This post covers from Perth to the WA border via Great Central Road.

Our route has taken us to Kalgoorlie, Menzies, the Lake Ballard sculptures, Kookynie, Leonora, Laverton and onto the corrugations of the Great Central Road. On the way we found some bush banana. Tastes like peas.

bush banana prep bush banana

We detoured off Great Central Road, heading north on David Carnegie Road to visit Empress Spring. This spring saved the lives of David Carnegie and his party whilst exploring the Gibson and Great Sandy deserts a few years ago. They were out of water and nearly dead, so captured an aborigine, fed him salted beef and held him hostage until he led them to a water supply.

empress spring descending ladder empress spring

After a night at Empress Spring the plan was to continue north on David Carnegie Road and then traverse the Gunbarrel Highway across to Warburton where we’d rejoin the Great Central Road. We made it easily to Empress Spring and then a further 100km north but our efforts were thwarted by some deep washouts on the track. With only modest ground clearance, the washouts were pushing the limits on our vehicle’s capability. Falling into a big rut could have us stranded since we were travelling alone with no other vehicles to assist in recovery. I believed that with some minor reshaping of the track with a shovel there was a better than 50% chance of making it through, and if not we had plenty of food, water and beer on board. Sharni on the other hand chickened out and ordered an immediate u-turn.

david carnegie road ruts

Although it doesn’t look it on the photo, these ruts were probably half a meter deep.

So it was back south down the slow, rutted and spinifex laden track where we again picked up the Great Central Road from where we left it a few days before.

david carnegie road spinifex

Continuing east towards the WA border was uneventful apart from the ongoing corrugations. One of the hilux badges fell off our car and the CB radio antenna broke off (this is the second time we’ve had this happen). Here’s a few more photos of the trip up to Lasseters Cave just inside the Northern Territory Border. From here we continue to Uluru and beyond.

spotting salmon


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Free Food Salmon Camp

Not happy with our $15 food spend from a salmon fishing trip of a couple years ago, this time we decided to go completely free. For this camping mission all food was supplied by work!

camp food supplies

On the menu was peanut paste, long life milk, coffee, vegemite, butter, honey, mustard, vinegar, tomato sauce and 2 minute noodles. We were also forced to steal lemons from a neighbour’s tree based on medical advice that our special camp diet may have us contracting scurvy should we not include a source of vitamin C.

My favourite dish was peanut paste, straight from the cup. It was delicious and easy to prepare.

peanut paste for breakfast

Of course we also ate salmon, either smoked or ceviche, drizzled in lemon juice. To supplement our tight vitamin C rations we collected a load of pigface fruit and sauteed them in a honey and butter mix. We bait fished each afternoon and night hoping to land something more palatable than salmon but unfortunately didn’t have much luck. One herring was all we could muster, and it really tasted great after a couple of days of mostly salmon and 2 minute noodles.

We cheated slightly and did fork out a bundle of cash for a block of highly nutritious red tin beer. It kept us fit, strong and satisfied over the several day camp. Thank you beer!

spotting salmon with help from beer

tigerfish mozambique


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Tigerfish in Mozambique

Landing huge barramundi and salmon in rugged and isolated parts of Australia is incredibly manly and tough. Everyone knows that. But what about landing a river monster in remote Africa?

tigerfish mozambique

This monster tigerfish was caught in Lake Cahora Bassa in Mozambique. It’s not unlike the large tigerfish that Jeremy Wade caught on his TV show. I’ve been told that Jeremy Wade is super tough and ruggedly handsome and the similarities between him and myself are clear.

river monsters

I was in Mozambique to help make this run better:

processing plant

Some other pics from my stay:

mal with salmon


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Anzac Day Salmon Mission

Wow it’s been over a year already since our last long weekend salmon hunt. This year, instead of Easter, we headed down for the Anzac Day long weekend.

There are many things different between this camp and our camp from a year ago. A big change is that this time we took quite a varied supply of food rather than just potatoes, carrots and onions. But perhaps the most significant change is the addition of a little mini miss outbackjoe!

joe with baby

baby in the dunes

We’re training her up nice and early to become an expert salmon spotter just like her dad.

teaching baby to spot salmon

On this camp we experienced an amazing salmon feeding frenzy. Salmon arrived in plague proportions and were jumping around everywhere right in front of our camp. The salmon were chasing herring into the shallows and were swimming right around us, even bumping into our feet. The herring were jumping out of the water and beaching themselves on the sand in an effort to escape the pursuing salmon.

We caught a butt load of salmon. More salmon than I’ve ever seen. And as a bonus we had a free feed of beached herring that even the staunchest animal activist would be happy with, since the herring died of natural causes. We chucked back most of the salmon we caught but cruelly slaughtered a couple.

Catching so much salmon is extremely tiring.

salmon fishing is tiring

We tried something different with our salmon preparation this time – salmon civeche. Civiche is marinading raw fish in vinegar and citrus juice (plus whatever extra flavours you want, we used onions and chilli). The flesh goes white like it’s been cooked and remains mild flavoured and relatively tender. Sharni even described it as tasting “nice”, which is tremendous for Australian salmon. Last time she said it tasted like shit. There is a risk of getting food poisoning by eating salmon this way, but fortunately we have the finest sashimi chef skills so that we can safely prepare the raw salmon for marinading.

We also smoked some of the salmon. Last time we smoked salmon it was over cooked and pungently fishy. This time we were extra careful not to over cook it and it actually turned out pretty good. Also it helped that we discarded the darker coloured meat which minimizes the strong fishy flavours.

We had a great camp and improved our salmon preparation skills with some good civeche and smoked salmon. Bring on next salmon season! Maybe we’ll revert back to bringing bugger all food and living off fresh salmon and beer.