outbackjoe

a camping trip of ridiculous proportions

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.

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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

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.

tailor with nice beard


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Peak Beard at Wilbinga Camp

Just as I was starting to push through the itchy phase, sadly, a stern order was issued: the beard must go. What a tragedy it would be to have the beard removed without some photos of me flaunting it whilst fishing and camping. So a camping trip was commissioned to Wilbinga Beach north of Perth.

We caught a nice flat head and a tailor, both of which were deliciously prepared in the fish smoker. Fishing conditions weren’t ideal with the usual wind and weed keeping our bounty quite low. Other highlights included beach bocce and hours of fun watching people getting bogged on a particularly treacherous section of beach right near our camp.

The beard was promptly removed back home during the post camp washdown. I hope one day it will return bigger and better.

What’s Hong doing squatting on top of that sand dune?

nonna camping


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Lane Poole – First Redfin

A couple of nights camping mission at Lane Poole with Mum and Nonna saw me land my first redfin perch! This perfectly complements my recent freshwater success with trout.

I caught two perch from the Murray River running nearby our camp site. One was too small to keep and the other a bit bigger but good enough to fry up for breakfast. We camped at Baden Powell camp ground which is perfect for camping with the oldies, with good toilets and fancy camp kitchens. We camped a couple of months ago, before the fires in the area that devastated Yarloop. It was quite cold as you can see by nonna rugged up catching some early morning rays.

camping under the bridge


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More Warren River Trout

There’s no better way to cement our trout fishing prowess then to immediately follow up our first ever trout success with another successful trout fishing mission. This time round Mal, Hong and James joined in the action.

The trip started out with beers and pizza at the Pemberton Hotel. The pizzas were delicious and huge! We boxed up the left overs, chucked them in the car fridge and headed into the forest to find camp by the Warren River.

It drizzled throughout the first day but since we’re super tough we went fishing in the rain. Wet, steep, muddy slopes along the river bank, combined with a couple of beers, was a recipe for a few muddy bum slides and some exciting close calls at the water’s edge.

A few trout were caught, some undersized and a couple just a tick over the minimum 30cm mark. We smoked them up in the fish smoker using banana peel and garlic for the smoke source. The trout tasted fantastic. I’m glad to report the lingering salmon flavour from the fish smoker has completely disappeared after we burnt it all off on the previous camp.

James did not come prepared with waterproof boots or waders so suffered with soggy boots for most of the trip. After drying them off by the fire one night, he was keen to try to keep them dry the next day. He improvised a solution for the wet boots but it was a dismal failure – see photos.

trout fishing warren river


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Warren River First Trout!

After years of demoralising failure, finally, Hong and I have caught our first trout! And what a feeling! No longer are we taunted by this long running black mark hanging over our fishing capability. We are successful trout fisherman.

First trout was caught in the Warren River, near Pemberton, over the course of a camping mission during the Western Australia Day long weekend. Sharni came along for the camp too, although did not do any fishing, instead enjoying some reading and relaxing in the awesome forests in the area, as well as some fancy coffees and food back at Pemberton. The gargantuan trees and beautiful waterways in the region are really tremendous and make a great place to camp, trout fishing or not.

Both Hong and I caught a few undersized trout which we chucked back in. Then one of us caught a sized trout big enough for keeps. I won’t say who actually caught it, not because it wasn’t me who caught it (it could have been me), but because it was a team effort. I’m not just saying that coz it was Hong that caught the fish. We both posed for photos to celebrate the awesome teamwork. Although we will always remember the great moment of catching our first trout, the specifics of who actually caught it are so unimportant that it won’t be long until we’ve forgotten who actually caught it.

We cooked our sole trout in Hong’s fish smoker. The same fish smoker we used a couple of months before to cook Australian Salmon. We noted the pungent smell of leftover fermenting salmon before cooking the trout but didn’t think it would affect cooking. How wrong we were. It was Australian Salmon flavoured trout for dinner. Yummy. We left the fish smoker on the fire that night to burn off any remaining salmon remnants.

Whilst camped up at Big Brook Aboretum, mushroom hunters visited to collect some orange mushrooms to eat. They said they weren’t sure of the name of the mushrooms. To me they did not seem very knowledgeable about mushrooms. It is not known whether they survived.

Visiting the facilities in Pemberton to download a brown-load, we noticed some black nightshade growing in the park. The ripe black berries are edible and taste slightly sweet with hints of savoury tomato-like flavour. They’re supposed to be pretty good for you, plus they’re free food, so we chowed down on a few. Apparently the leaves can be boiled up and eaten too but we didn’t try. Don’t eat the unripe green berries, they’re poisonous. They’re ripe when they are black and effortlessly fall off the plant.