3. Talk about the Yorke
Our itinerary had included a stop in Adelaide for a couple of days but due to the Adelaide Cup long weekend all the caravan parks were chockers so we trundled on through the city traffic across to the Yorke Peninsula. We had heard that this foot shaped peninsula known as the wheat and barley capital of South Australia was also a fisherman?s paradise. And we didn?t have to go far to put the theory to the test.
Our first port of call was a bushcamp at Parara Bay. This beautiful piece of coastline was the site of a tragic sperm whale beaching back in 2014. Locals had worked day and night alongside rangers and marine scientists to try and coax the 10m long females back into the water. Sadly their efforts were in vain and all seven cows perished. Their huge bodies, named by local schoolchildren are buried onsite marked by a plaque and seven massive boulders approximating their shape and size.
After paying our respects we set up camp, donned our reef shoes and headed over the dunes to the beach to check out the famed crabbing action. The Driver carried a tool he called a gaff that looked to me like a long metal pole with a great big fishhook on one end as well as a drawstring net bag while Peter Perfect had decided to arm himself with nothing more than a plastic garden rake. Mrs G and I walked out along an exposed rock shelf and watched as these two clowns jumped, hooted and screamed each time they caught an unsuspecting blue swimmer crab with their primitive weapons. Soon their net bag was bursting with the little critters and our fellas were equally bursting with pride in their newly minted crabbing abilities.
But, their excitement had worn off by the time they?d cooked, shelled, cleaned and rinsed all sixteen crabs to produce only a small zip-lock bag of crab meat. On the up side, it did make for a rather delicious pasta sauce!
The next day we drove down to the tiny fishing village of Port Julia. This place consists of a pier with an old red cargo shed, a boat ramp and a few fishing shacks. Some of these are little more than a bungalow with a shed (or the other way around!) while others are quite salubrious. We set ourselves up at a well-kept community campground around a cricket oval just one street back from the waterfront along with a gang of fishing-obsessed grey nomads led by the resident caretaker, Old Mate Al.
Al was quick to offer the fellas some local fishing tips – and as we were soon to discover more than ready to hang it on them when they stuffed up too. Their first mission was to collect some razorfish for bait. The meat from these huge triangular shells pulled up from the shallows at low tide is supposed to be a delicacy plus it makes the best bait for whiting, according to Old Mate Al.
However, he conveniently omitted telling the boys that splitting the things open let alone cleaning out the black gunk to reveal a ten-cent sized piece of white meat would be such a painstaking process. They both copped a beating at Happy Hour later that night for going about it all the wrong way.
Not to be deterred our fearless fishermen set off early the next morning armed with their hard-won bait to bag out a feed of whiting. The gorgeous Mrs G and I made good use of this rare male free time and took off to tour some nearby towns and wound up perusing a local craft market and enjoying a well-earned Latte, (make that a Mocha for Mrs G.) and a fancy French pastry in peace. Upon our return we were greeted by two filthy fishermen with nothing more to show for their hard days work than a lot of sad tales and a few squid. Old Mate Al had plenty more advice as well as some shit stirring for the young whipper-snappers at Happy Hour that night!
The next day bought squally rain so we all piled into Peter Perfect?s luxurious limo to explore the area. After visiting an odd indoor market that was more like a car-boot sale gone wrong, fighting against the bustery wind between showers to take a long walk on a short pier, browsing some kitschy tourist shops and touring a new marina estate we settled in for a counter lunch at a local pub.
Some fellow travellers had suggested we make our next camp at Corny Point, so named by Matthew Flinders as it is situated on the little toe of this foot-shaped piece of land. So the next day we farewelled Old Mate Al and hitched up our rigs bound for yet another tiny fishing village. This amazing campsite was a local farmers seaside paddock that he rents out for five bucks a night. Sweet!
There were no other campers in sight so Mrs G and I each chose absolute beachfront locations and watched as our fellas went into obsessive compulsive mode pulling their respective rigs around unseen obstacles in order to achieve the ultimate aim of every male nomad of the species, a perfectly level set up. Peter Perfect went first taking a wider than necessary swing which then jack-knifed the drawbar into his spare tyre on the back of the cruiser with a loud pfffft! Not to be outdone, The Driver then attempted to blast our motorhome up like a BMX across a ramp, leaving the chassis firmly wedged and the front wheel spinning in mid air. Don?t quote me but between the two of them there was probably enough steam produced from their ears to power both Puffing Billy and Thomas the Tank engine before Mr Perfect?s 4WD skills (and his handy snatch strap) saved the day.
Eventually we rounded up our wagons to form a village, lit the campfire and sat down to enjoy the view over a cup of billy brew. Out the back in the deep blue water, pods of dolphins were playing follow the leader while two massive eagle rays swam just beneath the aqua shallows occasionally curling their wingtips in greeting above the silky smooth surface. Mrs G also spotted a cormorant ducking and diving for his lunch along with two unidentified large sooty coloured water birds skimming the water to check out today?s menu.
After lunch two much more relaxed fishermen launched the boat again. They returned a few hours later bearing a bucket full of fish (some of which required identification from The Drivers fishing bible) and settled down to reminisce over the ones that got away over several cold beverages.
The fellas had more fishing on the agenda the next day while an already well suntanned Mrs G explored the reefs leaving me to get caught up on my reading and shadebaking. Later, the exhaustingly fit Mrs G whipped up a delicious batch of muffins, the smell of which had the unfortunate effect of luring the menfolk back to camp. But not for long, after lunch they were back out on the water again. By the days end they had a total of 15 large squid and several small fish. But wait, there?s more ? Peter Perfect also reeled in a huge Bream while The Driver had proudly bagged himself a big King George Whiting. We definitely wouldn?t be going hungry anytime soon!
The next day we packed a cut lunch and piled into Mr Perfect?s prized possession (aka The Cruiser) to tour the nearby Innes National Park. We walked down long windblown jetties topped by ruins of an earlier industrial era and hiked up to lighthouses to view the beautifully rugged coastline surrounded by submerged shipwrecks before walking back through time around the abandoned gypsum mining town of Inneston. Volunteers have restored some of these once elegant old buildings into guesthouses for holiday accommodation. It would certainly be an unusual experience to stay out there amid the ruins of a ghost town surrounded by hundreds of acres of dense bush, but I definitely wouldn?t want to plan a game of murder in the dark!
The next day we upped stumps to traverse the western side of the peninsula facing the Spencer Gulf. When we pulled in at Kadina to get a new tyre for Mr Perfect, Mrs G and I spotted a sneaky shopping opportunity and boldly took advantage. As she didn?t have anywhere near enough fat on her bones, the Gorgeous Mrs G had been really feeling the cold night air so our purchases included a pure wool crocheted nana rug and a pair of ugg boots as well as some groceries and, to keep in the good books, a couple of cartons of the amber liquid our fellas constantly require to quench their seemingly insatiable thirst.
Later we set up camp at an RV park on the outskirts of the heritage-listed town of Moonta. This fine town had once been the worldwide epicentre of the copper mining industry and no expense had been spared to establish houses, shops churches and civic buildings to serve its wealthy population. Down the road where the actual mining had taken place, much simpler cottages had been constructed to house the Cornish and welsh miners who had been lured by the Commonwealth with paid fares and promises of ongoing assistance to flee the sodden clay tunnels and cold grey skies of their homeland to ply the skills of their trade.
Of course, its well known (according to Tom Jones) that you can?t keep a good Welshman down so they had soon constructed two grand railway stations, a massive school to educate their many bairns and no less than twelve Methodist churches all the while working twelve hour shifts in deep dark tunnels to produce thousands of tonnes of pure copper to be exported around the world.
The old duck at the tourist centre gave us a bum steer when she told us it was only a short walk from our campsite to tour the abandoned mining town. She then went on to explain that as the displays won’t be opening until after 1pm we should probably take a walking tour around the main town and sample some of the finest Cornish pasties outside of the UK.
Being the dumb-arsed tourists that we are, the next morning we dutifully toured the main shopping strip, admired some fine architecture, stopped for a coffee to try and decipher the wonky photocopied map, shopped for odds and ends and even found a tackle shop for The Driver to sink his cash into before partaking of a rather disappointing Cornish lunch. Then, complete with indigestion and empty wallets we set off to tour the old mining town in the blazing midday sun.
Following yet another faintly printed map marked with disused train lines and other long gone buildings but sadly no street names we walked about 4 kms with some fellow travellers down a bitumen road before we spotted a sign for a miners hut. Which was closed. Not to be deterred we trudged on through the dusty tracks towards another sign Peter Perfect had discovered apparently directing us to Ryans Heap. With no idea why we needed to visit Ryan or any of his heap we all reluctantly followed our suntanned tour guide (aka Mr Perfect) up a winding scrubby path until we were faced with the second biggest pile of red dust ever seen. After climbing to the top and sliding back down again our bare-chested tour guide read the interpretive signs educating us all in the intricacies of copper mining. By the time we happened upon the actual museum housed in the original schoolhouse it was well past beer o?clock so we decided to quit our historical adventures and head back to camp.
The next morning we bade farewell to the Yorke Peninsula and drove straight through Port Augusta to explore The Eyre.