Eungella Dam Week 4

Thursday, Nov 27, 2014 at 14:50

Member-Heather MG NSW

We took the road North from Nebo Junction Roadhouse to reach the dam because we travelled from Middlemount to get there. It was the shortest route for us, and although we were aware there was quite some distance of gravel road, the only information we had was that it was ‘dry weather trafficable’ only.
About 10 klms along, we found a right hand turn which listed in Green signs the names of properties or places, including Eungella, so we turned here… I also set the GPS to the Dam, to see whether it could get us there. (I don’t have all that much faith in GPS inbuilt systems and ours sometimes can’t find a place we are traveling through). The sealed road continued for much further that I had anticipated, but it was mostly fairly narrow and there were some sharp, steep little creek crossings and rough edges, as well as bumpy cattle grids where, once the gravel road started, short sections either side of the grid had been sealed. For each one, it was just a matter of slowing down a bit. Every now and then the GPS located us on the road but in many places we were way off course so either the road has changed or the bits in between the waypoints are incorrect!
We pulled off the road, or over to the edge, to let a few big trucks pass and to wait for the clouds of dust to blow away, but apart from herds of cattle, saw little other traffic! Two young women lying on the ground beside packs, and with horses tethered nearby was an interesting sight too, and we found out that they are riding the Bicentennial trail together when they arrived at the dam to camp overnight a couple of days later. That would be a marvellous experience and really teach one how to travel lightly!
At the correct distance marked on my map, the GPS told us to turn right along a track and exactly at the point a rough hand drawn sign pointed to Eungella, so we followed instructions, and travelled up and down an undulating dirt track following the water pipeline, for some 20 kms. I’m not sure whether the crests and dips were built into the road to allow for water run off or whether they are natural, but on the way out I must get more photos! (The Oodnadatta track was like a dirt highway compared to some of this) The surface was not too bad, a dream after those horrendous Kimberley roads of last year which have become our benchmark) but it seemed to wind around a narrow valley and we passed under numerous bridges carrying the water pipeline. The GPS listed it as ‘Lizzie Creek road’ whenever it located it and we (rather I) started to wonder whether we were following a pipe and a maintenance track, instead of the road, as the name listed in Camps 7 was different. Whatever, we had really no choice but to continue at his point but we could certainly see why it is not trafficable in wet weather! Signage off the road indicated no admittance to unauthorised vehicles because of the pipeline, and even this was a bit ambiguous…did that also mean the road was too??
Eventually, and it was with some relief for me, that we came over the crest of a small hill to arrive at a T-intersection with Eungella Dam road and a sign to the Campground. My opinion is that it would be a bit interesting for big rigs and caravans with normal clearance to travel this road without hitting the bars and rear of the van as they cross some of the creeks and humps on crests, but I guess it can be done with care. Our van being the Outback model has higher clearance. The alternative road from Finch Hatton has an extremely steep hill to climb with some tight bends and, some 20 kms of dirt and is restricted to vehicles less than 11 metres travelling uphill. It would have to be one of the steepest drives we have ever done.
By the time we arrived it was at least 1.30, and after doing a drive around the whole camping area to select a flattish area to set up camp and visit the toilet area to pay our fees and fill the water tanks from the treated water tap, it was an hour later before I managed to get lunch!
We were gratified to find it extremely quiet, with only a few campers parked at big distances from one another, we found a great spot, and didn’t have all that much difficulty getting close to level. A mate who stayed here last year had warned us about the winds which seem to be a part of each day and night here, sometimes gale force, and suggested the western area was more protected. We also wanted a place which would get maximum sun so our solar panel would do its job, and despite frequent periods of cloudy skies which appeared and disappeared quickly each day, our readings showed well over 13v each day. As soon as we were showing over 13, I plugged in our various appliances to 12v points and began the rounds of charging…the wifi device (useless here as there’s no 3G or 4G signal), laptop, my electric toothbrush (via inverter), also the printer, phone (uses little battery power when on airplane mode).
It’s good to know that the generator is there as a back- up source of power and I’ve been using it for coffee during the day, also for running the stick blender/food processor and made some thai fishcakes successfully one day.
John was able to launch the boat in front of our van and leave it pulled up on the shoreline overnight. The water in many places around the lake has picturesque patches of waterlilies which must be very pretty when flowering. We have watched jacanas deftly darting around on top of the leaves each afternoon, silhouetted by the setting sun and listened to their calls, a kind of high pitched ‘pipping’ sound.
For the first time this trip I have also heard the distant plaintiff cries of bush stone curlews before daybreak too, but yet to see them here.
The weather is very changeable, with clouds and light showers suddenly blowing across the mountain ranges and then brilliant hot sunny periods! The winds seem to die down for a while then as soon as John takes the boat out, it blows again relentlessly and waves wash across the water surface like a sea, making the fishing nigh on impossible and conditions very unpleasant!
Despite this dam being known for its oversize sooty grunter, In many attempts, there has been only one good sized fish landed (39 cms.) and apparently he put up a mighty fight, as they are known to do! I wish I had been there to see it. It was brought back whole and photographed and was most impressive; jet black, very thick and with a smallish turned up snout and fat lips. We had half filleted, skinned and pan fried for dinner one night and found the firm white flesh very fatty, and left an unpleasant sensation on my tongue. The other fillet has been made into Thai fish cakes and frozen and should be edible (maybe).
Most mornings, John was out of bed by 6 and on the water as soon as possible afterwards, returning by mid-morning or a little later. Then again in the afternoons, when conditions weren’t too windy, he went back to try again. The bait trap yielded some shrimp but the wind has made bait fishing as well as lure fishing, so difficult, as the boat drifted around the dead trees. There didn’t appear to be any red claw which suited us just fine. We had some attempts fishing from the bank in front of the van, in the shallow waters where fish seem to jump and break the water surface very now and then, but without success! A fisherman just along from us managed to get three barramundi one very still early morning about 100 metres from us so John rigged up his beach rod to see whether that would get one. We have seen the heads of turtles which seem to be in every waterway we have visited.
I passed my time doing chores, hand washing, kneading bread, tidying the van, and then setting out on a walk around the lakes edge and the camping area, venturing further afield across country and discovering tiny prickles and grass seeds which love my socks! One afternoon both of us walked to the dam wall and return, about 7 or 8 kms. and pretty boring as it was along the road. It satisfied my curiosity but once was enough. I also walked some distance up the only other road I could find (Mt Barker Road) to see if there was a view over the lake but it was very obscured by trees although did give me an uphill walk, and another morning both of us walked back along Lizzie Creek road a way and found the brilliant crimson fruit of a prickly pear to photograph, and identified the calls of many birds.
After dark and some mornings before dawn I heard the cries of bush stone curlews across in the hills, a sound I just love to hear, the cries and wails being akin to human sounds rising to a shrill crescendo.
One afternoon, after an early lunch, we set out for Eungella and down the mountain to Mirani to find the dump point and empty the toilet, buy boat fuel and diesel, get a gas cylinder refilled and get in touch with family to let them know our whereabouts for the next week or so. Although we could probably tow the van down the hill, there are restrictions on the journey up, with signage stating that it is not permitted for vehicles longer than 11 metres. It certainly is a very steep drive, with some tight 20 km corners and drainage gutters. We managed to everything on our list and I even updated the laptop and booked us a van site in the Big 4 Park Airlie Cove for a few days towards the end of the week so we can catch up with our eldest daughter who is a chef at one of the restaurants on Hamilton Island. With the State of Origin footy on Wed night, John wanted to be somewhere with TV reception, so it suits for that too! Ginny and I can spend the time together catching up at the room she has booked at the resort next door, as we haven’t seen one another since another daughter’s wedding in late February. It will be a bit of a shock to hit civilization, especially that of Airlie Beach and the tourist mecca of the Whitsundays, having lived as we like to for weeks now, away from it all!
It is a pity the weather and fishing aren’t better here as it is a great place to stay, so quiet as far as numbers of campers compared to everywhere else we have been, during the week at least. (the access roads have a lot to do with that, I suspect, as even the road from Eungella is about 20 kms of good unsealed. We can regularly fill our tanks by using the 20 litre water containers we carry from the treated drinking water tap near the garbage containers, and have been enjoying a lovely hot shower each night. The composting toilets are good, with solar lighting at night, and only a short walk directly up the hill, although they were vandalised by some sicko person over the weekend who decided to defecate in both the urinal and the garbage tidy bin in the disabled toilet, making them very unpleasant for the rest of us.
When we leave here, we will go back out the way we have come and turn right towards Collinsville. We want to have a look at the Bowen River hotel and do some fishing there, maybe with my sister and her husband if it’s any good. It will be a good opportunity to visit for a day or two on our way to Airlie and check it out.
There was a sooty grunter fishing comp on all weekend…very interesting to watch the boats leaving and then returning with their two best fish to be weighed in officially. They fished for 4 hours both morning and afternoon, and had an hour off for lunch, were a well behaved bunch almost exclusively men. Apart from the sounds of those engines as they left and returned, their boats caused big waves which were in danger of swamping our tinnie on the shoreline, but they were up early and intent only on fishing so made little noise! Their numbers swelled the population of campers to more than double and I think there were 11 boats (most with two people on board). It was an awesome sight to see them leaving together, and I managed to get it all on a short video at 7am on the Sunday. Apparently they come here about every four weeks so if/when we return we will try to avoid it, although we did enjoy seeing it once, and John gained some valuable advice on what lures to use and when which we hope may be useful.
A big family group put numerous tents up behind us on Friday morning and then a whole lot of friends joined them for the weekend to celebrate a bloke’s birthday. They made considerable noise with their three dogs, loud music and voices, progressively getting rowdier as they consumed more alcohol during the day and Saturday evening. However they were a good humoured bunch and reminded us of our extended family…certainly could have been a lot worse as they quietened down by 10.30. I put my earplugs in so heard nothing but could not really understand why they chose to camp directly above us and then proceed to play cricket in the space (luckily with a soft ball) between their tents and our van! Maybe they were hoping we would pack up and leave! We were very happy to see them leave by midday, and not long afterwards the fishermen followed them leaving the campground in a much more peaceful state.
The weather for three days over the weekend was just fantastic…sunny, almost no wind, clear skies…glorious. John hooked and landed two more sootys on the Friday, on in the morning which was smaller and during our fishing trip together in the afternoon, one about 40 cms, which we photographed and released. We weren’t all that impressed when we ate half of one about 38cms as it seemed very fatty, but maybe the smaller one, filleted skinned and frozen, will be better! We are really happy just to catch and release any others.
I had three trips out in the boat but despite many attempts, did not get a bite. John did teach me a very effective method of casting though and as a consequence I can now throw the lure a considerable distance and look reasonably skilful!
We have already discussed returning with Judy and Barry
I am so sick of trying to keep my Wifi device battery charged when we have no signal and are reliant on battery power, and have decided to contact Bigpond when we get to Airlie hoping that a replacement can be sent when we get home.
We had a busy final morning, day eight, with John loading the boat and getting the canopy area in the BT 50 packed. He had intended fishing however the winds strengthened overnight and by daylight it was clear that to take the boat out would be a mistake. I baked a pumpkin fruit cake and then some crunchy muesli biscuits, both of which we love, and by the time I had also done some laundry (my last by hand as we will be in Airlie in a couple of days), it was close to lunch time. Our afternoon was a very lazy one, both of us enjoying reading the books I recently bought for the kindles.
Our supply of fresh fruit and vegetables is getting pretty low and by the time we do a grocery shop in a few days’ time we will have nothing fresh left, but plenty of dried, canned and frozen. The fridge has less food in it now than since we left home, which isn’t a bad thing, as it means we are turning it over regularly.
Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt. John Muir
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