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Yardie Homestead Caravan Park: just bogged down here in Paradise

6 September 2011

I’ll remember Cape Range, that’s the place where we met that guy who knew nothing about AFL, I say, grinning at Dane.

There’s a north/south divide in Australia over the major winter sport: 13 a side rugby league in the warmer climes, and the curious, homegrown, 18 a side, AFL, Aussie Rules, down where there is the possibility of some winter.

This sporting knowledge, apparently, makes me the Aussie Rules expert in the camp so Daryl comes over to consult on the weekend’s results. Sadly I had only caught up on Friday night’s shock result where number 2 completely humiliated the hitherto ladder leaders, but this wasn’t exactly news.

Daryl was part of the Exmouth Gentleman’s Fishing Club, not to be confused with the similarly acronymed Game club, a group of Perth blokes who had had 2 weeks of wife free mayhem with the local fishery for the last 31 years, and are shacked up in the converted shearer’s quarters adjacent to our grassy location.

A day later he wanders past with a full crate of recently filleted fish, doubles back and offers a feed. His offsider picks out a smallish chunk but Daryl insists of a choice kilo slab: Sweetlip, the local snapper we have been observing at close range in our underwater activities, they have a huge eye that watches the clumsy, temporary visitor with a degree of curiosity, no doubt wondering how we possibly manage to survive in the fish eat fish world.

We’re invited for a beer later on.

Actually we know the score here and arrive with a couple of VB longnecks, a proper Bogan beverage that clearly marks us as either from the Western Suburbs of Melbourne, or, at least in WA, Aboriginal, although the beers were the only cold drop at the Exmouth bottleshop late in the day.

12 blokes of assorted ages are around the table under the verandah tucking into their exquisitely crumbed catch of the day.

How was the fish? one asks.

Haven’t had sweetlip like that for years, I reply.

When one of the party excitedly slips into colloquial speech a glance from one of the older gentlemen has them apologising for the offending language.

They drag out the early photo albums, ie, from the early 1980s, filled with pictures of fisherman, often without clothing to the lower portion of the body, holding their humungous catch, ie, a fish. Maybe the gentleman part came later, together with a more complete, appropriate wardrobe.

There’s a little competition between the younger guys with two big ocean going game fishing boats, one has a solid looking, turbocharged, 200hp outboard, I’m uncertain if that trumps the twin 150hp on the competitor. They spend the daylight hours dragging fish up from 60m on the outside of the reef, the change in water pressure sufficient to subdue the fish, the race is to haul them aboard rapido before being chomped by a marauding reef shark.

The older blokes, the gentlemen, nearing 70, prefer the calmer water inside the reef in a battered tinnie, 15hp is enough here, the water depth minimal, 3 to 20 feet, so the fish put up a fair contest, heading off with 100m of line before being dragged aboard, or, fairly often, zipping in behind some coral and the line being cut. At least the fish have some chance and there’s a modicum of sport about their style of activity.

A pleasant evening, sipping on an increasingly warm longneck, not so good in the tropics, and I can confirm that all the gentlemen kept their trousers on.

It’s almost the end of an era for the boys, 3 of their members died last year and with the imminent change of ownership at the park, the accommodation they helped establish, and even build, will be totally upgraded, Macdonaldised just like everywhere else, it ain’t going to be the same next year.