It’s a morayPosted: September 1, 2015 | |
A massive factor in the enjoyment of a roadtrip is the company you keep, and I have a great travelling partner in crime, the Chef de Mission, all round awesome guy, AND chief cook with Executive Chef countenance when in cooking mode, otherwise known as W.
Chef tirelessly drags deceased Roo’s off the road for me (I can’t bear seeing them gradually disintegrate under multiple tyres), sherpas a massive bag when we have a hike to snorkel, keeps fridges stocked, cold, and operational, and produces gastronomic wonders with one key ingredient – flame. Once bereft of inspiration when denied a campfire, Chef has since reimagined the Weber Baby Q as a camp oven/poijke without wood, and as a result, moist Chicken Wrapped in Pig (prosciutto), Goldband Snapper in Butter Caper Reduction, and Steak with Chargrilled Sweet Potato has returned to our table as business as usual.
Chef has a bad back at the moment (L5/S1 ruptured disc flare up), which every now and again tests his patience for the otherwise delightful. Aloha the dancing hula girl on our dashboard, once madly squeaking and jiggling, only shimmies silently since her solar panel was removed. Until Chef intervened, I didn’t even realise if you grabbed her and yanked upwards, she unclipped from her base (a tip for everyone I have given one to with similarly tested patience).
I am so lucky to have a snorkelling buddy that loves it as much as I do. We go out at least twice a day, in the morning and late afternoon when the fish are busiest. Snorkelling is an exercise in time. The more frequently you go out, the more you see, and every time is different. Every time we go out we are excited; “it’s a moray!”, “it’s a cuttlefish!”, as if it is the first. We see turtles that take us on tours, reef sharks that circle around, tetchy morays with toothy mouths open, rare Clarkes yellow, black and white anemone fish, schools to swim through, and countless other magical fish in myriad colours.
Chef is an excellent tracker. He can spot the tiniest movement in bush or water, which means he finds all sorts of things, but his specialty is octopus. My gift is remembering colour and pattern. Chef will point at something and all I’ll see is brown coral and and rock. I’ll say, “did it have a yellow margin on the fin?” to a blank look. Luckily, Chef has turned out to be a far better underwater photographer than me. I took the Sony version of a Go-Pro out, and after following a turtle for 10 minutes, produced a movie of the turtle’s head, my head, and the surface. We happened across a shark we hadn’t seen before under a ledge. I couldn’t duck dive long enough to get a good look but thought it looked pale yellow. Chef couldn’t tell me any more than it was grey, but got a close shot. Back at camp the fish book told us we had performed multiple fly-bys of a 2.5 metre Sicklefin Lemonshark, a short-tempered individual known to act out.
Chef likes to chat to fellow travellers when at work in the camp kitchen. He managed to gather up a lovely Catalan guy one morning, and swept him along snorkelling with us for a couple of days. The Catalan had travelled to Alice Springs with a ‘big real Aussie man’, but elected to shorten his trip without reimbursement, after his travel mate got on the phone once they were in range, and made a call that involved debts and breaking legs. On the second day with us, the Catalan had met a keen diver from Hong Kong at the Cape Range info centre, so the four of us set off for Lakeside on a blustery afternoon.
A flood in March 2014 washed away our treasured camp-site at Lakeside, along with a few tents, a camper trailer, and almost one campground host. Tons of soil was washed into the pristine reef. The reef was in excellent health, but conditions not dissimilar to a washing machine developed a thirst. We sat on the sole remaining picnic table in our old spot for sunset, with a chilly bin/eski Chef had prepared earlier with cheese, snacks, and a wide variety of beverages.
Since the flood, Parks have expanded the campgrounds in flood-proof areas, and closed others permanently. We heard Osprey now boasted around 40 sites, and we tsk tsk-ed. Shame on us! Using funds from Royalties For Regions, the new and expanded camps are better than OK, they are paradise for $10 a head. The airy and stylish ‘eco-loo’ has beautiful Jarrah doors and a swift, fresh, breeze charging through. It is a fitting place to end our time in the world heritage listed Cape Range National Park, Ningaloo Marine Park, and the world’s largest fringing reef. Tomorrow we swap salt water for fresh, red dust for white sand, and further north, Chef will be on croc watch. When the moon hits your eye…it’s amore.