Wednesday, 12 May 2021

St Patricks Head

 

Not far from the sleepy town of St Marys is St Patricks Head, a mountain that gives you a sweet view out over the Tassie East Coast. It's a place Jeni and I have been meaning to check out for a while now. We actually found it a little tricky to find, and would certainly suggest against using Google Maps to find where the trail begins. The place hasn't received the funding it deserves, and the signage to the place is minimal. The internet doesn't have much, so we ended up having a yarn with some locals to find our way (cheers Mr. Tinker!). I'll also start this post by giving some directions to find the place. It's not hard to find, but if you take the wrong roads it can feel like a maze!

Go towards 95!

Once you're in St Marys, head for Irish Town rd (it's on the east side of town). Turn left into St Patricks Head rd. After a bridge, you'll come to an intersection giving you the option of several properties. You want to aim right for 95. Drive all the way to the end of the road, and you'll find the start of the walk!

The trail takes about an hour each way. It's a rocky path to the top, and the verdant scenery shifts from ferns, to mossy bush, to dryer trees as you ascend. There are a few large trees that you'll need to clamber across early on, and the leaf litter can be slippery underfoot, so it's good to be prepared for this. 

Up top, the views are spectacular. The surf roils across the Falmouth and Scamander beaches at a seemingly snails pace from this vantage, and cars driving along the coast are mere motes sliding across that thin stretch that is the Tasman Highway. The Iron House Brewery and Resort appears as a child's plaything, sitting just out of reach. It's a great place to kick back and take in the atmosphere—and the sun's warmth on a cooler day. 

Recently I made the decision to start using walking-poles on my walks. As a bigger fella, my knees are really appreciating it. I found them super handy on the steeper parts of the walk. Definitely recommend them to anyone if their knees are giving them a bit of jib after a walk.

One absolutely amazing point about this mountain, however, is that, despite the influx of tourists to the region this year, not one other person was on the trail with us. Was certainly a special experience being able to enjoy a bit of Tassie's east coast all to ourselves!

Glad to have finally made it out to St Patricks Head!

Monday, 3 May 2021

Check Out Dat Wrasse: Banana in My Sweet Wrasse

 

Finally, a post dedicated to spearfishing! It's something that I have thought of doing for a while, but wasn't quite sure how to go about it. I'm bloody new to the whole thing, only 9 months in, so there are way better sources for folks that want to get started or improve their abilities than what I can write up. Something this weekend just gone has taught me, however, is how incredible the cooking side of spearfishing (or any kind of fishing or hunting, for that matter) can be. So, I've decided that a mix of the adventurous and culinary aspects will be the way to proceed for a nice spearing post.

Friday was the final day of Southern Rock Lobster season for the Tassie East Coast. Needless to say, a few of us kicked off the weekend with an arvo dive. I haven't quite managed to catch one yet. My breath holds have gotten way better, and I'm keen to try again when the season reopens (or on a west coast trip!). I did, however, grab a really nice goatfish. These guys eat crustaceans on the sandy floor, have a bit of a prawny taste, and are sensational pan-fried on their own. I may have missed out on the crays, but I had a wicked breakfast for Saturday morning!

Regardless of the lobsters and goats we started with, this weekend was all about one fish in particular: wrasse. A nice bluethroat wrasse is what many new spearos pop their spearing cherry on down here in Tassie, myself included. It's also a fish that most spearos lose interest in after they have improved their skill and prefer to take "better fish". I've even hit a point where I rarely spear them.

Why was the first weekend of May 2021 so wrasse oriented, you ask? Well, an absolute top bloke and mate of mine, Michael Sirianni (Wandering Gringo), went to massive effort to organise a casual get-together of spearos. Whilst a keen hunter, he wanted to avoid any chance of decimating populations. A "junk" fish cooking competition was part of that plan. The other two challenges were to solve a riddle and take and submit a highly sustainable fish, and to see who could harvest the most longspine urchins (which are an invasive pest down here). Not many longspines were found between us all (I saw none) which was a good issue to have (they have been commercially harvested here recently)!

Most of us happy campers approached the whole get together in a super-casual manner... until it got to the wrasse cook-off! We all got back to River and Rocks campground around 3, cracked a brew, and cleaned our fish. Not long after, the dusty free-camp by the mouth of the Swan River was cooking up dishes that were tastier and more diverse than many a restaurant could muster! And the star of the day was that fish that most spearos don't even bother with! Wrasse!

 

Showing off our Wrasses! Photo courtesy of Ryan Francis.

 

As the sun prepared to set, the dishes were laid out. The aroma was amazing, and everyone was shocked at how good all this wrasse looked! The only element that shocked harder was how delightful everything tasted! And it was all wrasse! The dishes on display here are: Thai green curry and fried rice by Eb and Jack, Ceviche by Liam, Karage by Ryan, Smoked Wrasse by Sam, Pan-Fried Wrasse with Curry by Josh, Secretly Chilli Tacos by Michael, and finally Banana in My Sweet Wrasse by myself. Once the sun had disappeared and the stars lit our world, Michael D spoilt us with some Wrasse Tempura (and awesome abalone!) and Dave the mainlander brought over a Wrasse Galette. It was all sensational, and I'm pretty sure all in attendance left the weekend with an altered opinion on wrasse! Congrats to Liam for winning with his insanely tasty ceviche!

 

The dishes! Photo courtesy of Ryan Francis.

 

For those that enjoyed Banana in My Sweet Wrasse, or would like to try it out sometime, beneath I'll leave the wrasscipe. Honestly, the dish was awesome, but my plan was to add so much other stuff it would over-power the wrasse. I definitely didn't bring to the table the same level of skill that the others did, but I'll happily cook it up again, and it was not a difficult dish to put together. All cooked in a single fry pan!

 

 

BANANA IN MY SWEET WRASSE 

 

Ingredients:

1 Bluethroat wrasse, filleted and diced

1 big onion, chopped up

Pack of Tassie bacon, diced

2 bananas, sliced.

1 tin of crushed pineapple

1 jar of KanTong pineapple sweet & sour cooking sauce

1 tin of coconut cream

Splash of olive oil

Sprinkle of chilli powder/flakes

Sprinkle of lemon pepper

Sprinkle of mixed herbs

Packet of nacho chips (alternative: rice)



Method:

1. Get the pan hot, splash in oil and add onions to brown.

2. Throw in bacon, brown it up.

3. Slap dat wrasse in dat pan.

4. When wrasse flesh has gone white, throw in the crushed pineapple, cooking sauce, and coconut cream. Splash a bit of your beer in the jars to get all the goodness out.

5. The sweet wrasse will be overly moist at this point. Crack another beer (or whatever beverage you prefer), sit back, and keep stirring while the liquid evaporates and the juices condense.

6. Sprinkle on some chilli powder, lemon pepper, and mixed herbs to taste.

7. Once you're happy with the thickness, insert your banana into that sweet wrasse. Stir through.

8. Crack open nacho chips and dip away. A great single pan dish! Alternatively, cook up some rice and plate up.


Cheers again to all the awesome people who camped out this weekend. Was super fun, and I hope to dive with you all again down the track. Anyone reading this that wants to get in on future spearo meetups, get over to the Tas Spearos Facebook group. Got an awesome wrasscipe of your own? Share it in the comments!

Tuesday, 24 November 2020

An Unusual Journey to Paradise

After a rough start to 2019, we entered 2020 ready to make it our year. Our plan was to return to Tasmania and settle down in the Burnie region. Well, we made it to Tassie, but settling in Burnie didn't quite work out. No worries, I don't think 2020 has actually gone to plan for anyone!

When we arrived, we stayed with our good mate Rachel. The plan was for a month while we figured ourselves out. We both got a start working... then Covid happened. The jobs disappeared, the state went into lockdown, and things weren't looking too bright. Despite the situation, we continued looking for a rental to call our own, and Burnie yielded knock-back after knock-back. We then broadened our rental applications to stretch across the state. Due to this, we ended up getting a lease for a quirky little house in a town called Bicheno. 


 

Now, we had been to Bicheno before. Sure. We drove through it between visiting the Bay of Fires and Freycinet National Park back in 2018. Our memory of the place was minimal. What we did remember, however, was how awesome the coastline north and south of the place was. At time of writing, we've lived here for almost 5 months, and I honestly feel like we are living in paradise. 

We initially started travelling around Australia in search of that perfect place to call home. While the actual concept of the perfect place has certainly changed over the years (2013 Cameron would not have been able to accept living nowhere near a good dropzone!), we both often randomly announce how much we love living here. We have ocean views from our lounge room, less than an hour from Freycinet National Park (which I adore), I love exploring the coastline—to both the north and south—for amazing locations, and I have caught many super-tasty fish spearfishing within a kilometre of the house we rent, and many of the locations I'm discovering.

Yep, spearfishing. That has become my passion this year. I'd been out with my good mate Dane many times in NSW, just snorkelling on nice days while he shot a few fish. I'd taken a few shots, but none that landed. That was until the 28th of December 2019, when I shot a holed up blackfish. It was an easy shot that anyone could have taken, but it felt super good. It was also the 30th anniversary of my pop's passing, a man whom I never got a chance to know, but was quite the avid hunter, fisher, and spearfisher. 

After moving to Bicheno, I had to get in the water. It's crystal clear here. But, oddly enough, bloody cold in winter. I ended up getting a wetsuit, then some spearfishing gear, and have been constantly improving my abilities to provide a top feed of fish and abalone. Anyways, I do intend to go into my journey as a beginner spearo in another post! Oh, I also got an old Rav4 to be my spearfishing transport. Again, not quite a troopy, but it's not a bad little buzzbox!

While the state had its borders up, I completed a Graduate Certificate in Tourism, Environment and Cultural Heritage, a semester-long course with University of Tasmania. And now have a casual bar gig to keep me honest between shooting fish. 

Not much travelling happening now, which I'm perfectly ok with given the world's issues, but I am super-happy with how 2020 has panned out for myself, and I know that Jeni feels the same! 

On another note, the Tasmanian borders have recently opened. I must confess, I do have a slight fear of another outbreak, however, it is good that others are getting a chance to enjoy this island that has been Covid free while most other places have not. Will be amazing if tourism can boot back up and the state remains clear. Throughout the year, I've been coming up with ideas for tourism businesses. Perhaps I'll start one up sooner than later?

 

Tuesday, 17 November 2020

End of 2018 -- What About 2019?

Well, would you look at that? We've been absolute slackers and not posted since our trip to Magnetic Island in 2018. Better late than never!

After leaving Tassie early in 2018, we were keen for some warmer climates. Our trip up the east coast was full of adventure—seeing apostles, sea-turtle hatchlings, and platypus—ending in Palmerston (just south of Darwin). Jeni landed a job she'd always wanted: lifeguarding. I slowed down on the writing and opted to get back behind the bar, working in a club.

At first, the weather up there was a nice change from that of Queenstown, Tas. Then it got hot. And hotter. And bloody humid! I found myself hiding in aircon (at home and at work) more than I thought I would. Stupid body, getting older and not acclimatising as fast as it has in the past! We did get out and have some fun, but we spent a lot of the time working.

The Beer Can Regatta is an event that happens once a year. This is a race that involves watercraft... made out of beer cans!

 
Litchfield National Park is one of the must see parks of the top end. It's of a decent size. We spent a couple of days exploring the various parts of the place.

 


While 2020 has been an incredibly bad year for many, 2019 had a rough start for us. In January, the bar I worked at (Palmerston Sports Hub) shut down. Not long after that, we were unable to register Rocky (our troopy) due to the surface rust getting a bit much. Then, not much longer after that, we had to vacate our share-accommodation. Homeless, jobless, and troopyless, we decided to fly back to NSW and plan where we wanted to head to next... after a trip to America! I did mention that we worked a lot, and it was time we enjoyed ourselves!

I'd initially semi-planned for this trip to go ahead not long after the club shut down, purchasing a ticket on the 2019 Writing Excuses Cruise. After coming home and having a few beers with my good mate Dane, it was decided that this cruise would be preceded by a USA west-coast road trip!
 
We had quite a blast on that trip, starting with a few margaritas in LA, a quick daytrip to Compton, explored a few NPs, like Yosemite, Zion, and the Grand Canyon, and experienced some iconic places like the Hoover Dam, Vegas, and Houston's NASA base. The cruise was also a lot of fun, and I met some incredibly talented writers. I could go on, but you're here for info on Australia, not America, right? Fair enough! 
 
After our USA trip we ended up buying a Mazda 3 (not quite a troopy...), packed all our stuff inside, and set off to settle down back in Tasmania. So how did 2020 actually kick off for us? I'll type that up for the next post!