Spears, Cheers, Jeers...and Tears

Kangaroo Island Travel Blog

 › entry 7 of 11 › view all entries
Western River Cove just after sunrise
Cramming 4 people into the cab of a small pickup truck is DUMB. So, naturally, that's what we did (if you''re just joining us, it's friday afternoon and Rachel, Mary, and Anthony have just picked me up to go camping/spear fishing).

We arrived at Western River Cove, a beach on the north coast of Kangaroo Island, gently opened the door, and fell out onto the ground with a collective groan of relief. Looking around we could see one camping site at the end of the road next to the foot bridge and...that's all.  One site. And it's not even close to the beach, which is where we all want to camp. The only way to get to the beach is to cross the foot bridge over the river and make your way through the sand dunes.
Lean Mean Spearing Machine. the fish were too busy laughing to realize i was there to kill them.
only problem with that is that we brought everything but the kitchen sink (only because someone forgot it). We'd be crazy to haul all that stuff that far up and over sand dunes.

So, three trips each and some very sore arms later, all of our gear is in the middle of the dunes and we are quite satisfied with ourselves. Cue the rain. YES! We quickly set up camp just in time for it to stop raining. It's getting on 4pm and the sun will set in a couple hours so Mary and i decide going spear fishing while Rachel and Anthony laugh at us is the greatest idea ever. Anthony draws a fish in the sand, gives me some quick spearing instructions, and i put on my ridiculously small "3/4" length wetsuit that they've so graciously let me borrow (everyone else has their own full length wetsuit.
Rod Fishing. i did not partake...because rod fishing is boring tothemax.
..haha let's watch the American freeze). 3/4 length my foot! this thing doesn't even cover half my body. Which is perfect because who needs legs and arms anyway? I say let them fall off.

After a quick photo-op Mary and i walk down to the rocks, jump in, paddle around the bay, and catch nothing. My first spearing attempt is a failure, but at least i'm absolutely freezing. If you're ever up for a challenge, try this: go paddling around in the Southern Australian ocean in the middle of winter, wearing half a wetsuit, for 45 minutes and then try to get out of said wetsuit and into dry clothes, shivering enough to start a small earthquake and completely unable to feel your feet or hands. It's the best!

In all honesty though, i loved stalking a fish through the water with a 7-foot spear.
Mid Morning Fishing. i took this because Mary was about to fall over...she didn't, but it's a sweet photo anyway.
It beats the crap out of sitting around with a rod, waiting for the fish to come to you. I actually like fishing and i'm not 7 years old! I was definitely looking forward to the next day when we would all go out as the sun was at its zenith and i'd actually have a chance of warming up.

That night we ate extremely fresh sheep chops (delicious!) and everyone froze except for me because i have a fleece sleeping bag and they don't. Saturday morning the others went rod fishing while i chainsawed a dead tree (didn't i tell you we brought everything?), made a fire, and explored the rocky coast. After a bit of breakfast cooked over my fantastic fire, we all suited up for spear fishing--Rachel, Mary and Anthony in their full length wetsuits, hoods, gloves, and booties, and me in my.
Bryan + Ocean = Contentment. while others are rod fishing, i am off taking pictures of myself, hair glimmering in the morning sun (vomit)
..loincloth. I have officially been dubbed the Crazy American because not a one of them would dare brave the winter ocean in the pitiful attire i have dressed myself in. They certainly wouldn't do it twice. Whatever, i'm killing a fish with a rubber-tubing-propelled-spear if it takes me all day and costs me my precious limbs!

Somehow the water feels even colder than it did the evening before even though the sun is shining. Everything that shouldn't be shriveled, is, but i paddle away with high hopes anyway, looking for my first victim. Anthony calls me over and points out a large blue fish that he thinks i should have a go at. The water is shallow enough that i don't have to duck-dive for it so i give a few kicks of my rinky-dink swim fins and float slowly toward it. Grabbing the rubber loop at the base of my spear i stretch the spear back to its loaded position.
Western River Cove, the only sand for miles on the rocky northern coast...nice.
The fish hasn't noticed me and i'm nearly a meter above him, so i decide to strike. I quickly plunge beneath the surface, aim, and release my shiny death missile. The spear hits Mr. Blue fish on his right side, but a slight miscalculation of distance has caused it to hit without enough velocity and it bounces off the fish who quickly darts off into the rocks. I surface and Anthony gives me a sympathetic look and says, "Better luck next time, mate." Shortly after my failure he points out another fish sitting on a rock about 10-15 feet below us. He says i should try and spear it, believing without a doubt that i will be unsuccessful. Au contrair mon ami...

I take a deep breath, swim stealthily down to the fish, ears screaming from the pressure of the deep water, load...aim.
see...it's all rocky and stuff.
..release...and impale the poor red and white striped bugger straight through the top of his head. The fish is not pleased with this at all, but there's not much you can do when you've got a 7-foot spear sticking out of your head. I return to the surface with my kill and Anthony, having watched the whole thing through his goggles in what seemed like slow motion, was ecstatic and amazed. He praised my "beautiful shot" calling me a "pro" and saying he couldn't have done it better and really didn't believe i would get him. I am pleased with myself...and am unaware that i still possess any functioning limbs.

The swim back to the shore to put the fish in the bucket was long and cold. I took a few moments to thaw out and, very wisely i thought, decided not to go back in. After all, i had speared my fish; i had proved myself; and i had put my poor frozen extremeties through quite enough for the day.
Tim and Anthony with the boat and tub-o-fish
My new Aussie friends were impressed that i had even gotten in the water, so the fact that i had actually caught a fish my first time spearing guaranteed me a harassment free weekend. Besides, they had plenty of jeering to do amongst themselves, for a battle was raging from the time the wetsuits were donned to see who could catch the biggest fish.

Tim, Rachel's dad, arrived with his boat about lunch time and the others did more spearing while Tim and i scurried back and forth between them in the boat, collecting their fish. Anthony thought he had surely won with his good sized Blue Grouper, but late in the day Rachel bagged a pretty large Silver Drummer (i'm naming the fish as if any of you care what they caught) that was not to be beaten. Anthony admitted defeat, but we're pretty sure he was crying on the inside.
The Mighty Beast. i totally slung a spear into this fish's head, seriously, how cool am i?
..actually, sobbing is more accurate. My magpie perch was definitely not the largest, and was easily not the smallest of the day, but it was surely the tastiest. I wrapped it in foil and buried it under the coals of the fire where it stewed in its own juices for about a half hour. The meat just fell off the bone and was unanimously decided to be...pretty good eatin'.

That night we played 'hide and seek but never find because it's way too dark and there's too many places to hide' in the dunes and the following day we explored the rocky coast on foot, packed up, and went home.

It was a great weekend and all made possible by the generous locals who have taken it upon themselves to rescue me from the farm whenever they can. I am eternally grateful.

For any of you who may be wondering if this sort of work exchange traveling is the way to go, consider this: I've seen numerous beautiful beaches, toured a good bit of Kangaroo Island, dab-netted squid in a flat-bottom boat, hunted wallabies on the back of a pickup truck, shook hands with (and even smooched) a kangaroo, chased cows, photographed seals and crazy rocks, and speared a fish with my own hands--and i've spent maybe $50 in the process, half of which was used to buy a battery charger for my camera.
A Bit Late for Apologies. trying to make up with a dead fish for spearing it in the face is a bit futile i guess.
Granted i've been very lucky to meet the people i have, but you never know what could happen until you give it a shot.

By the way, thanks to everyone for your great comments! knowing that you're enjoying my dribble makes it well worth all the time i spend putting these entries together.

catch ya later
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Western River Cove just after sunr…
Western River Cove just after sun…
Lean Mean Spearing Machine. the fi…
Lean Mean Spearing Machine. the f…
Rod Fishing. i did not partake...b…
Rod Fishing. i did not partake...…
Mid Morning Fishing. i took this b…
Mid Morning Fishing. i took this …
Bryan + Ocean = Contentment. while…
Bryan + Ocean = Contentment. whil…
Western River Cove, the only sand …
Western River Cove, the only sand…
see...its all rocky and stuff.
see...it's all rocky and stuff.
Tim and Anthony with the boat and …
Tim and Anthony with the boat and…
The Mighty Beast. i totally slung …
The Mighty Beast. i totally slung…
A Bit Late for Apologies. trying t…
A Bit Late for Apologies. trying …
campfire pictures are neat.
campfire pictures are neat.
Kangaroo Island North Coast. we we…
Kangaroo Island North Coast. we w…
...and most of it looks like this;…
...and most of it looks like this…
Kangaroo Island
photo by: Biedjee