Monday 14 July 2014

Montebello Islands - Hermite Island

Hermite anchorage
I’ll start this post by announcing I caught a Snapper. Susie made a meal out of it fit for a King. It was cooked in a sweet chilli & garlic sauce and served with mash potato. I couldn’t think of a better start to our visit to the Montebello’s, as Susie puts it, we accepted an offering from the sea. Quite a different environment here compared to the Pilbara coast. Not so much red, lots of sandstone and green spinifex bush. 

The French navigator, Baudin, who spent 4 years surveying the West Aussie coast before 1820, named the group after a one of Napoleon’s victories. Maybe that’s why the Brits were keen to blow them up.

View from the hill

We hiked the first day, exploring a shack (for rangers who weren’t there) and going further afield to investigate the remains of a building on a hill top. We endured a long march over rocky coast and spikey spinifex bush to get there. Shorts and thongs aren’t the best attire.. By its location on the highest hill with sweeping views of the bomb sites to the northern end of the island group, this was the British HQ for the blasts. It was big day on land and left us licking our wounds, I drew blood from those spinifex things.

Brit's HQ, ministry for blowing things up.

Closer to the HQ
Inside the HQ, 60 years of corrosion

HQ's view, the bomb sites on the horizon, 7 or 8 miles away.
Out to sea to the East, Dampier is 70 miles that way.
After 2 nights at the anchorage too much chop was coming through the entrance so we decided to move to another lagoon, at high tide we motored two miles deeper within Hermite Island and dropped anchor in a place called Willy Nilly Lagoon, taking care to anchor on the right side of the border of the sanctuary zone as I’d still like to fish off the boat, legally. The place was protected from all sides, the scenery was stunning, it was perfect.

I caught something very similar to a Garfish, little boney for our taste though.

Next day we found a trail on the island, twin track, I think for ATV’s rather than 4WD’s. It wasn’t a well used trail and was mostly overgrown. So we followed it to the west coast where, on top of a cliff, we ate our usual hiking lunch, cans of beans and corn. This time we wore proper hiking boots and jeans to keep the spinifex at bay, what a difference the right gear makes! We made 3 big hikes while there, finding beautiful lagoons and beaches teeming with wildlife. These beaches wouldn’t be to the beachcombers liking though. Step into the water and creatures from under the sand would suddenly startle and bolt. Usually small stingrays and there is always some creature leaping out of the water. Some places we saw small sharks gliding in the shallows. On one beach in a lagoon, dinghy’ing ashore, we picked a patch of sand between some rocks, then the rocks, as the hull glided onto the sand, about 18 of them lifted and shot away. They were a school of stingrays! So when entering water, it pays to stamp your foot making a splash, it gives any creature in the sand nearby time to scoot, since they are all afraid of us humans, even the sharks.  

New location, Willy Nilly Lagoon.

How many stingrays in this pic?
8 or 9?

West coast cliffs, viewing the Northern Indian Ocean

On remotest islands on remotest contingent, Susie still texting...
Nearby Barrow Island has a 4G tower, but reception is still rare.

After promising to throw back any more Garfish, I caught another Snapper. Those little lures from Onslow must be working.

A plus for the strong currents up here, I don’t need to do the twice daily rearranging of the solar panels on deck. I’d leave them set on the port side, at midday the tide would turn and slowly swing the boat around to follow the sun which was passing it’s zenith. By dawn next day the tide had considerately positioned the boat to catch the morning rays. Nothing to do.

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