The weekend just gone saw the Geelong Freedivers pack up cars and head interstate for this years camping trip. After polling our members it was decided that we would head to Eden NSW.
I awoke bleary eyed at 5am Friday morning to finish packing the Ranger with the aim of picking up people and being on the road by 6am to beat the morning traffic and get to Eden in time for an afternoon dive. As always things didn’t do to plan after having issues hitching a camper trailer, I was watching the sky get brighter and the fear of being stuck in peak hour traffic getting stronger. We eventually got it sorted and drove to Grovedale to grab another member and were on the highway around 7:30, only an hour and a half behind schedule already.
Thankfully we only got the tail end of the traffic in Melbourne and then had a pretty smooth journey the rest of the way with minimal pit stops and hardly any traffic. I sure noticed the drop in performance over the great alpine road with 4 people, packed tub and camper attached!
We arrived at the Bittangabee camping grounds around 4:30 and promptly headed straight to the water to have a look. Seeing the sun very low over the mountains we decided it would be wise to set up camp with the little light that was left and to leave the diving for the morning. This is when we realised that the sites that i booked were just for tents and that we couldn’t get the camper trailer onto the site! After studying the angles between poles, trees and parked vehicles, Julian thought we could manage to squeeze it through a gap which my reversing skills would never allow! So we unhitched the trailer and pushed it through and onto the site and finished setting up our tents and got a fire started.
The first night was baited with anticipation for the following day and the pleasure of being out under the stars, cooking dinner over the fire and stuffing bananas with chocolate and baking them in the coals for dessert. The smell of dessert was enough for the locals to lower their guard and come into the camp site, even nearly jumping in our laps!
As we were starting to think about heading off to sleep we checked the time only to see it was 7:30(!), at which point we had a thought for the Nam’s and Timon who had only just left Melbourne and had a long night drive ahead of them. We ended up staying up for a while longer having a couple cold ones around the fire sharing stories and eventually headed off to be well rested for an early start in the morning.
The Nam’s and Timon however were just starting their journey taking shifts driving and sleeping while we were getting the best sleep of our adult lives. They arrived at the camp grounds at 4am, couldn’t find which site was ours and ended up sleeping in the car.
The sun and birds came up at 6am and the day was started, we stoked up the fire to cook some bacon, eggs and sausages for breaky on toasted rolls with some mushrooms and black pudding. The late travellers somehow managed to wake up after just 2 hours sleep and join us as we decided what we were going to do for the day.
Despite camping right next to the water we decided to jump back in the cars and drive another 30 minutes to get to a 4×4 track and 15 minutes down to the end of that just to park the cars, load our gear up on our shoulders and trek 2km to the desired spot to try and bag some kings.
From the surface the location and water looked spectacular and once we got in the water we weren’t disappointed. Flat surface, crystal 15m viz and abundant fish life made for a very enjoyable day in the water. Swimming out to the point we were amazed at the amount of bait fish as well as the others, it was a real challenge not to to shoot anything while we waited for kings. We got some nice depth really quick with some amazing ledges and drop offs which were prime for sniping from.
After a number of hours we decided to stop waiting for kings and to start targeting other species. We saw lots of species we have back home but mainly stayed away from them to target fish that we don’t find back home with the blue, red and jackass morwongs high on that list. We spent lots of drops sitting down around the 15m mark stuck in indecision on which fish to shoot, what a problem to have!
After about 7 or 8 hours in the water we finally noticed the sun getting low on the horizon and decided to call it quits. This is when we finally noticed that we had skipped lunch so Nam decided to have some trevally sashimi on the rocks.
I thought the hike down to the beach was killer but it is so much worse going uphill after a full days diving and with extra kg’s of fish on your back. Needless to say we got back to camp in full dark and proceeded to cook dinner, a bit of a surf n turf with red morwong and trevally sashimi, blue morwong cooked in the coals, squid fired on the hotplate along with Peters famous snags and flame grilled steaks.
We enjoyed another night sitting around the campfire sharing stories, not of dives gone by but each persons account for the day. We turned in early again thinking of a morning dive and dreading the long trip home, the trip was way too short.
Once again we were up with the sun and the birds, Julian and Nam got their rods out and tried their luck fishing off the rocks while the rest of us stayed at camp and cooked breakfast over the fire, eggs, mushrooms and snags in toasted rolls. Today we decided to try different methods, the Nam’s and Timon stayed and dived bittangabee bay while Danny, Julain and I decided to drive another 30 minutes away (but no hike thankfully!) to chase some bonito.
Bittangabee had slight overcast conditions but no swell and water that was crystal clear. The estuary mouth didn’t have much going on but as you went out further there were some big drop offs with heaps of red morwongs and luderick and the deep gullys had a nice boarfish at the end. Interesting was seeing a few ship wrecks. On a mission to get an eastern rock lobster Nam was checking some big ledges to no avail just seeing big urchins and giant cuttles hiding for shelter.
They decided to come in at 1pm which just happened to be when the sun came out and wind dropped down and died completely. They finished off with a bit of lunch before heading back to Melbourne.
On the hunt for Bonito Danny and Julian tried a different spot, still a little drive away but not as much 4×4 as the previous day and from the carpark we had an awesome view.
Once we got down to the water we saw flocks of birds diving and feeding out from shore which just increased the excitement! With conditions very similar to the day before there were similar species (and salmon) and numbers of them but we were here for Bonito. Diving the big ledges and drop off was fun and a mixture of ground which included sandy patches. There was plenty of bonito but they weren’t hanging around. They would flying, smashing some bait fish and then get out of there quick never presenting a shot.
What seemed like cutting the dive short we got back in the car and sadly hit the road about 3pm and started the trek back home. Driving down the road and watching Eden disappear in the rear view mirror I nearly hd to wipe a tear from my eye, it is such a magical place and one weekend is not nearly long enough to spend there.
We finally made it back to Geelong at 11:30pm to drop Danny off and head back down the peninsula to drop off Julian and get home to a much needed shower and in bed by 12:30 trying to sleep thinking of the awesome diving in Eden and dreading going back to daily life in a few short hours.