About this time last year the Territory Taste team, headed by our fearless publisher, packed a couple of cars full of gin, vodka, beer and very little food and headed down to Crab Claw Resort for a weekend of fishing, drinking, exploring, drinking, drinking and drinking. (There was also a little bit of eating. I’m fairly sure we split a packet of Cheese Supreme Doritos at about 2am on the Sunday morning.) Despite the dry mouths, splitting headaches and loss of various expensive bits of fishing equipment, we all agreed that this would be a super-fun thing to do again, this time at Skippers Beachfront Sanctuary at Dundee. And with the advantage of some proper food.
Thanks to some extreme but very welcome over-catering by Cannon’s Kitchen, our publisher’s luxury 4WD was so overloaded with food it was in serious danger of getting bogged on the way down. (On sealed roads no less). The supplies, however, were necessary; our plan was to spend the entire weekend kicking back, relaxing and not worrying about whose turn it was to burn the sausages. While it would have been wonderful to have relied on our self-described Fishing Experts Greg, Ed and Nick to provide dinner for the group after their all-day fishing trip on the Saturday, prior experience told us this was a foolish assumption indeed, so Cannon’s it was.
Our publisher and Greg were the first to arrive early on the Friday afternoon, and passed their first couple of hours sending envyinducing snaps of chilled beers by the pool. The rest of us had banked on skiving off early as well, shutting up shop at 2pm and making hasty exits, but somewhat predictably there was a flurry of studio activity in the latter part of the day. My suggestion that we just stop answering the phone, turn off all the lights and pretend that we weren’t there by actually being not there wasn’t a terribly popular one, ergo despite our best efforts the earliest anyone else managed to get away was well after 4pm.
The promise of complimentary food and accommodation had enticed my associate Laverne to accompany me on the trip; unfortunately she finished work even later which meant the second half of our journey was completed in near-total darkness. This is not so scary in a 4WD, but when you’re driving a chiko roll with wheels whose windscreen is the exact height of the wallaby you will probably hit, one gets a little nervy. Inevitably, we were nearly there when we turned off the main road at the wrong end of Balander Drive, which lead to an incredibly tense approach along what seemed like four million miles of rock-strewn track in the dark while we bickered over whether we were going in the right direction. This was of course entirely my own fault as I had not bothered to read the directions that had been emailed the previous day. (For the record, Namarada Drive runs parallel and is sealed the whole way.)
We were the last to arrive, dusty, sore and irritable; everyone else was settled on the deck at the massive outdoor table with cold drinks, tasty nibbles and cheery dispositions. The vibe was infectious and we relaxed at once and settled in with a couple of cold ones. Before long we were feasting on rich, cheesy lasagne, a dazzling array of salads, a fancy little potato bake and a very tasty shiraz.
Laverne, our publisher and I bounced out of our beds early the next day to get a decent walk in before it got too hot, and busted the Fishing Experts pilfering the shared supplies in preparation for their day on the water. They’d already packed the boat, helping themselves to half of the chicken wraps, all of the brownies and a good three quarters of the beer. No worries lads, as long as you bring back enough barra to feed the whole party …
The boys were out until late afternoon, and in a stunning display of their overwhelming commitment to mediocrity, caught absolutely nothing. Zilch. Zero. Nil. Not even a teensy little catfish or a ticked-off sting ray. On the upside, they hadn’t lost any equipment so were doing better than they had at Crab Claw the year before, and it did give the rest of us the opportunity to tease them mercilessly which, to their credit, they copped with fairly good humour.
Meanwhile, our newest Territory Taste member Sukran, who I might mention had never been in a tinnie before, let alone cast a line, went out for barely an hour with the hubby of another team member, staying within site of the deck the whole time, and came back with a very decent snapper and boasting rights for the rest of the weekend.
While the boys were out, us girls donned bathers, hats and lashings of sunscreen and climbed into the pool (which is actually an above-ground converted shipping container with elevated decking) with a jug of gin and Pimms. It was all going swimmingly (see what I did there) until little Sally, the fouryear- old daughter of one of our party and a bit of a show pony to boot, managed to creep unnoticed along the edge of the pool on the bit that wasn’t fenced. By the time we realised where she’d ended up she was in quite a precarious position. ‘SALLY!’ shouted our publisher, who hadn’t had quite as much Pimms and lemonade. ‘SALLY! STOP RIGHT THERE OR YOU’LL FALL!’.
Little Sally grinned, threw her arms in the air like a gymnast completing a successful dismount, lost her balance and fell.
It looked for a second like she might pitch headfirst into the pool, but with a little extra wobble and a surprised sort of look she tipped backwards and, without so much of a squeak of protest, vanished from sight.
It took a nanosecond for what had just occurred to sink in, then every adult as one abandoned their beverages and lurched towards the edge of the pool with shouts and yells of fright, only to find that little Sally had somehow managed to land on her feet and was giggling at her good fortune. Within half a minute she and her eight remaining lives had skittered back around the perimeter and up the steps, ready to launch herself back into both the water and center stage.
Later in the afternoon Laverne, our publisher and myself moseyed over to Dundee Lodge to check out the local markets. While not quite as large and varied as Mindil, we did acquire some excellent preserves (the banana and rum jam was unexpectedly delicious) and invested in a green plastic cricket set which was later utilised in an epic sunset test match on the rolling lawns where the rules were made up as we went along by the children and seemingly skewed in their favour.
As night fell on the second evening our publisher, in a moment of pure classiness, introduced us all to wine in a can. I can tell you with supreme confidence that the bouquet does not improve when poured into another vessel; glass, plastic or otherwise. Fortunately we had plenty of real wine and it flowed freely for the next six hours.
Skippers proprietor Owie Paroz pulled out his guitar and had us requesting all the classic singalong tunes like a bunch of giggling girls at a hen’s do. We belted out hit after hit: American Pie, Piano Man, Bohemian Rhapsody … the only karaoke classic seemingly beyond Owie’s talents was the Grease Megamix. To top it all off, Laverne put in an incredibly enthusiastic effort with the backing vocals that ensured we all had a slightly off-key rendition of Walking in Memphis stuck in our heads for the next three weeks. We all went home on the Sunday hot and hungover, but happy.