by Tony Troughear
this article originally appeared in The Newcastle Herald
It's a long story but, briefly, Sam Aboud had a
cattle station in the Nambucca Valley, just north of Port Macquarie, that
was going nowhere. He took off for Brazil to try ranching, but he didn't
fancy it and came back with a wife instead.
Back home, Sam and Irlange scoured the mid-north
coast to find a place where they could get away from cattle farming and
into some kind of a resort. After a while it hit them - they already had
the best place they were ever likely to get. It just needed a bit of work.
Fifteen years and three children later you have
to see the place to believe it.
It's like this: you're in the centre of a 405
hectare(1000 acre)station. Hills surround you on all sides, covered in
rainforest. In the round valley lies a lake, deep and wide, with a
profusion of water lilies in it and gardens surrounding it.
hillside are self-contained cabins and by the lake are a small, exclusive
restaurant and a big room for games and relaxation.
Down below is a corral
where Sam brings the horses when they are not out grazing on the hills or
in the forests. Cattle roam the hillsides, too. Sam couldn't give them up,
That's the bare bones of it. This is what it is really like: We
arrive at the gate and drive over the cattle grid. Suddenly there is a
vista of round, rolling hills, lying like slaughtered horses. So solid and
heavy. Forested valleys run down between them and the road goes on along
the top of one of the ridges; still no habitation in sight.
We round a
bend and see a large house on a hill some way off. Ah, here's the place,
we think. But no, that is Sam and irlange's house. Near it, a little girl
(their daughter Lauren) walking by the road, informs us boldly the
"daddy is down at the resort" and points ahead.
Just past the
house and office we emerge at the top of a very large incline and - whoa!-
that is a resort. Photographs cannot fit it all in. It stretches all
before us and it's beautiful. The lake shines. Trees of all kinds dapple
the bowl of the valley.
We meet Sam and he is instantly likeable. You can
tell he is a talker and we listen then and later to a lot of his stories
(not all of them suitable for this article - ask him yourself). In fact,
Sam is a polymath.
But he installs us in one of the cabins on the hill.
It's self-contained, with a kitchen, ensuite and wood heater. And as night
settles in and the sun sinks behind the western wall of rainforest hills,
everything goes quiet. Very quiet.
Far away some ducks honk briefly and
that's it. There's a television but you'd be a fool to switch it on. We
drink in the silence of the night and watch from our veranda the swirl of
the heavy dew in the autumn air, encapsulated in the miniature grandeur of
this home valley of Bakers Creek Station.
In the morning everything is still. The mirror
surface of the lake is just beginning to ripple and the orchestra of the
bush is stoking up: whip birds, bellbirds, currawongs and whole choir of
kookaburras. The valley echoes and focuses them. And in the background a
pervasive twittering of small birds.
There is no other sound. No distant
hum of traffic. No babble of voices. A kookaburra skims the lake. It feels
like dawn will be eternal here, the hot coffee by your side will steam
forever. Eleven ridges can be seen from our veranda, running down to the
valley floor. This station, for Sam and Irlange a mission, a quest, is for
us the renewal of life - the way it was meant to be. Over the next two
days we walk, ride and canoe all around this hage and varied place. The
gardens and pathways go on and on, the complex system of lakes and
billabongs winds through the valley.
This place is so big that not only
can you get away from the world here but you can get away from the centre
of the station itself. You can walk to the horizon and still be in it.
midday, from our veranda, a speck in the distance on a far ridge, through
the binoculars, turns out to be a lone old horse, grazing slowly and
quietly in the midday shade.
A waterhen pecks slowly along the verge of
one of the billabongs, not knowing we are spying on it. The birds are
skittish here; this is no suburban picnic ground. In the early afternoon a
trick of the light turns all the water lily leaves into shining silver.
There is so much variety.
And apart from the beautiful Australian plants
and animals there are other pleasures. We didn't get around to fishing in
the well-stocked lake. And we only went to the Billabong Restaurant once.
This is a world-of-its-own sort of place, With a menu devised, cooked and
served by none other than Sam Aboud. I said he was a polymath. As with his
horseriding, botany and philosophy, Sam is good at cooking. Don't stand on
his small, but comprehensive kitchen garden at the door of the restaurant.
These will go with the fish you have doubtless caught in the lake today.
The restaurant is open for outside visitors and recently a group came for
lunch, but refused to leave. They were still there at 6pm sitting on the
log seats outside near the lake.
There is a lot else to say about Bakers
Creek Station, but Sam puts it this way: "Many people try to explain
what it's like here, but can't."
at Bakers Creek
NSW Fishing Monthly
Nestled into the head of a valley in the foothills of the Great Divide
inland of Macksville, Bakers Creek Station could best be described as
'boutique' bass fishery--but what a boutique.
If you're tempted at the thought of a private fishery for bass to about
1.5kg in lily-fringed dams set in a stunningly landscaped valley, read on.
And if you like the idea of luxurious accommodation within a short cast of
the lakes, and fine dining in the classy restaurant with fish swimming
only metres away, Bakers Creek Station is for you.
Two intercommected dams, totalling about seven hectare (18 acres) contain
around 10,000 bass, as well as some big silver perch. The bass are dark,
fat, fit and aggressive. Nylex two-person lightweight poly canoes are
available to get guests out on the water and while a small, stable dinghy
would suit the less nimble, the canoes are fine for most people to explore
these beautiful dams. Or you can venture out on foot and follow the trails
around most of the lakes' perimeters.
Sam Aboud and family took over Bakers Creek Station about 25 years ago
and, after working it as a cattle property for many years, he had a vision
of sharing this paradise valley with other people. He put in a 2ha dam 12
years ago, then two or three years later boosted it to a seven-hectare
lake. After an initial stocking of silver perch, Sam began stocking with
bass around seven years ago.
A number of semi-detached villas were built, each featuring quality
accommodation for couples or families, and the lakeside restaurant topped
off the attraction.
Then Sam tagged a number of bass. Catching a fish with a blue tag will
earn the angler all his or her accommodation for free. Catch a red-tagged
fish and you'll get one night's accommodation paid for, and a white tag is
worth a dinner for two in the restaurant. If ever there were an excuse to
go fishing, this provides it!
NSWFM South West Rocks writer Phil Bennett and I sampled Sam's hospitality
while the area was in the grip of drought and still managed to catch fish
despite the curse of all bass anglers, a low barometer accompanied by a
southerly breeze. As the sun went down, we had an interesting surface bite
going in the top lake, whose waters were stained dark buy clear.
Vegetation in the top lake is a little more lush, with quite a few species
of water plants which don't appear in the lower lake.
Both bodies have plenty of lily pads to provide
shade, ambush cover and aquatic life for the fish and some interesting
casting. While there were few free rises, I had enough willing strikes on
my soft surface lure to appreciate what a hot scene this could be on a
warm, still summer evening.
Unfortunately, Sam had diligently removed almost the timber before
constructing the earthworks for the dam, a move he now somewhat regrets in
the light of the additional structure sunken snags would provide. But with
all those lily pads and other vegetation to provide cover from predatory
birds, it's only a minor thing.
What wasn't minor was the feed we had in the lakeside restaurant that
night. While a chef normally provides for BCS guests in season, we were
the only ones there during the pre-Christmas lull and Sam looked after us
himself, plying us with good conversation, home-made sweet potato crisps,
rack of lamb with Davidson native plum sauce, potatoes and crisp garden
So generous were the servings that we had no room for
dessert, although the blackboard menu announced a whole heap of goodies to
force down, including sticky date pudding wattle seed caramel sauce. The
menu also announced that this was a top place to eat, with prime local
meats and seafood accompanied by sauces with distinctively bush-tucker
flavours. Hmm, this is starting to sound like the Good Food Lover's guide
to Bass Fishing.
But BCS isn't just for high rollers--you can cook in your villa's
excellent kitchen or you can even pitch a tent and set up a campfire--it's
just a great place to have fun the way you'd like to.
Additional attractions include a games room with pool table and table
tennis, a tennis court, a golf driving range, 15 acre of gardens with many
trees and plants labelled, miles of walking trails and clear, soft waer in
the lakes for swimming and a pontoon to laze on. Bakers Creek Station also
offers horse riding on many kilometres of lowland and mountain trails.
Then, of course, there's always the original Pub With No Beer at Taylors
Arm, a few kilometres down the road.
Article By DENNIS
Associated Press Writer
TAYLORS ARM, Australia (AP) When the bottom dropped out of the beef
market, Sam Aboud decided to try mustering tourists at his Bakers Creek
Now visitors seeking tranquility and a rest from their cell phones --
coverage doesn't extend to Aboud's rural oasis --are heading to his hidden
The entrance to Bakers Creek Station looks like any other sprawling
property along a winding, dusty road about half an hour's drive off
Australia's busy Pacific Highway: a Texas-style cattle gate sunk into the
ground to keep the cows in and an old milk can as a mailbox.
After driving down the path and beyond the home of Sam and his
Brazilian-born wife Irlange, the reason why the Abouds decided to create
their small resort becomes apparent.
A sloping road with steep drop-offs leads visitors into a 1,000-acre
(403-hectare) valley with a man-made 18-acre (7.5-hectare) lake stocked
with fish, decorated with native Australian flora --most of them planted
by Aboud himself--and rolling hills, some with rain forests, as a
To complete the picture, Aboud built six well-appointed cabins and two
bunkhouses, a games room that features snooker and table tennis, a tennis
court, canoes on the lake, fishing rods for the willing and a cozy
There are no televisions or telephones in the rooms and no mobile phone
towers for miles, so anyone looking for a complete break from the hectic
pace of life can find it -- 475 kilometers (295 miles) north of Sydney, a
comfortable 5 1-2-hour drive.
"We call it our hidden valley," says Aboud, who gave up on
the cattle business about 15 years ago.
After scouring Australia for a suitable site for a small-scale tourist
venture, Aboud finally realized he was already sitting on it.
"We knew what we wanted to do, but we wanted a good
location," said Aboud. "We looked all over the place, then
realized we had everything we wanted right here -- no through roads or
neighbors, and a catchment area for a lake."
Hundreds of thousands of dollars later, Aboud created the lake now
stocked with bass and perch-- he offers a free fish dinner in his
restaurant to any "accomplished" fisherman who doesn't catch one
from the lake.
Aboud, who studied horticulture, planted most of the trees on the
property grown in his own nursery. The jack-of-all-trades even cooks the
meals in the restaurant, saying he gave up about 18 months ago on
"chefs who didn't really want to work."
The maximum capacity at Bakers Creek Station is 24 guests, but Aboud
will soon build two new cabins to increase the load to 32 in an attempt to
improve his small conference business. Midweek visits in the offseason
could result in guests having the resort to themselves.
"We don't mind either way," says Aboud. "We have periods
here when we are extremely busy and don't stop for days."
Cabins featuring queen-size beds, a CD player, wood stove, fully
equipped kitchen and a large verandah that overlooks the lake makes the
going even easier.
The privacy is delightful -- nothing but the sounds of birds and the
intermittent braying of a donkey, interrupted only by a visit to the cabin
from "chef" Aboud about an hour before dinner to go over that
Two hours later, wholesome steamed vegetables and Aboud's special
grilled bruschetta is served ahead of lamb rack with Davidson plum sauce
from the station's fruit trees. He also grows his owns herbs and
incorporates fruit from native trees and bushes on the property into the
Billabong Restaurant menu that also includes fish and steak.
Aboud started the resort as a horse-riding operation, buying a dozen
horses and saddles to offer scenic escorted rides in the region. He
continues to offer the horse outings, including a two-hour ride up steep
terrain and valleys that take in a good chunk of the property.
The closest community of Taylors Arm has the famous "Pub with No
Beer," but very little in the way of groceries. The Pub with No Beer,
less commonly known as the 1903-built Cosmopolitan Hotel, was made famous
in a song by legendary Australian country singer Slim Dusty, who lamented
that wartime beer rations and the community's thirst for the brew had
combined to force the pub to regularly run out of beer.