Exuberant from our first experience of the magic of Arnhem Land and the Stunning Cobourg Peninsula we were back on the tourist run of Kakadu and bitumen of the Arnhem Highway our camp to be at Corroboree Park in relative civilisation, not something we had missed the last week we must say. It was however good to have a night off cooking and a fantastic meal at the adjoining tavern was a welcome relief. Next morning after a quick pack up of camp it was off to the famous ‘Jumping Crocodile Cruise’ along the Adelaide River.
This is a superb opportunity to see these magnificent, prehistoric creatures up close and personal albeit quite commercialised.
Following the hour long cruise and a civilised coffee at the onsite coffee shop it was back into the cruiser and heading south along a few short cut back roads before a swim at the delightful Edith Falls in the top section of Nitmiluk National Park en-route to our overnight camp back at Katherine with a chance to stock up on supplies and fuel for our next leg of the journey along the infamous Central Arnhem Road and the second part of our Arnhem Land adventure.
After leaving Katherine behind it isn’t long before we are airing down the tyres once again and striking north east along the rough, corrugated and bull dust ridden Central Arnhem Road. It is a long journey along here and the the enormity and isolation of the true Top End begins to unfold along its almost 750km to the bauxite mining town of Nhulunbuy on the edge of the Arafura Sea. You have to keep your wits about you along this 2 day drive with not only the road conditions changing in an instant but also the myriad of wild animals that call this place home and the giant road trains that ply these roads.
From buffalo to donkeys, horses, dingoes and much more you are likely to spot them all along the Central Arnhem Road, which is a real highlight. The locals even catch the wild buffalo whereby they are penned then shipped and sold to overseas markets, it has become a real commercial enterprise up here.
One of the highlight for our group on this long journey into East Arnhem Land was a chance to visit a school at Bulman and experience what life is like for the kids and teachers at this remote outpost.
After a serene bush camp beside the Wilton River we pulled into the bustling town of Nhulunbuy following 2 days of at times bone jarring corrugations and bull dust.
Nhulunbuy has all the facilities that you would expect of a country town and all ammenities are within easy walking distance. Camping is available behind the Walkabout Lodge in town with an excellent restaurant onsite available to satisfy the tastebuds. With a few days up our sleeve to explore this amazing place day 1 was spent checking out the local attractions including the Alumina loading facility that juts out into the Arafura Sea, the amazing beaches of the peninsula including Macassan where stone arrangements created by the Yolngu people depicting their trade with the Macassans can be found. There is an excellent marked walking trail around these historical artifacts with signs telling of the fascinating history of the area.
Day 2 in and around Nhulunbuy was set for an amazing beach drive along hidden headlands and deserted beaches of Cape Arnhem and certainly did not disappoint.
As with all the areas throughout Arnhem Land permits are required to access the cape which in turn limits the numbers of vehicles permitted and in turn ensures the long term effects of visitors are limited. For us it just adds to the beauty and attraction of the area.
Anywhere one can escape the hoards of tourists and tour buses, which although needed for the financial survival of these outlying areas, is a good thing in our books. If you are ever lucky enough to make the arduous journey to Nhulunbuy then we highly recommend you to obtain a permit and do the Cape Arnhem Drive, it was a real privilege to explore this special area.
After leaving Cape Arnhem and making our way back out to the main road a few of us decided to do some more exploring being heading back to camp. Goanna Lagoon and Latram River which are a couple of camping spots a bit off the beaten track but as is the case with so much of this beautiful area they are spots not to be missed with outstanding scenery and if we manage to get back up here in the future we would certainly be pitching the tent for a night or two in at least one of these. After some advise from a few locals on leaving Latram River we decided to attempt to find an easier way back out to the main road. We eventually did after only a couple geographical challenges and decided we should have came in that way as it may have saved a few bumps and scrapes. Mark it down to exploration=challenge and we are wiser for the experience or so they say.
Back on the main road we had one more stop before heading back to camp for the night. It had been a big day and our group was getting smaller so the few of us remaining explorers headed to Rainbow Cliff, a beautiful spot in the late afternoon and a perfect way to cap off an amazing day in Arnhem Land.
Permits are required to traverse Central Arnhem Road and must be obtained in advance from the Northern Land Council. Conditions Apply. Permits are also required and fees applicable for all Recreation areas and camping sites around the cape and for access to Cape Arnhem.
Stay tuned for our next installment from our Top End Expedition as we are invited into Aboriginal Homelands, a very special and privileged experience for our group of intrepid explorers.