AWOL Around Australia… East Arnhem Land. Part 2

Interesting sign on the way in.
And it was quite a sight. Worse than any rubbish left behind by even the most feral campers, never ending detritus of all shapes and sizes, so this is what paradise looks like in the modern world if no one picks it up…?
The track out was easy, with the tyre pressures down. This innocuous looking water crossing swallowed half the bonnet of the Cruiser just after I took this shot. I opened Bertha’s throttle and she surged through, despite the force of the deep water. Should really have been in low range before we started though…
We found the recommended campsite, and we did absolutely have this special part of the world to ourselves.
Sunset, from both sides of our camp.
I was roughly nudged awake in the middle of the night “it’s raining!” so it is, properly too. We had talked about setting the fly sheet on the drive out here, but it had obviously dropped off the radar. I clambered out the tent and started putting on the fly sheet, whilst N started battening down the rear of the OzTent. Then the rain really came and we both got soaked. Ah well, we got everything set enough and towelled off back in the tent. Then I remembered to set the awning for rain, so headed back out and then back in again. Eventually we actually slept pretty well. We woke to sounds of more heavy rain, and knew our night time exertions were worth it.
Having a cooler day was nice. As we have been living and endless summer, for a while now. I know, I feel sorry for us too…. Anyway, the change was good.
I bloody love this light. These photos are just straight off the phone, nothing done to them.
We took a drive around the coastal tracks we had bypassed yesterday getting to the camp.
That lunchtime I caught my first fish worth eating, so we ate that for lunch.
I actually hooked several other bigger fish but my line was always cut on the coral before I could get them out of whatever hole they had headed back into. This spot at this time of day meant basically as soon as you cast some bait into the water it was taken, but I never did land any of them apart from this little tacker. Anyway, with his tail snipped off he fitted nicely in the pan and tasted good. I tried the same spot after lunch and nothing. The sea and the wind were both up by now, just goes to show how much of this fishing game is about experience, as much as luck.
March flies especially bad that afternoon. I put on long pants, socks and shoes for the first time in months. N went a bit crazy, and hid in the tent most of the arvo.
I packed up as much as possible before bed that night. We would be out of here ASAP in the morning. Get as much of that road done as we could tomorrow.
If we ever come back this way I would do it a little differently, hindsight being a wonderful thing. So for anyone reading, here’s the benefit of my experience:
Get the road permit for longer than you think you need. We should have got a road permit for eleven days, to allow for transit time. I thought five days at there would be heaps, and got the road permit for the same seven days as the general permit, but we could have done longer, another two nights would have been perfect. You have to stay in Nhulunbuy the first night so I wouldn’t bother getting the general permit till the next morning, that way you have a full seven days out of it. I would also try to book say two nights camping at three different special sites, as those are probably the best places to spend your time, rather than the general areas. Definitely check out some of the art places, the gallery at Yirrkala is worth some of anyone’s time, even if you are not an art person (like me).
Once you have the road permit (allow 10 days in advance for approval, but no more than 25 days in advance), getting the other permits is straightforward online, once you are in Nhulunbuy, and there is good internet there. How busy the special sites are is the only unknown, but it wasn’t an issue at all for us.
Anyway, time came to leave Cape Arnhem. We had been lucky enough to have this place to ourselves and the only tyre tracks around were ours. We gave the deep water crossing a miss on the way out, and took a different route. No doubt we would make it fine, but why risk it? As far as I know the nearest vehicle recovery is in Katherine, just imagine the $$$…
Making tracks out. The sun came out to play.
Back on the highway the rain had turned he first third or so of the road into a mild mud fest. Despite our tyres now being past half worn they still provided excellent grip, no sliding and still good braking for the washouts (KO2’s a big improvement over the original KO’s in that respect). We passed the odd vehicle on more road based tyres, they were visibly struggling.
Feral water buffalo – we had seen a few of these chunky beasts on the way out.
A few kms outside the small community of Bulman, a police Hilux was coming the other way. He put his roof lights on so I pulled over. They wanted to do a bretho (alcohol test), no worries I don’t drink and drive anyway. Shortly a unmarked 200 series pulled up and police dude number three got out (no doubt there to mop up anyone who doesn’t stop for the Hilux guys). It was all a bit weird, with one guy having a good look around the Cruiser, obviously trying to find something vaguely unroadworthy, they were quizzing me on where we had been (the car was fairly caked in mud) I explained where we had been and that it had rained, so the road was muddy “you had much rain down here?” I tried to make a bit of small talk, unsuccessfully… Bretho came back clear. Then the dude who had been running my licence through his handheld thingy was trying to tell me my licence had expired “it has?” I said, maybe a little too incredulously, “your looking at the wrong guy” said his police mate who had just done the bretho, “it’s an South Australian license” I said, trying to keep my voice as even as possible, adding “we’re from South Australia” helpfully… “just on holiday?” says bretho police dude, “yeah” – one might have thought that a car, on SA plates, full of camping gear, a couple and two small dogs might have already indicated that, but anyway. And with that licence was handed back and a curt “thanks mate” we were good to go.
Don’t get me wrong I’ve got no problem with cops, my brother is one. They’ve got a job to do and you’ll be glad they do, the day you need them. I normally just have a bit of a laugh with them, I don’t really do anything illegal these days, and everything about the truck is legit and paid up, so it should be no worries. These dudes were just mildly threatening in a way that isn’t normally the case, but who knows what they had dealt with that day or what they were out really looking for? Maybe just next time have a look at the physical licence in your hand, where you will find it says South Australia Drivers Licence, right above where it says Expires 28/05/2022.
Funny thing was I thought they were stopping to check our permit, I had even started to retrieve it from the sun visor, but no, didn’t even mention it.
Despite this we were making good time, and decided we could make the end of the road before it got dark. We called ahead on the sat phone to let the place we were going to stay in Mataranka, know that we would be coming in a little late. No worries, they would still be around.
Eventually back on the bitumen.
So after eleven hours of pretty much straight driving we rolled in and pitched the tent.
Our now smallest and oldest dog Rollo, almost choked himself to death on his special dinner of cooked chicken that night. An unnecessarily stressful end to a big day. Eventually we managed to get the stuck food down his gullet, after both trying to get it out, with his tongue turning blue… It’s only the forth time this has happened with him, stupid bugger never learns…
I settled in with a bottle of wine, and watched The Hunter, again.
Thanks for reading.


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