Saturday, July 17, 2010


30 June - 5 July 2010


If you want to experience red tape heaven go to Nhulubuy. Red tape rules here. To get to Nhulunbuy and to leave you have to have a transit permit. To get the permit you must have confirmed accommodation in Nhulunbuy for one night in their hotels/motels etc. That is between $150 and $200 per night. That is bad enough, but it doesn’t stop there. When you get to Nhulunbuy you cannot go anywhere out of the town precinct without a permit. You need to get a general permit first and on top of that a special permit to visit some specific places. At least the transit permit was free. A general permit for 7 days cost us $40. Special permits also come at a cost. And there’s more! Then on top of that you need a permit to buy alcohol and a permit to drink it only in the designated areas where drinking is allowed. You can have a drink in the pubs and clubs but that is it. To get a permit you must live at Nhulunbuy. If you are a visitor, the place where you are staying has to provide written proof that you are staying there and the dates of your stay. You can then get a liquor license that allows you to purchase alcohol and drink alcohol on those specified days that you are in accommodation. However, if you are going camping you do not have the required residential status to get a permit to drink alcohol whilst camping. To get the permit you have to go to their Corrective Services Office during business hours.

That is not all! There is absolutely no camping allowed at all in the town precinct. You can only camp in designated areas which come under the general permit. If you want to go to places that require a special permit you have to be specific about the dates and you cannot extend them as places are limited in these places and you cannot overstay as your permit would not be current. So what do the locals do? They get an annual general permit but have to apply each time they want to go to a special permit place.

So as soon as we got in we headed for the Dhimurru permit office. We got our general permit but no special permit. A ranger noticed we were in the Oka and came in and advised us that we couldn’t get into Cape Arnhem – it was on my list, nor to Memorial Park or Scout Camp. Wonga Creek was still closed because of the late rain. So we cancelled the processing of the special permits. For the first time the height of our vehicle was a problem. He thought that our width was also a problem as he kept telling us our wheels were wider than the 4WD wheel tracks. We knew that our wheel tracks are exactly the same as those of other 4WD so that component should not have been a problem. Wasn’t worth arguing that point.

We then dropped off our tyre for repairs and headed for Walkabout Lodge as we had a confirmed booking in their newly established campground. When we got there we found out the campground was not finished. The abolutions block was still incomplete as they were waiting for a delivery of their toilets, washing machines etc. The semi with the goods arrived whilst we were there. They were not sure what to do with us as technically they were not open for business yet as a camping ground but we had a confirmed booking. They were going to see what they could do and suggested we come back in the afternoon.

We had a look around Nhulunbuy and the town centre. It is a very nice, clean and tidy small town. Mid afternoon we headed back to pick up our tyre. The tyre was fixed and would do as a spare but more bad news. A ranger came to pick up a tyre and after talking to him we found out that most places on the general permit were also out of our reach. Most tracks are narrow and very overgrown. You cannot cut any branches and you are not allowed to make any new wheel tracks. Because of our height and length he said we would not get into Macassan Beach, Turtle Beach, Little Bondi Beach, Goanna Lagoon, Latram River. Daliwoi Bay should be okay but he was not sure about the others. This is the first place where height will be an issue with the Oka. Having come all this way it was somewhat of a let down that we would not be able to explore the area as planned. They were also surprised that we were supposed to be camping at the Walkabout Lodge as they didn’t believe it had the approval yet to have the campground. Very interesting!

So back to Walkabout Lodge we went. We were to camp there and use a designated room’s shower and toilet facilities. We were to share this room’s facilities with another camper. That was fine with us. It was strange camping in a busy area of the town with people walking by on the other side of the fence. In time they will need to screen the area off from the public.

The next day we explored the area round the town. We went to the coast past the Rio Tinto site,

to the Alcan jetties,

then onto Crocodile Creek,

and Town Beach.

We headed to Daliwoi Bay to camp. This is also the only place in these ‘recreational areas’ on the general permit that has a boat ramp. It was a bush track in with a few washouts along the way.

Just before the bay was a nice house but the track to it looked unused. We wondered who it belonged to as it was on Dhimurru land.

The others that we met on the way up were also camping here.  They were well set up by the time we got here.

It was a beautiful place.

Apparently there are two resident crocodiles but we did not see them. Gail and Toby who had been here for two weeks had seen both.  The mangroves that often hide the crocs had beautifully exposed network of roots.

So after setting up camp

hubby went fishing whilst I had an opportunity to quilt.

It was hubby’s day as he was the only one that caught a fish that night – a golden trevally. So we barbequed it and shared it for entrée with the others.

A bit of drama before sunset as Gail was stung by a stone fish as she was getting into their boat. She was not sure what had barbed her but at the hospital they confirmed that it a stone fish. Frances was a retired nurse so she tended to her and then Toby took her to the hospital at Nhulunbuy. As a result we all learnt that treatment for stone fish or sting ray is to put the affected limb in as hot a water as you can stand.

It was a windy night with some rain. We were in a very protected area whilst the others were in the open so we didn’t feel the wind.

The next day we headed back to have a look at Yirrkala and to visit the arts and crafts centre there. This area is renowned for its bark paintings and now sculptures world wide. International buyers come here for their work. The founder of Yothu Yindi was also born in the area.

Yirrkala is a fabulous place. According to hubby a place not to be missed. A beautiful setting along the coast. The Yolngu people of the area have a beautiful community here. The gallery was superb. We spent quite a bit of time here looking around.

We went explore what we could of the area.  So off to Rainbow Cliffs we went.

The track was very overgrown, tight and windy with plenty of washouts.

We could see what the ranger was talking about having done this track.

A creek enters the Arafura sea here.

Lovely spot but not many campsites.  We preferred where we were camped to this spot.  We met a local teacher and had a yarn.

Then back past the airport

to town to refuel and get some lunch. Well we had the KING of hambugers here at the Arnhem Bakery. It was just tops and was it huge. We’ve never seen one this size and it was just so delicious. We shared the one hamburger and there was plenty for both of us. The mushrooms added an unusual twist to it.  Can highly recommend it!!!

Then back to the campsite for more fishing and quilting.

Hubby had no luck today but Jim caught two and Toby one. So fish for entrée again tonight.

The bugs were out in full force tonight and it was hard to protect oneself.

We always want to see as much as we can of the area so the following morning we decided to explore the area more and move on to Giddy Creek. The weather was very overcast and windy but still around 26C. The others were staying on here another day and then heading back.  

We headed to Rocky Point. The ranger thought we could get here. Well sorry to say we got within a very short distance of the point when we turned back. The track was very overgrown, washouts, one sided ditches that had the car leaning into close by trees, tight bends between trees.

We passed the other tracks that we had been advised that we couldn’t get in. After a passing look we agreed with the verdict. It appears that none of the tracks accessed via the general permit are maintained. The tracks need repair, trees need trimming. Soon even an average 4WD will not get through. Maybe that is there intention? We headed back to the art centre for another look and headed for Giddy Creek. The weather by now was foul. It was drizzly and windy.

Well somehow we missed the turn – it was not signposted. By the time we realised we had gone too far we decided not to go back as it would have been miserable staying put for the rest of the day and we were no longer sure we could get to it based on our experience of Rocky Point and Rainbow Cliff.

So we continued back down the Central Arnhem Highway. For a while we had steady rain and the road was wet and very muddy.  I always like to see the mud patterns on the tyres.  Different soils have an different type of detailed imprint on the tyres.

Quite a way down the highway the weather cleared.

We again enjoyed the terrain as we cruised past.

Those tall sentinels by the roadside are just so impressive.  They will have a lasting impression with us.

Termites are still at work on them.

Again we passed the old Toyota by the roadside.

We camped at Rocky Bottom Creek for the night.

The next morning we made our way to the Goyder River. A car that had passed us was at the Goyder. We waited for it to cross the river.

They obviously did not know about the hole as they went right through the centre. They had water pouring out through their doors after they crossed. The river was deeper this time round. Apparently it is affected by the tides.

On our way up we had not seen much animal life. However on the return trip we saw it all - horses,

cattle and

water buffalo.

We were surprised to see semi carrying straw or hay heading up the road.

Before we knew it were on the last section of the road.

We were glad we had made this trip. It was an experience going all the way up into eastern Arnhem land. Whilst we were disappointed that when we got there because we could not go to many places it was still worth seeing what we did and experiencing the beautiful Central Arnhem Highway. An experience of a lifetime.

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