On the Road III

After Jabiru and Ubir rock we cross the Alligator River and head to Gurig National Park on the Coburg Peninsular. Located NNE of Darwin and accessible via Arnhem Land the trip covers 560 km of mostly gravel roads and some great land. Shane Stone told me that Arnhem Land never had any leases operating and I wonder why. Seemingly great cattle country with ample feed and water I can only surmise that it was to remote to settle. Permits are required for Australians to drive through Australia when there are Aborigines present and access to the park is also dependant on a $220.00 fee. But hey, who’s complaining. To me, the attraction is the 19th century settlements established by the British pre Darwin days. All attempts failed and the ruins are a emphatic reminder of the difficulties faced by our fathers. Unfortunately the authorities have not allowed for any track to the site forcing tourists to pay $90.00 each to go to the site by tinnie. We opted out of paying $360 for all of us based on priorities that include a lot more country to see yet and after all I’m only an Army pensioner. For others the attraction is hunting buff.gif We rest one day and then go for a drive the next. Sand tracks on the beach of a huge crocodile underline the No Swimming rule but old habits die hard and I spend some time in the sea lifting oysters of rocks with my Ka-Bar. My wife panics and mutters something about no fear but I still keep a sharp look out. I understand her fear – I mean with me eaten how would she pack the tent each day. Brian joins me and I gather a dozen or so good size rock oysters from their home and we pig out. I’m here to tell you that if you think the oysters you get at the resturant at Double Bay, or wherever, are great then you haven’t taken them off a rock in a pristine bay and eaten them fresh. I mean 5 seconds fresh – that’s fresh! Tough life but someone has to do it. coburg.jpg Coburg Peninsula is remote – Capital R and underlined. 560 k from Darwin it is also 360 k from the nearest well stocked shop. There are some groceries at Coburg but they are dependant on ‘the barge’ – a remote-area ready-made excuse for no stock. As in ‘Got any milk?’ Nup! Due next Wednesday on the barge’ so go fully stocked yourself should you wish to visit. Access to Coburg is restricted to 12 vehicles at any one time and it is pristine country, great for fisherman and people wanting to opt out. No phones, no TV just conversation around the campfire at night. We solved all the problems of the world but I didn’t write them down so the world is left to muddle on without our erudite solutions. After a rest we leave for what to me is the crux of the tour – Nuhlunbuy. The only town in Arnhem land of significance. We drive through a couple of hundred kilometres of nothing and then turn south to head towards the main Arnhem Highway. We are all getting tired and look for somewhere to hide for the night. No lovely to-die-for camp sites apparent, nothing attracts our attention so we eventually just turn off the track and find…nothing – just long grass and who knows what type of insects dwelling therein. Never-the-less we beat down the grass and make camp. bushcamp.gif The blonde in the pic is me wondering why I am still camping in hostile territory after having done it for a living for too many years. Some folks never learn – particularly Infantrymen We are on the edge of an escarpment at the bottom of which runs the Gwydor River. We are hundreds of kilometres from the nearest town or outstation so after dinner we play Eric Bogle on the car stereo confident that we are not going to disturb the neighbours and finished off a nice bottle of red from Margaret River. Then the fun started. I’ve lived and patrolled in the South East Asian and Australian jungles for a good percentage of my life. I’ve even spent a week or two living in mangroves to hide from the VC and sleeping in the branches to avoid being drowned by the tides, but I’ve never, ever, been attacked by insects like I was that night. The next morning we travel south for half an hour and then turn east at the Arnhem Highway. A sense of civilization lifts our moral and we drive towards Nuhlunbuy on a well formed gravel road, crossing several delightful creeks on the way. creek.gif Delightful creek! The priorities are; get to Nuhlunbuy, book in a motel, find a doctor, get anti-histamines and calamine lotion, dose up and then try to stop whining. We were all attacked and it took some days to stop scratching. Welcome to Nuhlunbuy. A tropical paradise for some, a time warp for others. A contradiction, a fiefdom within a democracy with tribal and national law in conflict – three months suspended sentence or three spear thrusts to the thigh. One drives a 100 series Toyota, the other collects yams.

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