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Trekking around Oz Where have you been? Where are you going? Report your trip.

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Pwoffey Pwoffey is online now
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Default Arnhem Land

Just returned from 3 weeks in Arnhem Land. We (wife and I) were part of an 8 vehicle convoy on a Great Divide Tours tag-along. [I have no connection with GDT apart from being a satisfied customer]. We had the Pajero and our Ultimate camper-trailer. The others had, variously, tents, roof-top tents or camper-trailers. I chose to do this as a tag-along because GDT have a track record of getting the various permissions to go into many of the remote communities, and, just as importantly, if (when) there are problems they have plans B, C and D.


The night before the trip I went out to Ubirr to see the rock art and to look out over Arnhem Land. The group met at Jabiru in Kakadu prior to entering Arnhem Land via Cahill's Crossing, which was a doddle with the water only about 15 cm deep. The carcasses of several vehicles swept away when conditions are not so nice is a stark reminder of what can happen when you misjudge the depth or flow of the East Alligator.


1. Arnhem Land from Ubirr in Kakadu.jpg2. Cahill's Crossing.jpg



We made our way up to Smith Point on the Coburg Peninsula and set up camp in a reserved campsite not far from the obelisk that is a reconstruction of the original one left by the British in the mid 19th century. They had made a base named Victoria Settlement along the coast to thwart French and American aspirations in the area. We took a boat and went for a walk around the Settlement's ruins. They lasted 11 years, with up to to 300 inhabitants. The hardship and isolation must have been unbearable.


3. Paj at Smith Point Coburg Peninsula.jpg5. Fishing at sunset Smith Point.jpg6. Ruins of Victoria Settlement Coburg Peninsula.jpg


We then spent a couple of days at Willigi Outstation,



7. Camp at Willigi Outstation.jpg12. Willigi Outstation beach at sunset.jpg

then back down to Cahill's Crossing and Katherine to get onto the Central Arnhem Road to Nhulunbuy. We stopped for morning tea at the Jurassic Park Lookout and met some inquisitive buffalo on the road. Nobody dared do a Mick Dundee.



9. Arnhem Land from Jurassic Lookout on Central Arnhem Road.jpg10. Do not mess with these.jpg


At Nhulunbuy we did quite few day and overnight trips out to several communities, including Bawaka, where we feasted on fresh fish, saw a dugong being butchered (not a common sight in suburban Adelaide), received our Aboriginal skin names, and did some nice beach driving.


13. Bawaka.jpg15. Fresh fish outside the dorm at Bawaka south of Nhulunbuy.jpg16. Dugong for dinner. at Bawaka.jpg


We also met Nike the "pet" crocodile who shares the beach with the Bawaka settlement (so everybody sleeps in dorms or at least on elevated verandahs). He's not a pet in the sense of a cat or a dog or a budgie. Not in any sense actually.


18. Nike wants a fish.jpg


On the way out of Arnhem Land we stopped for a few days outside the Baniyala community at Grindall Bay, opposite Groote Eylandt. We did some long beach drives, saw various sacred sites and the Indigenous ranger showed us how bark was stripped from trees and prepared in fire to provide the "canvas" for bark paintings which are a feature of Arnhem Land.


22. harvesting bark for a painting at Baniyala.jpg


Ended up at Mataranka for the night and washed off some of the red dust in Bitter Springs. Then home down the Stuart Highway.


No problems with Paj or Ulti. Three of the other vehicles had punctures, but nothing serious. I might mention that before leaving I had taken delivery of nj_swb's Airtec snorkel adaptor for the Donaldson TopSpin filter. I fitted this for the entire Arnhem Land segment of the trip. My air filter (MM) was almost new (all pink on the outlet side, just a bit of discoloration on the inlet, no retained dust). Midway through the trip (and it was VERY dusty, easily as bad as my trips to the Kimberley, Pilbara and Cape, but more so because of the convoy conditions) I inspected the filter and it had hardly changed colour - I shook only a little dust out. Other people were changing their filters, I saw no need on my Paj. At the end of the trip, the inlet side was pretty discoloured but little to be shaken out. I renewed the filter, but probably didn't need to. Very happy with Scott's adapter/TopSpin. The cabin/pollen filter was another story. I had actually forgotten to inspect that (even though I carry a spare) and when I got home it was absolutely caked in dust. Kilos of the stuff. God knows how much went into our lungs .


Anyway, a great trip. Learned a lot and saw things that we'll never forget.
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Good part of the world eh? Nike,s grown a bit since I saw him. Not many people (white) bother eating queenfish or barracuda. Abs love them. Did you drive in via the beach or through the dunes? Timmy is a top bloke and you can understand why they want to live where they do. Best fishing in Oz in the area. Good seeing the buff as well. I dont like the fact that they kill dugong or turtles ( both on the decline) considering they have easy access to supermarkets.

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Pwoffey Pwoffey is online now
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Drove in via the beach underneath some sacred site cliffs that we were not allowed to photograph. The queenfish was actually pretty nice, barracuda not so much. One of the people told us that this was the first dugong they had killed in a number of years, but you can never be sure what the facts are when you ask a question. Is the answer what they think you need to hear? I think every one of the tour group felt that verbal interaction - even given that English was a second language for the indigenous people - was often very vague and ambiguous. There are cultural currents running here that a brief visit will not unravel. Several white people with decades experience interacting closely with the communities said you never really get to grips with the deeper significance of what is going on. But it's a fascinating experience.
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