Friday, 6 June 2014

The Coburg Peninsula and 4WDing in Arnhem Land

4WDing in Arnhem Land. 
The next stage of our trip was supposed to be up to Darwin, where we would indulge in some city living (from the caravan of course). But the Bragginators were heading up to the remote Coburg Peninsula and had been talking up the sights and fishing to be had there at every opportunity. Fiela was very keen to follow them, I on the other hand was less so. It was around 250kms of dirt roads and 4WDing all the way, there were only basic facilities, we needed special permission from the Northern Territory Land Council and most of all, I doubted Fiela would be super keen on hanging around with me and the kids when awesome fishing was to be had at the beach. Which would probably be full of crocodiles... Yes, it took a bit of convincing.

Cahill's Crossing, going towards Arnhem Land.

But convinced I was and after a bit of fluffing around in regards to paperwork and getting the permits, LOTS of fluffing around in regards to obtaining food and alcohol to take with us (as I've mentioned before,  Kakadu has lots of restrictions in regards to alcohol and its consumption within the park.  We had planned to be back in Darwin at this stage, so all of our supplies were running extremely low: I felt like an underage teenager trying to get some drinks for a party with the rigmarole we had to go through, not to mention the expense. It almost makes you rethink drinking altogether. Almost.),  we were ready to go.

Cahill's Crossing looking downstream.

One of the easier crossings on the way up to the Coburg Peninsula.
Our permits were good for one week, and luckily the weather gods were smiling down with no rain falling in the lead up to our departure.  The roads to the top of Kakadu had been closed due to the creeks running too high to  cross, and had only reopened to 4WDs in the last few days. So off we set, doing a 0.5m creek crossing before we even left Kakadu National Park and into Arnhem Land, where the real 4WDing was supposed to occur. We came to Cahill's Crossing, where the East Alligator River marks the border between these Aboriginal lands and I was crapping my dacks. It was 0.55m (at 0.6m it is considered unsafe to cross), flowing fast and the UysHuis suddenly felt very small. But my Braai-Master, Bush-Basher of a husband/hero/maniac drove across like he does it every day and we made it unscathed except for a few new grey hairs for me.

Black Cockatoos everywhere.
Unbeknownst to us all though, Cahill's Crossing was the least of our problems. What followed were 8 hours of quite gruelling driving for Fiela. The first 30kms were the best and the worst: enormous washouts filled with muddy water, their depth a secret until you drove through them occurring every few hundred metres. Some were quite benign, only centimetres deep and relatively firm. Others were outrageously large,  filled with sludgy mud and potholed on the bottom. But we were in Arnhem Land and the promised scenery was amazing. Those first 30kms held lush grasslands, unbelievably green from the late Wet. Rolling escarpments of rock, beautifully coloured and dramatic, with rock art visible even from the road. Jabiru, brolgas and herons rose up from waterways as we inched passed,  agog with the beauty surrounding us.

Spectacular scenery in Arnhem Land. 

The next 220kms involved huge corrugations, dry washouts with half metre drops in them and lots and lots of creek crossings. We lost our front license plate somewhere, dipped so badly on one side of the campertrailer in a washout that mud poured inside via a fridge vent and had mud and water suddenly fly up over the bonnet of the car a few times. All of this occurred at a pretty slow pace; we followed the Braggs most of the way who drove much slower than us, in part due to the massive rig they were towing, and also because they are probably just a bit more sensible. I reiterate,  it took us 8 hours to drive 250kms. I've never been so happy to see a Rangers station and a campground.

Finally! But still with a hundred kilometres or so to go...

Absolutely buggered,  we trawled around the virtually abandoned grounds, incapable of picking out a suitable site and realised with startling clarity the next morning that we'd chosen one of the worst. And so later that afternoon we did what every camper dreads: we moved camp in the same campground. Now we had shade, a breeze (something which would become highly prized as the week wore on) and were now only a 250m walk to the toilets and the awesome shower. Finally! Can the Blogging about Coburg begin?? YES!

Smith's Point and the mexican hat- a tribute to lots of dead sailors, rebuilt in the 1970s by sailors drunk on Coronas.
The beautiful beach looking West from Smith's Point.

More Smith's Point beach goodness.
Smith's Point had been espoused by the Ranger as being a great starting point for anyone hoping to do some land based fishing. So off we set, driving through the Cocodile Crossing, where a 4 metre croc was said to move from his billabong to the beach every few days, passed the airport and along a meandering beach track to the Point. This was what we had come for: impossibly clear, blue water and white beaches,  not another human to be seen and the Arafura Sea stretching out before us. It was beautiful. We stood on the cliffs and watched a few metres below as sea mullet were herded about by little reef sharks, squid zoomed passed and the odd pelagic splashed about. The fishing gear came out immediately, there were some great "hook ups" which had "something massive"on the end but alas the only catchable item was shark.

We had a look around for this crocodile which was apparently a 'big boy', but found nothing but some pretty impressive tracks going to and from the beach into his billabong.

Coburg Peninsula had so far been a fairly hard nut to crack, what with the 4WDing and fish refusing to jump onto your line, but more plentiful days were ahead...

Wildflowers on the cliffs.

No comments:

Post a Comment