Sunday, 8 June 2014

Coburg Peninsula Part 2

Whilst there were lots of 'hook ups' on the end of our lines in Coburg, we were less than successful in actually landing any of these fish. Fiela was becoming increasingly frustrated; his status as 'hunter' was slowly morphing into 'angler'. But it was all about to change.

Looking west from Kuiper Point, rock shelves in the foreground.
We drove 10kms up the beach track to Kuiper Point, where mudcrabs  were so plentiful you just speared them as they walked by (so Fiela had learned from someone who had heard it said that that could happen...). Anyhoo, up we went armed with one of our tent poles and a bucket. Of course the only thing which could be considered easy pickings were the oysters. I'd been trying to tell LeRoux for years that the best way to eat oysters was straight off the rock, washed in a bit of seawater. Finally he tried them this way and was instantly converted. Of course they tasted amazing, but in a pristine environment such as the Coburg Peninsula,  it's hard to believe they could be anything but. So anyway, Fiela the bushtucker man using some fairly desperate measures, was the hero of the day, managing to find and catch five mudcrabs from underneath the rock shelves. The Braggs, who'd never eaten let alone caught mudcrab, thought he was a legend. A bit touched and crazy, but a legend nonetheless.

The mudcrab haul.

Rightful status restored. Hunter.

Beach combing... and looking out for crocodiles.
So the days on Coburg Peninsula were spent, trying out new fishing spots, gathering oysters and looking for mudcrabs, combing the beach for beautiful shells and other pieces of tidal treasure and marvelling at the lack of other human beings. Whilst there, the highest total number of campers was 13, which included five kids.

We certainly ate well. Between the oysters, mudcrab and the combined cheffing prowess of the Braggs and the UysHuis, there were definitely no lean times in Coburg, even with the absence of fish.  The Rangers were happy to give us fishing tips and spots to try, though they certainly weren't divulging any of their own favourite awesome spots. They came around every day to clear the bins and have a chat about how things were going, even dispensing some bush remedies to those of us suffering with the mosquitoes (which were about but not as prolific as those at Kakadu).

Another great fishing spot- lots and lots of parrot fish and mangrove jack, all undersize unfortunately.

However, one of the Rangers almost caused me to have a brain explosion when on the last day he trotted out the well worn line given by some well worn travellers that "everywhere" is ruined "now" because there are too many people travelling about. He used the example of Cape York, and how ".. it was a beautiful place. When I went 30 years ago they only had 500 cars go up that season... Now there are 10,000s every year. It's overrun. Absolutely ruined!" This kind of attitude is so arrogant and useless, and the sense of proprietorship some people have over travel spots is amazingly ridiculous. Of course, some places are 'loved to death' and need careful management, but the idea that somewhere has been ruined because visitor numbers have increased since you yourself, a visitor, went there is selfish and unrealistic. I could rant for hours, but will just end by saying I thought this was a fairly ill-prepared comment, since by proxy we were contributing to the ruination of Coburg Peninsula according to this guy. End rant.

The kids, ruining the beach.

It was incredibly hot while we were here, and the water was so clear and inviting it was very difficult not to spend a morning just playing in the water in one of the protected coves. But after a number of beach and sea side croc sightings, the most swimming we did was a very quick and tense swim on our last afternoon. The water was beautiful, but the idea that one of us had to be lookout whilst the other swam took a lot of the fun out of it. The heat at night also proved challenging, with sleep being the first casualty.

The jetty near the Rangers Station.
Our week in the Coburg Peninsula seemed to be one of opposite fortunes: the moon was full over the course of the week and gave everything a beautiful pearly sheen. Even at 2am. When I couldn't sleep for the heat and light. The beaches were pristine, but you couldn't swim in the water. The drive up was horrendously long and difficult, but this virtual inaccessibility ensured we essentially had an entire peninsula to ourselves. The waters teemed with life and yet the fishing was haphazard. We'd trashed our gear getting here, but we had made some fantastic and unique memories in a place very few people had thus far managed to get to.

On the drive back to Kakadu; it had taken only a week and most of the muddy washouts had dried up.
So it was with mixed emotions that we packed up and headed home.We'd had a great time and there's no doubt that the Coburg Peninsula is an amazing place, but I think the next time a member of the UysHuis travels up this way, they'll be doing it on a boys' fishing trip. Contemplating the drive itself was a mental hurdle , but Fiela had definitely cut his 4WDing teeth on the way up and we shaved a few hours off our return time. The scenery was still jaw-dropping, as was our final journey across Cahill's Crossing.

More gorgeous Arnhem landscapes.
After 6 hours, and with another 45 minutes til we'd reach our caravan park in Jabiru, getting to Cahill's Crossing and seeing cars lined up on either side did not in any way set Fiela's internal (and juvenile) warning system off. In fact, instead of using caution and questioning why noone was crossing the river, he simply gunned the engine after putting it in Low 4. I'm going to swear now.

Rock art as seen from the road.
Luckily the kids were engrossed in a movie in the backseat, or maybe they're just used to me swearing my head off, but I don't think I've said "Shit Fiela!" and "What the FUCK are you doing??!!" so many times in a 90 second period (and those who know me in any way will know that that is quite a feat). The river was at 0.6m and officially 'unsafe', flowing fast, and as we edged into the water you could see people's body language changing immediately. Far from the languid lounging about on the opposite bank of people waiting for a river to go down, the (mostly indigenous, obvious members of the settlements in Arnhem Land) people sat up and moved quite urgently to better viewing positions. About half way across I could feel the car straining against the current, our bow wave coming up over the bull bar, and started to say a little prayer as I watched Fiela turn the wheel of the Prado slightly into the current on the straight causeway. Fuck: shit just got real.

We made it over obviously, and as we headed up the bank Aboriginal leaders stood and clapped, shouting out encouragement (or lambast?) as the water sloughed off the car and our camper trailer. Fiela of course thought this was excellent. Why wouldn't he? A male, doing a stupid thing, being congratulated by other males. Completely normal and extremely validating.

I can't really laugh about it yet, but I can recognise that my husband has driving skills and nerves greater than I could hope to have. After our week on the Coburg Peninsula he was exhausted: the drive(s), the heat and the unending hunt for sealife taking its toll. But he had guided us back, relatively unscathed, wearily looking down the barrel of our next adventure- Sydney. A luxurious week in a house surrounded by modern conveniences couldn't have come at a better time!

1 comment:

  1. oh my god! Fiela you are hilarious, (and brave and oh so manly)! What an adventure.