AWOL Around Australia...


Well-known member

Nhulunbuy, is the town at the end of the Central Arnhem Road, in East Arnhem Land. A huge area of traditional indigenous communities, and mostly untouched wilderness.

A lazy 657km, mostly dirt road detour from the Stuart Highway.

The first part of the road is bitumen, and has a few rises and dips. Which gives you a glimpse of what is to come. Nothing but spectacular wilderness stretching out in front of you (it's not suitable for stopping though, so you'll just have to take my word for it as I didn't take any photos).
In the NLC office, there had been all manner of photos of 4x4’s bogged up the headlights on this road. Old photos... With these super keen road closures, I think those days are mostly past. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? As ever, there are two sides to that coin. I’ve got eyes and I can use them, however it’s not always the case, and unfortunately people who know when to turn back suffer, because some people don’t.

Anyway, enough bitching. The road in the end was straightforward enough. We passed three grader crews in total (sometimes just a single operator to work the grader and the roller) and generally they had done a great job. There is a pretty rough section in the middle that is basically the road left over from the last wet season. However even in the sections that have been graded, and at 675km long, some were done quite some time ago, you have to be careful. The area clearly sees a lot of rain, and so you can be bombing along at a heady 70km/h and then hiding in the shadows can be a two foot deep washout. Safe to say our Ridepro suspension earned its keep along this road. At times like this I wish I had gone for a slightly heavier spring in the front, as that bottoms out a little too much. Whereas the super heavy duty springs in the rear do a great job and many times I braced for a big thump and we just sailed through, relatively speaking.

Some shots from that afternoon.

Lunch stop, just off the main track.

C'mon guys, don't be an ass...

Do not want to connect with one of these...

We camped just past the halfway point, at the bridge over the Goyder River. It struck me and I noted to N that this had been our first ‘alone’ camp since the fly infested one at the side of the road in the Pilbara, and really it was only by chance we had that one to ourselves, our last properbush camp had been back in SA, crossing the Nullarbor. It’s a real shame to write that about WA.

[I since learned you are not supposed to camp at the bridge, so don't... Which is a shame as it a perfect place to break up the drive]


Next day.

Frill neck lizard.

About 5 hours to complete the Central Arnhem Road, so we rolled into Nhulunbuy just after midday. You have to list your (first night’s) accommodation (there are only two options) on the permit application, so we knew where we were staying that night. The Walkabout Tavern, a modern pub/motel/campground offering, in the centre of town. Fine, I was done after two half days of concentration on the road getting here.

Nhulunbuy is mostly a town to support the nearby bauxite mine, no it's not all untouched wilderness, and has most modern conveniences. Toyota dealer? You bet.


Well-known member
Bertha’s auto gearbox kickdown had refused to turn up for work about 50km before we got here yesterday. So I got up early and checked out the cable situation, a little adjustment and all seemed back in order.

On the road out yesterday we had passed a four door Jeep Wrangler on Queensland plates a couple of times, which had duly rolled in a few hours after we had yesterday afternoon. Today we got to know it’s driver, Hans, relatively well. A PADIdiving instructor, he looked like Henry Rollins, crossed with Simon from All 4 Adventure. Anyway, quick to humour, we both got on with him immediately. I helped him with the permits he needed (as we both found the permit office was shut) online. He asked why, as an Englishman, I wasn’t in a Land Rover. I explained we had ticked that particular box in a previously evolution.

It has to be said that Nhulunbuy strikes me as a good community and the information about where to go and what to do is great. In written form, and from the people you speak to.

Anyway, eventually we got out of town.

Hard to see, but as we got back from our stroll there was now a bloke spearfishing here. I wondered allowed if there would be anywhere that would sell the spears...?

So our next stop was the village of Yirrkala, for its art and cultural centre. Not something that would necessarily always be on our (my) radar, but boy I’m glad we went.

From the outside this looks like a remote community centre that night have a few bits of art inside, but as soon as you open the door you are wowed by what is a beautifully curated art museum. Stunning displays of contemporary local art and a museum featuring some works and (incredible) stories of past artists - and I’m not an art guyby any stretch of the imagination.

So, with the dogs we have to take turns in going into these things, which can be a pain in the ******** but can also be interesting in that, as we drove away afterwards we were both bubbling with conversation about the different things we had noticed in the centre.
We also came away with slightly different souvenirs...



Next to explore the section of coast, and the campsites you could access with a General Permit. We had a Special Access Permit for a camp spot south of here in a couple of nights time, but I figured we could find a good spot at the multiple places you can access with the General Permit for the next few nights.

And it was so.

We actually checked out all the campgrounds up this section of coast but came back to this, the first one we had seen.


Well-known member
Well, truth be told we didn’t get to the last one. Whilst it is still marked on the tourist map they give you, I think the track to it is probably closed now. We followed a few different tracks out there, but in the end it was just hacking through the jungle, so I turned back.

Certainly some pretty spots out this way.

So we stayed two nights here. I fished, nothing... Read, wrote, relaxed, usual gear. A few others tried fishing from the shore, but most just launched the tinny and headed out to sea. No signs of crocs on the banks here, but we both separately heard almighty splashing sounds at night, so they are probably around these parts.

Camp food.

Marinated lamb wraps.

Beetroot and mackerel salad, sauerkraut, mustard mayo.



Well-known member
Time to move on. First stopping off aa Goanna Lagoon, more of a swimming hole. Not that swimming is recommended anywhere around here but this looks about as safe as you can get, if that’s your bag.

We stopped back through Nhulunbuy for a quick supply top up and then headed out north to check out that area.
The views being dominated by the now closed aluminium refinery.

Heading back south now, I topped up the fuel, knowing that we were planning to head straight out from our bush camp in a couple of days. I didn’t fill right back up, just enough to do what needed to be done and a healthy safety margin.

About 35km out of town came the turn off for Wanawuy (Cape Arnhem). We headed down here and stopped to pick up firewood (again), just as I’d finished doing this a 100 series with a family of locals came the other way. We manoeuvred to let each other pass and the lady driver said to me “three more cars to come” I thanked her and drove carefully on.

Expecting three more cars of locals coming through at locals speed, I gingerly threaded my way down the rest of the track, till we came to the other three cars. Two younger couples and Hans, with the Jeep. We stopped to shake hands and chat, they gave us lowdown on the best camping spot and some others we might want to check out. Hans was like “you’re gonna love it!”. No doubt fella, no doubt.


Well-known member
East Arnhem Land. Part 2

Northern Territory.

Interesting sign on the way in.

And it was quite a sight. Worse than any rubbish left behind by even the most feral campers, never ending detritus of all shapes and sizes, so this is what paradise looks like in the modern world if no one picks it up...?

The track out was easy, with the tyre pressures down. This innocuous looking water crossing swallowed half the bonnet of the Cruiser just after I took this shot. I opened Bertha’s throttle and she surged through, despite the force of the deep water. Should really have been in low range before we started though...

We found the recommended campsite, and we did absolutely have this special part of the world to ourselves.

Sunset, from both sides of our camp.

I was roughly nudged awake in the middle of the night “it’s raining!” so it is, properly too. We had talked about setting the fly sheet on the drive out here, but it had obviously dropped off the radar. I clambered out the tent and started putting on the fly sheet, whilst N started battening down the rear of the OzTent. Then the rain reallycame and we both got soaked. Ah well, we got everything set enough and towelled off back in the tent. Then I remembered to set the awning for rain, so headed back out and then back in again. Eventually we actually slept pretty well. We woke to sounds of more heavy rain, and knew our night time exertions were worth it.

Having a cooler day was nice. As we have been living and endless summer, for a while now. I know, I feel sorry for us too.... Anyway, the change was good.

I bloody love this light. These photos are just straight off the phone, nothing done to them.

We took a drive around the coastal tracks we had bypassed yesterday getting to the camp.

Last edited:


Well-known member
That lunchtime I caught my first fish worth eating, so we ate that for lunch.

I actually hooked several other bigger fish but my line was always cut on the coral before I could get them out of whatever hole they had headed back into. This spot at this time of day meant basically as soon as you cast some bait into the water it was taken, but I never did land any of them apart from this little tacker. Anyway, with his tail snipped off he fitted nicely in the pan and tasted good. I tried the same spot after lunch and nothing. The sea and the wind were both up by now, just goes to show how much of this fishing game is about experience, as much as luck.

March flies especially bad that afternoon. I put on long pants, socks and shoes for the first time in months. N went a bitcrazy, and hid in the tent most of the arvo.

I packed up as much as possible before bed that night. We would be out of here ASAP in the morning. Get as much of that road done as we could tomorrow.


If we ever come back this way I would do it a little differently, hindsight being a wonderful thing. So for anyone reading, here’s the benefit of my experience:
Get the road permit for longer than you think you need. We should have got a road permit for eleven days, to allow for transit time. I thought five days at there would be heaps, and got the road permit for the same seven days as the general permit, but we could have done longer, another two nights would have been perfect. You have to stay in Nhulunbuy the first night so I wouldn’t bother getting the general permit till the next morning, that way you have a full seven days out of it. I would also try to book say two nights camping at three different special sites, as those are probably the best places to spend your time, rather than the general areas. Definitely check out some of the art places, the gallery at Yirrkala is worth some of anyone’s time, even if you are not an art person (like me).
Once you have the road permit (allow 10 days in advance for approval, but no more than 25 days in advance), getting the other permits is straightforward online, once you are in Nhulunbuy, and there is good internet there. How busy the special sites are is the only unknown, but it wasn’t an issue at all for us.


Anyway, time came to leave Cape Arnhem. We had been lucky enough to have this place to ourselves and the only tyre tracks around were ours. We gave the deep water crossing a miss on the way out, and took a different route. No doubt we would make it fine, but why risk it? As far as I know the nearest vehicle recovery is in Katherine, just imagine the $$$...

Making tracks out. The sun came out to play.

Back on the highway the rain had turned he first third or so of the road into a mild mud fest. Despite our tyres now being past half worn they still provided excellent grip, no sliding and still good braking for the washouts (KO2’s a big improvement over the original KO’s in that respect). We passed the odd vehicle on more road based tyres, they were visibly struggling.

Feral water buffalo - we had seen a few of these chunky beasts on the way out.

This was basically me.

A few kms outside the small community of Bulman, a police Hilux was coming the other way. He put his roof lights on so I pulled over. They wanted to do a bretho (alcohol test), no worries I don’t drink and drive anyway. Shortly a unmarked 200 series pulled up and police dude number three got out (no doubt there to mop up anyone who doesn’t stop for the Hilux guys). It was all a bit weird, with one guy having a good look around the Cruiser, obviously trying to find something vaguely unroadworthy, they were quizzing me on where we had been (the car was fairly caked in mud) I explained where we had been and that it had rained, so the road was muddy “you had much rain down here?” I tried to make a bit of small talk, unsuccessfully... Bretho came back clear. Then the dude who had been running my licence through his handheld thingy was trying to tell me my licence had expired “it has?” I said, maybe a little too incredulously, “your looking at the wrong guy” said his police mate who had just done the bretho, “it’s an South Australian license” I said, trying to keep my voice as even as possible, adding “we’re from South Australia” helpfully... “just on holiday?” says bretho police dude, “yeah” - one might have thought that a car, on SA plates, full of camping gear, a couple and two small dogs might have already indicated that, but anyway. And with that licence was handed back and a curt “thanks mate” we were good to go.
Don’t get me wrong I’ve got no problem with cops, my brother is one. They’ve got a job to do and you’ll be glad they do, the day youneed them. I normally just have a bit of a laugh with them, I don’t really do anything illegal these days, and everything about the truck is legit and paid up, so it should be no worries. These dudes were just mildly threatening in a way that isn’t normally the case, but who knows what they had dealt with that day or what they were out really looking for? Maybe just next time have a look at the physical licence in your hand, where you will find it says South Australia Drivers Licence, right above where it says Expires 28/05/2022.
Funny thing was I thought they were stopping to check our permit, I had even started to retrieve it from the sun visor, but no, didn’t even mention it.

Despite this we were making good time, and decided we could make the end of the road before it got dark. We called ahead on the sat phone to let the place we were going to stay in Mataranka, know that we would be coming in a little late. No worries, they would still be around.

Eventually back on the bitumen.

So after eleven hours of pretty much straight driving we rolled in and pitched the tent.

Our now smallest and oldest dog Rollo, almost choked himself to death on his special dinner of cooked chicken that night. An unnecessarily stressful end to a big day. Eventually we managed to get the stuck food down his gullet, after both trying to get it out, with his tongue turning blue... It’s only the forth time this has happened with him, stupid bugger never learns...

I settled in with a bottle of wine, and watched The Hunter, again.

Thanks for reading.

Last edited:


New member
Apologies for radio silence... Not much phone reception up here.

Back in the NT.

Northern Territory, Australia.

Stocked up, back in Kununurra we headed out first checking out Australia’s second biggest man made lake, Lake Argyle.

Also round here is the worlds biggest diamond mine. Which is why as you walk into Kununurra's small shopping centre, there is a diamond jewellery store, seemingly on holiday from inner city Sydney or somewhere.

Crossing the border into the NT, we instantly 'lost' an hour and thirty in time. I was a little concerned we might be a bit late getting to Timber Creek, where we were planning to overnight. So for the first time in, well, quite sometime. I stoked the Land Cruiser up over 100km/h to knock over some miles, felt bloody fast too, ha!

As you may have noticed I like to cook all sorts of things, from all sorts of cultures. However, sometimes you happen to have everything for steak and potatoes, so you have steak and potatoes.


Next morning, the plan was to explore drive down through Gregory/Judbarra NP, and then press on from there, but no.

Easy to get disheartened with all of this, but I put myself in perspective on the next couple of hours of bitumen drive to the town of Katherine. We are probably somewhere between a fortnight and a month too early. The frustrating thing is the country is easily traversable with our set up, with the lack of a proper wet season. However, everything up here is geared around nothing being accessible, and no one being here till May at the earliest. There are a number of reasons while we are here now, and as ever the regulations are generally necessary for the 5% of travellers who can't be responsible for themselves. Anyway, it is what it is.
At the end of the day, we are still travelling through some awesome country with almost no tourists, so let’s check ourselves and think positive. Right, NT, my old mate, what have you got?

Victoria River Crossing.

Plus some cool pictures from inside the Victoria River Roadhouse (give you an idea what a proper wet season is like).

Rolling into Katherine I spy the Northern Land Council office and pop in, so I can apply for a permit to head out to East Arnhem Land. Application lodged for about a week’s time, let’s wait and see.

We track north. Wiki camps suggests a bush camp on the road out to Edith Falls. It looks fine but a sign I glanced on the start of this road makes me hesitate. Back at the sign I read it properly, seems we did the right thing.

To say most of non indigenous Australians don’t get indigenous Australians is an understatement. To be fair, it’s sometimes easy to arrive at a negative impression. However, many communities have come a long way, in a very short time. Also the more you take time to learn about the traditional ways, the more you realise we imports have a whole heap to learn, especially about how to relate to, work with and live in this country, from the first Australians. All the amazing birds you see up here in the north, were originally found throughout Australia till we started grazing cattle on the native vegetation, think about that next time you grab some steak or mince in the store, I know I do... In some ways I think what has happened here the last couple of hundred years, is a microcosm of what is wrong with the world in general.

Being back in the NT, also meant we could get the infamous NT News, if we so desired...

On to the charming little town of Pine Creek. I felt I was back in the zone now. Focus on what you can do, not what you can’t do... As I planned where we would go from here.

The other spotlight bracket had also let go now, so I took them all off.

Buy once, cry once. I give that as advice all the time... The lights themselves actually seem reasoanbly well made. However, stainless is probably not a great material for a heavy spotlight bracket on the bull bar of a vehicle that spends much of its time on rough dirt roads. Looks pretty though.
This trip has been very good at distilling down exactly what gear we need, and what stuff has performed well and what hasn't.

This caught my eye rolling in yesterday.

Lovely chat with this couple and their internationally travelled Defender. Travelling Australia since November, they were loving the north “it’s like a different country” I said, and they agreed. I said I missed the Land Rover community, and they explained how they had been in touch with many Land Rover clubs in Australia. The proudly showed me the modified driveshafts on the rear axle “Australian made! Very good” he assured me. They quizzed me on moving to Australia, or he did, she explained that children and grandchildren would probably keep them in Denmark. Same as my parents I explained.
I told them about the Pilbara region, as they were heading west through the Kimberley, and driving away after saying goodbye I remembered my Hema map of the area was tucked under my seat, so I stopped and hobbled (toe) back to their camp and gave it to them. I’m not going to be needing it anytime soon, and there is loads of good information on it.

Flying over the camp at sunset and again in the morning was a spectacular colony of flying foxes. I found their hang outas we drove out of town.

Great photo. I am enjoying your travels
I’m glad to hear Rollo is doing well. Are feral water buffalo something to worry about, or do you just need to respect them? I know they are not like Cape buffalo, but do they ever charge a over zealous traveler?


Well-known member
I’m glad to hear Rollo is doing well. Are feral water buffalo something to worry about, or do you just need to respect them? I know they are not like Cape buffalo, but do they ever charge a over zealous traveler?
There are warnings about them, especially for hikers. I'm not sure how bad they are, those two were the only two I've ever seen. I stayed in the Cruiser though!


Well-known member
Lorella Springs Station.

Northern Territory, Australia.

Next day was chores, as is the case after a big adventure. Laundry, a big stock up at the local supermarket - food shopping in the north is a different experience to the southern parts of this country, especially in country areas. Lack of regular supply, customers, and the cost of freight means variety is limited, less things are fresh (and things are less fresh), more frozen and canned stuff, but hey, you get by.

Apostle bird.

Rare Prado Spyder model.

We also needed to do some planing for the next stage of the journey. We had kind of been freewheeling since Broome. Even East Arnhem Land had been an on the fly decision.
I’ve got no problem with freewheeling, but doing some forward planning is definitely beneficial at times. We’re also coming somewhat to the end of this particular adventure, so we have to think sometime about heading home...

We also checked out the local pools, the main reason most people stop at Mataranka. Pretty, although a bit smelly with the sulphorous smell of the decaying plants.

So, after a day to reset, it was time to move on from Little Roper Stockcamp.

A couple of hundred kays of bitumen took us to Roper Bar, not before stopping to help this bloke pulled over in his Hilux “All ok mate?” “You haven’t got any water have you?” turns out the AC condenser had come adrift yesterday and munched his radiator. His sat phone didn’t work for some reason and he resorted to getting water out of the Roper River, despite the warnings from the local Aborigines that there was a big croc in there. He made it to the next small town and had a new radiator fitted this morning. Unfortunately they hadn’t fitted the bottom hose properly and it had come off, emptying the coolant... “You would have thought they’d be more careful” I offered, “He had some kid under there doing it, mechanic was too ************** fat to get under there” Hilux dude said, obviously not impressed. Anyway, we got fluid back in the cooling system and all seemed to be ok. Fella was from Blackpool in the UK, so we had a bit to chat about. I filled up his empty water bottles, and we went out seperate ways. Several other cars drove passed, no one else stopped.
Roper Bar, apparently used to be a secret place amongst retired police. For holidaying and of course, fishing. I planned to stop here and top off the fuel, as I knew the fuel at Lorella Springs (where we were heading) was $3/litre. Well maybe it should have stayed a secret because it seems there isn’t enough business coming here now...

I see a lot of complaining about prices for remote towns/areas/station stays, etc. However, it seems there are lots of places up here that used to be open to people visiting that aren’t anymore, either like this place, or stations that have given up on tourists and gone back to just doing cattle or whatever. So before you complain just think, would you rather have this, and what it costs, or nothing at all?
Ah well, nothing for it but to push on. Down through Limmen National Park. Not a bad drive, the road winds past plenty of nice spots, albeit under overcast skies.

A rare treat for lunch that day. (Sir) Les at the stock camp makes fresh bread (and breakfast 'Johny Cakes') everyday, so we grabbed one on our way out.

We get to the turn off.

Lorella Springs Wilderness Park is a huge 4,000-square kilometres (one-million acre) Outback Australia cattle station surrounded by the Limmen National Park, Aboriginal land, and many kilometres of pristine Northern Territory Gulf of Carpentaria coastline, rivers and waterways.
Lorella Springs website.
Slicker than I expected, but still pretty laid back. $20 per person, per day includes everything you want to do. Every track, every camp spot, free use of kayaks and tinnys around the property. And there is a lot to do. At over a million acres, of proper NT wilderness there are tracks and bush camps for days. That night we just stayed at the main campground and had dinner at the bar.
After consulting with the locals that morning, we had a rough itinerary. You have to sign out and then back in again so they know if to come looking for you, but that’s basically it. No nannying, no what is your experience level, no looking at your vehicle. You sign your life away and you are responsible for yourself, brilliant. No track on the property is off limits (although you are advised which are boggy, rough, etc). You can ‘no impact’ camp anywhere. Light a fire, fish the rivers. So it’s basically a national park without any of the restrictions, and hopefully too far from anywhere to keep the feral bogan count in check.
I was keen to get out to the coast, just to have been to the Gulf of Carpenteria.
Tracks out.

Brolgas (below). Remote travel turns you into a 'birdo' - fact.

There are places you could get bogged on the station if you really put you mind to it... However there isn't really any challenging driving after an average wet season like the one just passed.

The coast itself is nothing special here.


Well-known member
So we backtracked a short way to a good spot for a bush camp we had seen.

A small amount of green foliage on the fire helps keep the flies down.

I set up a lazy man’s fishing rig, with some bait in the river (you could easily fish halfway up the bank here, Salty Croc territory), I hooked a couple of big fish, but my lightweight gear, bought for fishing back around Port Adelaide was no match for these monsters, after much heaving and carry on, eventually they would just break the line. A bad workman always blames his tools....

Good camp? Good camp.
Next day and I just missed the best of the sunrise. Phone camera did one of those things where it decided not to work and I had the long lens on the actual camera, anyway, you get the idea.

Flies were almost ‘WA level’ this morning, so I stitched on the OzTent front room, as we were planning to stay another night.

Leaving the camp set up, we pushed out for a bit more exploring this morning.
Heading out the Rosie River Camp, the first camp Rhett (the station owner) had opened up when he first started taking tourists 20years ago. On the backs of the Rosie River, considerably bigger than the Wuraliwuntya Creek we were camped on.

Having reached Rosie Camp we took a little used side track, to check out a few billabongs. Worth it.

The remnants of a recent bushfire meant we had to do a little trail clearing.


We followed the quad bike trails that the staff ride out as far as possible, but this was end game for us.

Edible samphire (below), tastes mostly of the sea.

They say 4x4’s can’t get to the coast out here, because of the sand flats. Looks similar country to some blokes who once tried it.


Well-known member
Next day. We called up the homestead on the sat phone, to let them know we would be out another night. We were getting a bit low for on tucker, especially easy stuff to eat that didn’t need much prep.
So, when the going gets tough. The tough get baking.

Mango pudding.
Butter - some, maybe 125g
Sugar - some, maybe 250g (I just guessed the amounts in reality)
Eggs - two
Plain flour - approx one cup (or one plastic wine glass in this case)
Baking powder - one teaspoon (or omit this if you have self raising flour)
Tin of mangoes (or whatever you have to hand)
Vanilla or vanilla essence (I had a pod of vanilla, as one does, but didn’t want to give it up because I’m a tight ********) or whatever extra flavouring you have that might work
Cream (mash) together butter and sugar (food handling gloves are useful), add eggs, mash more. Add dry ingredients, combine. Add juice from mango tin and anything else left, till you have ‘dropping consistency’ (take a spoonful of mixture, does it lazily drop off the spoon once inverted? If not add either more flour or more liquid till it does), taste the mixture, add more sugar if required. Pour into tin, cover with tinned mango slices, and bake in camp oven, till done. Start slowly and build up, checking every twenty minutes by sticking a clean knife into the centre, till it comes back out clean. Ours too about an hour.
Something close to this recipe works for any basic cake or pudding. Just do it, the more you do it, the better a feel you get for it.
We packed up river camp, and wound back south, following different tracks than we did to get out here.

First to Monument Rock.

View from the top.

Cave Paintings.

We checked out the ‘recommended sites’ for this time of year, not so far from the homestead. Us and plenty of others.

Ah well, ‘tis the nature of the beast. We camped here that night.

A couple pulled in for a quick fish. They were 6 weeks into their 6 month 'half lap' of Australia. Most people seem to do a half lap or full lap, whereas we've just gone where we wanted to. I generally prefer the inland stuff to the coast anyway, if only because it's less busy.
Next morning.

Rolling back into the homestead the next morning, we grabbed 20L of fuel to be on the safe side. Settled up, and hit the road.

Forum statistics

Latest member