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]
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.