East Arnhem Land Queries

Submitted: Monday, Jan 06, 2020 at 13:51
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We are planning a trip to the Gove Peninsula in East Arnhem Land in July. We have a couple of questions and if anyone has recent experience there we’d very much appreciate any comments, recommendations or observations.

We have a faint hope of accessing Nhulunbuy via the road from Oenpelli, Ramingining etc on to Nhulunbuy. We are dubious of getting permission for this but thought we’d try. We visited the Coburg peninsula a few years ago and the rangers there said they could not get permission to drive through this road and had to transit down through Katherine and onto the Mainoru / Central Arnhem Road. Maybe things have changed. Has anyone any experience with this?

The Dhimurru website quite clearly states permission will not be given for caravans to go through to Gove. However I seem to recall somewhere reading about someone with a van travelling the road.

Once at Nhulunbuy, there are a number of attractive sounding recreation areas to see. These are under “General” or “Special” permit categories. We won’t be able to visit all of them. Are there any that are must-see and can be recommended?

Again, any comments from recent visitors to these parts would be very much appreciated.

Regards
Mark and Sandy
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Reply By: Member - Bigfish - Monday, Jan 06, 2020 at 14:42

Monday, Jan 06, 2020 at 14:42
Been 7 years since I left. Spent 15+ years there working remote. Doubt very much about being allowed via the Rammingining rd. Spoke to a mate about 3 months ago up there and he was saying not much has changed and all the roads except the road in are still off limits. I was lucky to have an open permit to travel where ever I wanted due to the nature of my work. I ,d visit the various small beaches..Turtle Beach Maccassen Beach etc....close to town and a good day out. Permits reqd for nearly everywhere you go. Last thing you,d want to do is tow a van via the Ramminginning Rd..If you break down or have an accident you,ll have no hope recovery. Road can be good or an absolute nightmare. I know they are allowing camper trailers in but you must nominate where you will be staying as there are no parks . The best hope is to contact the Northern Land Council in Nhulunbuy.
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Follow Up By: Member - Sandy I - Wednesday, Jan 08, 2020 at 13:31

Wednesday, Jan 08, 2020 at 13:31
Thanks for your note, BigFish.
What work we’re you doing in Arnhemland? I worked at Nabarlek for a couple of years in the early 1970’s. It was wild and wooly country then.
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Follow Up By: Member - Bigfish - Wednesday, Jan 08, 2020 at 13:58

Wednesday, Jan 08, 2020 at 13:58
Remote area communications tech. Satellite dish install, install/maintain all phones in communities, internet set up and fault fixing, cable laying and fault finding. Solar set up maintenance, optic fibre repairs...virtually anythng to do with comms. Had to be versatile as the distances were long and at $1000 an hour for chopper they didnt like stuff ups. Spent about 7 years flying around Arnhem land in chopper. Seen things even many Aboriginals wouldnt know existed! Great time and it really was living the dream. When work was a bit slow you could drive to Alice Springs, Darwin, W.A. or anywhere .
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Follow Up By: Allan B (Sunshine Coast) - Wednesday, Jan 08, 2020 at 14:03

Wednesday, Jan 08, 2020 at 14:03
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Dream job Bigfish.

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Follow Up By: Member - Bigfish - Wednesday, Jan 08, 2020 at 14:15

Wednesday, Jan 08, 2020 at 14:15
Job of a lifetime mate. Even went on barges to the islands to install payphones. Did many trips around the top end. Organised cheap charters on a 56 foot mother ship with 2 x 7 .5 meter sports boats. Caught marlin, sailfish, coral trout, red emporer,...if it swam..we caught it. Saw thousands of pigs and buffalo. Wessel Islands, Crocdile Islands, Elcho...all over. Visited many Pitjantjatjara communities and traveled roads where public not allowed. Money was excellent and as a result I was able to retire at 61 . 66 now and still loving life! Got a trip to Karumba for 9 days at Easter...really looking forward to this trip.
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Reply By: Member - Stephen L (Clare SA) - Monday, Jan 06, 2020 at 16:10

Monday, Jan 06, 2020 at 16:10
Hi Mark and Sandy

First of all you are going to be in for a fantastic trip, and it is one area that we will be returning to.

First of all, they need tourists into Nhulunbuy, so you will not have an issue getting your permits.

Next, you will not get a permit coming in from Oenpelli, its just out of bounds......well sort of.

One of our friends was working up there when we went, and she had great privilege to ask which way did we come in, knowing that tourists can only get in 1 way, and then she went on to say, "I never go that way, its too long and come in from Ramingining".

As she was a nurse and based in Nhulunbuy she went to all the outreaches , that is how she did it......and she smiled when she told us...as she was known in all the Communities and went in that way, but she still had to have permits.

Firstly the Dhimurru mob and not in charge of the Central Arnhem Highway, its under the control of the Northern Lands Council, based in Darwin and Katherine. Yes they do say no caravans, yet there were caravans there when we were there, and basicly as long as you get your free permits, they were not worried.

I ended up collecting our permit from Katherine (long Story) and took our time heading to Nhulunbuy, doing it over 2 days. We booked into the Walkabout Lodge, where there were also 2 caravans in the back.

Once you get to Nhulunbuy, that's when you need to get your other permits from the Dhimurru office, but note the opening hours.

The general permits gives you access to all the major spots in the area, but to get to those special places, that's when you need to get your Special Permits.

With the Special Permits, they strictly limit numbers to those special areas. The largest number of people for any one day, is out to Cape Arnhem, that are limited to only 12 vehicles per day, with most other places limited to only 5 vehicles a day. Of the places to see, do not miss Cape Arnhem drive, we had the place to ourselves and was fantastic.

If doing that run, make sure you take some MaxTrax (we left our home...lol) as there is lots of beach and sand driving. Make sure you watch the tides, our else you will have some real fun.

Rather than raving on, have a read of the 2 blogs that I did for the area.

The first one, if you open this link, Central Arnhem Highway it will give you an idea of what to expect on the drive in and out.

The second blog, in this link Nhulunbuy Area will give you an idea of what the area is like.

One word of warning, and not to be taken lightly, you are in Croc country, and be very careful around all water, including those crystal clear streams. We had 2 dogs with us and never let them anywhere near the water, so be on your guard, as you will see them.

It is a fantastic trip and enjoy.



Cheers


Stephen

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Follow Up By: Member -Pinko (NSW) - Monday, Jan 06, 2020 at 16:54

Monday, Jan 06, 2020 at 16:54
Excellent blogs Stephen and Fiona.
We went with a tagalong for the first and last time.
Stopping for the photos you have taken would have been just fantastic. No time to do that with a Tagalong. Rush, Rush rush
As I said never again.
Stan
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Follow Up By: Allan B (Sunshine Coast) - Monday, Jan 06, 2020 at 18:08

Monday, Jan 06, 2020 at 18:08
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Hi Sandy,

There seems no way on earth that you will get a permit to travel via Oenpelli. Believe me, I tried hard but was refused at every turn. It then made me quite angry to find an Outback Spirit Tour bus was able to go on that road. It would seem that there is one rule for the general public and another for a commercial operation who was greasing palms. That aside, East Arnhem Land was a great place to visit.

Definitely do read both of Stephen's blogs as they will be very helpful.

The areas requiring Special Permits are as follows:
Ganami (Wonga Creek)
Manangaymi (Scout Camp)
Gapuru (Memorial Park)
Guwatjurumurru (Giddy River)
Wanuwuy (Cape Arnhem)
Apart from the township area, these are the only places you can visit. Certainly not advised to go "poking around".
As Stephen said, the numbers are strictly limited so get in early for your permits. We were able to visit Wonga Creek and Scout Camp but missed out on Cape Arnhem due to turtle hatching. Stephen says this was really good.

One place not to be missed is the Buku Larrnggy Mulka Centre at Yirrkala. This is absolutely the best gallery of Aboriginal art that I have seen anywhere. It is like entering Alladin's cave. We visited twice and spent some hours there and purchased several pieces to add to our collection.

Yes, caravans are not permitted but camper trailers are OK.
The Walkabout Lodge accommodates campers and has small but good amenities. Good tucker and beer also.
When we were there the motel were talking about accomodating camping but it does not seem to have eventuated.

Hope you have a good time.

Cheers
Allan

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Follow Up By: Member - Stephen L (Clare SA) - Monday, Jan 06, 2020 at 19:28

Monday, Jan 06, 2020 at 19:28
Hi Allan and Roz

We were in the same situation with Scout Camp.

A couple of dogs disappeared and then there was a rather large salty spotted.

For public safety, the area was closed until the monster caught.

There was however, a local that came up ever morning on the beach behind the Walkabout Lodge. It was only around 3 metres long and the moment it felt your vibrations walking, it hit the water to disappear.

It makes you wonder how many more we’re in the water that we never spotted.


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Follow Up By: Member - Stephen L (Clare SA) - Monday, Jan 06, 2020 at 19:31

Monday, Jan 06, 2020 at 19:31
Hi Stan and Christine.


And what a small world it was, to think we were saying at the same place at the same time.

That’s the problem going Tag A Long, you have to go at their pace, and not one that you would like to go.


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Follow Up By: Allan B (Sunshine Coast) - Monday, Jan 06, 2020 at 19:43

Monday, Jan 06, 2020 at 19:43
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Hi Stephen,

Happy New Year to you and Fiona.

Whilst we were at Scout Camp a crew brought in a croc trap for one that was lurking.
We kept an eye on it but saw nothing before time to leave.

Great place to visit eh?

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Allan

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Follow Up By: Member - Sandy I - Wednesday, Jan 08, 2020 at 13:36

Wednesday, Jan 08, 2020 at 13:36
Thank you, Stephen and others for your comments - all very helpful.
Sandy n Mark
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Follow Up By: Member - Stephen L (Clare SA) - Wednesday, Jan 08, 2020 at 14:31

Wednesday, Jan 08, 2020 at 14:31
Enjoy your great trip
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Reply By: Member - Graham N (SA) - Monday, Jan 06, 2020 at 20:57

Monday, Jan 06, 2020 at 20:57
Hi Mark and Sandy,
We travelled to Nhulunbuy in 2018 with a T-van on a permit issued by the Northern Land Council, we were told that a camping permit can be picked up in Nhulunbuy at their office, can't remember the hours, but when we got there the office was closed from midday (new hours!!), we then obtained a permit via our computer and went out and camped on the Latram River for seven days. We were challenged by a ranger on the way in but never seen them again after that. The Latram River was mostly about a foot or two deep and had a resident Water Buffalo when we arrived.
As mentioned above that Art Gallery is well worth the visit, also the beaches, the Airport, several WW2 sites and the bauxite loading facilities are worth a visit. Some of the local visitor sites may be closed by the "Elders" (according to the signs) due to vandalism, as there were very few 'others' there other than locals it seemed strange to us. Spent some time watching some local lads spearing fish from the beach near the loading facilities.
Another strange thing you need is a permit to consume alcohol, the office where you get that changed to three different locations while we were there. Once you obtain the permit you'll find it is only a permit to buy alcohol.
It was a very enjoyable experience, we took a couple of days to get up there from Katherine but drove back in one long day due to the smoky conditions making it unpleasant to camp along the way back to Katherine.
Cheers
Graham
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Reply By: Member - Mark C (QLD) - Friday, Jan 10, 2020 at 20:45

Friday, Jan 10, 2020 at 20:45
We traveled to Nhulunbuy last July and stayed for 7 days. Obtained permit from land council in Katherine via email and picked up day before travel. Stayed at Mainora on the way out. Towed AOR Quantum no problems at all, just drive to the conditions. You can now obtain permits for the outer camps online on the Dimiri website. Most places were booked out for weeks when we went to the office on the day after we arrived in Nhulunbuy. We did get a permit for the local area (compulsory to all travellers to Nhulunbuy) and also a permit to Scout camp for one night.
Walkabout lodge is a great base but do try and get permits for the other camp spots. We could not get a permit to Cape Arnhem.
Best first Australian art but do shop around.
Mark And Helen QLD
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