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Jabiru to the Cobourg Peninsular

AUSTRALIA | Monday, 18 July 2016 | Views [681] | Comments [1]

The disused pier at Blacks Point on Cobourg Peninsular

The disused pier at Blacks Point on Cobourg Peninsular

oAn early start from Jabiru saw us at Cahill’s Crossing by about 9:00AM which coincided with a low tide and an easy crossing with the water barely at hub depth at the deepest point. Once across the river we headed out on the road through Arnhem Land towards Coburg Peninsular and Garig Gunak Barlu National Park. The first part of the road was very heavily corrugated and progress was slow.

Some of the scenery at the bottom end of the road was little short of spectacular with interesting rock formations and lush green wetlands – no doubt home to many crocs! We stopped for a few photos then proceeded further up the road hoping for some improvement in the surface but it was no better so we stopped to deflated our tyres even further to take some of the harshness out of the ride. By this time we were running quite low pressures considering the load we had on board.

Not long after we passed the turn of to the community of Oenpelli we reached an intersection locally known as the 3 Ways. One road takes you across all the top of Arnhem Land and through all the Aboriginal Communities including the well known Maningrida and Ramingining – permits to travel through this area are impossible to obtain, with the exception of the tour companies.

We turned north towards the Cobourg Peninsular and not long after that the road conditions improved noticeably. At our morning tea break on the side of the road it became evident why the road improved, a large piece of earth moving equipment came down the road scraping the surface and towing some very large tyres to smooth the road. This maintenance was being carried out by a mining company located and doing minerals exploration in the King River area – they are seeking Uranium, Copper and Gold. Apparently the arrangement is that they are permitted to maintain that section of road above the 3 Ways but no further south for fear of costing council workers their jobs!

The road from the 3 Ways up to the point where it takes a turn to the north west towards the national park was pretty good and we were able to maintain reasonable speeds, however as we got close to the community of Murgenella the road deteriorated again and progress slowed. At Murgenella (which is now abandoned) we met up with another group of travellers from the TLCC who had been to Cobourg and were heading back south, after an exchange of information we carried on and not long after reached the national park boundary with almost 150km still to travel to our camp areas. The road through the national park wasn’t the best but it was better than the road at the bottom end. The terrain was varied and more Savannah like than tropical with plenty of areas being burnt off as part of a regular program.

After reaching the Ranger Station we were directed to our camp area and arrived at about 3:30PM, all up about 6.5 hours of travel for the 316km. The camp areas are simply areas cleared in the Monsoonal Forrest but they were at least flat and roomy. Through the night storms passed over and it rained, at times fairly heavily. We rose to a cloudy day with waves of rain passing though not dissimilarly to the wet season. The rain curtailed our activities on the first day but we did manage some sight seeing to get the lay of the land as well as take a drive along what is known as the ‘Wetlands Drive’. The wetlands drive takes you along a very large billabong that obviously has a very large volume of water in it in the wet season, the water level was quite low due to the ‘dry’ wet this year. This wetland is a haven for crocs and in fact there is a ‘Crocodile Crossing’ where the crocs travel between the wetland and the beach, unfortunately (or fortunately) we didn’t come across any on the crossing.

The weather on the second day wasn’t much better but it cleared enough by mid morning for us to head off on the ‘Coastal Drive’, this drive took us along the coast  then across the peninsular to Caiman Creek and took about 3 hours including lunch. The scenery was quite interesting but maybe not as nice as the coastline around Nhulunbuy. On the third day a few of the group tried some fishing but without much luck, in fact it appeared that the only fish in any quantity being caught was being caught from boats away from the shoreline. The Rangers did say that the water temperature  was a bit low so that may have been a factor. Our view of the Coburg Peninsular is that it is primarily a fishing location (if you have a boat) as many of the drives to scenic locations have been closed off to the general public and only accessible to local community members.

The drive back down to Jabiru could have been a bit tricky due to the rain but fortunately the road had dried and apart from some large puddles and spots where the rain had caused erosion it wasn’t a bad drive. There was less dust than on the way up so that made the drive a bit more pleasant, however the incessant corrugations were still present. One bonus was that the road from the 3 Ways down to Cahill’s Crossing had been graded and rolled in the time we were up the top so that made for a much smoother run. The water level at the crossing was even lower than it was when we crossed on the way up and there were no crocs lazing around!

We spent the night in Jabiru before heading down to Katherine where we have spent a couple of days stocking up with food and fuel and small maintenance items on the vehicles. Unfortunately for Garry whilst he was checking under his car he noticed that the bottom bushes in his front shocks were damaged from the constant pounding – this could have meant a trip back up to Darwin to source shocks and have them fitted and this in turn would have had some significant impact on the rest of the trip for Garry and Elke as it would have put them several days behind the group. However as luck would have it the local ARB agent did have suitable shocks and even went out of their way and fitted them for Garry straight away – so he was back on the road within a few hours! Good old country service!

We leave tomorrow (Tuesday 19th) for Limmen National Park, then Lorrella Springs, King Ash Bay and on to the Savannah Way around to Burketown then Lawn Hill NP. We are not anticipating suitable internet coverage before we get to Lawn Hill  so this may be the last update for a while, but keep checking as you never know ......




.... good reading John and, once again, your pics bring your story to life. What amazing country!

  Barry & Dot Jul 27, 2016 12:20 PM

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