Central Arnhem Highway

Submitted: Sunday, Sep 10, 2017 at 10:03
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Good Morning Everyone

I have recently travelled another iconic highway that has been on our bucket list for quite some time....the Central Arnhem Highway.

Over the last few years Nhulunbuy has suffer like many places around Australia with its population dropping overnight from 4000 people to 2000 when Rio Tinto closed processing of Bauxite at their facilities there and now ship the raw product out to be processed overseas.

The town suffered greatly with a number of businesses having to close their doors and now they are pushing for Tourism to be their saviour. The end result is now permits are even easier to obtain and even the friendly and very helpful staff of the Northern Lands Council in Katherine are pushing to get more people out there to experience one of Australia's last great travel destinations.

Between 2012 and 2014 The Federal Government spent over $40 Million dollars in road and bridge upgrades to keep access open for longer during he wet season and the biggest upgrade was the very large bridge and new road over the Goyder River.





The Central Arnhem Highway with give all drivers a mix of every type of driving conditions, from single lane bitumen for the first 70 odd kilometres and then a mix of deep bull dust holes, severe corrugations ( unlike say the Anne Beadell Highway where they go for ever, the Central Arnhem Highway will only go for less than a kilometre at a time ) gravel to firm hard compacted dirt that is like driving on concrete.

Them to top off the drive, there are the countless river crossings that are crystal clear and look so inviting for a swim on a hot day.....but do not be fooled, this is home to one of Australia's number one apex predators......crocodiles, or just commonly known as salties. The scenery is just unreal and it is ever changing along its complete length and for me ranks as one of our best outback trips.

Camping is not a problem, with only one designated place camp site along the way at the Mainoru, or else the countless bush camps along the way. Fiona and I travelled the route solo and you will never be along out there, with the longest time between seeing another vehicle for us was around an hour.

Then when you get to Nhulunbuy there is just so much to see and explore, that is a story in itself. So if you have ever thought about travelling to Eastern Arnhem Land and are looking to explore new territory, then start to plan your trip now and you will not be disapointed.

Here are some images of the drive along the Central Arnhem Highway to hopefully temp you to see for yourself just how good it is out there.



Happy Planning

ps....thanks Chris for pushing me to get out there



Stephen and Fiona




























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Reply By: Member - kimberleybloke - Sunday, Sep 10, 2017 at 11:07

Sunday, Sep 10, 2017 at 11:07
Thanks Stephan, had this on my list as well, will now make it a priority for next year. Easy for me to get to as I live just over the border in the Kimberley. Great photo's too.
Regards, Mark.
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Follow Up By: Member - Stephen L (Clare SA) - Sunday, Sep 10, 2017 at 11:26

Sunday, Sep 10, 2017 at 11:26
Hi Mark

You will not be disappointed and it is very different to the Eastern Kimberley.

We did the drive over 2 days and at an enjoyable speed depending on the conditions and allowing lots of photo stops.

When we were speaking to locals, they drive through non stop in around 10 hours.

When we were sitting around the campfire at Jurassic Park at 10pm we could hear a car coming and then slowed right down and slowly drove into the camping area.

Fiona's thoughts were not good, but it was a young guy from Nhulumbuy. He was heading to Darwin for mechanical repairs for a mates gearbox that he had in the back of his ute. He said he could be back in Nhulunbuy within 2 days compared to waiting for a week for the barge to bring the parts in for repairs.

He said it was getting too dangerous on the road, with lots of cattle and buffalo. We had a quick chat then he got his swag out and after a quick sleep, left at 5 am.



Cheers



Stephen
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Reply By: Been-Everywhereman - Sunday, Sep 10, 2017 at 11:45

Sunday, Sep 10, 2017 at 11:45
Hey there Stephen. Glad to see you enjoyed your long rough ride.
I will also mention there is 24hour fuel available at Bulman at the bowsers which accept credit card. We filled up on the way there and on the way back 7 weeks ago.
If you hadn't mentioned this because it is now not an option I will stand corrrected and if you didn't know about that fuel stop I am glad I can spread knowledge.
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Follow Up By: Member - Stephen L (Clare SA) - Sunday, Sep 10, 2017 at 12:21

Sunday, Sep 10, 2017 at 12:21
Hi there

I hope you were like me and thoroughly enjoyed your time at Nhulunbuy and plan on a return visit.

We wanted to get to a few other places but they were all booked out and the only place that was not booked out was Cape Arnhem. That was a great drive......but that rubbish washed up on the beach was unreal, there must have been tons of it.


The only other place that was not booked out ( Wonga Creek ), was closed to everyone as there was a very large croc there and it was causing a few issues.

As for the road, with lowered tyre pressures and driving to the conditions, it was a great drive. The only bad section was from Mainoru through to Bulman and there those corrugations were real good and were sitting on around 40 kph. As we refuelled at Mainoru, we then had more than enough to get us through to Nhulunbuy.

Spread the word to everyone, as it is one place that should be high on everyone's bucket list.



Cheers


Stephen
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Follow Up By: Member - Keith P (NSW) - Sunday, Sep 10, 2017 at 15:05

Sunday, Sep 10, 2017 at 15:05
How was the expander for dust ingress? And did you have any problems with it ?
We have a Discovery outback that we are not happy with...so it is going on the market. The replacement will be a 2017/18 Journey touring poptop that I am going to "all-road-ize" ...ie...underslung axle ...15 inch light truck tyres....stoneguard...Do 35 hitch....wiring and cable, tanks etc all stoneprotected...and anything else that I can think of. It will ultimately be about only a 100mm lower than our Discovery...will have the 6 inch extended A frame , but 4inch chassis with load sharing suspension ..like our Discovery...but will be about 600KG lighter. I just poke along and smell the roses ...so no probs with corrugations...and I was wondering what your thorts were about doing this trip with this van and my set-up ??? Tow vehicle is a 97 GQ Patrol.
Looking forward to your input hey.
Cheers Keith
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Follow Up By: Shaker - Sunday, Sep 10, 2017 at 16:33

Sunday, Sep 10, 2017 at 16:33
Have they relaxed the No Caravan rule??

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Follow Up By: Member - Stephen L (Clare SA) - Sunday, Sep 10, 2017 at 16:58

Sunday, Sep 10, 2017 at 16:58
Hi Shaker

The short answer is "NO"

As you will no, in the fine print of the permit, it states only off road and heavy duty campers, with boats and caravans not to be taken up there.

However while travelling up there we had 3 offload and 1 normal caravan heading west back to the Stuart Highway as well as 2 vehicles towing large open boats.

On the way back we passed 4 caravans heading to Nhulunbuy.

I have no idea who would ever police that rules, as when you drive around the town, there are many places that have very old caravans in there yards and judging by the condition of them, it makes you wonder how the hell they ever made the trip there.

How long ago were you up there, as now there are only a few very shallow creeks to cross and every crossing west of the Goyder has bridges to cross.



Cheers



Stephen
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Follow Up By: Been-Everywhereman - Sunday, Sep 10, 2017 at 17:18

Sunday, Sep 10, 2017 at 17:18
The answer to the caravan rule is "YES" they have relaxed.
The black fellas and the councils are trialling vans.
We broke a leaf spring on the van which is our stupid fault for taking a Jayco but as far as dust goes we kept it confined to the wheel arch cupboards only. The leaf spring was an easy fix.
As far as our girlie Prado went of course it had to crap an alternator in the middle of nowhere didn't it.
My wife hasn't heard the end of that one, making us take her car.
I went up there in 2011 and had extra permits which allowed us to go out via the top road. Raminginning etc and that was a great trip.
This time was a central road in an out and I won't do that again.
But for anyone that's never been there it's a must do.
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Follow Up By: Member - Stephen L (Clare SA) - Sunday, Sep 10, 2017 at 19:22

Sunday, Sep 10, 2017 at 19:22
Hi again Been-Everywhereman

That would have just bad luck with the alternator, and it can happen to any vehicle, both new or old.

Not sure why you think your Prado is a girlie car, as they will go everywhere other bigger four wheek drives will go and we have taken ours to some very remote out of the way places without any issues....except staked tyres........lol

The approach from the north would have been great and would like to hear how you were able to get the permit .


Regards





Stephen
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Follow Up By: Been-Everywhereman - Thursday, Sep 14, 2017 at 09:38

Thursday, Sep 14, 2017 at 09:38
hahaha. They are quite capable when they are working well, I cannot agree more.
But crap a starter or alternator and feel the remoteness set in.
I cannot help the girlie car comments because of the fact they are every second mommy car / shopping trolley.
I prefer to drive the Prado but feel quite unconfident in it returning from a remote trip once it has more than 150,000kms on the clock.
Now my 105 1hz I feel quite confident in but you need to time manage with a calendar instead of a clock they are so breathless.
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Reply By: Member - Blue M - Sunday, Sep 10, 2017 at 13:56

Sunday, Sep 10, 2017 at 13:56
Stephen,
you make me envious when you post trips like this. Loved the pics.

Cheers
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Follow Up By: Member - Stephen L (Clare SA) - Sunday, Sep 10, 2017 at 14:37

Sunday, Sep 10, 2017 at 14:37
Hi Blue

Ithas taken me a number of years to get around yo it. A fellow EO Member and personal friend has been there 3 times and after much chatting, he told me to "just do it ".

It is a fantadtic place to visit and let's hope it gets people like uou there. The scenery so so very different to what I expected it to be and just gets more dense the further east you travel. The transit permit is free and easy to get, so I hope more will plan the trip.



Cheers



Stephen
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Reply By: Member - Mark (Tamworth NSW) - Sunday, Sep 10, 2017 at 19:04

Sunday, Sep 10, 2017 at 19:04
Thanks Stephen, really enjoy your posts, both test and photos, just keep posting !
I'm probably a few years behind you in doing these things, hopefully I can rely on your posts for when we start heading out of NSW and Qld. I hadn't thought of getting to Nhulunbuy, but now it's on the list

Mark
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Follow Up By: Member - Stephen L (Clare SA) - Sunday, Sep 10, 2017 at 19:27

Sunday, Sep 10, 2017 at 19:27
Hi Mark

When you do get up there, you will be in for a real treat.

The country is so different to the tropical country so around Cairns and the good thing is you can go anywhere up there and not have to fight your way through hoardes of people, with many places you will still be the only vehicle out there.

Just keep planning and your dreams will come true.



Cheers




Stephen
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Reply By: Davo53 - Sunday, Sep 10, 2017 at 21:35

Sunday, Sep 10, 2017 at 21:35
Hi Stephen . Very interesting report and photos . Planning on going there sometime , this has spurred me on . It's almost the 5th "corner " of Australia !

I understand there is very limited camping in the town itself . Did you camp at the Walkabout Lodge or further out of town ? Where would you recommend to drop anchor for a few days ?

Cheers

Dave & Fiona
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Follow Up By: Member - Stephen L (Clare SA) - Sunday, Sep 10, 2017 at 22:03

Sunday, Sep 10, 2017 at 22:03
Hi Dave

You are correct about camping right in Nhulunbuy. The only place in town is as you say, at the Walkabout Lodge.

We stayed there for 5 days as we wanted the luxury of a shower morning and night for the only reason of the weather, and a nice safe pool to swin in at the end of the day.

It was a constant 29 during the day and down to 20 overnight, but humid.

When you get there, you need to get a general permit from Dhimurru Aboriginal Corporation that gives you acces to most places in the area. To get to the other special places, a Special Permit is required and numbers are strictly monitored and for us, we could not get into Scout Camp or Memorial Park where they limit numbers to 5 vehicles a day , Wonga Creek was closed with a large croc causing a few issues and the only other special permit place we could get to was Cape Arnhem which allows 12 vehicles a day.

Even when we went out to Macassans Beach, a couple of ladies thought they were safe swimming in a rock pool, only to discover a croc sunning itself on the rocks at the Rock pool the next day.

One place that had a realy nice feel was Daliwuy Bay, but again like any area, you must be croc wise.

Wherever you stay, you will have a ball.



Cheers





Stephen
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Reply By: nickb - Monday, Sep 11, 2017 at 02:47

Monday, Sep 11, 2017 at 02:47
Thanks for the great pics and write up!
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Follow Up By: Member - Stephen L (Clare SA) - Monday, Sep 11, 2017 at 07:38

Monday, Sep 11, 2017 at 07:38
Hi Nick

Thanks for that and let's hope that it prompts other to take the plunge and get up there to see some very special country.




Cheers



Stephen
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Reply By: Member - Graham N (SA) - Monday, Sep 11, 2017 at 06:58

Monday, Sep 11, 2017 at 06:58
Fantastic photos Stephen, we have been 'gunna' visit there since the mine closed, it's about time that became a reality. Our best chance maybe this time next year. Were the tourists thinning out then?, probably would not be too many up that way as yet.
I know at one time they had a restriction on where you could camp on the way up, is that still the case?
Regards to you and Fiona,

Cheers
Graham & Maxine
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Follow Up By: Member - Stephen L (Clare SA) - Monday, Sep 11, 2017 at 07:51

Monday, Sep 11, 2017 at 07:51
Hi Graeme and Maxine

That is the strange thing Graeme, you do not see mant tourists at all, mostly local people.

From what we could gather, it is still on place that sees few outsiders and a majority of them are on the big "Outback Spirit" tours.

As for camping on the way either in or out, the Aboriginal lady that I spoke with said to camp in one of the old gravel pits if we were not going to stay at the campground at Mainoru. These are perfect locations to camp, flat, cleared of dense vegetation and off the road.

Start planning now and you will have a great trip.




Cheers



Stephen & Fiona
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Reply By: ChrisVal7 - Tuesday, Sep 12, 2017 at 21:51

Tuesday, Sep 12, 2017 at 21:51
What a great trip report, and with magic photos. I have lived all my life in the Top End (until recently when I moved to SA) and been to Nhulunbuy many times. But never been on that track. Mainly that is because it was discouraged to travel on it, and if you had a van it was all but forbidden. So I am glad to see they are now opening the area to tourism.
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Follow Up By: Member - Stephen L (Clare SA) - Tuesday, Sep 12, 2017 at 22:34

Tuesday, Sep 12, 2017 at 22:34
Hi ChrisVal

Thanks for that and yes the push is on to get as many tourists there as they can.

I know years ago the Central Arnhem Highway seemed to be one of those "no go road " but now it is dead easy to get your permit.

But as the lady in the permit office did so, there are countless people that do not even try to get a permit, which is very strange, as they are free.

I presume you would have come in the top way, what would have been great.

It was a fantastic place to visit, with so much to see and explore, and unfortunately we missed out on many places......a very good excuse to go back.




Cheers



Stephen
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