Penny's Ultimate Adventure
Top of Down Under presenter, Penny Wells, shares her experiences from a recent trip to Arhnem Land in the Northern Territory.
I’m one of those travellers that is fairly bold in the type of destination I like to take my 4WD and Ultimate off-road camper to. As soon as I hear someone mention that a place is wild and untouched I quickly head to the keyboard and jump onto Google Earth to scope it out. And this is exactly how it played out for our most recent trip up the East Cost of Arnhem Land in the NT.
I’ve seen it with my own eyes, it’s like a final frontier, the Wild West just bursting at the seams with fascinating landscapes and staggering wildlife not to mention the cultural side of things.
You do need permits to travel into Arnhem Land but if you can get your heads on them the effort is well worthwhile. Starting in the southern end of Arnhem Land is a little town called Ngukurr. There are an incredible seven different languages spoken here. I felt like I had stepped into a different country and the more I delved into their culture the more fascinated I became by the layers of their family structure and way of doing things.
Exploring the “Ruin City” by means of a full-day 4WDing was a highlight. These are ancient towering sandstone pillars that we learnt much about from our cultural guide Emmanuel. The locals say there is still a tribe in this country that has no contact with the outside world. In this day and age I was astonished and it made me look on this incredible vista with wonder. With the Ultimate camper trailer aerodynamically tucked in behind the Cruiser I made tracks for the outstation Wuyagiba. This is Kevin’s land and he is an incredible chap to talk to. Kevin has enjoyed a colourful life, a learned man attending university studying linguistics and also a Golden Glove boxer in his younger years.
Wuyagiba’s coast lines provide access to the Gulf of Carpentaria's plentiful waters. There is an estuary system not too far from the homestead and Kevin tells me there is a family of buffalo that cautiously cross the creek every day at sunset. While fishing at the mouth of the creek as the sun was setting I heard a rustling in the scrub and a herd of Buffalo emerged. They never actually crossed as I watched them, as I believe they could smell us and were too cautious to do so. Camping on the sand dunes with the waves crashing onto the shore was beautiful and the blissful breeze went effortlessly through the Ultimate’s huge windows. My time at Wuyagiba is too short and I promise to Kevin that I will return as I wave goodbye and head out on the dusty, bumpy track with not a drop of dust inside the camper to mention when I arrived at the next town Numbulwar.
There is just under 700 people living in this Aboriginal community and I’m blown away when a traditional owner invites me to watch a special ceremony that afternoon. It’s an experience I find hard to put into words. Watching the two tribes challenge the other through dance makes the ground shake and the air is filled with the sound of clapping sticks. It only lasts 10 minutes but it’s electrifying! I’ll never forget it. It was certainly a special privilege and I thank the community for letting me attend.
The independent suspension on the Ultimate worked effortlessly as we steered the vehicles to our friend Raymond’s and his mob’s country, the outstation Miwul. Reaching the coastline you could be mistaken for turning up at the movie set of Jurassic Park. Here, massive rock formations reach out into the great expanse of ocean. If the tides and moon are favourable then fishing will be good. It was here early one evening, with the camper nestled amongst the Sheoak trees, that we were down on the beach checking on our delicious smelling stew cooking on the camp fire when all hell broke loose. There was a thundering of hooves as two strong buffalo came crashing only meters away from us. They can be very aggressive and you never ever approach them. Only hours earlier, as two of our crew were riding the quad bike down the beach, a three-metre croc sprinted from the top sand dune down to the ocean, right in front of them. You can see why I say this place is like the Wild West!
The rest of the journey heading north on what is known as the SEAL (South East Arnhem Land) track was sensational, in and out of four wheel drive with the Ultimate off-road camper patiently following the Cruiser. It’s exciting times up here with a lot of areas now starting to open up to tourism.
It’s true what they say…. the adventure begins with Ultimate!