48 Hours Out Of Darwin: Nhulunbuy


Words and photo by Sam Brumby

Do you happen to live in Nhulunbuy?

No? I thought not. Only around 3000 people do and last time I checked, the population dwindled a bit due to the alumina refinery shutting down in 2014. Anyway, that’s a yarn for another time and I’m no expert on the subject.

Here’s what I can tell you: Nhulunbuy is situated in NE Arnhem Land, country which belongs to the Yolngu people. It’s beautiful, untouched, full of history and hidden gems. A bloke who was once my next-door neighbour named Richard Trudgen wrote a book about it called Why Warriors Lie Down and Die; it’s an incredible read about the Yolngu and their history and you should all read it.

Outside of Nhulunbuy, there are many Indigenous homelands including Nyinyikay, which sits on the shore of Arnhem Bay. This is the homeland of a dear friend of mine named Daryl. With permission from Daryl and his family I have been fortunate enough to visit multiple times to experience its beauty, rich culture and among other things, fishing.

If you drive out of Nhulunbuy in the right direction, at the right time of year (the road floods in the wet season) and find the right road to take, you might just end up in paradise. No phone reception, no beers, and no shops, just a whole lotta nature, history and heat. But don’t even think about heading that way without the permission and blessing of the local custodians. There’s a reason places like this are so special and a lot of it has to do with us not going there and ruining it.

This is a water buffalo on the drive out of Nhulunbuy. If you’re in this part of the world chances are you’ll see one. Don’t try pat it though, it might gouge it horns through your hollow chest.

The view from the community looking out over Arnhem Bay. That rocky point only rears its head on the low tide. One of Daryl’s Uncles caught 52 barra in a single night there, on a handline no less.

Looking for mud crabs in the mangroves. Spoiler alert, we found one. We ate it.

When you venture out on the water here, besides planes, you most likely won’t see a single soul.

Local mob going for a quick dip. Best keep your eye out for crocs though, wildlife thrives in this part of the world.

Bush kitchen.

Fishing is a major food source in Arnhem Bay and due to it being private land, it thrives (as it should).

When the wet season breaks, the tracks can flood and these little bush planes are the only real option to get in and out. Unless you walk, but if you’re not Yolngu you’ll probably get lost or eaten by a drop bear.

Pretty bloody lush isn’t it?

The view for the afternoon.

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