The final destination on our trip in Arnhem Land was at the very northern tip of Northern Territory on the Cobourg peninsula. We flew in to Vashon Head in the Garug Gunak Barlu National Park over the tropical Timor Sea.
The staff welcomed us into the Seven Spirit Bay Resort with a refresher towel and iced tea. Our cabin – no more tents! – along the Yellow Brick Rd was indeed luxurious with a view from the balcony to the beach and a huge shower/bathroom complex. The afternoon was spent lolling about in the pool and watching the sunset over cocktails and Gerard’s music.
The next day began with a trip to Victoria Settlement via the MV Arafura. Originally surveyed by the indefatigable Philip Parker King in 1819, it was settled by the British for strategic reasons in 1838 as Port Essington. The difficulties of isolation, poor water and food supply and disease finally saw the settlement cease in 1849. Some of the settlement remains with ironstone cottages of Cornish design, a munitions store and a hospital among the ruins.
Ludwig Leichhardt even passed through on his penultimate expedition.
We walked on through rainforest remnants and woodlands, Lachlan pointing out cheeky yam, native hibiscus and the Kakadu or billy goat plum, the fruit of which has the highest vitamin C content known.
Clambering aboard MVArafura we were buffeted across the choppy water to Record Point, slowing only when a sleepy croc was seen sunbaking at our lunch spot. Was it really a croc or just a log? Revving the engine and making noise failed to rouse it. Perhaps it was dead. But suddenly it raised its head cocked its eye at us and slid into the sea.
Our last stop was at the Garig Gunak Baru National Park museum. This is the land of the Iwaidja speaking people. We passed a family of traditional owners going fishing. Many moved away from their traditional land to the white settlements on Croker Island but since 1981 have returned to live on out stations.
Our group had bonded pretty well by this stage. Even Rob our guide acknowledged he’d never had a group who’d skinny dipped before. It also happened to be Anita’s birthday so the evening required celebration. Jan organised us in mixed teams for a game of trivia. There was a lot of shouting, laughter and a fair bit of dealing as answers were drummed up from questions about our trip. The winners were presented with the stinking skull of a banteng much to everyone’s delight!
Our final full day included fishing and a nature trip through the open woodland to see the ancient Nipa palms. Fred went fishing and I chose nature. Lachlan pointed our golden grevillea, turkey bush, a bowerbird’s nest and the ancient palms growing in a wetland area. These palms are the oldest living tree species and are thought to have originated 70 million years ago.
We adjourned for lunch on the beach but not before hearing the story of another fish which got away!
Our last night at Seven Spirit Bay affirmed our friendships with new and long standing friends. This trip had been a dream of my school friend Jenny and I to bookend a trip we did together through Central Australia 50 years earlier. It had surpassed all our expectations.