Born and bred in Brisbane, Queensland, I spent my life in the inner city suburbs. Like most city dwellers, I lived and worked close to each other, spending more time at my place of employment than the apartment I spent the majority of my pay check on. Life was good but rushed, my downtime lost to sleeping and, when not exhausted, catching up with friends.
If you’d asked me two years ago if I would move, or be able to spend my time somewhere quieter, I would have said no.
Two years ago, I hadn’t even heard of a place called Nhulunbuy.
However life does have that ability to throw some curve balls your way and now I am just as adjusted to small town living as I was to city life. In some ways it may even suit me more.
After an eight month stint in rural Halls Creek as the Duty Manager of a pub, I decided that it was time to move onto new places. There were multiple factors that contributed to this need to roam further, though I will discuss those at another time.
Opportunities were a simple email away, what with the wonders of MLKA Recruitment. I shifted through the current job adverts and picked two that I really liked. With the wheels of progress turning, I interviewed for both; one sounded amazing while the other sounded amazing.
As life would have it though, I settled for second best (in my opinion) and once again packed up my life and booked a bus ticket. It was quite the feat getting from Halls Creek, Western Australia, to Nhulunbuy, Northern Territory, but that is, after all, part of the thrill of my new lifestyle.
A sleepless sixteen hour Greyhound bus ride from Halls Creek to Darwin left me stiff and sore and halfway through the amazing ‘Girl on the Train’ by Paula Hawkins. I had allowed myself two full days in Darwin to reclimitize to civilized life before jetting off on an AirNorth flight to my new home.
Nhulunbuy is almost as remote as you can get. Built into the coast in Northern Territory, it is surrounded by the famous Arnhem Land and was once completely owned by Rio Tinto. Arnhem Land itself is a vast wilderness in the northeast corner of Australia’s Northern Territory, defined by rocky escarpments, gorges, rivers and waterfalls. White sandy beaches are beautiful but treacherous, inhabited by sharks and stingers as well as crocodiles, and, on the occasion, angry locals.
But it is a tropical paradise, with palm trees that sway in coastal breezes and grass so green that it makes the red dirt look faded and dull. Life here is a strange blend of rural, small town rejects and house wives with high maintenance hair and city appropriate makeup. It is the sort of town where miners got rich and decided to stay, living their days out on the water while raising more than the average 2.5 kids.
Of course there are others like me. Those that come here seeking work and cheap lifestyles with the aim of saving money. Maybe they’re paying off debts (like me) or maybe they’re saving for a house deposit or another holiday (also like me). Either way, Nhulunbuy, for all its family orientated ways, is another pocket of nomads and backpackers all out to make a good buck.
Is it the sort of place you should visit?
If you’re in Australia and you’re in the Northern Territory, Nhulunbuy is still quite a stretch away from anything majorly touristy.
The roads into town are pretty bad to say the least, and AirNorth dominates the sky, meaning that they can charge as much as they want for flights in and out. We’re pretty far from Kakadu and even further from Uluru. In a sense, we are in a world of our own, frequented only by retirees on overpriced bus holidays of luxury and air-conditioning.
If you’re looking for something different though, then it is well worth the trip. There’s not much in town so, despite the condition of the main road in, it is best to drive. A 4WD out here would open up a wealth of options and amazing places to see.
As a very famous Australian tourism campaign once said, “You’ll never know if you never bloody go.”
Photo: NT Tourism.