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Posts Tagged ‘Aboriginals’

We spent this past week in Darwin for one of Ryan’s work trips.  It was our first time to the Darwin in the Northern Territory — “The Top End” as it’s casually known – and per usual, I didn’t feel like we had enough time to get a total lay-of-the-land, especially this vast land.  But below I’ve summarized my top list of things to do or see while in Darwin.  I say “My” list because my dear husband had to work while I explored.  Don’t feel too bad for him, though, as we’re on our way to Tasmania later today for a proper holiday.

The Top Ten Things To Do or See in Darwin

*Disclaimer:  Before I start this list, I should mention that I thought everything is incredibly overpriced in Darwin so my tourist experiences were limited things I thought were not out-of-this-world-expensive or would not eat too much of my limited time for exploration.

1.  The Wharf Precinct Wave Pool aka Wave Lagoon:  Darwin is HOT.  One of the locals told me they have two temperatures, hot and hotter.  I hate to sweat, preferring to “glow” wondrously, but sweating is unavoidable in Darwin.  It just happens.  The Wave Lagoon, however, is a perfect place to cool off.  The Wharf Precinct itself is also very cool.  A newer part of town, the precinct is buzzing with retail and cafes.  Although I took the pic below at night, you get the idea…it’s a pretty neat place.

2.  Crustaceans or Fish ‘n chips on the Wharf:  While on the Wharf, grab dinner at Crustaceans where Ryan loved his grilled Barramundi (an Australian seafood staple) or a Fish n’chips from a chipper on the wharf.

3.  The double-decker tour bus – I took the 3-hour afternoon tour and found it the perfect way to hit the highlights of Darwin.  The guide was super friendly and informative.  I learned a lot about the history of Darwin, for example: Did you know the Japanese bombed Darwin 10 wks after they bombed Pearl Harbor?  There were also a good photo opp overlooking the city.  It was just a really good tour – I recommend it. The pic below was taken while on the tour, just across from the Museum and Gallery of Art.

4.  The Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory – on the tour bus we made a stop at the Museum and Gallery of Art which was a great place to get a feel for the history of Darwin; everything from the rich Aboriginal history to the 5 metre (yes, that’s 15 foot) salt water crocodile named Sweetheart.  And remember the Barramundi mentioned above?  I learned that they start life as males but at around age 5 they become females.  Fancy that?!  There’s your useless fact for the day.  Most memorable was the room where you can hear the actual sounds from Cyclone Tracy which devastated the town on Christmas Eve and Day in 1974.   Eerie and Terrifying.  I lasted no more than 5 seconds in the room.

5.  Cullen Bay – Cullen Bay is a beautiful little section of the city with houses and a newer place of cafes and restaurants.  While I only drove by this on the tour bus, the driver highly recommended some of the restaurants there and the quaint and quiet feel made me wish I could stay.

I didn’t get to visit the 6th through 10th attractions because they were either closed, due to rainy season, or we didn’t have enough time but they come highly recommended by locals so I wanted to be sure I included them.

6.  Deckchair Cinema

7.  Crocodylus Park

8.  Kakadu National Park

9.  Mindil Beach and Parap Markets

10.  Darwin harbour cruises

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I’ve never felt as unqualified to write about a topic as I do with this one.  This blog has been dedicated to our adventures in our time in Oz and we share our learnings and reflections with you, our readers.  And so it will be with this post.  Aboriginals in Australia, however, is something so complicated, so historic, so beautiful, and yes, sometimes so tragic and horrific, that I barely know where to begin or how to do it justice.  That caveat is the only way I could begin this post.

Let me just say that by far my favorite thing about the Grampians was the history of the Aborigines on the land.  The Aboriginal culture is the longest-surviving and living human culture on the planet and it was incredible to me that we could drive four hours outside of Melbourne and walk on paths that they had trod and appreciate some of their famous rock-art sites.

We left Hall’s Gap and headed towards the Gulgurn Manja Shelter, off Harrap Track via Glenelg River Road and Henty Highway. Once off the River Road and the main highway, the road became much more desolate.  I felt like we were visiting some remote time-warp since we traveled along a vast red dirt road and encountered more kangaroos, wallabies, and emus, than humans.

After a twenty minute walk to the shelter from the carpark we came upon the shelter, where it’s believed Aboriginals came to seek refuge from the elements.  Manja symbolises the link between the Jardwadjali (the Aboriginal group) and their land.  In the shelter there are 24 hand stencils, formed when hands were placed against the rock and a mouthful of ochre was sprayed around them.  The Manja shelter, I’m told, has more hand stencils than any other site in Victoria and it is believed that the hand stencils were a way of recording a visit to this incredible rock overhang.

The second shelter was visited was Billimina, a short 10 minute drive from Manja and also a twenty minute climb from the carpark.  This shelter featured human-type figures (which historians believe were specific to the Jardwadjali clans such as the Tukallut balug and Whiteburer bundidj).  This shelter also featured small bars which are common in rock-art sites in south-eastern Australia.  Many believe the strokes indicate how long the Aborigines spent at that site, the number of people who visited, or special ceremonial events.  These were formed with red ochre mixed with water, egg yolk or animal fat to bind into a paint.

Finally, we visited Bunjil’s cave, about 11 km south of Stawell.  The cave is one of the most prominent rock-art sites in Victoria.  Bunjil was the creator spirit or diety, according to Australian Aboriginal dream-time stories and the art depicts Bunjil with his two dingoes.

It was almost incomprehensible to be standing near these ever-important historical art sites which are believed to be 10,000 (some believe 20,000) years old.

It was serendipitious that during our visit I happened to be reading a book from an Aboriginal man, Ambrose Mungala Chalarimeri, called Man from the Sunrise Side which is a narrative about his experiences growing up an Aboriginal in Australia.

Ambrose talks about how many of the Aboriginal youth have little-to-no knowledge of their culture and history and therefore, much of it has been lost.  I found it interesting that one of the pamphlets in the region says that ‘much of the knowledge about the art has been lost but what remains is information passed down from generation to generation in aboriginal communities’.  And is often the case, I wondered what I could do to help to preserve the culture.

In the book he also points out how so many people have taken pictures of the art sites throughout Australia and have sold the photographs on postcards, in prints, and in other forms, of course, for a profit.  He expressed frustration that these people didn’t ask for permission to take photos and sell his culture’s “intellectual property” and I tended to agree with his perspective.  I, of course, just took photos for memories, and educational purposes, and to share with you.  I hope you find them as fascinating as we did.

Click HERE to read more about these Aboriginal rock-art sites

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