Thursday, August 15, 2013

Oenpelli and Gunbalanya

Tuesday16th August

Our day started at six am, and was spent in the capable hands of tour guide Gerry, with the Arnhemlander Cultural and Heritage tour. An all day tour in a big truck converted to a bus, high off the ground and 4WD so it can manage the terrain, wet or dry (depending on how wet).  We counted the number of times we got in and out of that bus and it was eight or nine in/outs, sixteen altogether. 

Gerry was informative, interesting, intelligent and very likeable.  He described himself as a tradie, a carpenter, who had lived and worked in Arnhemland for many years.  He didn't seem as ground down by the tourist trade as I would be!  We had several Italians on our tour of eleven people and I wonder how they managed with Gerry's English patter.  Better then I would have managed an Italian tour, I am sure.

The tour went out from Jabiru along the Arnhem Highway (sealed) to the Border Crossing cafĂ© and shop where Gerry picked up our packed lunches.  The scenery is magnificent with wetlands, grasslands, and the Kakadu escarpment.  Our first stop was a rocky outcrop looking out over the flood plain and the stone country,  where Gerry talked to us about the geology, flora and fauna (warning us graphically of the ever-present threat of crocodiles) and the aboriginal inhabitants.  He pointed out some rock art.  He showed us bones of meals past - fish, snake, goanna, turtle, magpie geese. Alas there are far fewer goanna than there used to be, since the incursion of the cane toad.  He told us about the early settlers and military posts, and about the buffalo hunters, then the buffalo eradication programme.  We saw no buffalo.  He talked about the weather. They measure rainfall in metres here.  Up to three metres in a season is not unusual. It would be such a different place in The Wet, and Gerry said it was fabulous. Gerry is a very positive guy. 

Gerry leads the way. 

Onwards we went to a site where there was substantial gallery of rock art. It was a bit of a steep climb but well worth it.  I took lots of photos and was pleasantly surprised at how well they turned out.  It reveals them in such detail, more than you can see with the naked eye.  

It was time then to go somewhere for lunch.  This is where we needed the 4WD as it was cross country to a glorious spot beside the water. Again stern warnings about crocodiles.  The signs are everywhere. 

After lunch we drove back across country and I sat up front with Gerry. It is like climbing a ladder to get up to the cabin but the big front window makes for a terrific view.  

We then went to the Injalak Arts and Crafts store at the aboriginal community of Gunbalanya.  There were artists in residence, and we mulled over what to buy,  but confined ourselves to a few small things.  The people looked in poor condition.  They smoke too much, their diet is poor.  It was a bit depressing in some ways.  

The view from the town is spectacular.  Vivid blue and green, and the stone country in the background, and the helicopter as a colourful if incongruent note in the foreground.   

On the way back we stopped at another rock art site and sacred burial ground.  Photos are permitted, but not below a certain line on the rock. We treat the place with respect.  

On the way home we stopped again the Border Crossing to drop off the dirty dishes.  I walked across the road and down a path to see a pocket of rainforest and a colony of flying foxes, plus a riverside scene.  

Yes, the ubiquitous crocodiles. 

Home again, and dinner in the hotel restaurant. Crocodile risotto. Yum. 

No comments:

Post a Comment