26 August 2007

Northern Territory Escape Day 3

Thank you for the generous compliments and thank you too, Shona...better late than never...lol.

Margaret and I had a lovely lunch and catch up...no wine, we both had our cars. She's off to Italy next week for a month and when she gets back, I'm going to help her set up a blog...Margaret wants to blog!

Okay, here's the next instalment...enjoy!

Day 3:

We were up at 6.00 am for an early breakfast then into the coach. This time we were embarking on a cruise on the East Alligator River and a walk on Arnhem Land. As Arnhem Land belongs to the traditional owners, one goes there by invitation only, so this was rather special for us. Our tour operator was a part-Aboriginal guy called Nick and he was rather a character.

He worked for Guluyambi (paperbark craft) Cruises and warned us of the dangers of putting our arms over the sides of the boat...crocodiles again. He also warned us that if we fell in, he wasn’t rescuing anyone as it wasn’t in his job description. Fair enough.

East Alligator river looking towards Arnhem Land. Note the rock formation at the top.

The East Alligator River intersects Kakadu and Arnhem Land and the local Aboriginal people use it for fishing and hunting. The river is very important in their day to day lives. Nick also told us something of the “women’s business” of weaving, showing us exquisite samples, and gathering food. He then told us of Aboriginal Law. I have never forgotten this.

If a tribe member was caught stealing or had murdered someone, after facing the Australian judicial system and serving his sentence, he then had to face Aboriginal Law after he came out of gaol. This consisted of punishment whereby a spear with vicious barbs on the tip, which were carved in different directions, was thrown into the offender’s arm. It was impossible to get this spear tip out and the arm would become infected. If the offender tried to pull it out of his arm, it would rip the muscles and ligaments to shreds, the offender would lose the use of his arm and probably die. Not very pleasant, but quite effective. At that point in time, there was talk about forbidding the practice of Aboriginal Law. I have very strong thoughts on that, which I won't go into here.

He also told us of some the uses of paperbark, one of which was as toilet paper because it was so soft. I’ll remember that the next time I go bush. We were then invited onto Arnhem Land and everyone was quite awed and hushed. We spoke very quietly, respecting the fact that we were there by invitation only. The feeling of it all was very spiritual and peaceful.

Arnhem Land
Looking across the E Alligator River from Arnhem Land to Kakadu

Back on to the coach and our next destination was a place called Ubirr to see ancient rock paintings of what's called the “x-ray” type. This was where paintings of animals, fish and birds were depicted with their internal organs.

One of the examples of Aboriginal rock painting.

Really quite amazing. However, later generations painted over the existing art pieces and the originals could be seen faintly showing through the top layer of ochre.

I climbed up onto an escarpment at Ubirr and viewed the most wonderful panorama of flood plains stretching for kilometres in a 180 degree arc. It included the Daly River which was used as a location in the movie “Crocodile Dundee”. We then had lunch at the Bowali Information Centre which was a fascinating place and full of pictures, dioramas and stories about the region. The one thing that impressed me here was the absolute professionalism of the people involved and the spotless and sweet smelling toilets!

A portion of the Daly River flood plains, taken from the top of the escarpment

We arrived back at the Gadjugu Hotel at about 2.30 pm and decided to have a nap. A few of the overseas tourists in our group were going on a scenic flight over Kakadu but we decided against it. Neither Mum nor I liked small aircraft. We washed and dried some clothes then, in what was becoming a daily ritual, went to the bar for drinks before dinner. I decided against red wine, because I’d had a couple of migraines after one or two glasses of the stuff, so I changed to gin and tonic and had no more problems.

(117 km)
To be continued...


Jeanette said...

Hi Robyn. great commentry and pics once again. I think we must have had the same guide, he told us the same thing if we fell in he was't going to rescue us, as it wasn't in his job criteria.
hope you get to Winton. if so you must go to the Walzing Matilda museum..its very interesting.

Sometimes Saintly Nick said...

That spear in the arm of aboriginal law is… frightening… almost as bad as Islamic law chopping off the hands of thieves.

Thanks, Robyn, for again allowing me to share you adventure.

Lee said...

I think our law courts could introduce a punishment similar to that for rapists and paedophiles! (And I'm not meaning a spear in the arm, either!)

Another great episode, Robyn. :) We do live in a diversely magnificent country.

Gattina said...

I repeat myself, it's again very interesting ! I love the aboriginal designs it's a pity that somebody painted over them. The landscape is as flat as Belgium or the Netherlands ! For a murderer I would suggest to take the aboriginal law over that's much better then a death penality !

Gypsy said...

Loved what Lee said, couldn't agree more. Great pics Robyn, you're giving me itchy feet.

meeyauw said...

I can understand the complexity of the justice system. It is a muddle of ideas that I have. I appreciate your use of the phrase "original owners" for the land. I absolutely think we should use that here, too. Well, probably many do, but its the first time I have heard of it. And it's perfect.

Beautiful descriptions and photos.