We entered the Northern Territory shortly after leaving Mt Isa and continued our journey northwards towards what the Aussies call the “top end”. The weather changed by the day getting hotter and hotter until we hit Darwin, where it promptly rained on us. Despite the weather I have to say Darwin is a very nice little city and somewhere I could spend some time at. In fact, this is exactly what our travel companion, Guillaume, was planning on doing having found work within two days of being here.
Darwin boasts an Asian style night market with loads of decent food, souvenirs and entertainment. Emdee, Drum and Bass style didge playing, and the Amazing Drumming Monkeys were personal favorites.
While here we also visited the World War II oil storage tunnels (due to it’s close proximity to Asia, Darwin actually came under attack from the Japanese) and checked out the excellent Darwin Museum which highlighted local aboriginal culture and art, detailed the great and diverse wildlife of the region, presented a geological history of the continent and gave a chilling insight into the 1974 hurricane Tracy that destroyed the city. As one of the best museums I’ve visited on this trip, the only negative was I couldn’t take it all in.
Once again our luck was with us as we timed our visit (by chance) with Darwin’s annual cultural festival. Although we missed the big opening night we still had the pick of plenty of concerts and exhibitions.
While here we also had our first real problems with the van with a smashed headlight (easily replaced with another sealed beam unit, incidentally the same type fitted to Minis) and a puncture. All minor and thankfully they happened here and not in the middle of nowhere.
On the Sunday evening, on our way to the night market we passed a yellow hi ace pop top similar to ours. Naturally waves were exchanged due to the vehicle’s likeness, but at the next set of traffic lights they pulled up next to us and asked where we were from. They’d seen the Spanish flag on the back and being from Barcelona thought they’d come along for a chat. Holding up traffic we vaguely agreed to meet them at the night market.
Although we didn’t see them in the market we did find them in the car park afterwards. Javi, Jose and Gerard were travelling Australia in the van and had met another guy, Marcus, who imports and sells didgeridoos in Spain. Marcus has been visiting this part of the world for the last 10 years and due to his business, has contact with Aboriginal communities that regular visitors, and locals for that matter, would never experience. He invited us all back to his flat where he was able to fill us in on a lot of the facts of Aboriginal life in modern day Australia and give us a quick didge lesson.
As it turned out we were to spend quite a bit of time with these boys over the next few days in Kakadu National Park. Kakadu happens to be one of Gareth’s favorite parts of Australia, and I can now see why. A national park and world heritage site for not only geological importance but for the cultural one too.
The wildlife was incredible, but I will let the pictures do the talking here.
We spent the best part of three days in Kakadu, most of which we spent with the afore mentioned Barcelona Boys. It was a real pleasure to spend time with them in such idyllic settings, and the Hi Ace convoy was just too cool! Camping in the evening was great as the boys once again reminded me of something I discovered when I first moved to Spain; how important socialising and food is (and how the two go so well together). They ended up cooking for us pretty much both nights and I remember thinking that having left Spain how much I miss Spanish food. Conversation was great, and good practise for my Spanish at that, although I got a bit tired of the Catalunya independence discussion that Gerard was having with Espe. Why is it that a simple discussion for a Spaniard sounds like a full blown argument to a Brit?
Check out their (even more backlogged than mine) blog at iastacuando.blogspot.com.
Kakadu National Park struck me as being very well managed. There was loads of information available along with free ranger walks and talks. Although quite hard work for the Spaniards I found the talks an excellent source of information on the Aboriginal Culture, the geology and the wildlife of the area. This was also the first place we’d visited that gave an insight into the Aboriginal culture that has survived so long here.
Aborigines can stake claim to the oldest living culture on earth. Australia has been home to them for at least 50,000 years and they have developed a way of life that co exists in perfect harmony with the environment. They are hunter gatherers, yet have great respect for the wildlife and land that they live off. They are completely sufficient and have complex community / family systems where every one is responsible for someone else (this even extends to the wildlife around them). Fascinating stuff, but far to long winded for me to go into here.
50,000 years is, when you think about it, a very long time. Historians have it easy here. Upon discovering something ancient and unknown, they can consult the aboriginal elders for assistance in understanding it, so perfected and unchanged is the lifestyle. Something that cannot be done anywhere else. Take the Romans for example, around a mere 2000 years ago, yet the culture is long since gone.
I cannot talk about the ideals of Aboriginal culture however without mentioning the the current situation. The Aborigines are lost. Lost between their culture that worked so well for so long and the European culture, forced upon them (which at the same time is one that does not accept them), that invaded their country 200 years ago. The result is unemployment, crime, alcohol abuse which has lead to a negative come racist attitude from the whites.
There seem to be very few answers to the current problems and most tend not to give it much thought, yet things are much better than years gone by. Arrival of the Europeans brought disease that culled huge numbers. Those that survived were turfed off their own land, harassed and in some cases hunted like dogs. Less than 50 years ago, these people, according to the Australian government weren’t even people at all and came under the Flora and Fauna act! Things are better now, Aborigines are now permitted to become citizens of their own country and much land is being returned although some battles still rage. With a land as beautiful as this you can understand their plight.