14 July 2012
Kakadu is an area of extraordinary beauty and great cultural significance and importance. Our final spot in this beautiful and special place has been Ubirr, a rock art site with an unbelievable view over the surrounding wetlands.
We arrived yesterday afternoon, as we wanted to see the sunset. We listened in at some talks given by a national parks ranger at a few of the art sites. The art is beautiful but of course the main value and purpose of it is in the stories it tells. The stories are to teach how to hunt or fish or behave in accordance to the cultural exceptions. Some are also to tell stories of a great catch and a big fish!
The main art site is basically a menu of what people have been eating in the area for thousands of years, it is a large open rock overhang that has been occupied at certain times of the year right up until the 1960s. On the walls are painting of many food types as well as what is known as ‘contact art’ which is art that is more recent, a few hundred years old when the people of the area first started seeing European explorers so there are several paintings of white men with hands on hips one with a pipe in his mouth. They must have thought they looked absurd with all the clothing on in this climate! As the afternoon started to fade and the sunset was near we made our way to a large rocky knoll, which overlooks a vast spectacular wetland. I felt like we had stumbled into the most beautiful painting I have ever seen. It was a little hazy from a few grass fires and as the sun started to dip down the sky turned orange and tinted the surrounds, including the rocks we were sitting on. A ranger was there and read a few quotes about land and culture by an Aboriginal Elder, Bill Neidjie who was committed to sharing the traditional land of his people and was instrumental in the creation of Kakadu National Park. I don’t recall a landscape ever bringing tears to my eyes before. We stayed until it was getting near dark and the mozzies were threatening to carry us away- their drone is something else!
We came back this morning as we felt we wanted more time with the art and spent a few hours having another good look. We are leaving Kakadu now and heading to Katherine where we are going to Nitmiluk (Katherine Gorge) to spend the day canoeing tomorrow. Its something all four of us have been really looking forward to. Then we start to head back to Darwin for Alice and Tom to catch their flight home and we are having a few more days there to get some more landy stuff done.