ERROL AND MILDRED REPORT
29.05.2014 25 °C
Located near Kakadu National Park and the Arafura Sea and the Gulf of Carpentaria, Arnhem Land is an immeasurable unblemished backwoods, rich in Aboriginal culture, philosophy and history. For our trip to Arnhem Land, we hired a 4WD and we accessed the region via the Central Arnhem Road which connects to the Stuart Highway south of Katherine. (Access from Darwin to Jabiru is via the Arnhem Highway. Access from the south is via the Kakadu Highway.)
The Yolngu people are the owners of Arnhem Land and the region has been occupied by them for at least 60,000 years. The Yolngu hold strong cultural and spiritual links to the land and you will find authentic indigenous experiences just as we did.
We saw with our own eyes how beautiful and diverse Arnhem Land really is. Coastlines with strong-features, fish-filled rivers/streams/creeks, towering escarpments, ancient woodlands, isolated islands and lavish and opulent rainforests.
We saw ample wildlife throughout the region, including many saltwater crocodiles, magpie geese, dugongs, nesting turtles, migratory birds and barramundi. Present statistics show that Arnhem Land is home to: 13 frog species, 76 reptile species, 207 bird species and 35 mammal species. Flora that was seen by both ourselves and tour guides was: spinifex, salmon gum, sandstone pandanus, Djinydjalma and Guku (sugarbag, wild honey).
Aboriginal rock art sites can be found almost everywhere, in rural, remote and even urban environments. But some of the most famous Indigenous art sites are located throughout Kakadu and Arnhem Land. As we moved further afield of Arnhem Land Mildred and I joined a safari tour to Mount Borradaile and were one of the extremely lucky few to view the large galleries found here, and took an enlightening and educational tour up Injalak Hill at Gunbalanya (Oenpelli) to see some goregeus magnificent rock art sites.
Arnhem Land was an amazing experience and is teeming with striking and easily-accessible rock art. Ubirr and Nourlangie Rock are quite possibly the two most well-known. At Nourlangie Rock we saw famous paintings such as Namarrgon and Lightning Man while at Ubirr join a free Park Ranger chatted and informed us about the ancient cave-paintings. Archaeologists believe that carbon dating proves that the Aboriginal rock art discovered at Arnhem Land is among the oldest cave paintings in the world! These symbolic sites offered us an insight of extinct species, spirituality and relationships.
Oenpelli, Yirrikala, Elcho Island, Ramingining, Maningrida and Milingimbi are the main communities in Arnhem Land. We saw that the art from these regions varied in both style and story. Western Arnhem Land art seems to have a figurative and narrative basis while in Eastern Arnhem Land the art is typically conceptual.
On the western side of Arnhem Land we called in to see artists at work. We bought a basket and painting for our daughter, who is re-furnishing her house at the famous Injalak Art and Craft Centre. We took one tour that was led by an indigenous guide to Injalak Hill to see the beautiful ancient rock art and hear enthralling Dreamtime stories. A bush tucker tour was on offer as well and we learnt all about how the Indigenous people lived of the land’s plants and animals. On the final day we took a magnificent helicopter trip to see a unique bird’s eye view of the park.
There are a couple wilderness loges that accommodated us for two nights and on the third night we slept under the stars in a private and secluded campsite. To visit Arnhem Land you will need a permit from the Northern Land Council so we joined a tour group that already had a licenced permit. Throughout the year, Arnhem Land's landscapes undergo spectacular changes. We visited during the most popular time period (the dry season – April to September) because the wet season sees extremely intense weather conditions causing some parts of the park to be closed.
ERROL AND MILDRED