I'm a freelance writer, living in Melbourne. I enjoy uncovering hidden in plain sight gems.
Published September 28th 2017
Outback Walking Tour
As the wind rustled through the trees, I could hear the sound of a Mulum (Didgeridoo) and the rhythmic tapping of clap sticks. The sun was beating down but it wasn't uncomfortably hot. I was perched on a hollowed out stringybark log with the brown dust feeling sandy on my feet.
The tour guide stopped playing and continued answering our questions. He described how the Mulum (Didgeridoo) is tuned by blowing water through it. This is so it makes a clear sound. He then demonstrated the process of choosing the Stringybark tree to make into a Mulum (Didgeridoo). We could hear him hitting the tree to check the tone of the wood. He explained that they are looking for trees that termites have hollowed out the middle. The older the tree is, the more solid the sound is. He showed us an example of a very old didgeridoo where it almost looked like it had enamel on it because it had been treated with water daily.
When we arrived at the Leaning Tree Lagoon and noticed that we were the first to arrive. I noticed a sign that said 'No filming allowed'. This is very important to note when going on any aboriginal tours that you do. Please always be respectful to these lovely people and do not take photos or video without requesting permission first.
A few minutes before the tour started, a young lady arrived and asked softly, "Are you local?" We replied "Yes". We were lucky enough to then get a discount on the tour price (so if you're local and you haven't already been on this tour, I suggest you make the trip). I cannot remember the exact discount amount, but any amount of discount is a bonus in the uber-expensive Territory.
We stood under a billowing tree that kept us all well shaded. She described the importance of Welcome to Country. It is not unlike showing your respect by taking off your shoes and covering your shoulders at any Temple in Asia, or being quiet when you go into any Church in Europe. To step on any Aboriginal country, one must always first be blessed. Once blessed, you can visit any part of that Aboriginal country and be safe from any harm happening to you.
There are over 500 Aboriginal countries in Australia with 500 different and unique languages and dreamings. These languages, dreamings and countries are each distinct.
Leaning Tree Lagoon and our outback walk are situated deep in Turtle dreaming country. We were all Welcomed to Country by having placed billabong water on our heads and the tour guide softly spoke "Kuku", which sounded a lot like "cuckoo". Although traditionally, Welcome to Country is done by spitting onto the person or by using human sweat.
As we walked through the bush, she showed us Gugadju or Kakadu plums, explaining that they have more vitamin D than any other fruit commonly available. She also said that Stringybark trees have multiple uses which include the bark being used for paintings, shelters, canoes and various tools.
She also showed us Lazy Fishing. Lazy Fishing is when one uses a particular leave from a tree as poison to catch the fish. We all had a good chortle at the lazy fishing and thought it was a wonderful idea to try out in the Territory. Especially since barramundi are so hard to catch.
We were also shown how to make bags with pandanus leaves. She stripped the panadanus leaves and then died them. These special bags are used at particular ages of development, and are important for ceremony.
The tour was very informative about Aboriginal lore, culture, ceremonies, and expectations of behaviour. As a group, the tour guides fielded some fairly intense questions about contemporary Aboriginal issues. The responses we received were balanced and authentic to our tour guides experience.
The tour guides were so welcoming and I would highly recommend the tour to anyone wanting to learn about a culture that has been around for millennia.