Fascinating Aboriginal culture
WITH his French-accented English and incongruously-thick moustache, no one would have thought that our Kakadu National Park guide, Guy, was an expert on the history of indigenous Australians in the Northern Territory.
He arrived in the wee hours in a four-wheel-drive van to pick up our party for the six-hour journey to Kakadu and proved to be a walking encyclopaedia of useful and detailed information about Darwin, the surrounding lands, and the plant and animal species found in the landscape.
He is a passionate theorist on the lives of the Aboriginals in Australia, based on his own readings, research and experience in the heritage spaces he works at - such as Kakadu, where the Aboriginals have resided for the last 40,000 years.
Riding shotgun during the journey, I was given a running commentary on the background and history of the lands and how the Aboriginals must have lived back in the day.
STRICT GENDER ROLES
What came across very strongly before my trip to the Northern Territory even began was the regard and respect given to the natives of the land.
Photography and videography permits for sacred sites like Uluru had to be sought in advance.
Even with permits, certain angles or faces of the rock are not to be photographed.
The Aboriginals and people who administer the sites guard their heritage jealously and are very protective about their stories.
They believe that the stories - passed down from generation to generation - need to be communicated in context, not destroyed by being consumed in parts.
During tours and talks on places of Aboriginal interests, such as Kakadu and Alice Springs Dessert Park, it came to light that certain day-to-day tasks in the past - such as gathering food and taking care of children - were carried out only by women. These were known as "women's business".
Skills in farming, hunting and other survival activities were passed down the ancestral line strictly according to gender roles.
When Guy tried to tell us more about the local flora nurtured by the tribes as medicinal plants for birth-control use, he was chided by a fellow park guide, for he was a man and, thus, should not be privy to "women's business".
Safe to say, culture is taken pretty seriously by people in Australia.
THE LIVING ART GALLERIES
Some of the most amazing legacies of the Aboriginals of Australia are their cave paintings.
Dating back tens of thousands of years ago, they typically depict day-to-day activities like eating and dancing.
They were found mostly on cave walls that were low and dry, prompting some to speculate that these areas served as classrooms for teaching children about life.
The works of art at Kakadu National Park have been preserved remarkably and displayed in their original setting.
The park developers even went as far as to create viewing platforms and benches, so that visitors can take their time to read the write-ups that accompany each drawing and take it all in.
The writer is a full-time copywriter who blogs about travel and family at www.travellinginthrees.com