Saturday, July 19, 2014

Day 1 - Sydney to Cobar, on a Aboriginal Spiritual Pilgrimage

Day 1 - Sydney to Cobar
Map of Australia used by students of Silverton Public School over 100 years ago for Geography lessons.

Aboriginal Spiritual site one, Mt Grenfell Historic Site, land of the Ngyiampaa.

Kilometres across the Great Dividing range, past Bathurst, then Orange & eventually to the copper town of Cobar. Our journey together as 10 different souls began into the heart of this country drifting in & out of chatter, laughter, stories, daydreams & snoozing.

The landscape prepared us for an immersion of spiritual experience, of Mt Grenfell Historic site, Mutawintji National Park & Mungo Lake National Park.

This is not a travel diary but a reflection of my journey with a group of non-Aboriginal and Aboriginal Australians. 

With these companions I want to explore -
    What is Aboriginal Spirituality?
    What makes me Australian?
     How to become more culturally aware of Aboriginal perspectives?
I hope this blog will;
    Have some learning stimuli for kids from K-6.
    Hopefully be entertaining even if it is only to me.
    Be thought provoking for the reader, but understand it just my personal thoughts. In other words I refuse to do any thinking for anyone else.
    It is my reflections on what I have learned during this trip & in no-way based on academic research evidence.

So now time to be a pilgrim into the heartland of Outback NSW.
Is this a place too far?

Mutawintji National Park, land of the Paakantji.

Mungo Lake national park

Day 2 - The Walkabout begins.

Day 2 - The Walkabout begins.

Ancient art work of Ngyiampaa people. What do you see?

Mt Grenfell is about 50 k west of Cobar. Along the red clay dirt road off the Mitchell highway, after crossing causeways & dry riverbeds you arrive at the Mt Grenfell historical aboriginal site. The Ngiyamba or Ngyiampaa (there are several differnt English spellings) Aboriginal people visited this site regularly over thousands years. Dave explained that this Mt Grenfell area was sacred to the Ngiyamba who held ceremonies, taught, collected water & traded with other Aboriginal people.  The Ngiyamba moved from place to place in a methodical & logical way following their needs, traditions & seasons. Mt Grenfell was an important place in this cycle of life. There are a series of caves where their art records hunting rituals, historical events, animals, growing children & lessons of life. One cave showed how the kangaroo took control over the Ngiyamba to teach them a lesson about not over hunting to conserve the kangaroo population. Another cave shows a progression of hand outlines indicating the growing child from infant to teenager. Dave said that this cave was a place for lessons. This site had a water which Dave said always has a supply of water even during droughts.
This water hole has been been by the Ngyiampaa people for thousands of years.
Water being the source of life also gave Mt Grenfell another special significance, because this area had a reliable source for the Ngiyamba. The local Aboriginals knew the locations of water holes, which were normally within a days walk. The locations of these water holes were woven into to song lines, which were past from generation to generation.
Rocky creek bed. What colours would the Ngyiampaa people use in thier art work?

Describe the differeces between this art work & the one below.

The rocky outcrop with native cypress pines & emu bushes has a dry creek bed winding through it. Sitting above this landscape is a plateau, which had a strong spiritual presence from past sacred ceremonies & meetings with other regional Aboriginal groups.
What do you see?

         Feral goats. How do they damage the environment?                                                                                                         Can you find another photo in this blog which has feral animals in it?
For those nasty colds, just boil Emu bush then sip away.

What insect do you think made these holes?

Graham finished our walk with a prayer & an appropriate reflection on the spirituality of this place & the people.
    Describe what you think a walkabout is?
We stopped in Wilcannia for lunch a town where more than 90% of the population, as Dave told me, is Aboriginal. Dave stops here with his school groups to visit the only school, which of course is a public K - 12 school. Many of the places like Wilcannia Public School have had visits from 'Village Space' the program coordinated by my wife Jenny over the last 10 years, which brings theatrical dramatisations of social justice stories to students. This is one of the very few drama programs that reach schools in remote places like Wilcannia.
How long do you think it would take to get from Sydney to Broken Hill in this coach?

Our home near Broken Hill.

Nothing like a warm wood fire in winter near Broken Hill.

It's a dogs life!

Speak for yourself I'm thinking lots!

The dogs of Mulberry Vale Bush Cabin
We arrived at our Broken Hill refuge 'Mulberry Vale bush Cabins' a kilometre or so outside Broken Hill. Off the road to Menindee there lies a short dirt road to a most eclectic group of buildings, sort of a outback station. Highlights are open fire, common meal room with fairy lights, replica Cobb & Co coach seen above, a cage with various cockatoos, Old VW, surround wide expanse covered with salt-bushes & a view of the slag mountain. See photos here. 
Broken Hill slag mountain. Where did it come from?
    What is a slag mountain?
Part of this spiritual journey was the sharing of meals both preparation & cleaning, literally living in communion. After that meal Dave started the 'yarning circle' with thoughts about walking the sacred Ngiyampaa land, while Graeme finished our gathering with prayer reflecting on this spiritual moment.