Indigenous Trek

This year we took part in the Indigenous Trek with Tintern, our Trek took us from Uluru through the Olgas, Curtain Springs and Kings Creek cattle stations, Glen Helen Resort and Gorge, Hermannsberg (Ntaria) and finally Alice Springs. Joining us on our trip were trip organiser and teacher, Ms Eggleston, Mr Woolhouse and our bus driver and cook- Dazza (Darren) and Joy.

We began our Trek at Uluru Airport and made our way to our campsite Ayers Rock Resort for the first 2 nights resort. After a brief rest at our campsite to drop off our gear we went on a trip into Kata Tjuta National Park to the Indigenous Culture centre. After looking around at all the artwork, tools and sculptures made from wood by the aboriginal men and women we went to a lookout spot to watch Uluru at sunset. After a spectacular show of Uluru changing colours through different stages of sunset, we headed back to camp for our first night. After a great sleep in our swags we headed off to view the sunrise at Uluru. This was a beautiful display of colours and showed the great natural beauty of the area. We then headed off to Kata Tjuta (also known as the Olgas), which is a large rock formation near Uluru. We trekked around the amazing scenery there and took in the picture perfect views. The next day we headed off to Cave Hill, which is pretty much just a cave on a hill. This site is one of the most important cultural sites in the Northern Territory for the Indigenous people. There were some paintings inside of the cave that were over 20,000 years old so we had to be careful moving around the cave. Our local Indigenous guide told us about the story of the Seven Sisters and their journey. The Indigenous don’t tell stories just for the sake of telling them, they tell them to teach life lessons to the younger generations coming through. We spent the night at the Kings Creek Cattle Station, which is a massive station with a couple of thousand head of cattle on it. The next morning we travelled to the nearby Kings Canyon. Here we did a rim walk that was both strenuous and picturesque. The next day we detoured into Gosses Bluff, which is the world’s 3rd largest comet impact site. We then proceeded along The Mereenie Track which provides an alternative scenic route from Alice Springs to Kings Canyon and Uluru. We stayed the night at Glen Helen Resort which sits on the side of a river that flows into a beautiful waterhole nearby. During our stay at Glen Helen we experienced not only cultural things about the Northern Territory but more of its stunning beauty from sunrise to sunset. We did a lot of swimming in the river and Glen Helen Gorge, as well as enduring another challenging walk to Ormiston Gorge where we swam in the gorge and invented a new game with paddy melons. Glen Helen also opened a new aspect of the trip that we hadn’t really ventured into yet; spending great nights in the little shop/pub where we really got to know each other playing pool with Dazza, listening to live music and just sitting around talking. It was a really good experience to be hanging out with a group of people we wouldn’t usually hang out with and we personally learnt a lot about each other.

Our next destination was Hermannsberg or as it is called by the local Indigenous people, Ntaria. In Ntaria, another new and challenging experience came knocking. This challenge wasn’t a physical challenge, but mental. Ntaria isn’t exactly what you’d call a visually stunning place but it doesn’t need looks to take your breath away. After a look around the heritage centre, we had a chat with one of the Heritage centre guys who talked all about how Ntaria came about and the Lutheran Mission as well as the local indigenous people and their culture. After spending a night listening to dogs bark at each other we ate breakfast, loaded onto the bus and headed to Ntaria School. Ntaria School was the mental challenge I mentioned before. It was a truly amazing school, not only the way it’s run and the kids that were in it, but the staff and of course the principal- Cath Green. Before we split up into different classrooms Cath gave us a really great speech about how she’s been there for 8 years and how she’s seen the school grow but what was really amazing was how she said straight up to us that even though she’s been there almost a decade she doesn’t understand the Indigenous culture. We think we know about the culture but really we only know the surface. We can see the soil on the surface, but there are thousands and thousands of metres of soil and rock below that we don’t know anything about and it’s exactly the same in a sense of what we know about Indigenous culture. We know the surface but the thousands and thousands of years below we know nothing about and we will never understand. After Cath’s short but touching speech we found ourselves in separate classrooms teaching kids of all ages. At the breaks we played footy with the young kids and they were really into it; running around tackling each other and ripping off their shirts. It was really good fun and we really enjoyed it. What really touched me was towards the end of the school day when the bigger kids came out to kick the footy and I found myself the only white kid standing around 10 Indigenous kids. Now that was really special, for the very first time in my life I was the minority race and not only was it confronting in a sense of feeling it was a moment of reflection of what it must be like for them when they go to schools where white people are the ‘dominant’ skin colour. Upon returning to camp, Dazza informed us it was going to rain so we set about preparing ourselves for the rain. After a wet night we packed up our swags for the final time, loaded the bus and set off for Alice Springs.

When we arrived in Alice we went straight to the wildlife centre. The wildlife centre was like a zoo, only it was for both flora and fauna. On our walk through the ‘Zoo’ our guide taught us all about the different birds and reptiles as well as the trees and flowers. It was really interesting to learn the names of all the animals, trees and plants we’d seen over the trip. After our tour we headed to Desert Palms where we stayed the next 2 nights in cabins with beds. Before we went to bed for our first night in Alice, we shook hands with Dazza and thanked him for driving us around and teaching us about the people, flora and fauna of the Northern Territory and also being a great mate to us all. After a great sleep in our beds we packed our bags and headed out on a guided tour of Alice Springs where we visited the botanic gardens, Royal Flying Doctors Service, The Women’s Museum and the Alice Springs reptile centre where we got to learn more about individual snakes and lizards as well as holding them. After that we headed to Anzac Hill where we had a chance to view Alice from above as well as pay our respects to the men and women who served our country before us. After Anzac Hill we split off in groups for lunch and a chance to go shopping which ended our day in Alice on a positive. The following day after a very much needed sleep in (some of us through breakfast) we packed our bags for the final time, said our good byes to Joy and headed for Alice Springs airport where we concluded our trip.

All in all the trek showed and taught us about the cultures, beauty, fun, ugliness and harshness of the outback, from the wide scrub plains to the jagged edges of the MacDonnell Ranges it really did take us on a trek.

by Angus Bicknell and Mitch Wooller

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