Arnhemland
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Arnhemland
Queensland

March 13, It was evening when we arrived in Darwin.  We walked to dinner between shower squalls  as we were experiencing the beginning of the rainy season in Australia.  Early next a.m. we literally weighed in with our packs at the general aviation airport.  Our one hour flight in a 4-seater charter plane took us north easterly to Mt. Barradaile. We shared the ride with Peter Davidson, the owner's son, the food, supplies and engine parts used in Davidson's camp. At about 500 feet we were able to pick out wild pigs, water buffalo, egrets and some Big crocs swimming in the waterways.  
Large Sea EaglesWallabye shares our camp


The dirt runway sprung up before our eyes and before we knew it, Liesa - our guide and Ray - the  manager/chief of the camp, greeted us.  The land is owned by the native Aboriginal people and leased by 'Charlie' the Aboriginal elder responsible for administration of the land entrusted to Max Davidson.  


Leisa and Jon at the Rainbow SerpentLiesa and Jon in the forest


There are three significant draws to the camp: the rock art, the fishing and the wildlife viewing.  After lunch, Liesa took us out and introduced us to our first examples of rock art. The size and detail of the work is amazing; each drawing exemplary of a particular time period and a style. The Rainbow Serpent was the most intricate and largest piece in this area. The drawings having a spiritual nature as told through a story. We cut our hike short due to rain, lots of rain, which continued through dinner held in the mess tent and long after we had gone to bed in our own sleeping tent.

Overlooking panderra forestSwamp on our way to the Bilibong






A muggy, cloudy day started the next day.  The camp was empty except for two German professors with whom we shared our destination to the Bilabong (water covered dry lands).  Their mission was the study of ancient spears and hunting. Charlie and Max were assisting them in crafting a spear from the native trees and then spearing barramundi.  

Jon awaiting the leach or the crocTie Up Point for Leisa and Max


In order to reach the boats for our day's trip, we slogged through the forest with its floor now covered with several feet of swamp-like water. This was  a bit unnerving since this is prime crocodile country. However, when we climbed in the boats the only unwanted hitchhiker that we noticed was a leech attached to Jon's leg.  Then we had to move some unwanted sunken debris before moving forward. 

Cutting Our Way Through the SwampCharlie and One of the German Guests

Max on the BillibongRapids Australian Style


We spent the afternoon at Mt. Barradille, a sacred aboriginal site, looking at rock art in several different locations.  For dinner we had fresh barramundis that had been caught by Charlie and Max. While Peter was cleaning the fish, we watched kites, birds of prey, swoop down and take pieces of fish tossed in the air-the birds were light dive bombers.  A couple of kangaroos showed up to watch and the camp dingo made an appearance.  
Jon at the BathhouseThe Camp OutHouse

 

 

 

 


The alarm clock of the camp is the kookaburra at 6:15 am. There is a permanent covered toilet  and shower building.  Tents are furnished with two camp cots, a fan (electricity is on until dark) and a night stand.  


Australian CrocOne of our encounters with a Banded Tree Snake


We spent the morning viewing rock art and upon return saw our first freshwater croc and later a banded tree snake.  Fishing was our afternoon sport; however, we did not have as much luck as Peter, the day before.   The sunset over the bilibong was breathtaking.  A film crew was settling into camp when we returned for dinner.  Max is a natural subject for promoting his business and documentaries about outback Auzzieland and he held court telling stories until late in the evening.
Jon Fishing on the BillabongSunset on the Bilibong
Our last day in camp we hiked to some very large rock art pieces plus a cave in which the aboriginal people had inhabited evidenced by the artifacts left behind as well as buried their dead. We visited an old men's ceremonial area lined with white rocks encircling a high escarpment overlooking the Mt. Borradile. It is said that some people feel spiritual presence here. 

Jon with an Ancient Gun Left in a CaveJon Beside a Local Anthill


After a late lunch of pickled barrimundi from Peter's latest catch of 35 fish, we took off for the landing strip to board our flight back to Darwin.  We had such a good time with the entire camp staff and Max that it was difficult to say good-bye.

Leisa showing a Rock Art Selection

 





Back in Darwin, the town was celebrating St. Patricks Day.  We had time to walk out to the main pier and check out the Portuguese battle cruiser docked along side of an Australian catamaran troop carrier.  It reminded us of the real world due to the East Timor conflict.   We completed our evening with a stroll through a "Woolworth" style store to check out differences in consumer products and see local people.  A quick night and we were loading up at the Darwin airport, leaving the Northern Territory for Queensland, Cairns

 

 

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