Monday, August 24, 2009

Bush plants

I really enjoy photographing plants of all kinds, especially flowers. At Nepabunna I didn't have lot of time to indulge this particular passion, but I did get a few photos of local species. Unfortunately I am not familiar with these species and have not had time to research them, but I hope you enjoy them anyway.

Perhaps one of my readers (if I have any) will be able to help out.

This one is the flower of the bush tomato - one of the members of the Solanum family and regarded as very good bush tucker.

Another bush tucker offering - sweet but with an unpleasant texture. It left a slimy residue on the tongue.

Bush tucker again. Very small, sweet berry reminiscent of ones we used to collect as kids in the Adelaide Hills - we called them native currants, I think. I wouldn't want to have to rely on these for a feed. It would take all day to pick enough for a meal.

This pretty thing is the flower of a native hopbush - a member of the Dodonaea family, but I am not sure which particular one.

This flower looks familiar - a member of the Malvaceae family, I think - some form of native hibiscus, perhaps?

And finally, my favourite. Obviously a pea flower, but I haven't a clue which species. We only saw one small bush of this and I was captivated by it - the colours so delicate for the harsh environment in which it was growing.


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Still Day 4

Garry was very keen for the kids to give something back to the community as thanks for their hospitality and kindness, so after our gorge visit we planted trees around the little mud brick church and also repainted one of the murals around the town.

And then it was time to get the fire ready for the evening activity. Kelvin Johnson, one of the community leaders had been out the previous day and shot a kangaroo for a feast on the Thursday night. He had also [prepared a large fire which had been burning for about 12 hours and on which we were to cook the kangaroo. Most of the kids were OK about the roo, although some of the girls didn't hang around to see it being prepared and cooked.

Kelvin gutted and cleaned to roo, then removed and skun the legs. The main body of the roo was then thrown on the coals to burn off the fur. If left unsinged it gives the meat an unpleasant taste.

After the singeing, the roo was taken off the coals and the tail was removed. This was cooked separately and is considered to be the best part of the roo. Kelvin the dug a trench in the coals and the roo was placed in the trench and covered with rocks and coals. It was then left for about 4 hours.

Meanwhile the kids and I gbegged for one of the legs and we hastened to the kitchen to ransack the larder for ingredients to add to the leg, which we then wrapped in foil and added to the coals.

Garry and some of the local ladies helped make large dampers to cook in the coals and the kids were shown how to coil strips of damper around sticks to cook over the coals. Once cooked the sticks were removed and the holes filled with butter, honey or jam. Delicious!!!

As it grew dark, the excitement grew. The women who had been helping earlier decided that we might as well have a real party and they disappeared and came back with sausages, chops and salads, while we raided our food supplies for anything that we could add to the feast. We set up a screen on the back of a truck and projected all our photos onto the large screen. The roo was removed from the fire and prepared for eating, our leg was uncovered - perfectly cooked and everyone tucked in to a great meal.

We sat around the camp fire and listened to a muso from the community sing a selection of Buck McKenzie songs about Nepabunna. He taught the kids a fun song about their tummies (we heard this song a number of times in the next 24 hours!!)and all the locals joined in the fun.

It was a great night, warm friendly company and lots of fun. We tumbled into bed, tired but happy, not really looking forward to leaving the next morning. We had a wonderful week, we had experienced and learnt so much and none of us wanted to leave this magical place and return to the mundane life of school. Thank you so much to the people of Nepabunna. We will never forget what you taught us.


Nepabunna Day 4

Time I added another day to this blog. This is becoming quite an epic.

Day 4 was probably the best day ever. First we drove out to Malkiwi Gorge (spellings on this one seem to vary a bit), a very important site in the Yura history. The gorge has beautiful rock paintings many hundreds of years old. It is believed that this gorge was used at the route from the Northern Finders to the Southern Flinders area and the rock paintings were done by Yura passing through who wanted to leave messages about important events and happenings in the area.

Uncle Ron, Aunty Shirley and the two sisters Joelwyn and Julette were our guides through this very important area. The gorge is visually stunning and although we visited on a very overcast, grey day, the colours were beautiful and my photos do not really do them justice.

As we walked through I felt quite overwhelmed by the sense of history in this place - almost like being in a cathedral. I felt the same when I visited Uluru. I couldn't speak, just wanted to look. At one stage I turned around and Joelwyn who was normally a lively, happy, talkative lass was strangely quiet and introspective. I commented that she looked like this place meant a lot to her and she agreed that it was very special to her people and to her.

Makiwi Gorge is a restricted area and you can only visit with an authorised member of the community. We were asked to stick to the track and not to pick up or remaove any articles because there are many artefacts there which are being preserved.

The small rocks here are thin sharp pieces of stone that were shaped and honed to be used as cutting tools

As we approached the gorge we crossed this flat sandy area which was used as a camping ground. It is here that we found the cutting stones.

Scenes in the gorge

Uncle Ron talking to the group about the paintings and the gorge

A close up of some of the main cave paintings at Malkiwi

The morning in the gorge was the highlight of my week at Nepabunna and the area really touched me emotionally. It is a place I will not forget.


Sunday, August 09, 2009

Day 3

Day 3 saw some tired kids - the ones who had slept out, but it wasn't long before they were up and raring to go. This was a brilliant day.

We were introduced to the oldest member of the Nepabunna Community - Ron Coulthard, or Uncle Ron as he asked to be called. Uncle Ron was born in 1931 and has vivid memories of the early days of Nepabunna. He is a story teller and has an incredible knowledge of the Dreaming stories of his people. Ron, as a lad, worked as a stockman with RM Williams who went on to fame as a producer of leather goods. He is a proud man, worried that the traditional culture of the Yura is slowly disappearing as the young people leave to take up lives away from their traditional lands.
Our group spent several days with Ron and his cousin Aunty Shirley (the old chick) and learnt so much from them about the Adnyamathanha history and beliefs. We came away from out trip enriched by meeting to this wonderful old man and listening to his stories. Mt Serle Station was the property on which most of the local Yura lived and worked until the 1920s when they were forced to move on. Most of them moved to Ram Paddock Gate on the Burr Well Station. They were eventually forced to move from their homes here as the station owners wanted the water for their stock. Mt Serle was leased to an aboriginal group in about 1986. It is currently unoccupied and not being worked and the Nepabunna community is keen to obtain the lease themselves. Uncle Ron told us that he visited the station a while back and met the CEO - an Old Man Kangaroo and then the manager - a large billy goat both of whom seem to have taken over the premises.

The Ram Paddock Gate Yura were moved to Nepabunna in 1931 where a mission was set up for them. There seem to be mixed feelings written about this mission. Ram Paddock Gate is now a heritage site and the ruins and artefacts can still be found on the site, though many would have been taken away before the area was handed back to the Nepabunna community.

Ruins of the cottages at Ram Paddock Gate. We were curious to know where the slate would have come from.

Our next stop was at Damper Hill where we heard a fascinating story from Uncle Ron. This site has been fenced off to protect the area. Several weeks ago there was a handover here and numerous people of importance were flown in for the ceremony. Uncle Ron built a traditional hut for the occasion.
Damper Hill

This hut took Uncle Ron about 20 minutes to build - a quick job to show the pollies!

From Damper Hill we drove to a site which is probably one of the most important for the Nepabunna people as it is the site for the Dreaming story about the magpie (urrakurli), crow (wakarla) and eagle (wildu). This story teaches about respecting your elders and has been passed on among the Adnyamathanha for many generations. The story tells how the magpie and the crow who were originally white were very disrespectful to the old eagle and he paid them back by inviting them to a party in the cave, then building a huge fire in front of the cave so that the magpie and crow were trapped and had to fly out through the fire. Consequently the magpie who left first was partly burnt, but the crow was singed so badly that he was black all over except for his eyes which are still white. The rocks at the cave site are very black from this fire many years ago.

Looking at Eagle hill from the cave

The cave in the story

Looking out from the cave

We finished the day with a quick visit to Iga Wata just down the road. Iga Wata is a tourist area, run by a local Yura family. It includes accommodation and an interpretive museum and they conduct tours of the local area.

That night most of the kids slept out under the stars and I actually had the dormitory to myself - no rowdy kids and midnight giggles and whispers!!!

Thursday, August 06, 2009

More on Nepabunna

On the second day of our trip, we were welcomed by members of the Nepabunna Council and then taken to visit the local waterhole, then Vadhalina Gorge some 5 kms away. Our guide was a local girl - Joelwyn - who had been a pupil of our principal when she was a youngster. She brought her 3 year old daughter and 5 year old niece with her. They were like little rock wallabies, sure footed and quick. Our Year 6 and 7 girls instantly adopted them, as most 11 and 12 year old girls will. I'd love to show you some photos of the children, but unfortunately I don't have permission, so you'll have to make do with scenery.

It was the first time most of the kids had hiked in the Flinders and they had a ball exploring, climbing rocks and taking photos.

That evening we had an early tea, then a 60 km bus trip to visit an observatory at Arkaroola where there are two world class telescopes. That experience of seeing the night sky in the outback is one few of the kids will forget. Great excitement when we heard that there was to be a meteor shower that night (1 am ) and Garry decided that any interested kids could sleep out under the stars to see the shower. About 12 took up the challenge and saw quite a good display before the clouds came over at about 2.00am.

The country around the gorge. Dry and bare.

Approaching the gorge

Rocky walls and cliffs

The creek leading in and out of the gorge

I just loved this old tree. How old must it be with a base that large. Fascinating shapes and colours.

On Day 3 we visit some Dreaming sites and hear some wonderful stories.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Nepabunna - the first day

I have just spent a wonderful week on a school camp. 25 Year 5/6/7 students, 3 teachers and 5 parents travelled up to the Northern Flinders Ranges (just over 600 kms from home) to spend a week at Nepabunna, a small aboriginal community about 60kms east of Leigh Creek in the north of South Australia.

I have been to the Flinders before, but this time was special as we spent time with the local Adnyamathanha people, traditional owners of this land for many thousands of years. Nepabunna is very small and quite isolated. There are around 60 people living there in a very close knit community. They are proud of their land and their traditions and we are so grateful that they shared their lives with us.

My principal, Garry, was principal of the Nepabunna school in the nineties and he has maintained close ties with the community - they love him. We were made to feel very welcome and the locals were so friendly and hospitable. We visited traditonal sites, walked and climbed through amazing country, heard wonderful stories, shared food and songs and had a marvellous time.

We took literally thousands of photos. The kids all had access to cameras and they became snap happy with so many brilliant photo opportunities. Hurrah for digitasl cameras!!! Here are a few of the photos I took of the amazing scenery.

The Flinders Ranges through the bus window

These two peaks represent the two moiety groups in Adnyamathanha society - the Matheri and Arura. Every one belongs to one of the groups and traditionally a person could only marry someone from the other group. This area is called Yorrumbulla and there are a number of caves and old cave paintings here.

The view from the main cave

Near Yorrumbulla caves

The waterhole at Nepabunna. A favourite spot for the local kids. Unfortunately they are in the middle of a drought and the swimming is not very good at the moment. Nepabunna has very little water and the community has to rely on tanks and a very salty bore.

That's your lot for now. I hope you have enjoyed this glimpse of a very old and very beautiful part of the world. More later.