There is something intriguing about the Indigenous culture and the people. Indigenous people are the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people of Australia. They are the oldest surviving culture in the World, known to have occupied in Australia for at least 70,000 years. It is known that they have had an immense rich history and culture. And Australia has numerous Aboriginal sites depicting their history.
Since I have been fascinated about the history of the Australian aboriginal people, I generally try my best to travel and visit the places that have historical significance. It could be an art site or a mystical mountain, I am interested in all. I love listening to the stories surrounding the mysterious Aboriginal culture.
Few weeks ago, I visited the Mossman Gorge, which is the part of one of the oldest rainforests in the world – the Daintree rainforest. The Daintree rainforest region is located in the north eastern part of Queensland in Australia. The rainforest is around 1200 square kilometres and is the largest continuous area of tropical rainforest. And Mossman Gorge is located in the southern part of the Daintree rainforest.
It is then I learned that Mossman Gorge visitor centre organises a guided walking tour called the ‘Ngadiku Dreamtime Gorge walk’. The 1.5 hours walk provides access to the Kuku Yalanji country land and is guided and led by an experienced indigenous guide. The walk provides a great insight into the dreamtime stories of Kuku Yalanji culture and tradition. It is booked at the Mossman Gorge visitor centre and costs around AUD 75 (approximately USD 67) per person.
Kuku Yalanji people are the indigenous people originating from the rainforest region of Far North Queensland. They are also known as Gugu-Yalanji and Kokojelandji. It is believed that these people are living with the environment for over 50,000 years. They have said to be inhabited Mossman Gorge for about 4,000 years and have developed a great respect and relationship with the environment and its surroundings.
The Ngadiku Dreamtime Gorge Walk started with a smoking ceremony conducted by the guide. Smoking ceremony is a custom ceremony among the indigenous people. This involves burning of various native plants to produce smoke. The smoke is believed to have the cleansing properties and the ability to ward off the bad spirits. It is also to acknowledge ancestors and pay respect to the land and sea of the Kuku Yalanji land.
The next stop was at a tree from which indigenous weapons were made. This was to demonstrate how the indigenous people hunted their prey and how they fought wars. The various weapons included the Spearthrower, also known as Woomera and were primarily used to launch a spear, Shield, Boomerang which was mainly used for hunting, and Clubs.
During the walk, we came across a shelter under two big boulders of rocks. The guide explained that the shelter was used for the marriage ceremony of the Kuku Yalanji people. The marriage among these people was mostly arranged. And that the marriage was decided by the elders of the family, when the boy and girl were really young. This was to keep the purity of the blood and the tribe and also to ensure that the person does not get married within their own family. In the marriage ceremony, the people would wear the body paint and wear traditional headdress.
Then the guide talked about the birth ceremony performed by the Kuku Yalanji people. I personally felt this story as the most interesting story narrated by our guide. The ladies of Kuku Yalanji gave birth to a child under the same tree where her or her husband’s family ancestors were previously born. The woman would give birth with other elderly women around her. The guide claimed that he exactly knew the tree under which his grandmother was born and that this was an important part of their culture and history which are then passed on to the future generations.
During the walk, I also had an opportunity to make soap using the wattle leaves of the native plants. The guide handed me some leaves and asked me to constantly add water and rub those leaves between my hands. After few minutes, the leaves created top-quality and thick lather, which was pretty awesome and exciting. This was to illustrate that the Aboriginal people had immense knowledge about the flora.
The walk ended with the demonstration of ochre painting. Ochre was one of the principal foundations of the aboriginal art. These paints were used to portray the stories and maps of the indigenous people of Australia. The colours vary region from region, depending on the local clay available. The demonstration was using the red ochre. The red ochre consists of silica and clay.
This walk was my highlight and definitely one of the best things I have done in discovering the history of the Australian indigenous people. There is so much to learn about their lifestyle, their knowledge and their culture. I would undeniably recommend this walk as one of the must dos while visiting Cairns or Port Douglas.