One of the best cultural tours I have taken in Sydney is the Barangaroo Aboriginal cultural tour. The tour focuses on the aboriginal culture and takes the visitors through the Barangaroo reserve talking about various plants and how they are used in the aboriginal society. The guide also provides the history of Barangaroo.
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What is Barangaroo Aboriginal Cultural Tour?
The Barangaroo Aboriginal cultural tour is a tour that is led by Aboriginal guides. The duration of the tour is 1 hour and 30 minutes where the guide takes the visitors to different parts of the Barangaroo Reserve and takes about the Aboriginal history and the culture. They mainly focus on how the native plants are used and their benefits. Also, talking about the elders of different tribes.
My guide Tim Gray was brilliant, and he had a lot of in-depth knowledge.
How to get to the starting point?
The meeting point is on Munn Street Reserve entrance. Usually, people mistake it to be a level lower and wait for the guide.
Ensure to check on the Google Maps or approach one of the friendly staff at Barangaroo and they will help you out.
The closest train station to Barangaroo Reserve is Wynyard train station, one of the main train stations of Sydney. There are frequent trains that connect between the train stations in the Sydney Central Business District. And most trains that connect to different parts of Sydney stop at Wynyard train station.
- Up-to-date information can be found on the Transport for New South Wales (NSW) website.
- Opal transportation cards or credit/ debit cards can be used to pay the fares.
- Do not forget to Tap on and off while entering and exiting from the train stations.
One can also walk from Darling Harbour to Barangaroo Reserve. It is an easy walk with beautiful views of the harbour.
The distance between Sydney CBD and Barangaroo Reserve is only 1.5 kilometres and takes just 5 minutes of drive. There are multiple level of car parks at Barangaroo Reserve.
Booking and Cost
The booking is very easy and can be done on the Barangaroo official website. There are two tours that happen every day, one at 10:30 in the morning and the other at 1:30 in the afternoon. The ticket costs AUD 36.30 per adult for the 90 minutes tour.
- Note: Children (17 years and under), Seniors and concession card holders get discounts on the tickets.
As I mentioned at the beginning of my post, the Barangaroo cultural tour is one of the best tours I have taken in Sydney. The guide Tim Gray was extremely knowledgeable and the whole experience was awesome. We went through different parts of the reserve listening to the stories and history. What made the tour best was the entire group was engaged and spoke about their experiences/ knowledge as well. I would definitely recommend taking this tour.
Who was Barangaroo?
Barangaroo Reserve is named after a powerful leader called Barangaroo. She was of significant influence during the European colonisation era. Being from the Cammeraygal clan, she lived around the north harbour. She was strong, wise, and very influential.
The Cammeraygal clan were a clan of the Eora tribe of Indigenous Australians. They were united by common language and were inhabited in the Lower North Shore of Sydney.
The story of Barangaroo is quite sad. Her first husband died of smallpox. She was later then married to Benelong, a Wangal man. She wanted to give birth to Benelong’s child as per their traditions and refused to go to the hospital. Unfortunately, she died shortly after giving birth.
The Wangal people were also a clan of the Eora tribe of Indigenous Australians. The Wangal people were among the first to encounter British settlers.
Even though she had a short life, she made a huge impact in the history of Sydney. Barangaroo was known as a fiercely independent woman.
Did you know that Benelong point (Circular Quay, named after Benelong) is right next to Barangaroo? The government wanted the husband and wife to be next to each other. How beautiful is that?
More information about Barangaroo can be found on Barangaroo Reserve official website.
Plants and their benefits
Would you believe I had never taken any interest in plants until this tour? The tour was so interesting that I started to learn so much about the native plants of Australia.
Lomandras are one of the native and most popular plants in Australia. It is identified by its spiky long and flat green leaves. There are number of ways the aboriginal tribes make use of these plants, some of them to list are:
- Weaving – The leaves are dried and are used for weaving ropes.
- Seeds – The plant is edible, and the seeds are crushed and are used to make breads.
The plant because of its spiky leaves is supposedly very famous among the snakes as it is the best place for snakes to lay their eggs without the fear of predators, especially birds.
Old man Banksia
Banksia is a popular Australian plant. They are known for their flower spikes, cones and heads. They are slow growing but long-lived plants and can grow somewhere between 30 to 60 feet. The story of Old man Banksia was the most amazing and interesting one. Supposedly, there are hairy creatures called Yowies in the wild (in Australia) that resemble these Banksias. One type are the short ones, and the other ones are taller ones. I believe the truck drivers and a few of the people who live in the Outback of Australia have spotted these creatures.
I believe there are more than 173 species of Banksia.
The most pretty of all the plants was the native hibiscus as it had some flowers that were blooming. The hibiscus flowers are yellow and orange. The bark is so strong that it is used as a tool for fishing among the aboriginal tribes. Usually, fishing is done by the women. The barks and branches are also used to cause friction fires.
Out of the 250 species of hibiscus, 35 are native to Australia.
Wattle seed plant
There are many species of Wattle seeds in Australia. They are the fast-growing plants where the seeds are edible. The leaves with water are used to catch fish. The lather produced by the leaves when mixed with water paralyses the fishes for a few seconds and this was a fishing technique used by the aboriginals.
Pig Face plant
The pig face plant is a ground creeping plant with succulent leaves. The plant has large daisy like flowers and is an edible bush plant. Aussies use the stem in their salads, but the stems have to be boiled or cooked. I tasted the stem raw and was extremely bitter.
And many more
There are 75,000 species of plants and trees in Barangaroo. If you are a botany lover, then it is best to visit the Barangaroo reserve and spend some time observing and looking at the plants.
Other things to see in the reserve
Did you know that aboriginals used the crushed shellfish bones as a masonry between the sandstone bricks?
The native bee colonies have been introduced at the Barangaroo Reserve. Bees are great for pollination of native plants. The sandstone in the below picture has one of the nests and the second nest is at the box just behind the sandstone.
The native bees are known as “Tetragonula Carbonaria”.
The Cutaway is a unique cultural space created beneath the headland. The sandstone was extracted from the Cutaway so they could be used in the reserve and were extracted using the traditional stonemason techniques.
The heritage listed toilet was used as a pump station before at Barangaroo. Something to look out as there are a very few times a person can see a heritage listed toilet. One can also use the toilet facility if required during the tour.
Munn’s slipway is a historical landmark in Barangaroo Reserve. It includes a sandstone from the 1820s. The Munn’s slipway was included into the new shoreline of the reserve, so it does not lose its historical significance. At the beginning of the project, archaeologists found the remains of a slipway during the excavations.
The sandstone that are used in the reserve are taken from the sandstone extracted from the Cutaway in the Barangaroo itself. The extraction process took about a year and every grain of the sandstone extracted was used in the reserve. A custom made 12D computer was used and the sandstone were slotted like a jig saw puzzle in advance before they were laid out in the reserve.
There are 10,000 of these sandstone blocks in Barangaroo Reserve.
View of Sydney Harbour bridge
One of the best views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge was at the Barangaroo Reserve. The viewpoint provides a panoramic view of the Sydney north across the bridge as well.
At the entrance of the Cutaway, there is a visual art installation called Wellama. It is a 10-minute video recording and the art work is by Alison Page and Nik Lachajczak. Wellima means “to come back” and the art installation is a greeting that the First Peoples extend to visitors who in turn respect the traditional culture of the country.
I highly suggest going on this tour as it provides a great insight into the Aboriginal culture and history. I loved it and I am sure any one who enjoys the cultural tours will love it too.
Have you been on aboriginal tours? Let me know in the comments below.
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