Arnem Land & the Custodians of the Land

On Friday I joined an all-day excursion into Arnem Land, an area entirely under Aboriginal control. This means, for example, you aren’t even allowed into this region without purchasing a permit. And even then you are limited to visit only the one destination you’re allowed to request. Or you can join a tour offered by an Aboriginal-owned company as I did. During the busy season (when it’s not 104° outside!) this tour takes up to 20 people. Today, however, our guide, Trevor, had only four guests, a far more intimate experience.

We got to experience first-hand some of the varied scenery of the area, but Trevor focused our visit on sites where we could see and learn about some of the rock art, some of which could be as old as 80,000 years. As knowledgeable as Trevor was regarding the ancient art, he also told us there are vortices that can do all sorts of things, like the one that once transported him instantaneously to South America. And that we most certainly have been visited by extraterrestrials. Right….

We also stopped at Injalak Arts, an indigenously owned art center that is run by and for Aboriginal artists. We saw some of the artists at work on their unique creations, followed by an opportunity to visit the gallery store. I picked up a couple of books for grandkids written and illustrated by Graham Badari, one of the artists I met today.

Oh, and we learned about the area crocodiles. When it’s as warm as it was today the crocs stay under the water as much as possible. Apparently their brains will fry when the temperature rises above about 93°. We did see part of one of the reptiles at Cahills Crossing, which marks the boundary with Arnem Land. He (or she?) briefly poked a snout above water, took a breath, and vanished again beneath the muddy waters of the East Alligator River.

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