Friday, 26 June 2009

Bust by the dust

The washing machines in Darwin YHA are being replaced today. I think it's coincidence, but they spent yesterday evening wrestling with the dust I collected at Cape Tribulation, The Laura Aborigine Dance Festival, and the Kakadu National Park, and perhaps they just gave up the struggle. Dancing Aborigines in particular can kick up an incredible duststorm.

The trip to Cape Trib and the Dance Festival also covered the Daintree National Park, Cooktown, some beautiful beaches and some of the many wild crocodiles I've seen over the last week. My chauffeurs were Eric and Sandra (better known as 'The Doll' by truckers on the Cape Tribulation road...) from Switzerland, who I met on my dive course. Just enough space in their 4WD for me and my luggage, though as it contains 8 months worth of travel debris, it was cosy - if you missed seeing something on the road, there was no way to look backwards or even sideways at it! It's the first time I've camped on the trip, and their 8 months of experience made it a much smoother process than if I'd gone it alone. They're on their 3rd tent and I doubt the first two would have repelled the rain at Cape Trib or the ant colony that took up residence under the tent at Archer Point beach. Many thanks to them both for excellent campsite cooking (pancakes an especial highlight), good-humoured and entertaining company whatever the rigours of the trip, and teaching me canasta, though Eric may be regretting this now - the cards were very kind in my first couple of games!

The dance festival ( was the highlight. It seemed a properly aboriginal event, with spectators as well as performers, but at the same time one where non-aboriginals were welcome and had no need to feel self-conscious. No alcohol, which makes the whole thing almost too well mannered, but having seen a little of the more unfortunate side of aborigine society in Cairns, I can see why this is banned. Most of the dancing tells simple stories of hunting or tribal conflict; a lot of impersonations of kangaroos, emus, crocodiles etc. though the most exciting dances are 'shake-a-leg' efforts which encourage the real showmen and women to strut their stuff. The groups all represent tribes or regions from throughout Queensland, and with many it's about participation rather than excellence; some groups (such as the Yarrabah in the first picture) had child performers as young as 3, who were among the most popular participants. Dancers aren't averse to modern technology either - see the lady on the right in the 2nd picture.

It's now nearly 4 months since I set off - a month longer than I've been out of Scotland since 1980. Still not really missing it, though a bit of Scottish weather would be welcome right now. I couldn't handle Darwin temperatures (or mosquitos) for long. Unbelievably this is considered to be the cold season here - not on my planet, it isn't.

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