Finally we managed it to get the permit to travel into Arnhem Land. So we started the 700kms trip to Gapuwijak.
The difference between Arnhemland and the rest of Australia is impressive. Here we were more in a different world and saw a complete special life. We were guest of Meganan und Phil two teachers in Gapuwijak.
As we arrived in the village , there was some excitement. We asked soon some children where the house of our hosts is. But they didn't understood us obviously. They signed, cried and laughed, but where Phil and Megan were, we couldn't find out. Therefore we drove on slowly, followed by some kids. Waste was lying everywhere in the street. Everywhere empty cans, remnants of all possible things, paper and even used nappies. But we didn't see any drunk Aboriginals. Finally we managed to find the school. As soon as we got out of or cars, 20 children jumped around us and chatted without stopping. We were overwhelmed from so much attention. Soon the smaller ones stuck at our hands and legs, during we tried to ask the older ones, where the teachers are. After some time, we found out that the teachers were in the teacher room for a conference. The noise outside had penetrated probably into the teacher room and someone came out to look for the reason of the excitement. The sight must have been funny. They saw four perplex white people in a tangle of excited aboriginal children. Finally Phil saved us from the children and we found "refuge" in the teachers room!
Gapuwijak was a very big difference, to everything else, what we had seen up to now in Australia. Its hard to describe. It is total interesting and at the same time also exerting. We are the center of the attention, as soon as we leave the house. To that, we had to get accustomed first. Many of the children can only speak a little English. Among themself they speak only their own language. They learn English in the school, need it however only little, since few leave their village. The people have houses, which are maintained only a little, but, the biggest part of their life takes place outside. We were adopted soon, of one of the children into a "skin group". Therefore we stood automatically in certain relations with all people in the village. The Aboriginal's relations are a complicated system of the skin groups. though we had now already sisters, brothers, uncle, aunts, mothers and so on, in the village. It was a beautiful gesture, which showed us that we were welcome.
After a short break, we undertook a walk through the village. We did not come far, because when we crossed the village playground, the kids fell again on us. Our walk ended in the rejoicing and excitement, in which we had to learn some finger plays from them. Everyone wanted to be first and sometimes it was quite rough how the children handled each other. But everything ended finally again in a laughter. As we finally tried to continue our way home, all the children followed us, climbed on us like little monkeys and had obviously a big fun. We arrived finally in the house and were exhausted. It was already dark and we finished the eventful day with a BBQ and interesting explanations of the Aboriginal culture. In Arnhemland they call themselves "Yolngu People".
Daniela und Roger exhausted
Three times a week Phil drives into the Homelands. This place is approximately one hour drive away from Gapuwijak, by a rough bush track. The place consists of two houses inhabited by a family and a school. In the school are between 5 and 9 children. The place is directly on the coast and the people are outstanding fischermen. Gapuwijak is already remote, but this place was much more. Already to drive there was an experience. Since we could not drive with our own cars, we sat in the school Landcruiser. Phil drove very fast over the track and we well shook. When stepping out we had to strange feeling to be in such a tiny village.
We entered a foreign World. After playing soccer with the Children, the ice melted. We noticed how quick all those Kids were. There was none with to much body weight.
Back in the class room lesson began, which was similarly and at the same time completely different than we know lessons from home. The children read in a book, counted and filled in some work sheets, but at at the end of the lessons of the seven children remained only four. Phil explained us that this was normal. Although the children have actually compulsory schooling, they come only very irregularly. School has here more a entertainment value than an educational. For us, this was really interesting. After the school the older boys took their Didgeridoos and claps ticks and began to play, we were fascinated. Another boy showed us bush tucker.
Back in Gapuwijak we ate breakfast and digested the many impressions. Later we wanted to see the arrival of the supply barge. Everyone who needs something from Darwin, can order it by fax and it will be delivered. Peter was soon into discussion with the workers and they showed us the ship. On the bridge, the proud captain showed us all the instruments.
When everything was unloaded, we went back to the village. We went to the school. It was the first time that we went there alone. But it seemed, as if most people would already know us. On the road we met also some women with children, who waved and laughed. We waved and laughed back. There was a woman who began to speak with us. She said that they caught fresh fish and showed us proudly their catch. She explained us that they would cook the fish in paper bark in the fire. We were interested and wanted to see it. They invited us to watch, were then however a little shy, when I wanted to make photos.
We watched and were so fascinated by this that we forgot the time completely. When we finally thanked them, Megan was passing on her way home. The school was already out. No school visit today anymore. But we had already experienced so much, that we were already completely full with impressions. Now as we saw more of the life of the Aboriginals it became more conscious , how different these peoples are. When Phil invited us to participate on a weekend in a trip we were inspired.
On the next day we visited the school. It was very jerkily in the classroom and obvious that the children were not particularly interested in learning. Marianne found it arduously, even for watching! She probably would not have the nerves to teach here. Respect for the teachers, who work here. Later we helped Megan in the library. In the afternoon Phil came and reported, that he had found a mat for us. Yolngu women braid mats from palm fibers. We liked these mats, we wanted to buy one. But Phil meant that it was not so simple, since most were sold to Darwin into the galleries. We were happy to buy one. The mats were beautiful. It was not an easy decision which is the nicest and we had to negotiate the price. Back in the school, Peter became suddenly terribly bad . He spent the rest of the day between toilet and bed. Unfortunately he couldn't accompany us on the weekend trip. Marianne participated as the only one of us and was curious about what would happen. We met the family at their house. The two adults and seven children entered, the car was full. The rattling travel took three hours. Finally we arrived and I stepped out with rigid legs. At the first look at this village Marianne saw more waste lying around than in Gapuwijak. The children jumped out of the car and looked for bush tucker.
Then they went for fishing. Equipped with a large pot of full worms and hand lines they went down the slope to the river. The landscape was beautiful. It had a lagoon with sea-roses and everything shone in different green tones. It lasted not for a long time and the first fish hung on the hook. And soon there was enough for all. They lit a fire and cooked the fishes directly in the fire. After some minutes they could take it out, take off he skin and eat marvelous juicy fish! Instead of plates they used Bark, and they drank Billy tea.
In the evening we returned to the village. Some the village members were successful on the hunt. 2 Kangaroos and 2 Magpies geese ready for cooking. The women builded an earth stove and started a fire. Marianne would have remained longer, to taste the roasts. But it became already dark and they still had a long way home.
They began to pack the car. All children were gathered, they said good-bye and were ready for driving off. Suddenly two women began to discuss. They were informed that these two women had decided to join in to Gapuwijak. After everyone was squeezed in, someone brought one dead goose and two kilos of crocodile meat. They were by then 7 adults, 8 children, 6 fish, 1 goose, some of a crocodile and much luggage in the car. The space was efficiently used and they could drive off. On the arrival it was already dark and Mariann quite exhausted. For dinner there was a croc curry. The next day Peter felt fit again, but the crocodile bit Marianne into the stomach. Now Marianne felt sick, and Peter went with Megan, Phil and Roger for a swim to the near Billabong.
Again we had to say goodbye to Megan and Phil. More and more we were thinking of our return to Switzerland. We still had more than 6000 kms to drive and to organize the shipping of our Landcruiser.