The Kings Creek Station (no apostrophe) is a wide open space in the middle of the desert where several of us had a chance to throw our wooden boomerangs from the Cairns Night Markets. It was good fun throwing them around the field in our campsites, and although we broke most of them, we had a great time enjoying the early morning. At Kings Creek we also had “brekky” as the Australians call breakfast. At the station, we had some typical breakfast, including hot cocoa, toast, and beans (a tradition brought over by the British, I suspect). The head of the ranch had an adorable dog and mentioned to us how they… mate with wild dingoes, and how this is normal out in the Red Center of Australia, as this geographic region is called. Our two objectives today were to walk Kings Canyon and to experience Aboriginal culture.
A ride in our dust-stained vehicles brought us to the rest stop on the edge of Kings Canyon, a huge canyon gutting the deserts of the Northern Territory. Hordes of tourists and hikers were readying to ascend a near-vertical slope to the rim of the canyon so we could walk the perimeter of the natural landmark. This was extremely exhausting work, scouring for rocks and footholds on a steep surface. One kid in the group was so behind we had to wait a considerable amount of time for her to reunite with us. I was glad I had a full water bottle and my kangaroo hat from Cairns, which shielded me from the sun and made me feel like a real life Indiana Jones. Once we climbed the rim and had a good rest, it was time to do a lengthy walk around the canyon.
The ground was colored in dark, tan, and orange hues. It looked like rust and dirt had formed to make a huge desert, punctuated with sharp, dark shrubs and green gum trees with white trunks. This was raw Australia; no ropes, no lines, and no metal barriers. Well, I do remember a few barriers, but mostly at this one point where there were rusted metal bridges over the canyon that allowed you to access remote rocks standing tall over the ground. The wind force was buffeting the tops of the rock formations, and I had to hold onto my kangaroo leather hat to prevent it from falling. I also kept my head down and crouched, because the wind was chilling, and here there were no safety nets or fall barriers. One slip or accident, and you could be hurtling towards the canyon floor at a bone-crushing velocity.
For lunch, we went past a few tour groups and settled down at the Garden of Eden, a sheltered area nearly surrounded by carved rock towers stopping and dropping vertically into a shaded alcove, with a tranquil puddle of stagnant water. It was a great place to sit, eat a packed lunch, and be quiet.
We walked up and around the canyon, sinking in magnificent views. About an hour later we returned to the parking lot (in these parts they call them “car parks”) and drove back to the camel station. After hanging out that afternoon, we were due to take an Aboriginal cultural tour. Somewhere off the road in the middle of the Australian outback, we stopped at a small series of huts where some great Aboriginal tour guides gave us the full gamut on Aboriginal culture.
Aborigines are the original inhabitants of the Australian continent, who never really developed agriculture and kept a hunting-gathering lifestyle. Because of this, they built up fascinating, unique, isolated cultures, and as a result of these cultures we now have didgeridoos, boomerangs, and other only-in-Australia cultural icons. These cultures were threatened, when Dutch and subsequent British colonization caused massive damage to their lifestyles. It arguably became the worst after Australia gained its independence and for about sixty years there was the “Stolen Generation,” where Aboriginal children were removed from their homes and forced into Australian schools to abandon their cultures. This ended in 1970, but the relatively recent nature of it makes it still a modern problem, which can still be seen today if you look closely enough.
I was really looking forward to this tour because beyond the didgeridoos and boomerangs, few outside of Australia have a good perspective into these indigenous cultures. Now, of course I did a ton of preliminary research before I arrived, but I was ready to experience it all- in person. When we arrived, we were introduced to our guides and thrown into Aboriginal culture.
You don’t stumble through the barren, scorching Australian Outback for a couple thousand years without acquiring a trick or two. Aborigines lived a hunter-gatherer lifestyle, fathering “bush tucker,” which is a lot of collected plants and other substances they found edible in the middle of nowhere. They also had pretty neat wooden weaponry; the guides had a whole rack of wood shields, spears, and the classic boomerang. But here’s the thing.
Cultural Clarifications: You know the quintessential boomerang? Kind of like a V, with etchings, and if you throw it right it comes back to you? Well, boomerangs don’t work like that here in the Outback. Here, they don’t come back. The kind Americans think of, you’re more likely to find on the northern or eastern coasts. But in the Red Center the boomerangs are more straight, with a slight curve at one end. They are made out of wonderfully smooth wood. When a person throws it, it strikes far and fast- I guess the only downside is you have to pick it up… hopefully next to the prey’s carcass. What fun!
After observing all these traditions, we were shown some more Aboriginal artworks, and then the best part happened. We learned where the Aboriginals got their protein. Cue the cultural clarification again.
Cultural Clarifications: For protein, Aboriginal Australians ripped open tree roots to grab- wait for it- grubs. That’s correct; they ate worms. These grubs live inside the roots, and are rich in protein. If I remember correctly, once they’re removed from the tree, they’re as good as dead. But I distinctively recall, (and can confirm as true) that the guides said that these grubs taste like raw eggs- and scrambled eggs when scrambled.
So based on this cultural tidbit, the very kind guide asked if any of us wanted to try the raw worm. So what do you think I did? Well watch it.
If it doesn’t work, try this You Tube link:
And the entrails spilling out everywhere, wow! I tried not to think that the worm was still writhing, disemboweled. I imagine this is the worm equivalent of being shoved into a guillotine the wrong way and having everything below your hips chopped off. Not the best imagery to have in your head while you eat it.
(My memory towards the end is a bit uncertain, but I believe that I did try the cooked worm too later… and it did taste like scrambled eggs.)
We hopped back into the jeeps and returned to the camel ranch. This was a productive day full of culture- and we hadn’t reached Uluru yet.
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