What an absolutely amazing day. We set off early to stock up on snot rags and flu remedies before heading over to the Aboriginal Park for 9am where we spent the morning with the Tjabba-ghand-ji clan learning about their shocking and very recent history, their beliefs and customs (it’s impossible to comprehend how it was still legal to shoot an Aboriginal for the first ten years of my life). After dances, songs and traditional fire-starting, they led us out onto their land to teach us how to throw spears and boomerangs, how to play a didgeridoo and what we could and couldn’t eat from the rainforest. We collected a fantastic packed lunch from the restaurant and got back into Betsy for a one-hour drive north to meet the Walker brothers from a neighbouring tribe. Our instructions were to take the coast road past Port Douglas, turn right towards Cooya Beach and drive until we reached the ‘most massive tree at the end’, the boys would be sitting under the tree waiting for us.
When we reached the tree, no-one was around, but there was a sign warning of the saltwater crocodiles and telling us not to go near the water, let alone in it... little did we know in a couple of hours we would be spear fishing in it and wading for mud crabs!
Linc Walker, an aboriginal from the Port Douglas area, showed up, and took us on a mind-blowing walk through the beach forest showing us what medicines, tools and creatures the forest was home to and how his family have inhabited the area and lived off it for generations. He then took us to his home for Mangos and freshly made bread with golden syrup whilst he showed us his collection of artifacts; which included burnie-beans, turtle shells, swordfish teeth and whale bones.
We set off again, armed with a spear each, and followed Linc into the saltwater Mangrove swamps (metres from the warning signs) in search of mud crabs. Along the way we ate Green Ants (supposedly good for flu and taste like very strong lemons), Hibiscus leaves, Beach Almonds and some very weird tasting plum/apricots growing along the shore. Once inside the swamps the temperature was intense and I was pretty quickly being eaten by mosquitoes, so we ventured out into the shallows of the sea where there was a fairly strong breeze. Linc told us to keep stabbing the sand in front of us as we waded to ensure no stingrays were basking in our path...wasn’t Steve Irwin killed by one of those??!!!....we stabbed at the murky water like mad, particularly as we had nothing on our feet. We found only one mud crab, some giant winkles, mud skippers and plenty of cone snails. So with my back ablaze with bites, we returned to Linc’s place and he produced a jar of Dugong fat to smear on and ease the itching. (We later looked up Dugong in our book – it’s like a cross between a whale and a manatee.)
Hot, educated, stinking of whale fat and in awe of the Aboriginal way of life, we headed back along the coast road to Cairns to prepare for a night with the Tjapukai.
“Adventure is a path. Real adventure – self-determined, self-motivated, often risky – forces you to have firsthand encounters with the world. The world the way it is, not the way you imagine it. Your body will collide with the earth and you will bear witness. In this way you will be compelled to grapple with the limitless kindness and bottomless cruelty of humankind – and perhaps realize that you yourself are capable of both. This will change you. Nothing will ever again be black-and-white.” –Mark Jenkins