After teaching Aboriginal Culture to my art students for the last few years, I finally had the opportunity to visit Australia and learn about their art and culture .
This Home Page will take you to the nine major areas we visited and show you in pictures and story what we learned at each site. The lessons we learned from our tour guides and the aboriginal people themselves will be used to instruct students in cultural diversity and respect for their land. All Australians have an incredible love of their country and respect for their land and its resources. It was an honor to learn from them about some of their most sacred sites and the making of tools from local resources for hunting and food gathering.
Our journey began in the metropolitan city of Surfer's Paradise, where everything evolves around surfing along the entire coast line. This area was also filled with terrific resources for fishing, boating, and wildlife excursions into the outer reaches of the Queensland area. It makes for a great base camp to go out and explore other areas of Queensland such as Burleigh Heads, the Currumbin Sanctuary, and a host of other amenities far too numerous to state here.
We then ventured to Cairns where we saw magnificent beaches, the Great Barrier Reef, the Cairns Harbor and Lagoon, incredible shops, indigenous boutiques and warm friendly people and great foods. Part of the Cairns experience was a trip to Kuranda where we rode the old train through the rain forest, visited the village of Kuranda, saw amazing butterflies and birds, and then took the sky rail up into the canopy of the forest for some of the most breathtaking views you could ever imagine of the Cairns area. At the bottom of the hill was the Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park where we learned about bush foods, various tools, how to make them for hunting and food gathering, and what the story was behind their art making. I had many discussions with locals who told me about the symbols in their art, how to play the didgeridoo, what the creation time was about and how they communicate these things to people like us and why. We saw tribal dances, men make fire, stories were told, instruments were played, bush tucker was explained for medical purposes, and finally we threw spears and boomerangs.
We left Cairns one day and headed up to spend a night at the Daintree Eco Lodge and Spa which is one of the top 20 in the world. It is in fact, number 13 in the world. According to their brochure, "Daintree Wellness Spa is a unique body, mind and soul experience, harnessing the potent natural forces to create a healing environment unlike any other. The Daintree is 135 million years old and home to the spiritual ancestors of the Kuku Yalanji tribe. With the approval of the Kuku Yalanji elders our spa treatments integrate the wisdom of ancient cultures, medicines, spirtuality and healing."
Alice Springs was the beginning of the true Australia I had always imagined with rugged roads and outback bush gushing forth from some martian like soil of bright red ochre. We talk so much about didgeridoos and culture with the locals. I played with the band on stage, bought original paintings from locals selling them on the streets, and discovered the "wattle", their national flower/bush. We saw great views of the Alice Springs area from atop a mountain and amazing trees with their bark crawling to the ground.
Uluru (Ayers Rock) was the highlight of our trip, where we started at the Lost Camel (our wonderful and exotic futuristic hotel). The colors in the hotel were bright reds, purples, blues, and ochre's fused with a type of Adobe style architecture. Georgia O'Keeffee would have loved this place. We no sooner dropped off the bags and we were out the door for the sunset dinner at Uluru. It rained on the way, stopped, and then formed the most incredible sunset and double rainbow over the rock that anyone had ever seen. They served us champagne and crepes of crocodile, emu, baramundi, and kangaroo. The dinner was followe up with didgeridoo playing and a local astronomer explaining to us how to find the southern cross since the north star is not visible there. You could just reach out and grab the milky way. The following day began and ended with a tour of the rock with our guide "Happy", a local Aboriginal through Anangu Tours.
At Sydney, we stayed at The Rocks at the heart of town at the foot of the huge Sydney Bridge in a very old historic district filled with bustling shops and sky scrapers. From Sydney we toured out to the Blue Mountains and learned about the animals there, saw wild birds and kangaroos, and hands on cave walls that were done 1,600 years ago. Our guide John told us that the Australians never wanted to go back to the way they were and were to keep moving ever forward, so they chose the emu and kangaroo for national symbols. Neither creature can go backwards. We wrapped up our journey at the Hunter Valley and toured the wineries there and tasted phenomenal foods and met great happy people everywhere. This was a journey of a lifetime and I hope you all enjoy the pictures and learn a little something along the way about Australia and the people who live there.
Our Journey Starts On Australia's Gold Coast
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
The day finally arrived and we dropped off our yellow labs, Rusty and Raven at our pet hotel and headed for the airport. The journey turns out to be as long as expected as we leave Norfolk and head for Los Angeles and wait for what seems a lifetime for our fourteen and a half hour flight to Australia's Gold Coast at Brisbane.
Thursday, July 16, 2009
The drive from the airport to the coast is a short half hour or so. Surprisingly we lost a day or so after we crossed the international dateline! Quantas took very good care of us and the flight was terribly long but we made it. When we get to the Breakfree Diamond Beach Resort, we are greeted by numerous pools and are just a few short steps from the beach. I rush down to see the surf and it is just barely rideable but am too jet lagged to paddle out. I am confident it will be ridable tomorrow and my new 6' 2" fish I rented was waiting for me at the hotel. The weather is surprisingly cool here, much like Santa Barbara. You definitely need a sweat shirt on in the morning and evenings since it is their winter down under.
Our accommodations are surprisingly nice with a full kitchen and the pool areas have lots of barbecues to cook on. We pretty much spent the day walking the streets and admiring the tall buildings where it seems every architect had his idea of what "Wow Factor" is and created their version of it with little or no regard to unity in the landscape. The skyscrapers are so tall, that they actually have a monorail running through some of them so you can get around. I feel as if the have put Miami into Australia. The sheer abundance of huge buildings is overwhelming and while I stand amazed architecturally at their scale, I also feel sad for the environment at the same time.
Friday, July 17, 2009
We have Broadbeach School just across the street from our hotel. I was told that they all wear uniforms and it really keeps down on the discipline. If they can't afford one, they are given one. This way there is no class prejudice since they all wear the same thing and therefore are on the same level.
I finally got into the water for a surf but it was pathetically flat. The chances of coming to the worlds best surf destination and getting no surf is slim to none, but apparently, I am destined to be surfless this entire trip!
One of the coolest buildings here is called "The Wave" and understandably so. It is all wavy and very tall. They allowed us to go up to the top floor and take some pictures and the view was impressive! We could see the Pacific Fair Mall that has over 300 stores, the coliseum, the casino, and just about everything else for miles.
Saturday, July 18, 2009
Today we took a cab to the Carerra Market and did some shopping. It was very much like Williamsburg Pottery however, it was much larger! Not too much authentic stuff though. A lost of Australian stuff made in China for Australia, but still, interesting stuff. There were however some very nice made in Australia brands that we loved.
Sunday, July 19, 2009
Today we took a cab down the coast to Burleigh Heads which was very crowded and very small surf so we opted to go to the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary and good thing we did. They let us hold a Koala Bear, feed kangaroos and emus in the open, and had tons of wild birds and exotic reptiles. They had an impressive nocturnal exhibit but our favorite had to be the Koalas. They just hang out all day and eat eucalyptus leaves and look very cute.
Entrance to surfers paradise