Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Today we headed up to Kuranda to ride a very old train through the rain forests, visit the Kuranda village, checked out the butterfly farm, rode the sky rail, and visited the Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural center. Where do I begin? Everything was just so incredible!
The old train station had a really cool museum that told about the history of this train. We boarded the train at the Freshwater Railway Station in Queensland and set out for the ride of our lives with magnificent views of the mountains, rainforests, and waterfalls. The train dropped us off at the village of Kuranda where there were more things to do than time permitted.
We missed the aviary which was very interactive and you could feed the birds, but we opted for the butterfly farm and were not disappointed. I have painted the bird wing butterfly in one of my earlier works but had only seen pictures of them. To my surprise, there were tons of them everywhere! They also had a huge blue butterfly called the Ulysses. The Ulysses Butterfly is also known as the Blue Mountain Swallowtail, the Blue Emperor, and the Mountain Blue. It is a spectacular bright blue and black Australian swallowtail butterfly. It lives in tropical rain forests in Australia, Indonesia, and other nearby islands. We had just a little bit of time before we boarded the Sky Rail so we had some lunch and checked out some of the many didgeridoo shops. The Doongal Gallery was this fantastic store that looked like a boat and contained some impressive instruments and artifacts as well as many original Aboriginal paintings.
Later in the day we boarded the Sky Rail for an uplifting experience in the canopy of the rainforest. The ride had three stops for looking out over the area and you could see all of Cairns in the distance, waterfalls, mountains and valleys, the Great Barrier Reef, and of course, Tjapukai at the bottom of the hill.
When we got to the bottom we arrived at the Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park which is the first Aboriginal Cultural Park in Australia formed in 1987. It is situated at the foot of the Baron Gorge National Park. The Tjapukai and the Yirrganydji communities and their elders have approved and overseen the materials presented in the park. As soon as we entered the building we were ushered into this vast dark space with huge dot paintings and Aboriginal artifacts everywhere. We saw a performance that used holograms and slides combined with real live aboriginal actors that interacted with the presentation and taught us about the creation time. We then went to a hut outdoors and an Aborigine called "Rainbow" told us about his history and the marks on his body painted with ochre's, charcoal and plant materials. They did an amazing song and dance show with didgeridoo playing, spear throwing, and fire making skills. Kris and I both had an opportunity to throw boomerangs and spears later outside. We also learned about the bush foods used for medicine and health in another hut. It was impressive how many foods they used to cure themselves, even today.
After the shows we browsed the store and purchased some things and talked with a local Aborigine who explained the colors and patterns in their art work. In their tribe, the white stands for the law so you never see a white line broken in their art because they believe in following the law. The black stands for the people and the red for the blood of their mother. This is why many of the white dots in their art have red dots inside of them. Trevor then showed me a map of Australia and put it up against this huge dot painting and the shape of Tasmania was clearly reflected in the head of the serpent in the painting, as was the great dividing range. This was a terrific analogy to the painting and their geography. I also picked up a great book on how they use color in their art before heading back to Cairns for the evening. What an exhausting day!