My highlight of Australia was a walkabout tour of the Blue Mountains near Sydney.
The Blue Mountains walkabout would not be everybody’s cup of eucalyptus tea. It’s quite strenuous and you will get dirty. But if you want an escape from the frenetic pace of Sydney, see more of the Australian bush than you would in a whistle-stop bus tour and gain a real insight into Aboriginal culture, this is a MUST DO.
Evan Yanna Muru, our tour guide of Aboriginal descent, met us at Falconbridge station which is approximately an hour’s train journey from Sydney’s Central Station. As a former tour guide myself, I am hard to please but I can honestly say that Evan is one of the best. He is passionate about Darug (the Aboriginal tribe that lived in the Blue Mountains) culture and his knowledge of his heritage is vast and deep. The tour group was small and they were an eclectic and interesting crew – ranging from a business tycoon who followed the road less travelled to become a volunteer in Namibia to a technical architect with Sony Playstation who was about to climb Everest.
Most of the 8k walk is off-track and therefore the terrain is rough. You do not need to be super-fit but you do need to be surefooted. However, there are compensations - our group did not encounter one other person all day. Other than our voices and movements, no other noises interfered with the bush soundscape.
I felt slightly ashamed that the Irish who settled in Australia were among those who condemned this ancient culture as primitive. I winced at the irony that many of the Irish convicts, who were transported to Australia for petty crime (I would argue partly because they themselves were dispossessed), went on to drive the Australian natives off their land. The Darug aborigines occupied the Blue Mountains for 50,000 years. Within two years of white settlement (1788), smallpox had killed more than half of this tribe. By 1860 the last of the full-blood Darug people had died.
Unfortunately the weather was not conducive to swimming in a billabong so we had our lunch sitting round a campfire in a sandstone cave. We drank eucalyptus tea and toasted marshmallows.
I do not want to give the impression that the walkabout is too worthy – we chatted and joked and finished the day, weary but exhilarated, in the pub.
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