Blue Mountains, Fall 2018

Updated: Nov 12, 2018

On Saturday morning, gung-ho students and others who could have used a cup of joe, boarded our 14-pax van to the Blue Mountains. Past the coastal planes we climbed the backbone of the continent some 3000-feet above sea level. This group rolls at a leisurely pace; before hitting the trails, they had a second breakfast at the visitor’s center. Naturally, breakfast leads to ping pong so the players in the group had a go at a nearby table.

Full steam ahead to the trails. Our first stop--Three Sisters Lookout--did not disappoint. Fifty million years in the making, the spires and vertical cliffs are the Park’s main attraction. Most visitors stop there. Our group muscled over sandstone and through eucalyptus forests for another hour. Unlike last week’s swamp walk, the Blue Mountains hides its wildlife. A visitor may catch the occasional eagle circling the thermals, but generally it is a solitary hike. No less than three students commented on the quality of the air. One could imagine the ocean breezes flowing inland, rising over the rock faces, and energizing every breath.

Following our hike, we returned to the visitor’s center, and for some—you guessed it--the food bar. On the lower level, in the education center, our aboriginal host introduced himself and immediately acknowledged the Darug tribe who inhabited the region for 40,000 years. With a color-coordinated map highlighting the 300 Aboriginal language groups throughout the continent, our guide introduced us to the Aboriginal Songlines and the Dreamtime stories used to explain creation. We learned how the rainbow serpent descended from the heavens to create the rivers and lakes. And we discussed how aboriginals went on “walkabout” to learn the songs of neighboring tribes and to find a husband or wife.

Next, the moment everyone was waiting for: painting the boomerangs. With brushes and tins, they went to work on the wood before them. Some referred to the handout on Aboriginal symbols and applied traditional patterns. Others looked inward to produce original art work. Leaving their creations to dry, our crew headed into the amphitheater. Lights dimmed, and smoke filled the stage. Dancers painted in white streaks and hand prints emerged in traditional loin cloths. We watched a tribesman discover a hollow log in the bush and return to the village. After some unmelodious grunts into the opening, the tribe tells him to return it to the bush given its uselessness. Instead, the man heads outback and finds a quiet place to master the instrument. He invents the technique of circular breathing and produces a haunting sound that mimics the wind, water, and animals. He returns to his tribe the master of the world’s oldest air instrument--the digeridoo.

Next, a dancer embodied the spirit of the kangaroo. Mimicking the animal’s nervous habits, he bounded across the stage, the master of his environment. A hunter approaches. With the thrust of a spear, man becomes the new master and the kangaroo is dispatched. Acknowledging his power, the hunter performs a series of rituals to thank the kangaroo spirit and acknowledge his gift.