Wish to go on vacation, away from all worries of everyday life? Want to take a walk down the corridors of Indigenous history? Desire to experience a soulful and enlightening experience? If you answered yes to any of these questions, Arnhem Land is the place to be.
In 1623, a Dutch captain sailed into the Gulf Carpentaria in his ship, the Arnhem, thereby becoming inspiration for this land to be named, the Arnhem Land. This region is located in the northeast of the 5 northern Australian territories. With a population of about 16000, of which 12000 are the Yolngu people, the area is rich and central to Indigenous history. The traditional owners, Yolngu initially moved to the land tens of thousands of years ago, to get away from the worries of large towns, today residing in outstations curtaining the Arnhem.
The Yolngu people are culturally rich beings with their own set of beliefs, and a code of life. Their faith links them with the fundamental belief that their life is connected: the past, present, and future. The Yolngu of north-eastern Arnhem have the belief that the all-powerful Wangarr beings were present at the ‘Sacred timeshining’, and what they see today, is all because of their powers of creation. They blessed the area with land (ngirrima) and water, alongside teaching them the way of living. Their language, laws, paintings, scriptures, and ceremonies all trace back to the Wangarrs. After which all things living were assigned one of the two basic moieties, Dhuwa and Yirritja. The land and waters assigned to each of them hold immense spiritual significance. You can often hear the Yolngu say, not that they merely care for the land, or the land is theirs, but instead, that ‘they are the land’. During nighttime tours, visitors are often presented with cultural nights of bonfires and food, often ending with star gazing, or spending time under the dark, gloomy and beautiful sky. The Milky Way in the sky is thought of in Yolngu culture as the ’River of stars’. It is the highway for dead spirits to pass on to the afterlife. It is also believed, that one should not call out the name of the deceased, as this invites them back to Earth, hindering their passage through the highway, to reaching their final abode.
The Arnhem Land is Eden for those with the love of water. With recreational activities such as fishing, swimming, scuba diving, and roaming the mesmerising white sandy beaches, it attracts visitors of all sorts. Nhulunbuy (on the Gove peninsula) is an absolute treat for the budding-fisherman. The catch here is extremely easy, alongside there being many nearby beaches with entrepreneur beautiful sunsets awaiting your arrival. There is also the presence of wonders of mother Earth, such as the reefs, cays, and estuaries brimming with exotic marine life, making Nhulunbuy rank high on the tourists’ list of favourite places. The Macassan beach on the other hand, differs with the sort of historical aura it emits. It hosts stone structures which had been constructed approximately a century ago, to make everyone aware of the Macassan traders. Again, with beaches like Turtle Beach in walking distance from here, it is the picnic spot bound to attract many.
The land is rich in representation of the animal kingdom, whether it be the fauna on land, or the enticing marine life. Wildlife is in abundance here with many saltwater crocodiles, nesting turtles, dugongs, as well as the highly-acclaimed sea cucumbers, or trepang, as one may know them in Chinese cuisine.
The indigenous significance of the area is evident through the rock art it beholds. With depictions of axes, ships, and more, they act as a looking glass to aboriginal history. Found on the Ubirr rock, and Injalak Hill, the paintings are narrations of events of the past, such as the incoming of the Europeans. Mount Borradaile is a heaven for rock art lovers. Acting as a sacred sanctuary, the rock shelters are a window to the past, as they brim with stories. Whether it be the fabulous rainbow serpent, or the handprints shining on the wall, mesmerising visitors with their rugged yet enticing beauty.
With a single permit letting you in to enjoy the beauty Arnhem Land beholds, what are you waiting for? The sandy beaches, crystal-clear water, and stories of the past await your arrival, and are ready to welcome you, Yolngu-style!
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