Manyallaluk – The Dreaming Place Cultural Tour

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While in Katherine Tourism Information Centre, Peta spotted a brochure describing the Manyallaluk Dreaming Place cultural tour. So we decided to check it out.


Update 2018: Unfortunately this cultural tour has closed. A possible alternative is a cultural tour with Nitmiluk Tours (we are not affiliated with them in any way).


Jawoyn Lands

Manyallaluk is about 100km north-east from Katherine by road. Due to the rugged gorge country between Katherine and Manyallaluk, you actually have to travel south along the Stuart highway, turn left onto the Central Arnhem Highway then left again at Manyallaluk turnoff.

The Manyallaluk community was once Eva Valley Station, started by an Englishman who married an Aboriginal woman. He eventually returned to England. The original homestead, meatsafe and various other buildings are still there.

Old mud brick buildings. Homestead on left and meatsafe on right. Manyallaluk, Northern Territory.
Old mud brick buildings. Homestead on left and meatsafe on right.
The meat safe was cleverly built to keep the heat out. Manyallaluk, Northern Territory.
The meatsafe was cleverly built to keep the heat out.

Eva Valley Station was on Jawoyn traditional lands and eventually handled back to the Jawoyn people.







A Gentleman

We arrived early and had a cuppa with John Dewar. He was to be our guide for the day. John was a stockman on Eva Valley Station. His Dad caught wild brumbies, then tamed them and his Mum cooked for the station.

John Dewar preparing cane grass leaves to use as paintbrushes. Manyallaluk, Northern Territory.
John Dewar preparing cane grass leaves to use as paintbrushes.
John and Desmond showing us how to paint using brushes fashioned from canegrass leaves and ochre collected from the surrounding countryside. Is harder than it looks. Was fascinating watching the quiet interaction between John and Desmond; very much the old dog and the young pup. Desmond's respect for John was very evident. Manyallaluk, Northern Territory.
John and young Desmond showing us how to paint using brushes fashioned from canegrass leaves and ochre collected from the surrounding countryside. Was fascinating watching the quiet interaction between John and Desmond – very much the old dog and the young pup. Desmond’s respect for John was very evident.
Young Desmond was about 7 years old and ran rings around Ben when they played Tip. Manyallaluk, Northern Territory.
Young Desmond was about 7 years old. He ran rings around Ben when they played Tip!
John putting us all to shame! Manyallaluk, Northern Territory.
John putting us all to shame!

John was a fascinating man. He reminded me of my late father – quietly spoken, every word carefully measured, couldn’t be rushed in conversation and a dry sense of humour. John was clearly an intelligent man with a quiet, understated wisdom.

A true gentleman.







The Cultural Tour

After a while, a tour coach arrived. A fairly large group of American kids poured out, aged between 14 and 18. At first we were horrified, thinking the day was going to be ruined. I’m glad to say they were great – really respectful and quiet. Although they clearly couldn’t understand much of what John said.

In fact this actually worked quite well. John gravitated towards us for obvious reasons. He felt more comfortable having a quiet yarn to the four of us, rather than a large group of teenagers.

So we were able to get to know him better and learn heaps about his past and about the local area.

John took us all on a bush tucker walk, we threw spears (or at least tried to!), the girls tried their hands at basket weaving, we tried to get a fire started using two sticks, we all had a go at painting and the boys attempted the didgeridoo.

Legless lizard. Manyallaluk, Northern Territory.
Legless lizard.
This plant is used to dye pandanus leaves for baskets. The only indication it was there was a single green shoot sticking out of the ground. Once dug up, the roots were this brilliant orange. Manyallaluk, Northern Territory.
This plant is used to dye pandanus leaves for baskets. The only indication it was there was a single green shoot sticking out of the ground. Once dug up, the roots were this brilliant orange.
John pulled a green ant nest out of a tree and crushed them. We all had a taste - they have a pleasant lemon/lime flavour. The kids have taken to munching on them regularly now! Manyallaluk, Northern Territory.
John pulled a green ant nest out of a tree and crushed them. We all had a taste – they have a pleasant lemon/lime flavour. The kids have taken to munching on them regularly now!
John and Ron lighting a fire with sticks. Manyallaluk, Northern Territory.
John and Ron lighting a fire with sticks.
Success - they made it look easy. Manyallaluk, Northern Territory.
Success! They made it look easy.
Two American boys (unsuccessfully) attempting to light a fire. It's really quite difficult. Manyallaluk, Northern Territory.
Two American boys (unsuccessfully) attempting to light a fire. It’s really quite difficult.
Ben belting out a tune on the didgeridoo. Manyallaluk, Northern Territory.
Ben belting out a tune on the didgeridoo.

We all tried kangaroo tail, cooked in a camp fire the traditional way. I was surprised at how oily it tasted.







The Artist

Near the end of the day John showed us their Art Gallery. At this point, we discovered he is actually an exceptional and well-known artist who is often commissioned to do paintings. John’s paintings hang on walls in many parts of the world. No wonder he was so good at painting earlier in the day!

Within this plain building are some incredible paintings. Manyallaluk, Northern Territory.
Within this plain building are some incredible paintings.

The Manyallaluk Dreaming Place cultural tour is a wonderful day . Everything happens at an easy, leisurely pace. Don’t expect an action-packed day out by any means – that’s not what it’s about.

It was a pleasure to hang out with such generous, warm and interesting people.


TourRadar offer a wide range of deals on cultural tours in the Red Centre.

Next time, we spend a few days at Mataranka Thermal Pools.

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Any errors or omissions are mine alone.


 

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