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: 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).
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.
Eva Valley Station was on Jawoyn traditional lands and eventually handled back to the Jawoyn people.
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 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.
We all tried kangaroo tail, cooked in a camp fire the traditional way. I was surprised at how oily it tasted.
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!
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.
Next time, we spend a few days at Mataranka Thermal Pools.
Manyallaluk is on Jawoyn Country.
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