Gudanji For Country Bush Trips

Gudanji For Country Bush Trips

Hi everyone. My name is Rikki Dank/Lhudi Noralima and I am a Gudanji and Wakaya person from the Barkley tablelands area of the Northern Territory, but everyone now knows it as part of the Beetaloo Basin.

As we all know, this area (which is the size Belgium) is in danger of being fracked. Fracking is more than a destructive mining industry. It destroys homes and water and pollutes the air that we breathe - there is nothing good about fracking.

Fracking will also destroy our song-lines and sacred sites. We will no longer be able to care for Country as we once did.

So we are fighting back with your help. We invited a variety of organisations from around Australia to come and visit our Country - to see what will be lost if we don't all act to protect it and to stop fracking.

Our inaugural Gudanji Bush Trip is now done and dusted! As we all try to get back to everyday life we are left with memories, Lagija (coolamons), Sugarbag (native honey/beehive) wax that has stained our clothes and didgeridoos. I would like to share with you some of the experiences we shared on the trip.

Day 1.

A 19 hour day, with a 4 am start and an 11 hour bus ride, with some stops along the way. We stopped at Katherine to fuel up and pick up some last minute fishing hooks for my sister and fresh bread for tomorrow's breakfast.

Stopping at Mataranka is a must, but it was difficult to swim as it was the height of tourist season and Bitter Springs was closed due to a crocodile sighting.

The next stop was at Highway Inn, again for fuel and some snacks before the last leg of our journey and 2-and-a-bit hour drive on a mostly single lane road before we hit our Home and the camp site at Little River.

Day 2. 

We woke up to the beautiful sound of a fire and smoke from the snappy gum ever so lightly tickling our noses. With the swoosh and swirl of yellow and green budgies over head, we had toast and porridge for breakfast.

We then got ready for the day. Our main tasks for the day were going to look for Sugarbag (which could take most of the day) and a special tree for another activity.

We finally found some sugarbag, after an hour or two searching. We then bundled ourselves back into the bus and moved on to the next item on the list that we really wanted to complete that day - looking for a tree, a special tree, a Lagija tree (a Coolamon tree).

We eventually found the perfect tree. This was something that we needed to do today, because making a Lagija could take a few days (even a small one). I wanted to show everyone how these were made, because my grandmother showed me how to make them and showed me how to make them on Little River Country. This was a way to honour her and to relive memories that we made when I was a child. 

Day 3.

We made our way into town (Borroloola) and stopped along the way to check out MRM (McArthur River Mine). You can notice that change in Country as you drive into the area - the change in the trees and the smell of the air. Four mining trucks taking Iron Ore and crushed Zinc to the port passed us as we traveled along the road to Borroloola. Driving past the massive MRM site, it is impossible to overlook the immense environmental damage it has caused and continues to cause.

After about an hour and 20 mins we hit town. We first went to look for my grandmother - I hadn’t seen her in over two years. We then went around town to say hello to all our families and to let them know we were all meeting down at 'the crossing' to discuss fracking and the concern families had with the pollution and poisoning of water.

We spent that evening cooling off back at Little River and working more on our Lagija.

 Day 4:

This was a more quiet day.

Like every day, we spent breakfast around the fire. We then spent the rest of the morning working more on our lagija and talking a lot. The men went looking for didgeridoo trees and managed to find a couple of good branches from which they could create didgeridoos.

The evening was again spent sharing stories around the campfire.

 Day 5.

We spent half the day shaping our Lagija, swimming in the river and enjoying fresh bread from the camp ovens for lunch. We packed up for another small adventure - this was down the road, to the Caranbirini conservation reserve.

This place was traditionally a meeting place for families. As we walked through the tall sandstone structures, it felt as if we had walked into an air-conditioned room, with butterflies all around us, the small trees that had grown into those tall pillars, at times, seemed like they were floating. I love this place.

In the distance, rain clouds seemed to gather around and near Borroloola. However, we remained dry and were sheltered from the warm afternoon sun by the clouds overhead. It seemed as if our ancestors knew that we were out walking and had made sure the day was just right.


Day 6.

The day started out much like the previous day - shaping our Lagija and a swim, but we had fritters for breakfast.

Today, we went to visit Sandy Creek. Again, there was a slight breeze that cooled the sweat that had collected in between our backs and the bags that we carried. We remained vigilant for wild horses and bullocks and, as we climbed down the small gorge, we looked out for buffalo - you can tell when they've been there from what they leave behind and the smell that lingers there after. We saw not only budgies, but also some Gouldian finches and wedge tailed eagles flying high and low around us.


Day 7.

Early morning (5 am) start for today. We packed up the camp said our goodbyes to family and Country, which took a while.

We then started the long road trip back to Darwin. It felt sad leaving home, knowing what might happen. At the same time, I felt stronger, knowing we have so many more hands ready and willing to help us protect Country and to stop fracking on the Beetaloo.

We drove about ten hours back to Darwin and said some more goodbyes, but we all knew we would all be back and see each other again.



We purposefully structured this trip to highlight not only our continued relationship with our Country, but also our relationship with our families within our Country and the interconnection with our non-human kin - how we are all a part of something much larger than ourselves, how we all play small but important parts of keeping Country happy and balanced.

This is what will be lost if fracking is allowed to go ahead on the Beetaloo. Not only the heath of our family and our non-human kin, but also the health of our Country: We will die together - all of us gone because one can not exist without the other.

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