By Peg Prendeville

Australia, as we all know, was the home of the Aborigines until the western world took over. Darwin has more Abos, as they are called here, than any city in OZ. Sadly they do not have a good reputation here and are known as lazy and dirty and more often drunk. But, I tend to stand up for them. Their land was taken over, their culture of stories and dreams not understood properly and they are expected to embrace a whole new culture to which they are almost aliens. Having said that they are adapting to modern ways and do use iphones and know when and where to look for social welfare so they are no fools either. Some of them do look dirty and unwashed and, I believe, use the streets and doorways for a toilet now and then but others look smart and clean. I would love to have the courage to speak with one of them and find out what goes on in their heads but have not done it yet. To be honest none of them look too happy and they shout a lot to each other, especially to the children. We went to an open air cinema one night and before the film started a notice went up acknowledging the Larakia people as the rightful owners of the land. So a lot is done to make them feel at home in their own home. There are some monuments here and there in memory of those aborigines who had lived and died in that area. Some sites are considered sacred in their eyes and all people are asked to acknowledge that and respect those sites.

We took a trip to Kakadu National Park on day and stayed in Jabiru which is 350k to the east from Darwin and is aborigine country. We walked to Ubirr rock which is one of their sacred sites and many of the rocks have art which they tell us was done thousands of years before. It is like the art work in Newgrange except instead of spiral celtic drawings there are pictures of fish and animals. They are much in tune with nature and hunt and fish for a lot of their food – those that lives as their ancestors did. On Ubirr Rock if you look west it is all flat wetlands and to the east is jagged rocks and gorges but still it seems that trees can grow there. Very different land to the Emerald Isle. On one stretch of roadway, 120k long, there were no dwellings of any kind, just constant trees and scrub some of which was burnt. We met two vehicles in that distance!

Ayers Rock or Uluru – its official name – is the main spiritual home of these people. Situated in the centre of Australia, near Alice Springs, it is our next destination by the time you read this we will be there. After that we are off to Sydney and we might decide to return home after that. It is a most exciting and different holiday. One we could not imagine when we were planning to get married 40 years ago.

By the way we are toasting here. 33 to 36 most days.  Not a drop of rain since we left home!