Morapoi Camp 2015

Day 1: What a journey! From an inner city train station to going to bed in a swag under the stars, we travelled by train and bus over 600 kilometers. I think most students ate their week’s supply of lollies on the first hour of the train ride… so it was a long trip for them! It didn’t take long to settle in to the rhythm of the ride, once the initial excitement had worn off a little and we watched the landscape change slowly from urban to bush to outback. When we hit Kalgoorlie we were met by our host Greg. We loaded up the bags in the trailer and set off in two busses for Morapoi Station! After setting our swags up in the dry creek bed and before dinner we had a short night walk up to Mt Jessop, a small rocky hill to view the Station and the night sky. We paused for a moment of no torches or talking to feel how far we had come and where we were, before being met by the bus for a ride back to camp where we cooked our first dinner over the fire and spent our first night under the amazing stars. For many, seeing the stars put to rest any worries they had about sleeping out doors.

 

 

Day 2: After a slow start and breakfast around the fire, Greg gave a talk about the Aboriginal history and people of Morapoi, focusing on his family and his experience growing up as the first in his family to be born “out of the bush”. He told first hand of how Aboriginal people struggled to be recognized and about the restrictions of their rights and the removal of children, and how Aboriginal people maintained their culture through it all. We then found we were in for a very special treat seldom experienced by white Australians. Greg introduced us to our guides Warren and Robert who took us on a walk through the bush to a very important site where we were to spend the night. In two groups we set off, there were no tracks or paths, instead we walked through the landscape as Aboriginal people have done for thousands of years, looking for bush foods, tracks, and sites on our way to Mallee Hen. We crossed some amazing country and miraculously popped out of the bush to see the busses and swags waiting for us! There were no facilities out here (but PLENTY of flies!), so College used their Outdoor Ed skills and we devised a 2 toilet system for privacy and safety, set up our swags, and prepared the fires for dinner.

 

Day 3: Waking up at Mallee Hen is a treat, getting the fire going and breakfast cooking. We learned about the significance of the site as a permanent water hole in a series of water holes that Aboriginal people use to traverse the dry landscape. Mallee Hen is named after a particular and amazing rock formation that is the shape of a mallee hen nest, which identifies the site along the song lines. Today we split into our two groups. One went for a bush foods and culture tour, where the students saw the true history and significance of the site, with trees scarred by ancient shield, coolamon, and  woomera makers, as well as examples of shelters and ancient grinding stones! We tasted Silky Pear and Quandong, saw an amazing Bower Bird nest, and learned about medicinal plants. When we came to a clearing at the end, we all had a go at boomerang throwing, if you caught it, you got to keep it!

 

The second group carved tapping sticks with Greg, learning about their use in ceremony, and learning a special ceremonial dance, one group being kangaroos, the other emus, in preparation of our corroboree the next evening.

After a quick lunch over the fire, it was onto the busses and back to Morapoi, with a stop on the way to sample some bush foods! We stopped in a bush spot to find a lady digging out some Honey Ants for us to try, they also had some huge fat Wichetty Grubs, a moment some were anticipating, and some dreading! Most students tasted one or both while we also cooked some damper in the ashes and learned how the foods were gathered, prepared, and stored. We then returned to our creek bed home at Morapoi and cooked in our now familiar teams around the fire. After dinner, Greg and some of the Morapoi folks joined us with sticks and a didgeridoo for the singing and dancing we learned at Mallee Hen. Before we went to bed we had one more treat, meeting a rescued joey they were looking after!

 

Day 4: By now a familiar start as students independently got fires going and breakfast underway. Today we were taken out to the incredible Lake Ballard, where we learned of the Aboriginal story of the “Three Sisters”, which is a group of stars, but the pronounced hill in the middle of the lake is the head of the man who tried to keep one of the sisters from flying away, you can see him looking up towards the departing sisters. We then got into small groups based on our ambitions for exploring, and set out on the glaring salt lake to explore the Inside Australia figures put there by Antony Gormley and spread out over the vast plain. From the hill you can see the ghost like figures with ant trails from visitors joining them together. They look so surreal in the shimmery light, like ancient travellers or aliens. We had lunch out by the lake then headed back through Menzies, where we found a little water park to cool off and rinse some dust and weariness away!

 

 

On our way back to Morapoi, we stopped to view the Niagara Dam, again we heard a very different story to the one on the sign. The sign informs us that the dam was built by settlers at a permanent water hole, but they didn’t event use it, as water was found closer to town. It doesn’t mention that the water hole has been an important meeting place for Aboriginal people from all over WA for hundreds of years, and the next stop north on the trail from Mallee Hen (one days walk away).

 

Back at Morapoi for our last night, we had a wonderful roast dinner waiting for us, and we enjoyed another of Greg’s many talents, as he grabbed his guitar and sang us some songs he has written about his people and land, some in English, some in Wangatha. Then is was back out bush for a much anticipated game of Spotlight, and our last night under the stars. many wonderful reflections were shared as we celebrated our time together. The people of Morapoi clearly enjoy sharing and celebrating their culture as much as we felt privileged to experience it. I was proud of our guys for their expressions of gratitude and appreciation.

 

 

Day 5: Today was the big pack up. Weary but satisfied, everyone chipped in to get us underway for the drive to Kalgoorlie (lots of sleeping on the bus!), lunch in town, then back on the train for a much subdued and relaxing train ride back to “civilization” where parents and holidays awaited us!

There is so much more to tell, tales of bravery, injury and illness, flies, sunsets, hilarity, independence and selflessness. We also have thousands more photos… I can honestly say that EVERYONE stepped up and beyond themselves with new experiences and challenges, with love, respect and courage. The students really did look out for one another and take hold of every activity and experience with joy, resilience and enthusiasm! Thank you everyone for supporting this amazing adventure into Aboriginal Australia.

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“The shrewd guess, the fertile hypothesis, the courageous leap to a tentative conclusion - these are the most valuable coins of the thinker at work. But in most schools guessing is heavily penalized and is associated somehow with laziness.”

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