Sunday, June 28, 2009


This past week I (David) went out to an Indigenous community at the mouth of the Daly River in Anson Bay called Bulgul. I went with a colleague who has been working with the community for the past 20 years, coming from the US once a year. I got involved in the project because of my Geography/Cartography background, and after getting certified as a trainer in the VET (Vocational Education and Training) system, I've started to design a course for the community. VET is sort of the equivalent of community college, focusing on work skills. This trip kicked things off with some GPS training. We are taking things slowly and just starting to mark places (waypoints) that they are interested in, and showing them how to find them again using the GPS. This is just the first step that will lead to some computer training during the Build-up (Septemberish).

Anyway, this was unlike any place I had ever been. Backpacking for 5 days is the closest thing to it, but even that is miles away. There are different groups that live in this area, and some have houses. The group I'm working with are living out of tents, but have at least one apartment in Darwin and split their time between Bulgul and Darwin. I'm not sure how much to tell about, and what photos I can put on the blog. I did take photos with permission, but I didn't ask if I could post them on the blog. However, I think some will make it up on the project website when that gets built. The first night we arrived late in the evening after taking off after work. They had some food waiting for us, including mud mussels, which are really salty clams. The main course was a choice between a tin of corned beef or tongue..."Ewwww oh God, gross...I'll take the tongue thank you very much." I did end up eating the tongue. It was either cow tongue or Kangaroo, I forgot to ask. It wasn't too chewey because it had been boiling for a good couple of hours, and had a bit of gamey taste.

The next day we went through the basics of turning on the GPS, recording a waypoint, and finding it again. It wasn't difficult stuff, just a matter of practice. Next we went out to a sacred site, and marked it and the path with the GPS units. On the way there, they pulled off the road, because the driver had spotted a large animal. He got out, took his gun and shot it. I haven't heard a gun shot in a long time, so it made me jump. He came back to the car and said, "We'll get it on the way back." Which we did, all the men hopping out of the truck to start to bleed it and carve it up. I went back with everyone else, and the truck went back to pick them up bringing the carcass back in the trailer bed. I got called over and had to claim my lunch as it was being detached. After grilling that up on the open fire and eating, I went with a couple people and dropped the carcass off the back of the trailer. Another group had gone out and caught some massive Tiger prawns, so when we got back I had one of those... by then I was pretty stuffed. After that, a large group of us went out to the beach and did some fishing. I got passed a fishing line after it had already been cast, and pulled in a Grunter...while somehow managing to tangle the line up into a giant knot.

My fish...

The next day we went out to one of the islands in the bay. Now those who know me, or this blog, know I don't much care for boats...or the seasickness that usually comes with them. I wasn't too enthused, but I also wanted to go and check these islands out. It wasn't too bad because the boat really just tore across the water. We got to one of the islands just as the tide was comming out and went as far into the mangroves as we could, then walked the rest of the way. We continued the training with a couple of the people who missed the training earlier. At lunch time they threw one of the mud crabs they had caught on the fire for me to try. I scarffed that down as quickly as possible, because of the group wanted to show me the spot where they get their mud mussels. The name is quite apt as we trapsed through swamp and mud to find these half buried clams. We spent a good part of the time waiting for the tide to come back, as the boat was now on land. I spent part of this time walking around the water with one of the kids playing fishing sting rays. They of course swam quickly away from us, but it was fun watching him play and learn. On the way out we went to the other side of the island and everyone threw their lines into the water and started reeling in the fish. My colleague asked if I was feeling alright given we were just bopping in the water which is the worst for seasickness... "I better be alright, I've taken 3 dramamine." In fact, I think I was a bit high. Don't worry, you're not supposed to take more than 8 in a 24 hour period, so I still had a few to go. That night when we got back to camp, they fried me up some salmon. The interesting thing about the salmon here is that the flesh is white, it's pink in the US because of their diet, but it tastes exactly the same...of course a million times better given it was caught and cooked in the span of an hour.

That night we came back to Darwin. I left with a lifetime's worth of experience and about 50 mozzie bites on my legs. When the project website gets built, we will probably put a donation page for people to contrbute to the community. I'll post that here, and I hope the readers will donate. It would go directly to the community and purchase necessities and probably petrol. But first the community has to apply for non-profit status.

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