Tonight I have a dinner date fitting of my last night in Australia.
Earlier today, on a visit to a small lake in Darwin I met a group of aboriginals—the only other visitors—who were sitting on the bank. With a friendly wave they granted me permission to have a swim and after a quick dip I went over to chat.
…I should interject here that the relationship between Australians as we know them and indigenous Australians is a very complex and disheartening one not widely publicized outside of the country. It deserves at the very least its own post, which I’ve started to write many times in the past two months but have yet to finish. It’s also important to note that out of all of the people that I’ve met over the past two months—Australians and travelers alike—I am probably the only one among us who will have had my experience today/tonight…
After three hours of chatting I was, on a page straight out of Shantaram, adopted and given the name Boonbah which means black and white butterfly. My traveling companion Barry was bestowed BillyBilly, a large and colorful parrot. We were also invited to dinner tonight on the beach, where they’re staying, for a meal of hand-caught mud crabs and kangaroo tail stew cooked over a bonfire.
There are many aboriginals that live in big cities—Alice Springs, Katherine, Darwin. But my new friends (family?) still live in Arnhem Land, about four hours north of Darwin. It is an “Indigenous Protected Area” which any road map of Oz will tell you—in bold, red letters—is restricted and limited to access only with the required permits. They come down to the city only every few years as a small vacation, to gather essentials and gifts for their grandchildren, before heading back to live off of distant lands that are beyond our reach.
I’m considering tonight’s invitation to be a permit of sorts and a final frontier before my flight to Indonesia tomorrow, which if I’m invited back to Arnhem land I may consider skipping.