Kakatu National Park is the largest national park in Australia. Covering nearly 20,000 kilometers, it is more than twice the size of Yellowstone National Park. It is a World Heritage listed park for its environment and aboriginal culture. Kakatu is a biologically diverse area, being home to dozens of species of birds, mammals and insects. It is also well known for its aboriginal history. Inside the park there are over five thousand art sites, where aboriginals painted on the rocks for storytelling purposes. Of the five thousand, we visited a handful of these sites. These visits were my favorite thing about Kakatu.
We spent two days in Kakatu. The first was spent sightseeing and hiking. We ended the day with the Abangbang billabong walk to see the rock art. When we arrived there was a tour group gathered at the beginning trail. We hung around and listened to the talk before walking on around to find yet another tour group. This group consisted of high school students on some kind of extra credit trip. They were listening to a park archeologist give a talk about the significance of the aboriginal rock art. The guide was both very interesting and informative.
The guide really put the art into perspective for me. He explained that the white man has been studying the rock art for a hundred years or so. With each study they spend months and months trying to figure out what kind of rock is involved, how the paint was made, why the painting was painted, what it meant and so on and so forth. He explained that the answering of one question always leads to another question.
On the other hand, he told the story of the specific art site we were looking at. He said while the white man was digging around for scientific information, some aboriginal peoples came to the site and offered their help because the head archeologist had been extremely kind to them. They took one look at the specimen and told them where the rock was found, how it was relocated to this place, how much it was worth, when it arrived and why it was painted. What took white men years and years of technological research, the aboriginals new by heart and common sense. After learning this I felt a new wave of respect for the aboriginal people. My respect grew even more when he explained something else. He said our modern technology dates the rock art back a few thousand years. He said every few years technology sets the date back even further. For comparison, he explained that Jesus Christ was on the planet 2,000 years ago, and 2,000-4,000 years before that is around the time the Bible starts telling the story of Adam. Scientists say the aboriginals have been on the Australian land for 40,000 years. What is more, is that aboriginals believe their people have occupied the territory since the creation of the earth. Their spoken history is why they believe this.
I thought a minute about the lack of documentation for such cultures. The Native Americans, Aboriginals, Maori tribes in New Zealand and many other cultures dissolve or go under the radar simply because they do not write their history. Spoken history is more important to their culture. This is neat, but the western world does not respect it as much as written history. Plus, it seems as though the longer we live, the more we record ourselves and our history.
Camp that night was hot and full of mosquitos. We went to bed early and tried not to let mosquitos in our sleeping quarters. The next morning we woke up extra early for another 5k walk near the campsite. Afterwards we went to Ubirr, the most famous rock art site in Kakatu.