Kalkarindji, NT 2019 - Day 8

Warmth radiated from the gorge as it found the morning sun. A wade in the cool waters of the river was needed to wake from a well earned rest.

Yamba’s stories continued beyond the campfire as he guided us through generations of ochre paintings on the walls. The markings tell the story of this sacred place over hundreds of years, from dark to light ochre, the depth of its history is profound. Records of plants and animals tell of the resources available, used to carry knowledge of an innate connection and reliance on the landscape. These beautiful impressions of flora and fauna are contrasted by harrowing images of the massacres that occurred here. Among these are recollections of Gurindji people being thrown from the gorge by Kartiya. These are the stories of Rob Roys ancestors, these are his traditional lands. Given the significance of this place we are enormously privileged to be taken through its history.

As our trip to the gorge comes to an end we pack up to head for Kalk. That afternoon, local Gurindji corp builder Damien takes us through a room to breathe project. Room to Breathe is a NT government initiative aimed at improving housing to address overcrowding in communities. The tenant is an elderly man who lives alone. He spends his time collecting scrap metal and fixing cars. The scope of works includes new wall and floor finishes, air con, fans and a carport to replace the previously ad-hoc one he had constructed himself. It is clear from speaking with Damien that the tenant takes great care and pride in his home and that lack of routine maintenance and inappropriate housing typology are the primary causes of decay. Most renovations in the community are quite homogenous, things that are broken are fixed, new finishes are applied and sometimes a new carport of bedroom. These solutions are successful to some degree but it starts a conversation amongst our group on what more could be done in response to culture and county in order to create more suitable and unique living environments.

We head to the foot of possum hill for sunset and to set up camp. Jamie finds a didgeridoo made by a previous bower studio hidden in the bush. However given his lack of didge skills it’s better put to use as fire-wood. As the didge burns we reminisce on our experience at neave gorge, its cool waters and giant walls are juxtaposed in scale to the openness of the possum hill landscape. It’s interesting to see how we inhabit this place, and how our tents are becoming more spread out over time, after all there is certainly no shortage of space.

Paddy and Alex