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Journey to Aboriginal Dreamtime

Visit Australia’s Last Remaining Tribal Nomads

Children wait for elders to return from hunting.
Children wait for the elders to return from hunting.

This is the story of a journey into the heart of Australia’s harsh Gibson Desert in Western Australia, following the last of the remaining Aboriginal tribes. Australia’s tribal nomads, who follow their ancestors' way of life, provide an opportunity for the respectful traveler to engage in a journey into the past, to locate and observe the men and women pursuing their nomadic existence as they have done since the dawn of the human occupation of Australia.

In an age when man travels faster than the speed of sound, when he can both hear and see events happening on the other side of the world the moment they occur, the tribal Aboriginals still live amongst the sand hills of the Gibson Desert completely oblivious to all these wondrous things and with little knowledge of the world beyond the horizon. They hunt and gather food as their fathers did before them. Although they frequently come in contact with outsiders—thanks to 4-wheel drives—and they are happy to show off their lifestyle, they have little interest in life outside their own land.

The Aboriginal people are a giving and sensitive group which welcomes considerate tourists who respect local conditions. To be accepted into an Aboriginal community is a privilege, and if you return the hospitality and show an interest in learning their culture you are likely to be rewarded with cultural demonstrations reserved for only a few Westerners.

When you make the effort to appreciate the Aboriginal culture and show that you want to learn about their way of life, it is not uncommon for them to trade a painting in exchange for a small gift that represents what they consider your culture. This follows the bartering system that has been in place for centuries; it shows that you and the Aboriginal community have connected.

Travel to Another World

The journey to central Australia and the remote camps of the last of Australia’s true nomads is an adventure in itself. The tracks will take you to some of the world’s most exhilarating sites, including Ayers Rock.

Australia

How to Get There

The journey begins at Alice Springs, the geographical center of Australia. Flights to Alice Springs from any of Australia’s capital cities costs about AU$259. From Alice Springs you can hire a rental 4-wheel drive camper vehicle for AU$795 for seven days (maps and driving instructions included). Alternatively, the author, who has an intimate knowledge of the area, can arrange a personalized tour based on your choice of destinations from either Perth (from which you travel the historic Canning Stock Route through several Aboriginal communities) or from Alice Springs through the Gibson Desert communities.

How to Get in Touch with the Aboriginal Culture

All it takes to truly get in touch with the Aboriginal communities that you will visit is to keep an open mind and be appreciative of the demonstrations and historical items dating back several centuries that they will show you. They are willing to pass on their knowledge of desert life and the Dreaming (stories about how the world and its creatures were created).

Fires for warmth in the Australian desert winter.
Night-time fires keep Aborigines warm in the desert's bitter winter winds.

What to Bring

Australia's desert is one of the harshest environments in the world. The temperatures during the day are extremely hot and at night can drop below zero. So you need to bring an assortment of clothing to accommodate the extreme temperature changes. I have found that during the day long, loose-fitting clothing and a hat will protect you from the sun and at night a wool sweater to go with your daytime clothes will be sufficient as long as you have a warm blanket or swag (sleeping bag) to sleep in.

You will only need sufficient food to get you to the Aboriginal communities. Once you are there they will invite you to share their cuisine, which consists of local “bush tucker” or desert animals such as birds, kangaroos, camels, goanna, and bush turkey. Most importantly, you need to make sure that you have at least four liters of water for each day of your intended stay and plenty of sunscreen.

What to See

The central desert has plenty of picturesque outlooks like Ayers Rock and the Bungle Bungles. Once you have formed a bond with the local Aboriginal community, its members will be more than willing to show you the secret men’s area and the secret women’s area. It is here that you will gain a true appreciation of the ceremonies and the rock art. They will also show you traditional Aboriginal cultural dances for all occasions (marriage, fertility, rain, food) and invite you to sing Aboriginal songs.

Camels in Australia
Although not native to Australia, camels are now scattered throughout the arid interior of Australia.