The plan was simple: to visit a national park that we'd never seen before, to shake some city dust from our heels exchanging it for country dust, and to have a look at a particular Aboriginal rock art site. What we hadn't counted on was the amount of Australian wildlife we'd come across.
At the Visitors' Centre at Namadgi National Park south of Canberra the very helpful staff recommended The Yankee Hat Walk as an introduction to the park. I wondered if my Yankee accent had anything to do with this choice. In any event the promise of seeing the rock art and so many Eastern Grey Kangaroos that the fields would look like "a moving carpet of grey" sold us. We were told that the area had "the highest concentration of Eastern Grey Kangaroos (Macropus giganteus) anywhere in Australia".
Eastern Greys are anything but rare here in Eastern Australia but we never tire of seeing them. Like deer in the Northern Hemisphere, they're always fun watch as long as they stay out of the headlights at dusk. And, speaking of deer, a male kangaroo is a "buck" and a female is a "doe". The young break the pattern by being "joeys" instead of "fauns".
We drove south to the beginning of the walk and found only one car in the carpark at the beginning of the track. A good sign. It was a family of three with bicycles---not a bad way to do this track because it's mostly flat, across fields that had once been a sheep station. The distance to the rock art site is only three kilometres, an easy two and a half hours on foot, there and back.
|Not quite a kangaroo carpet but a sizeable mob.|
Minutes went by and no kangaroos. Then there was one. And then another. Suddenly we passed a mob (no, the collective noun isn't a "court") of thirty-eight kangaroos. Within the first half hour we saw between one and two hundred. The next time we have friends visiting from overseas and they're not content to see kangaroos at Taronga Zoo, we'll bring them here. We had just happened upon kangaroo heaven.
|This young male lost interest in me as I fiddled with my camera settlings.|
|These were more attentive.|
|This big male was more interested in his friends and family.|
|Jill is studiously ignored the encroaching grey carpet.|
|When dingo meets kangaroo.|
|Essence of wombat?|
|Yankee Hat Rock Shelter|
|These are the rock paintings.|
There's a fascination with this sort of artwork that's hard to explain. We can't look at them the way we might with a Western modernist painting such as the works of Pablo Picasso*, Joan Miró or Jean-Michel Basquiat. In other words, they can't have been acts of individual self-expression because there are cultural similarities with other Aboriginal art in Eastern Australia. And their painting is not nearly as polished as much earlier Neolithic cave art from Europe, for example, the bison and deer of the Altamira Cave in Spain. Maybe it's the mystery that moves us: who were these people and why did they paint these images? In any case, we were much moved by what we saw and, after a picnic lunch at the shelter, we picked our way back through the kangaroo carpet and drove to Canberra.
* While putting in the link to Picasso I learned that he was born Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Ruiz y Picasso. I just thought I'd mention that.
Still on the subject of bushwalking: a couple of weeks ago I did The Grand Canyon Walk walk in the Blue Mountains with my walking mate, Richard Tulloch. It's one of my favourite walks in the Blue Mountains. As usual he beat me to a blog about our walk. All the better because his photos are invariably better than mine. Because I've had some feedback from his blog I'd like to state---partly for legal reasons---that I strenuously deny being the "Shifty" in Richard's (highly amusing) write-up.