Sandy Island, Aboriginal Ceremony & Deliberation
After updating the web from our campsite over damper and billy tea, we scuttled off down to the jetty keen to go out for our first day’s exploration of the Peninsula. Sandy Island lay a mere 15 kilometres away, and as the tides and wind were favourable we made our way gingerly over a shallow reef, turtles, manta rays, jumping hammerhead sharks, dugong and flying fish to the Island. Having finally manoeuvred our little boat through the treacherous coral, we set foot on the sand, nervously scanning for carnivorous crocodiles that may have been lurking in the spear grass. A total circumnavigation of the island by foot proved that the only current inhabitants were many turtles, who had crawled up onto the sandy banks to lay their eggs. We collected an assortment of some of the most amazing shells, pieces of coral, colourful crayfish relics, and rocks ever seen. The shell-du jour & piece-de-resistance was a spider shell, glossy interior, prongs intact and all!!
Around midday when the sun was sooooooo intense we positively started melting, we bound into our dinghy and headed back to shore. We were greeted by the local Aboriginal Ranger-John, who was waving an “IMPORTANT NOTICE” in his hand. It read words to the effect of:
THERE WILL BE AN ABORIGINAL CEREMONY IN ARNHEM LAND COMMENCING THURSDAY AT MIDNIGHT- FINISHING WEDNESDAY 6AM.
THE ROAD BETWEEN COBOURG & KAKADU WILL BE CLOSED TO ALL PEOPLE- UNSAFE TO USE IT
APOLOGIES FOR ANY INCONVENIENCES THIS MAY CAUSE
IF YOU STAY IT WILL BE FOR FREE!!!!!!!
We quizzed John at length as to what the ambiguous term “Ceremony” really meant, and it turned out to be an initiation ceremony for boys to enter manhood. The ceremony would cross the road in several locations and if we happened to bump into them we’d have to discard our clothes, lock up our car, and journey along with the Ceremony. This was more for our safety, as there were many spirits travelling with the ritual and if encountered on one’s own, could be dangerous.
So——-there we had it.
DECISION, DELIBERATION AND DILEMMA!
Newly arrived off that very same road that was now going to be shut for the next week…..what to do. Stay or go? If we stayed we’d run out of fruit and veggies, be behind schedule for getting to the Kimberley, the weather could turn bad and Josh could get bored……..
If we went we’d only be annoyed and bothered at having to drive back another 4 hours and only having stayed one day. As normal we went through our standard indecision process, weighed up the pros and cons, uuummmmed and aaahhhhed a lot…………………….. but finally reached an executive decision- to stay put, thoroughly explore Cobourg, live life on the edge and have a bit of an adventure.
We headed out again, this time up along the red sandstone cliffs to Caiman Creek, a murky, crocodile-infested backwater. (In fact, there have been copious numbers of the old water reptiles in this whole area. They come swimming in through the headlands, cruise in the waves offshore and are not at all shy. On the rangers advice, with the promise of “top little fishing spot matey!” ringing in our ears, we pushed our boat over a gritty combination of sand and mud flats to finally enter Caiman Creek.
This “top little fishing spot” proved to be not quite the hot spot it had been made out to be. We cast out lures, all different colours and flavours, 360 degrees, to dozens of snags, to catch only a few undersized fish. It wasn’t until we reached a hole that was slightly deeper than two feet that we managed to pull a fair sized threadfin salmon out of it.
YYYEEEHAH!!!!!!! Fish for dinner at last.