Monday, November 12, 2012

Human Brochure - A day in the bush

I've been staring at a blank Blogger "compose post" screen for about twenty minutes now. I really don't want to write this post because it will mean that the Human Brochure weekend will finally, really be over for me.

(more time passes)

Alright, let's do this thing.

Another early (well, for a weekend anyway) start on Sunday morning was compensated by another delicious breakfast buffet in the dining room of the Mantra on Northbourne. Then back up to my penthouse (it's on the top floor, that counts, right?) suite to finish packing, and back downstairs to check out.

Checking out was simply a case of handing back the keycard and having the lovely staff say "That's fine, I hope you had a great stay." I wish I'd had a crack at the mini-bar!

While we were waiting for the right coach to arrive (there had been a mixup and we refused to leave without Roy!), the Mantra staff asked if we would mind having a group photo taken with a cardboard cutout of a tennis player. No, I don't know why either. Anyway, since everybody was gathered together, I jumped behind the counter and took a couple of shots. I wish I'd noticed that the shiny cardboard dude was right under a light! They're not great, but here are the photos with the most Adventure Humans that I was able to get together in the one place.



With that taken care of and the coach duly arrived (don't tell Roy, but we were actually waiting for the water and snacks that were on his coach), we set off for central ACT and the Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve.

This was our longest drive out of Canberra yet, but we were kept informed by our guides and by Tim the Yowie Man. And of course, by Roy the coach driver's insights into Canberra's design and infrastructure and his previously-mentioned terrible, terrible puns.

An aside on Tim the Yowie Man; I'm sure this guy knows about the ACT's outback, but it is really hard to take someone seriously when they self-identify as a "cryptonaturalist" and casually throw in tidbits about yowies and alien big cats. I'm sorry but I have no time for "woo" of any flavour.

Anyhoo. We arrived at the Tidbinbilla Visitor Centre and were given a brief introduction by the Manager. I have a lot of respect for this ranger's bush skills. He cunningly stood on the rock next to the one that the nesting crane above voluminously voided onto!



As the more intrepid Adventure Humans headed of for a hike to the Rock of Gibraltar, which, last I heard, was somewhere south of Spain, some of us took the easier option.

Our choice was an easy hike up the trail to Hanging Rock, which, last I heard, was somewhere in the Macedon Ranges in Victoria. What's going on with these place names?

Halfway up the trail we met with our first indigenous ranger guide. Although he was wearing the uniform of a ranger of the Parks and Conservation branch of the ACT Department of Territory and Municipal Services, he was also adorned with ochre markings on his face and his arms. Oh, and the traditional lip piercing of the Ngunnawal people. No, wait, he might have just got that in Fyshwick! The name "Tidbinbilla", we were told, was derived from the Ngunnawal word 'Jedbinbilla' - a place where boys were made men. A place of initiation. So, no relation to Fyshwick at all then.


Anyway, this gloriously adorned young man showed us how to make twine from local plants and told us how to use this to make a stone axe. He also gave us handy hints on how to make an adhesive and sealant from Grass Tree sap as well as a remedy for ant bites from the roots of ferns. There was also talk of bush tucker such as emu and kangaroo, but since this wasn't the Food & Wine stream, samples weren't on offer. Being Adventure stream Humans, I suppose we were expected to go and hunt our own.

Further up the trail we came to the "Hanging Rock" itself.

Now, remember when we went to the National Zoo and Aquarium and got to hug an emu? The keeper there actually asked if anyone was afraid of emus or other large birds.

Nobody here asked if anyone was afraid of being under a rock the size of a block of flats that looked like it was just about to topple on us! That's alright, we're Adventure stream Humans, we're tough.

Another Ngunnawal people ranger met us in the shelter that was Hanging Rock. This rock shelter was well known for many miles around the area as being able to provide protection from bad weather from all directions. Perhaps it wasn't completely coincidence that there was a comforting campfire crackling away when we arrived.

We were introduced to the hunting weapons of the Ngunnawal people, the boomerang and the spear as well as the lures involved in hunting, like the emu call.



The ochre that the guides are wearing is not something that they've picked up from their local film production studio. No, they've made it themselves from local clay. As it happened, some of our Adventure Humans also had experience of cultural use of ochre, and so details were exchanged.


It really is an impressive place. You can see out in many directions.


And you really are sheltered from all sides.

Hanging Rock

After that we returned to to the visitors' centre to wait for the more adventurous Adventure Humans.

While we were waiting, I noticed that there were some 'locals' hanging around.



I also noticed that even though this is a Sunday, the skies above our nation's capital were not quiet. Contrails from airliners were everywhere in the sky.


 No, I mean everywhere...


Obviously it is a busy place, and with such a concentrated airspace it is important that it be controlled by the best in the business.

Who would've guessed that was going to be Zorro, though?


After we'd all gathered, it was onto some minibuses for a trip to a settlement-era homestead where we had a barbecue lunch and then met some more locals.



Then there was boomerang and spear practice!

This is how you do it...

Got it?









And then, suddenly, sadly, it was over. Coach back to the hotel to drop off the local Humans and those who drove to Canberra. Then to the airport and back to Melbourne then to Bacchus Marsh.

Goodbye Canberra, goodbye ACT. It was a wonderful, surprising, amazing weekend. I had an absolute ball. I hope that with my many #HumanBrochure tweets and these little blog posts, I have been able to uphold my end of the bargain.

I'm sure it won't be another 40 years between visits!

Good light



  1. Amazing pics Jim!

    It was such a great weekend, and you framed it beautifully. I particularly love your run down of the Ngunnawal pierced hippy. I'm so glad you got some shots of the spear throwing and reptiles - I was out seeing the distillery and rose garden (far less exciting).

    1. Thanks, Kate! Glad you enjoyed the post and, hopefully, the series.

      It was definitely an unforgettable weekend!

  2. ps The link at "Fyshwick" was broken, but I've now fixed it.

    In case anybody missed the 'initiation' reference, Fyshwick is an industrial area of Canberra known for the presence of ladies of negotiable affection!

    This is not meant as a slight to the Ngunnawal people's initiation ceremonies, of course.