Mt Borradaile is 700 square kilometres of pure heaven! We arrived by light plane and were sharing the place with only two other guests. It’s a paradise filled with lily laden floodplains, water that reflects like glass, and is teeming with birds, crocodiles and Barramundi (well most of the time). The floodplains are framed by rocky outcrops with incredible vistas, which are home to some amazing rock art. I was reading a fascinating book in their library which describes it as containing “some of the most stunning rock art, not just in Australia but in the whole world”1. The rock art documents Aboriginal life and beliefs spanning many thousands of years. It’s also home to the Leichhardt grasshopper, which is the coolest bright orange and blue grasshopper I’ve ever seen (I only took about 50 pictures of it)! We travelled in old land rovers with their roofs replaced by shade cloth and windows removed, or by small flat-hulled boats so we could really soak in the surrounding landscape.
With the blessing of the traditional owners, Max Davidson has set up a safari lodge here and he is assisted by a great crew of people that make us feel very at home. I’ve been to Mt Borradaile a few times and now it’s like returning to see family. It’s a very relaxed atmosphere, even the bar is run on an honesty system. Our guides are great interpreters of the area’s history and environment which really brings it to life for me.
On our first day we went to see the large and fearsome Rainbow Serpent rock art. I was later back in the library and was fascinated to learn that “the Rainbow Serpent is recognised as the world’s oldest surviving religious theme. They are associated with the procreative and regenerative forces of nature and are central to major fertility and initiatory ceremonies. In western Arnhemland mythology, Serpents are commonly agents of retribution and destruction. People were alerted to the approach of Rainbow Serpents by the crashing and cracking of trees, and by the howling wind, roaring like the combined voices of many bees…”1
We travelled by boat on the stunning floodplains and there were flocks of birds everywhere I looked including magpie geese, sea eagles, whistling kites and herons. There were darters and Jabirus catching fish, and jacanas running across the lily pads. Crocodiles, both fresh and saltwater, blocked our way, and we had no choice but to sit patiently behind a croc as we watched it swim in the clear water right at the front of our boat until it veered off to the right. We finished the day enjoying watching the orange and red hues of the sun as it set over the floodplains, through the smoky air of distant fires. Then it was back to the lodge where the chef had cooked up a feast for us. I then retired to my cabin to listen to the sounds of the bush, as some of the walls are made of nothing more than mosquito netting, offering amazing bush views in the morning as soon as I opened my eyes.
The next day was rock art nirvana as we explored the ‘major art’ site. I did hear Warwick say, “awesomeness-ness-ness” when he saw the rock art. We went to ‘the catacombs’, a wonderful labyrinth of caves, that were a major habitation site where our guide showed us old spear tips, grinding stones, a domino and an old tin box that would have contained Reckitt’s Blue, a bleaching agent introduced by Europeans in the 20th century. The main gallery is filled with layers of paintings including contact art depicting a sailing ship and rifles. There are also beautifully decorated hand stencils using Reckitt’s Blue.
Next I’m off to Broome then Lombadina at Cape Leveque, stay tuned for this next adventure … Kristi!
Check out Davidson’s Arnhemland Safaris website at: www.arnhemland-safaris.com
1 Ancient Ochres – The Aboriginal Rock Paintings of Mount Borradaile, David Andrew Roberts and Adrian Parker, 2012
Image credits: Thanks Locky (guide at Mt Borradaile) for providing the bird and croc eye images (we swapped memory cards)!