My daughter scores a rare day off and we bundle into her 4WD, the three of us, to visit a nearby national park. I’ve never been there before because I drive a low-slung Yaris – or Hyundai – or Barina.
We walk the track to the Woolool Wooloolni Aboriginal Place as it winds thinly through deep ferns. Rounded boulders soar above us, glimpsed through trees. White paper daisies flourish. When we reach the top, there is a breathtaking view, steeply down, and far out over thick forest. Slabs of granite slip towards the edge and daunting trails head off amongst the rocks. I’m glad I’ve brought my stick, although it’s not much use on granite. My companions are clambering on rocks far beyond my daring.
This is a place my daughter visits often for its remoteness and silence, and she always asks permission from the Ancestors before she drives in. She has never seen anyone else out here, although today a pair of old boots and a water bottle suggest other human visitors.
I want to know more, and my search takes me back to a 1979 article in the Sydney Morning Herald. It recounts a visit to the site, more remote and difficult of access then than now, with Trevor Donnelly, an Aboriginal man who was a distant relation of the last man whose hereditary place it was. To go there could well be a breach of Aboriginal law: when an insect hovering around him didn’t sting, Donnelly interpreted that as permission to be there. He says “When you get there, it’s best to go away by yourself and sit down and let the place talk to you. It will. But don’t stay after sunset. That’s the spirit time. They weren’t cruel spirits, but they’re jealous of their place.” National Parks has now been granted the role of guardian.
In retrospect, I was far too unmindful amongst the boulders. Next time I’ll “sit and let the place talk to me.”
We ignore hunger pangs and take another road, far more 4WD, past the Swamp itself to a track down to the base of a waterfall. It’s a treacherous track, slippery with tiny balls of granite and fallen leaves, and steep with erosion humps. I achieve unwanted momentum, and panic briefly before I manage to apply the brakes. The waterfall itself is beautiful, with pools perfect for summer swimming. The walk back up is slow. At one point I have to go down on hands and knees to crawl my way out of slippage.
We drive back to the Mt Lindesay Highway, through bush that rests the eyes, in bodies replete with action.