Aboriginal food, Aboriginal medicine, Aboriginal tools, Bingi Bingi, Grey Rocks, Kelly Lake, plants, tracks
Dreaming tracks or Song Lines link places visited by Aboriginal people: the Bingi Dreaming track links campsites, ceremonial and trade sites, fresh water and plentiful coastal food sources. We’re following in the footsteps of the Brinja-Yuin people as we walk the track section by section (it’s 13.5 kilometres one way), returning day after day to enter it at a different point, to cover new territory and to revisit a few favourites: trees, and a pathway or two.
Dreaming Track from Bingi Bingi towards Tuross
Saturday’s stroll begins at Bingi Bingi Point, along a track sloping gently upwards through casuarinas to a bare headland.
I’ve never tackled this stretch before because I thought it would involve beach walking, and I’m pleasantly surprised to find coarse grass underfoot, and a vast view south to Mother Gulaga, who reclines under a blue sky and a warm sun.
We do have to descend to the beach briefly, but a gleaming jut of rocks makes me forget the horrors of deep sand, and I’m more than happy to drag my feet in a triangle to the rocks and then back up across sand to a wooden staircase decorated with lichen.
There the track heads off under a green arch, crosses a flat grassy area where J walks side by side with a magpie, and then enters the familiar banksia forest with its knobbly trunks.
The goal is last week’s tree with the beautiful buds, a eucalyptus as yet unidentified. While J scrutinises it, I spot a half-eaten banksia flower and a couple of tiny mushrooms, and make a study of bladey grass, so different in shade and sun.
J appears with a handful of branchlets from the mystery tree, containing all that’s necessary for ID. We already have photos of the bark.
Back home, he pulls out the plant key and spends two frustrating hours meeting dead ends. Nuts too big. Location wrong. The one tree it looks like in another book doesn’t feature in the key. So the mystery tree is a mystery still.
Dreaming Track: Bingi Bingi to Grey Rocks
On Sunday, after a breakfast of bream and rye toast, we amble along the section of the track that skirts Kelly’s Lake.
It passes through an an Indigenous pharmacy, grocery and hardware store, beautifully signposted with illustrations by various Aboriginal women, who are also sources for knowledge about the uses of native plants.
And there are many. If you suffer from rheumatism or arthritis, or have a swelling, you can harvest a bunch of native nettles (Urtica incisa) and beat the affected area. If you fancy chewing something or want to make yourself, say, a digging stick, the she-oak (Casuarina glauca) will provide green seeds or timber.
If you need a shot of vitamin C, chew the red berries of the saltbush (Rhagodia candolleana), available in summer only. If you’re after something more substantial, seek out the tubers of the silkpod vine (Parsonsia straminea).
If you have a sweet tooth the banksia flower (Banksia integrifolia) has rich nectar you can steep in water for a satisfying drink.
If you want to weave a mat, make string, cook something on hot coals or make damper, mat rush (Lomandra longifolia) is what you need.
if you can’t find Lomandra, saw-edge grass (Ghania sp) will serve much the same purposes.
If you’re bitten by a snake, looking for a fruit snack or need a handle for your axe, native cherry (Exocarpos cupressiformis) will provide.
If you want to munch on a plump pink or purple fruit (the ones in the photo have yet to ripen) head for groves of lilli pillis (Syzygium smithii) in the remnant rainforest, and stop to admire their spectacular bark.
The track crosses the mouth of the lakeand via a wide sandbar, and takes us past an island of black rock plonked at the tideline, to the shapely piles of rock at Gray Rocks, lichened by orange, and spotted with black xenoliths.
We eat lunch – sweet and sour rice and a beer – in a restaurant at the edge of the land, looking out over rolling blue to the horizon, and along the coast towards Mullimburra, our seat folds of grey granite.
We return to the car along a track through dense green, down wooden stairs covered in sand and pigface and along the beach, now hard enough for comfortable walking.