He strides purposefully towards us carrying a didgeridoo, a couple of boomerangs, a conch shell and a large torch. “Tonight, I’m going to educate you. Teach you about my customs and my country. Follow me.” So we followed him, away from the gently lapping water of the dusky beach and into the inky black bush.
The children trot after us, slightly nervous about what this evening holds and slightly nervous about being out so late, in this place that they know holds so many dangers. “What if we tread on a snake?” “You’ll be fine, just walk in single file.”
For about ten minutes we follow Capes, an ex-Aussie rules footballer and a Mulgana Aborigine from Monkey Mia, along a sandy path through the low scrub. Occasionally he points to a bush and tells us what it’s useful for, or highlights animal tracks with his torch. Soon the evocative smell of woodsmoke drifts through the night air and he leads us to our camp.
For the next hour or so, he tells us stories about turtles and thorny devils, making illustrations with a stick in the sand, sings the songs of his people, teaches us to play the conch shell, with mixed success, and cooks the best mullet I’ve ever tasted, on the roaring, sparking, smoky fire.
Afterwards, as we walk back through the bush to the caravan park, all trace of nervousness in the children is gone and they bounce around excitedly like baby roos, asking Capes questions and hunting for tracks with their little torches. I ask Eve what she’s learnt. “I learnt lots of things, but I think the most important thing was that we should only take what we need and not be greedy, otherwise there won’t be enough for everyone. I also learnt that I like fish.”
An evening well spent.
This post was written for The Gallery at Sticky Fingers. The theme this week is education.