THE Karrke Aboriginal Cultural Tour has no street address. Here, out in the desert in Watarrka (Kings Canyon) National Park, you must look for a sign leading to a red sandy road.
The Aboriginal-owned business, which offers a hands-on, interactive experience of the region's indigenous heritage is run by Christine Breaden and Peter Abbott, of the Wanmarra Aboriginal Community (population 10). They started the tour four years ago in a bid to preserve and share their Luritja and Pertame (Southern Arrernte) language and culture.
The national park is home to three small Aboriginal communities. These are closed to visitors without a permit so the couple's "walk and talk" tour is a great opportunity to learn about the significance of dot painting, tools, weapons such as the "no come back" boomerang, bush tucker and medicinal plants growing in this beautiful but harsh terrain.
Peter's sister Natasha remembers them camping along the Finke River as children. "Our Nan wanted us to know the land and the land to know us," she said.
Peter is saddened by changes affecting the wildlife. "Don't see large game animals here no more, he said. "There are more lizards, reptiles and dingoes." He adds that community members sometimes drive 145km to hunt plains kangaroo but these days "we eat easy tucker like everybody else".
Through Peter and Christine we learn about the area's abundant native foods such as wild orange, bush peach, native quandong, wild tomato, fig, onion, bush plum and mulga honey. Peter gives us a witchetty grub to taste which has been cooked the traditional way, rolled quickly in hot ash. It is not unpalatable, in fact we agree it tastes something like melted butter, popcorn, scrambled egg and creamed corn.
In the Aranda language, karrke is the name for the western bowerbird, a species found here and other areas of Central Australia. The male bird decorates its bower with berries, flowers and shiny things to attract the female. "By choosing this bird for our business we thought about how it could attract people to our area," Peter said.
The one-hour tours operate until November 15, reopening on January 15, 2020. There are four tours daily with a discounted price of $45 for seniors.
IF YOU GO...
Kings Canyon is three hours' drive from Uluru and four from Alice. AAT Kings operates regular services to the region as well as leading walking tours to the key sites. Flight from Ayers Rock Airport to Kings Creek Station are operated by Rock Air Charters.
Professional Helicopter Services operates a range of flights over the canyon. Rates start at $176 for the 15-minute tour. It can also fly you by chopper from Ayers Rock Airport to Kings Canyon Resort.
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