I took a bunch of my kids out for a nature walk today. We drove out along a rough sandy track to Lake Stretch and talked about the wildlife, fruits and other bush tucker that can be gathered in the area. Some of the boys wanted to hunt goanna but their attempts met with no success.
Two of the older lads, who have been through Lore and are therefore considered to be men according to their culture, took me to the lake shore, and mudded me. This is a “welcome to Country” ceremony. They smeared mud in my armpits and on my back and chest. I then had to swim out to the middle of the lake so the Rainbow Serpent who dwells there would know me, and that I was now part of Country.
The boys thought the water was too cold to swim, though one had a quick dip before retreating. I found it very refreshing and exactly right. It was the first pleasantly cool swim I have had since I came north. It impressed the guys at first that I enjoyed the swim and did not find it too cold, but they then concluded, correctly, that I come from a cold country.
Afterwards, due to a shortage of goanna, we barbecued some sausages and ate them with bread and sauce. Then we drove out to the main road and on to another spot, a few km down the Tanami, called Salty Bore for obvious reasons that the boys carefully explained. On the way we stopped off at another small lake which I was told is not suitable for swimming due to leeches, and the fact that some horses had died there -of what, I do not know.
Near Salty Bore there is yet another small lake similar to, but smaller than Stretch. Another of the boys attempted to swim, but retreated shouting loudly about how cold it was. I had to remonstrate with him over his choice of words.
All these lakes are strung out along what becomes in the wet season the bed of the Sturt River, a river that can be kilometres wide for weeks on end, cutting off communities such as Bililuna, Mulan, Balgo and Ringer Soak from the rest of the world. Except this year there was not much of a wet and it did not really happen.
On the shore we discovered a small green frog with a pale yellow belly and orange on the inside of his thighs. It looked a little similar to a Green Tree Frog but was not exactly the right shape, or colour scheme. I did not have my camera along, unfortunately. On returning and checking the Web, I concluded it may have been a young Splendid Tree Frog. It looked the same as this except without the spots. It seems a bit far from the habitat marked on the map. However I am 97% sure it was this little feller.
Splendid Tree Frog
It certainly had the same equanimity as a Green Tree Frog when picked up and examined. It allowed me to look it over without complaint or struggle and just sat where I placed it after I set it down. This seemed to impress my young friends.
I told the lads I have an affinity for frogs because, like me, they are happy in the water and on land. The encounter gave us the opportunity to discuss nature, balance and the proposition that a man in harmony with nature protects the creatures and their ecology and kills only to eat or to protect his family, not for “sport” or idle fun. A point I shall need to repeat often in the coming times, because I know these kids will shoot at birds and small creatures with their slingshots just for “fun”.
Here are some photos of Lake Stretch I prepared earlier: