I’ve always found differences in culture fascinating, and there are few cultures that can match aboriginal culture in terms of longevity, tradition and uniqueness. Better still
that the huge variety of aboriginal peoples give such a vast amount stories and landscapes to explore, and the aboriginal caves at Ubirr are no different.
Across Australia there is a ridiculous amount of aboriginal heritage to explore if you know where to look. One of my favourite places to explore is the numerous sites of cultural significance; the likes of Uluru and Kata Tjuta, for example. Ubirr ranks among them.
The reason being the amazingly clear cave paintings that are on display. Ubirr has plenty of drawings that are extremely clear and easy to reach – they’re also not hidden away in a ‘protected’ area such as some stretches of the Uluru base walk.
Hands down, my favourite is this fella:
Now if I’m being completely honest I have no idea what exactly he? is a painting of.
The aboriginal people paint tons of different stuff from hunting to education and even including religious paintings such as those depicting dreamtime and various dreamlike ancestors including the rainbow serpent and the sisters.
Aside from what seems like a hunter, we also have fish and other creatures (wallabies and turtles for example). Similarly to the art from other aboriginal sites the style is similar and from natural paint. And still far more creative than anything I’ve thought up.
So what about Ubirr? The site is quite a trek to reach and 40km from Jabiru in Kakadu National Park. It’s in the East Alligator region and consists of a bunch of sheltered rocky outcrops.
Although famous for its rock paintings, if you reach the top you’re rewarded with panoramic views of the Nadab flood plain’s and I’d say the views are well worth the effort.
Then there is the rainbow serpent gallery, and this is also one of the most sacred spots at Ubirr and is traditionally a women-only site. Luckily the rules are relaxed for non-indigenous males, which is why I was able to experience it.
The site itself has been used for over 40,000 years, and a lot of the paintings are dated about 2,000 years old, though some have been repainted since then.
In the main gallery you can find a painting of a Thylacine, which has been extinct outside if Tasmania for approximately 2,000 years which is further proof of the age of some of the paintings.
Having worked out what the paintings were made with, and how old they are, the last thing to work out is how they got there.
If you make it to Ubirr you’ll notice that a lot of the art is quite high up in areas that would be extremely difficult to reach. This is what gives us the stories of the mimi spirits, represented in some of the paintings, that lore states painted the paintings themselves by bringing the rocks down.
Story wise, each of the paintings generally represents a story. Now I’ll be the first to admit that my story-telling is a bit rusty, and the storybook version here is better and more detailed than I’d be able to replicate – better still to find aboriginal people to tell the stories though.
It also seems like that is the only explanation.
If you’re planning to go to Ubirr keep in mind that the short walk is a circular 1km track but there’s a 250m relatively steep climb if you want the visit the look out point. Here’s a map to help you find your way.
The climb to the lookout point will likely take an additional 30 mins. Access to the sites 3 galleries is restricted during wet season so check with the Bowali Visitor Centre to avoid disappointment.
Feel free to share your photos of Ubirr and your theories on how those paintings got to such ridiculous places.