Written by Emma Castellanos from Pennsylvania State University
The South Coast trip was an unforgettable experience and something I will remember for years to come. Starting off the trip was a song-sing-a-long drive with me, Britta, Sam, Nick, Charles, and Wayne all the way down to the cabins that were perched right across the shores of Merry Beach. On the way we saw the beautiful countryside of the South Coast of Australia, winding through small beach towns and rolling hills of farms covered in greenery. When we made it to the campground we were greeted by ‘mobs’ of kangaroos everywhere!
The next day began at 8 o’clock, driving up to Tilba Tilba to meet our Aboriginal guide Lynn for a day of hiking up the sacred Gulaga mountain. We met at the base of the mountain and Lynn began to describe the stories of her ancestors and the rich history of Aboriginal cultures and beliefs that have lived through thousands of years within the area. Lynn was amazing at teaching us about the significance of the mountain and surrounding mountains that represented and symbolized a pregnant women who represented mother earth and her children, being us. As we ascended the mountain through the beautiful thicket of trees and under the warm winter sun, I couldn’t help but feel so lucky to be in such a beautiful and sacred place such as Mount Gulaga.
After we reached the top of the mountain Lynn had commenced a special ceremony for each of us before she led us into the woods, leading us down a path to see the Aboriginal’s scared rock formations and learning rocks that have been revered symbols for the Aboriginals for thousands of years. She marked each of our faces with clay dots and we tied red string around our foreheads, preparing us to enter the sacred realm of ancient spirits. As we walked through the bush, she asked one of us to use knocking rocks, one tap for each person, to let the ancient spirits know how many of us were coming into their realm. I had never felt so humbled and grateful to be welcomed into someone’s culture and traditions. This part of the weekend was the highlight of my trip so far- to have the privilege to learn about Aboriginal culture and history through an Aboriginal themselves and to see ordinary things in a new and different light. After the ceremony we each left our own rocks to symbolize that we were also guardians of the sacred place hidden in the thick trees of Mount Gulaga.
Our trip to the South Coast was an amazing experience to have and I am going to carry the lessons I learned from Aboriginal culture and Lynn with me for a long time. I am so grateful to have had this opportunity!
View from Gulaga