We met up with the year 10’s at Darwin’s light plane airport where they bombarded me with stories of Wadeye, the connections they had made, and the experiences they had enjoyed (or not). Quickly the excitement died down to a realization that “you had to be there” and there they learnt one of the best lessons of travel – it’s purely and simply for you. It was their experience and translating that over to their teacher was something that wouldn’t happen quickly or easily, if at all. Although I was left feeling intrigued about what I would hear throughout the week.
We packed everything into the bus and drove down to Litchfield Tourist Park where we would call home for the week. The teenagers blasted their horrific music and sung at the top of their lungs the entire 2hr journey and as much as it was horrendous, it made me smile. Each day we explored the various waterfalls and tourist stops which included Buley Waterholes, Florence Falls, Tolmer Fall, the Magnetic Termite mounds, Zebra Stone polishing, and my favourite The Cascades. The days would begin incredibly slowly – 10am in fact, which was difficult to manage with our kids (Tom and Gemma) who woke at 6am. By midday, we were on our way into the park to a destination for the afternoon. We spent the hottest parts of the day swimming and exploring the waterways and would return to the homestead around sunset. The group had a breakfast and dinner roster which they’d implemented in Wadeye and it continued to work well. After the kitchen was packed away the students got their phones for 1 hour and called home or uploaded more horrific music to their shared playlist. After phone hour, the students got out their journals and wrote pages upon pages of reflections. This was my favourite time of the day. They would ask each other details about where we went, or what that blokes name was, and I would listen to them make sense of their day. Some of them would share little bits they’d written about Wadeye and they’d reflect on the raw feelings they had about the time, which was now in the past. Their journals will be treasured for a lifetime.
We had one night in Darwin before we went our separate ways and it happened to coincide with the Mindil Markets. It was the perfect night to end our Northern Territory experience with delicious food stalls, live entertainment, stalls selling all sorts of bits and pieces, arts and crafts, and the most amazing sunset over Mindil Beach. Tommy, Gemma and I left Darwin in 36-degree weather and returned to freezing Mansfield while the group journeyed on to Airlie Beach to meet Amy and Amelie and board the yacht for the next 2 weeks of their cultural experience. Lucky kids.