Saturday, 6 August 2011

travels in the red

red dirt
red dust about 3 hours north-east of Katherine (in the Northern Territory). we camped here overnight.

orange gum flower
the most exquisite orange gum flower

dawn light
dawn at our camp around the half-way point

dawn light, escarpment
morning vista over the escarpment (half-way point)

hot & dirty camping feet
dusty, hot camping feet

the journey... follow the red dotted line

and a bigger map of Australia (in case you're not from here & don't know where the Northern Territory is)

So, a little more about the weaving trip. For those who like a map to get some idea of the journey I've tracked a red dotted line indicating our drive - 2 days by 4WD from Darwin to Mapuru (NE Arnhem Land) - see first map. Keep in mind that the bitumen road runs out after Katherine. And that the last half day drive is not for the faint-hearted - very rough 4 wheel driving indeed! In fact on the way in on that part of the 'road' we managed to get bogged in sand and break the tow-bar off the back of one our troopies (we had 2 x 9 seater 4WD troop carriers each towing a trailer full of food and gear) leaving our trailer stranded. Luckily for us, gorgeous folk from Mapuru rallied to the drama and came to pick up our stranded trailer in the middle of the night. Yay Mapuru locals - you guys are awesome!

All the pics above are from the drive in and most are of the half-way point camping spot overlooking a majestic escarpment.
If you'd like more of an idea of what Mapuru looks like and the weaving set up check out the Mapuru weavers site.

The journey in is incredible but also pretty full-on. Two days each way in a troopie sitting sideways looking at your fellow passengers is a close and bonding experience. Still, it sets up a very good base for working together at Mapuru itself.

The weaving experience was wonderful. Sitting on the ground with the women in the bark weaving shelter each day was very calming. Watching their hands and learning from them about pandanus (we went collecting pandanus leaves one day), about colour (natural dye), and about the various weave techniques was pretty magical. The whole time kids and dogs play in and around the women as they work. Babies sleep in between piles of dyed pandanus leaves waiting to be woven. Weaving is all very much part of the daily lives of the people in the community.

It's only possible to go on one of the weaving trips during the dry season (May - October). And for good reason too! I can't even begin to think of negotiating those roads during the great NT 'wet'. It's warm enough during the dry though - a hot but pleasant 30-32 degrees celcius each day. Excellent weaving and camping weather!

Oh and the Mapuru weavers now have a new online shop.


  1. I think, in my head, I am already going to be following in your footsteps. Sounds too wonderful.

  2. Hope you get to go next year Kate! I forgot to mention that there is a school in Mapuru so each morning there is an opportunity to do a little work there listening to the kids do their reading. Very rewarding!

  3. Although camping horrifies me, due to extreme camping as child, this looks fantastic. The weaving and the weather sounds great.

  4. Belinda & Di - it was a whole lot of fun & learning!

  5. The trip sounds wonderful. And, seriously--that top photo would make a wonderful print!