Hot as hell, this place. It hit 43C one of the days, and it’s the kind of place that makes it very difficult to escape the heat, or the flies, or the ants, or the heat at all….
We found a fabulous van site, however, which made our stay quite magical. It was called Beds on the Barwon, and it was a relatively new set up. The powered camp/caravan sites we hooked up to were finished in October 2014, and power in just this February. It was right on the Barwon River, which was pretty full as far as rivers out there go. Lined with magnificent River Redgums, shade was plentiful and the roos greeted us for brekky. Our hosts Mel and Grant were wonderful bush people too. Could have done a cuppa every morning up at the “big” house for a while!
The toilet/shower amenities were splendiferous, spacious and clean and, at night time, full of extremely large insects that kept us company! It’s important stuff when you’re on the road, amenities.
We stayed for four nights, which always makes for a bit of relaxed time. It was my second School of Ants day, this time at Brewarrina Central School. I’d set up the previous day in the science classroom, which also had three functioning stereomicroscopes. I was suitably impressed, and an extra scope always makes my job easier, especially creating activities for students to do with ants beyond my day with them.
My School of Ants day was challenging this time round. Year 7 – a tough gig at any school. But in 37C at 9:15am, and with students who essentially told you where to go should they not want to do something that very minute….well, let’s just say I was exhausted at the end of the day. So was the teacher!
We actually learnt a lot. I say ‘we’ deliberately, as I learnt just as much as any of the students. The teacher was surprised at some student’s enthusiasm and level of engagement, and I learnt a lot about how central schools out there operate. We had a session on Aboriginal totems, and what it might mean for an Aboriginal whose totem was ants; could they collect for School of Ants? What ethical issues arise in this case? It was a great discussion with a well-respected Elder in their school, Aunty Bim. She was a gem, and heartily asked me to return next year.
Screen printing ant t-shirts has been a great activity with both schools I’ve visited. None of the students had ever seen it, or heard of it before. So they were partly mesmerised, partly stoked they were making their own t-shirt, and partly excited for a new art technique. All round winner for the end of the day really. Thanks so much Mum for instilling an interest in screen printing in me, teaching me everything I know about it, and for drawing the ant! Everyone loves it.
Brewarrina has a very interesting history, which Jez and the kids discovered while I was at the school. It was the meeting place of at least eight, and up to 12 Aboriginal tribes dating back to 40,000 years bp. A fairly long time, huh?! There was a simple Aboriginal Cultural Centre overlooking the Barwon River just above where tribes over time had constructed an elaborate system of fish traps to catch flathead and yellowbelly.
Europeans have, of course, screwed up river dynamics through irrigation allocations, weirs and the introduction of carp (not quite sure which one has been worse), but it is fascinating trying to imagine a time when the water was crystal clear, fish plentiful, and the Brewarrina area a thriving meeting place for tribes from far and wide.
The town pool was great, and we discovered a penchant for creaming soda slushies. It just makes you want to drink freezing sweet liquid. ALL. THE. TIME. Jez is a total saint and always says no. Not sure if he’s turning into a cyborg or not….
I missed Kindergym enough to set up a Kindergym circuit using our hula hoops, juggling balls, skipping ropes, big elastic bands, soccer balls and hotspots (yes, we totes brought all those with us!). We supplemented it with logs, trees, dirt and stumps. It rocked.
And we spied kayaks down by the river too…..so along the mighty Barwon we paddled. It was divine, even when the little fishies started jumping into Jez and Charlie’s kayak! Mia did some great paddling too.
Then we got all excited about heading to Lightning Ridge…..through the kookiest opal mining settlements on earth. It’s like the moon out there.
Pack up time still about three hours. Working on that.