If you’re like us and live by the mantra you’re never too old to learn, then mixing travel with learning goes hand in hand. So we’ve found cultural tours are an ideal way to learn more about the locals when visiting a region. While touring the Dampier Peninsula in Western Australia’s Kimberley region recently, we found it the perfect place to get involved in a cultural tour, especially as the area has been home to indigenous groups for thousands of years.

Terry Hunter, owner/operator of Borrgoron, runs a Coast to Creek Cultural Tour which provides an opportunity to learn more about his ancestral heritage of living on the peninsula, and includes what his life was like when growing up on the pearling farm at Cygnet Bay. Before meeting Terry, we’d already learnt the Hunter name is synonymous with the pearling industry throughout the Dampier Peninsula which in fact dates back to when the first lugging boats were made. So we knew we were going to be in good hands with this 4th generation pearler.

We initially met Terry at the pearl farm’s reception where he greeted guests and explained how his two hour small group walking tour is centred around the local coastline and a little about what we’d be doing. Everything he mentioned piqued our interest and we couldn’t wait to get going. Before setting off, Terry ensured we were all equipped with the right gear; appropriate shoes for walking over some small rocks along the beach, a bottle of water and our camera.

As we began to walk along the water’s edge, Terry explained with a cheeky smile how fresh water could be found at the beach amongst the saltwater. Naturally, we were all very keen to learn more. Before we knew it, Terry dropped to his knees and began digging a hole in beach sand, making a small dam to retain some water. Was this a joke? No! One by one our group cupped our hands and tasted what only can be described as pure, sweet and fresh water which was quite an eye opener considering we were standing on a beach surrounded by the coastline with its massive 11 metre tides.

Along the way, Terry shared stories about how he attended school at Cygnet Bay Pearling Farm while pointing to his old school classroom building close by.  We loved his wry smile while telling us how tough it was looking out that classroom window at his beachfront backyard where we were standing, and how the rocky shoreline with its turning tide was a playground for him and his mates to swim, hunt and basically have a great time. Yep, we’d agree.

As we wandered further around the coastline and later inland, Terry showed us a variety of trees, bushes and different fruits along the way and explained how they’re used. He added when combining these with the abundance of seafood available at his doorstep that it’s a balanced diet. That’s not a bad way to live we think.

Talking of seafood, our group were extremely keen to experience some of the local offerings, and Terry obliged using a special technique.  After placing a couple of handfuls of spinifex grass underneath the rocks which he then lit, it was time to stand back. A ball of fire shot out from the rocks which was followed by thick bellowing smoke thanks to the highly flammable spinifex. We soon learnt this technique did an excellent job of smoking the oysters which then only needed to be gently prised away from the rocks. These oysters were by no means big, but they sure packed lots of flavour. It was morning tea with a difference and well received by all.

Other activities included tasting bush honey, visiting culturally significant places, and learning how the coastline is mapped from an indigenous perspective which is quite different to how we know it. Terry also delved into a very personal aspect of his growing up as an indigenous boy; it was all very fascinating, and he didn’t shy away from any questions thrown his direction.

The Borrgoron Coast to Creek Tour was an excellent opportunity for us to learn about the special relationship Terry and his ancestors have with the land and sea. By the end of the tour, we found Terry’s warmth in sharing his stories made us feel like we were leaving an old friend. It was a rewarding and very memorable experience.

More information about Terry’s Coast to Creek Tour is available here.

Catch you next time!
Grant & Linda

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