10.01.2007,11:52 AM
Ride-about in Hill Country: Walkabout on Two Wheels
It was time for a walk-about. Like most indigenous peoples, the Australian Aborigines strike out on their own into the wilderness to ritually cross into adulthood or as a spiritual journey. Because of their close ties with the land, walkabouts often followed paths and trails of their ancestors or their ancestral sprititual beings. These trails and paths are also called 'songlines' or 'dreaming tracks'. In essence, they are a narrative; a vocal and physical navigational map across their physical and spiritual world.

The Aborigine world began with the Dreaming; a 'once upon a time' when the prototypic ancestral spirit-beings formed the world. These spirits are totems, shape-shifting spirits embodied in animate and inanimate forms: animals, plants, geographical objects, stars and people. The presence of these spirits are manifested by their journeys and signs left upon the land. The trails and paths, the signs and landmarks may be spiritual essence, physical or remains. They are the songlines and dream tracks: spiritual and physical features of the land they are connected to; upon which they live. It it part of them, as they are a part of the land.

The formation, or creation, was not 'in the beginning'. Linear time as we know it in our clock-driven world is an unknown concept in Aboriginal culture and history. There is no 'beginning' nor is there an 'end'. In their perception events are often placed in a circular pattern of time with an individual or place in the center of 'time-circles'. Events are placed in relative importance to the individual or the community.
"It is not quite right, however, to say that the creation period is in the past, because it is a past that is eternal and therefore also present. Ancestors sink back into, but also emerge from and pass through sites. In other words, an ancestor's journey, or story, became a place, and that place holds past, present and future simultaneously."[1]
Songlines and dream tracks are a narrative collection of stories: oral lore, songs, dances and paintings. They are a cultural concept and meme passing down information through generations of peoples from one region to another, each interconnected in some fashion. They identify landmarks and tracking methods for navigation, myths relating how dreaming spirits traveled across their land naming trees, mountains, bodies of water, animals and other phenomena. They also established and handed down tribal law and culture, even 'depositing children'.

In essence the intricate sequential songlines and dream tracks serve as an intricate and interconnected verbal map of their country and of their history. They are stories, told, but never written down, the oral textbooks of their accumulated knowledge, spirituality, and wisdom, from when time began.

Because I too share a strong sense of connection with my environment, my journeys and travels are in their own right songlines and dream tracks. One feature that has always drawn me like a magnet is water: ocean, rivers, lakes, streams. Shortly after I moved to Texas I was fascinated by the way almost all the rivers form a giant claw mark across the state, from the northwest to the southeast, meandering to the Gulf. Or perhaps they are the marks of migrating snakes, all beckoned to slither in the same direction carving their way through the land leaving valleys and canyons in their wake.

So I rode to find one of these snakes: the Colorado River of Texas.

This is my rideabout and dream track, my songline of a section of the Colorado River in the Hill Country of Texas.


The term Walkabout comes from the Australian Aboriginal. The idea is that a person can get so caught up in one's work, obligations and duties that the truly important parts of one's self become lost. From there it is a downward spiral as one gets farther and farther from the true self. A crisis situation usually develops that awakens the wayward to the absent true self. It is at this time that one must go on walkabout. All possessions are left behind (except for essential items) and one starts walking. Metaphorically speaking, the journey goes on until you meet yourself. Once you find yourself, you sit down and have a long talk about what one has learned, felt and done in each other's absence. One talks until there is nothing left to say -- the truly important things cannot be said. If one is lucky, after everything has been said and unsaid, one looks up and sees only one person instead of the previous two.
-Source Unknown

[1] Robyn Davidson, "No Fixed Address: Nomads and the fate of the planet," Quarterly Essay, Issue 24, 2006.

The entire trip report is here and begins with the first post at the bottom.

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posted by Macrobe
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