On the ABC Perth Radio Breakfast Show we recently discussed the continued popularity of dark tourism.
It doesn’t have to be morbid but it does have to involve death in wars, disasters, murders, terrorism or assassinations.
The darker side of history has meat on the bone and the gristle as well. We try to put ourselves in the shoes of the fallen and maybe sometimes in the shoes of those responsible.
It’s about confirming our fears, confronting the reality of the history books we grew up with and perhaps providing closure on those images we’ve seen on tv’s in our own lounge room, like that Paris tunnel in 1997 or the New York City skyline in 2001.
The rise in tourist numbers at destinations such as Chernobyl, Fukushima, the concentration camps of World War II, prisoner of war camps in Sandakan and Ranau and the killing fields of Cambodia are all examples of a phenomenon that is attracting those seeking a broader understanding of the events that took place at those sites.
In Australia, many events and sites may be seen as dark tourism. Off the Western Australian coast on the Abrolhos Islands in 1629 the Dutch East India Company ship Batavia ran aground and the ensuing mutiny saw 125 men, women and children brutally slaughtered. The islands can be visited for an understanding of these events and there are also museum exhibitions in Geraldton and Fremantle, displaying grisly skulls marked with the slashes of the mutineers swords.
In Snowtown, South Australia, the little bank where the bodies in the barrels were discovered in the late 1990’s is a popular stop for people wanting to take a quick pic.
Most issues in our lives have a line that we decide we will or won’t cross. Dark tourism has many lines that cross in different directions, challenging our sense of morbidity, appropriateness and thresholds of respect.
It’s a great topic for publication and radio and sure to get you thinking about your own dark tourism bucket list.
Are you a tourist? Are you a local? Are you interested, curious, amazed or attracted to learning more about the oldest living culture on Earth?
Here are my Top 10 Aboriginal Tours and Experiences in Western Australia, a state that stretches across a land that is over 2.5 million square kilometres with the worlds most beautiful beaches, remote deserts and ancient forests:
Six Seasons Tour at Pullman Bunker Bay Resort (see featured image with local Elder Nina Webb showing Tom Parry how to use the guidebook while Pullman Bunker Bay Resort General Manager Leighton Yates watches on).
Camping With Custodians (Pilbara and Kimberley Regions)
Bindjareb Park (Pinjarra, South West Region)
Black Tracks (Kununurra)
Wuddi Cultural Tours and Centre (Dumbleyung, Wheatbelt Region)
Laverton Art Gallery (Laverton, Northern Goldfields)
Nyungar Tours (Perth)
Yamaji Art Gallery (Geraldton, Mid West Region)
Mandjoogoordap Dreaming (Mandurah)
Jacks Story Telling Kojonup (Don’t let Jack tell you the tea is made from bush plants. He gets it from the local supermarket up the road.)
These are experiences for the world to be proud of.
As published in the newspaper, Have A Go News, October 2017.
When I was a kid growing up in the country there was a time of year when I wasn’t allowed to spend the weekend with my mates, playing cricket or football or lazily riding our bikes around town looking for sources of adventure, like stealing mulberries from a tree and flinging them at passing cars.
It was that time of year, the only time of year, when Mum wanted to go bush. That one time of year when we went bush and didn’t take a chainsaw to chop up firewood.
I look back now and picture in my mind the sheer rolling hills of my childhood, a mass of pink everlastings that changed the colour of the landscape so greatly that even the snow gums picked up a pinkish hue from the reflected colour of this explosion of flora.
I didn’t enjoy it as a kid. You’ve seen one hill of everlastings and you’ve seen them all. Hunting for orchids was worse. Softly walking through the bush in search of something I can’t ever recall finding. The others found them. Eyes down, concentrating and walking slowly. I was more intent on filling my bucket with kangaroo poo to later throw at my friends, if I was ever allowed to play with them again.
I guess that’s how it is with some kids. I now take my own children on bushwalks of varying distances and they love it but I don’t know that they’re really interested in flowers. It’s about climbing to the top of a big rock or finding a big spider or finding their own animal poo to have fun with and then stopping in a country town for a Peters Drumstick.
If you love wildflowers and you want to share them with people who don’t love them as much as you do then build a trip that easily includes a lot more than petal-spotting.
Pick a direction to head in and just go for it.
How long is your trip going to be? A day trip? A weekender?
Let’s spin the bottle and pick a few destinations that mix it up for everyone in the car.
The Bibbulmun Track has a lot of opportunities that can be explored for periods of time ranging from a few hours to a few weeks. For a day trip, a drive up to the Kalamunda hills will put you in beautiful country for wildflowers and the fresh green growth of our own Perth hills. Kalamunda has a great range of art galleries, mountain bike trails and of course the famous Kalamunda Hotel for lunch and a cold refreshment or two.
If you feel like heading north for a daytrip then the Nambung National Park, home to the iconic Pinnacles, is an ideal wildflower daytrip with plenty of time to see plenty of other sites. As well as the Pinnacles, there are the dunes of nearby Lancelin and the township of Lancelin itself with good beach walking and swimming.
To turn this daytrip into a gorgeous weekender, head east to Carnamah, Dandaragan and the Coomberdale Wildflower Farm just to the north of Moora where wildflowers are picked, boxed and shipped all over the world. From there you can make your way back to the coast by travelling through the Coalseam Conservation Park which from September to November is simply a carpet of wildflowers that stretches to the horizon. From there it’s just a short drive for an overnight stay at Dongara.
Further east and an absolute WA bucket list is to get stuck into the Goldfields and do a tour of a region that’s not that far away and bursting with more colour than the Perth Skyshow. More than a daytrip, more than a weekender, give yourself at least a week to travel well throughout this region that is full of history and remarkable people and landscapes. Adjacent to Kalgoorlie-Boulder is the Karlkula Bushland Park, comprised of 200 hectares of bushland and very popular with bushwalkers.
An easy daytrip from Kalgoorlie-Boulder is to head 133 kilometres north to the small town of Menzies and then travel 50 kilometres west to Lake Ballard where the 51 statues by artist Antony Gormley are located.
For a south, maybe south-western spin of the bottle, head down the Albany Highway to a part of the world I’m proud to have grown up in, the Wheatbelt. The golden canola, dusky dryandra and fields of wheat that might bring on a few sneezes will also bring out the photographer in you.
Dryandra Woodland, 164 kilometres south-east of Perth and just to the north of Narrogin, is a wonderful land of wildflowers, emus, kangaroos and maybe even the elusive numbat. There are a number of well-marked trails to explore and the Dryandra Lions Woodlands Village manages a number of various sized woodcutter cottages if you want to turn an easy daytrip into a very relaxing weekend.
For those in your group who are bored sitting by the fireplace or walking through the bush then you can arrange to visit Barna Mia, in the heart of Dryandra, where you can do a night time tour of the sanctuary for all sorts of wildlife that you can watch under the stars.
Finally, if you can’t leave Perth there is one of the greatest wildflower displays in Western Australia right in the heart of Perth. Kings Park is so renowned for its annual wildflower display that there’s a risk of complacency because you expect so much. With a variety of species and colour to dazzle our eyes and cameras, plus the nature playground, various cafes and walking trails and only minutes from every Perth CBD activity it’s little wonder that Kings Park is the centre of Perth’s universe from September to November.
So my tip for a trip to see the wildflowers this year is to remember what else there is to see. Enjoy the wildflowers but try and enjoy something else to go with it. You don’t need to be a kid to enjoy a Peters Drumstick as you lean against the bonnet of your car in the main street of a country town that’s not so far from home.
For further information on local tips to find wildflowers, best places to stay and local attractions, have a look at the following websites or contact Chris through firstname.lastname@example.org or his website at www.chrisparrywritesforus.com
To find out what’s going on at Kings Park look at: www.bgpa.wa.gov.au or call (08) 9480 3600
Please remember that however you choose to travel make sure you are safe and prepared. Much of Western Australia is remote and you should always carry what you need to survive including medications, water and suitable clothing. Please be aware that mobile telephones may not work in some locations featured in this story.