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Published: November 15th 2015
We had planned to go for a long day trip on our third day in a Cairns but as we were still getting over the flight and the jet lag we decided to have a lie in and stay local.
When we finally got moving, in the afternoon, we went into Cairns to discover the Lagoon. This is an artificial swimming pool, filled with sun-warmed salt water and with a sandy floor. It is a popular spot in Cairns since it is both free and a delightful place to swim. One interesting feature of the pool is its electronic locker system. You insert $2 for two hours of a small locker and it asks you for your date of birth and a colour. This information is then used to lock and unlock the lockers. It is an ingenious way of solving the problem of having to carry a key. Once our things were safely ensconced we eased our aching bodies into the warm waters and enjoyed a fabulous rejuvenating swim.
That evening we went to a place called Tjapukai... an "indigenous cultural experience". We were there for the Night Fire event. This cost us $120 for the two of
us, so was a bit of an extravagance but we felt it was a good way to learn a little about the Aboriginal Culture.
The evening started with champagne and canapés in the foyer. The canapés that I wasn't allergic to were really good. There was slices of kangaroos on small pieces of toast topped with spicy beetroot and then my favourite... little boats of sweet potato covered with slow cooked emu.
The entertainment started with a welcoming ceremony where music was provided by a didgeridoo player and someone using two boomerangs as a percussion instrument. This was accompanied by authentic Aboriginal singing and dancing.
Following the welcome we were taken to a large auditorium. Here the lights were dimmed and the dancers performed traditional dances honouring the cassowary (a large, almost extinct, flightless bird) and the kangaroo. They also acted out the hunting of a kangaroo. Then it was time for the fire lighting ceremony. For this the audience were called on to participate. We were split into two teams, each with a different part to sing and an accompanying dance. I wish I could say that I remembered either the song words or the dance
but sadly I can't. As we were singing and dancing one of the Aboriginal hosts was using a notched fire stick to create a fire in a pile of dry grass. The way he made fire was very similar to a technique I learned in the scouts and was fascinating to watch.
Once the fire had been made, we were led out over a bridge where torches were lit with the flame. Then it was the group's turn to make fire by the lakeside in the cool evening air. We danced and sang again and a couple of volunteers we called upon to light the fire.
Once the fire had been made we were taken to the restaurant for a world buffet meal. The food was very nice but we were quite disappointed for three reasons. Firstly the advert had said that the food would be prepared in an underground oven and taken out in front of us. This was an experience we were really looking forward to. Secondly, aside from roasted kangaroo there was very little authentically aboriginal food. We enjoyed eating Asian salads and European desserts but we were hoping for something more typical of the
culture we were trying to explore. Finally, the group was small and we had all been singing and dancing together so it would have been great to have eaten together, and to have shared our meal with the indigenous singers and dancers, however we were seated at intimate tables as couples. We felt the evening was somewhat let down by a lack of thought about the centre-piece meal.
After we had eaten there was a short closing ceremony of singing and dancing from our Aboriginal hosts and then we posed for photos with them. The Night Fire celebration was over and we were led out though the gift shop. Here we stopped for Lindsey to try out a didgeridoo which she good at. We also bought a CD of what we thought to be authentic Aboriginal music. When we discovered that it wasn't and tried to exchange it for something more traditional, the shop wouldn't exchange it. This left us feeling quite annoyed which was a real shame as we had really enjoyed our evening.
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