You know it’s going to be a great day when your tour guide stops off at his Mums on the way to the Daintree to pick up the fresh damper.
Juan started Walkabout Cultural Adventures 9 years ago, and you can tell from his easy going nature he still loves his job. Like many of the successful Aboriginal small business owners I have met, Juan started his business small, no big loan, and one step at a time. After the hard work of the startup years, Juan is now in a position to employ other Aboriginal guides and spend more time with his family.
The idea of starting a business came to Juan on a trip to South America. He found it hard to connect with Indigenous tour operators and realised tourists in North Queensland could be feeling the same way. On the plane home, he wrote his business plan.
I learnt more in a half-day Walkabout tour than I ever expected. I learn about bush foods, medicine, and creation stories. I felt like I can point out anything, from the crabs in the mangrove mud to the prehistoric ferns to the killer (actually kill you) mushrooms and he would know the scientific stuff, and the kind of local knowledge that can only come from your Ancestors having lived in this very spot for countless generations.
I have spoken recently about how hard I find bushwalking or camping when I don’t have a local guide, because I often find myself in places that don’t feel right. I don’t know if they are Sacred or if bad things happened there but I just know that I want to leave. Wondering through the rainforest, as Juan spotted snakes and looked out for Tree Kangaroos, I had none of these worries.
And yes, Tree Kangaroos are a thing. I learned today that all Kangaroos once lived in trees and only as the Australian environment changed did they come to the ground. My name means Kangaroo, I listen out for stories about them and I have never heard this. So I was skeptical, especially when he said the Bennett’s Tree Kangaroo was named after his Dad who discovered it. We all know we like a good joke, and I was waiting for him to bust out laughing. But it’s true.
My highlight was sitting in a crystal clear waterhole, as Juan showed us all the ochres from the area and told us about the trade routes, as we snacked on his mum’s delicious damper smothered with butter and golden syrup.