When we got up on Monday morning it was glaringly light and bright and sunny. The perfect day for a ferry trip.
Without much ado, we were off to Circular Quay to decide among a wide variety of ferry destinations. We chose the ferry to Parramatta, an hours’ trip through Sydney Harbour and up the river.
Since greater Sydney grew and spread around a deeply ‘fjorded’ river mouth, it is time-consuming and awkward to get around by car. A much faster and more convenient choice are the ferries connecting every last cove and inlet.
These ferries are both public transportation for commuters and excursion vehicles for tourists. Can you guess which is which?!
The tourists twist and turn to catch all the sights, while the locals look down to catch their latest emails 😊
Despite the heavily built-up city environment, there is always bush visible as you cruise through Sydney Harbour.
After living for five weeks in city center highrises in Melbourne and in Sydney, after moving daily through concrete jungles in trams, in trains, and on foot, these cities’ green spaces are foremost in my memory. Be it bush or exquisitely groomed parkland, the natural world still breathes deeply and steadily in Australia.
Soon we entered the Parramatta river and docked in the town of Parramatta for a leisurely lunch.
After lunch, we took the long way back to the ferry dock, thereby accidentally discovering the Parramatta riverside walk.
The key sentence here is “from an indigenous perspective.”
“Native Institution” clearly echoes similarly abominable practices committed in North America against our own indigenous peoples. Stealing children to “civilize” and “christianize” them, was considered to be their duty by missionaries and politicians of colonial powers across the globe. The underlying principle of such atrocities, of course, was and still is the belief of white people of European descent that dark-skinned people are inferior to them. Even though the original Native Institution and its frequent reincarnations failed in their mission of Aboriginal assimilation, this philosophy of an elevated self-image by non-indigenous people ultimately led to the legal practice of removing thousands of mostly mixed-race children from their Aboriginal mothers even as recently as the 1970ies. The children were literally ripped from their mother’s arms, they were denied their maternal heritage, their clan affiliations, their languages and traditions to be forcibly integrated into a future all-white society. In many instances, the children were given new names and their birth records and biological roots were lost forever. Only now can these Stolen Generations of Australian Aboriginal peoples and their descendants finally make their voices heard.
This marker is very difficult to read, so I added a summary of Pemulwuy’s life in a link. Historians say that Pemulwuy, a folk hero and a defender of his native lands and peoples, had several physical challenges, as he was born with strabismus in the left eye and was possibly clubfooted. On the other hand, legend says he was touched by the Gods and became a healer and wise man developing extraordinary, even mystical abilities. Tribal elders may have chosen Pemulwuy as their Kurdaitcha man, a Featherfoot or ritual executioner, a keeper of the laws. Kurdaitcha men were the only shamans allowed to take a human life through spells like pointing a cursed bone at the intended target thus causing their death which we now recognize as a psychosomatic or voodoo death. When hunting a victim to deliver the curse, a featherfoot wore shoes made of feathers and human blood and human hair in which he moved so silently as to be invisible. Feather shoes had a small opening on the side for the little toe. Prior to a hunt, the toe was dislocated during a painful secret ceremony. This injury made the Kurdaitcha man’s movements even more non-human and threatening, and it may have been the reason why Pemulwuy was described to the colonists as having a malformed foot. Even today, there is a strong belief among Aboriginal Australians that you will invariably die if you are the victim of ritual bone-pointing.
I think we need to look at birds now, to recover our equilibrium.
As we crossed the pedestrian bridge on our way back to the landing, we say many birds.
I mean, really many birds. Trees full of hundreds of very vocal, fruit-eating, white cockatoos.
And cormorants, too.
Or possibly not cormorants? This huge gorgeous black bird drying his silver flight feathers on the bank of the Parramatta River as we were cruising by, looked like a cormorant to me. But it wasn’t one. Upon sorting through my pictures, I noticed his large floppy pink feet. Cormorants don’t have pink feet, they prefer stylish black. Also, that long and pointy beak was, well, pointed. Cormorants fish with hooked beaks. Then it slowly dawned on me, a long pointy beak with which to dart a hapless fish – an Anhinga! Darters use their beaks like spears while swimming very low in the water, hence their names. And while swimming submerged as they do, their long skinny neck looks like a water snake, hence their other name, snakebird.
When our ferry approached Circular Quay again, the sparkly city spread her wings almost as elegantly as the darter.