Natalie Gruzlewski's trip to the Northern Territory showed us how you can enjoy a real outback holiday, at the same time giving others the chance to really see Australia
World Expeditions' See Australia Expedition supports the Fred Hollows Foundation. The late Dr Hollows was an eye specialist, passionate about restoring sight in remote Australian communities and Asia. Getaway has supported the foundation for 10 years and this is the first time we have been on one of the trips.
You can't actually buy your way into a trip you have to raise funds to participate. For the Northern Territory Expedition you need to raise $4500 half of which is donated to the foundation and that helps to deliver eye health and indigenous health programs.
Natalie joined in at the half-way point of the nine-day adventure holiday. She hopped in a four-wheel drive en route to Manyallaluk, 90 minutes from Katherine. On arrival at the campsite, tents are set up and lunch is taken before afternoon activities. There's a bush tucker and bush medicine walk with Aboriginal guides showing plants that can be safely used.
At the Manyallaluk Cultural Centre you will see ancient Aboriginal artefacts, craft making, weaving and traditional fire-starting demonstrations. All are eager to respond to questions about local culture and customs. Guests are free to wander around and mix with the 150 residents. There is a small shop, showers, flushing toilets, electricity and pool at the site. Dinner is a feast around a campfire and there could be some storytelling as well.
The next day is a visit to Beswick Community. It is the main day of the tour as guests see where the money they have raised is spent. At the community's school you meet teachers and students and hear about their views on learning. Fred Hollows ambassador Shellie Morris runs literacy programs, teaching the children to sing and dance. They love performing and are pretty keen on having their pictures taken.
At the clinic you will see where the Fred Hollows Foundation conducts eye examinations and operations. Other work carried out there is supported by the foundation and includes nutrition, maternity health, blood tests and general medical health checks.
The afternoon is spent at the Djilpin Arts Centre where local Beswick artists exhibit and sell their works. It's always most interesting to talk with the artists about their inspirations.
That night the campsite is by the Beswick Falls. Two elders accompany the group and tell Dreamtime stories and the Djilpin dance troop provides entertainment.
The rest of the adventure is fulfilling and if you can raise much-needed funds and would enjoy spending time with those in need, those who help and see parts of Australia you have only dreamed about, this is it.
The whole trip is alcohol-free and the Aboriginal communities all have a no-alcohol policy.
The Northern Territory.
World Expeditions has a nine-day See Australia Fred Hollows Foundation tours for $4500 per person. They include return airfares to Darwin, accommodation, most meals, four-wheel-drive transport, guides, camping equipment, permits, national park fees and a donation to the foundation. Group first aid kit and emergency communications are also included. It will run between April 17-25, 2010.
Prices correct at December 10, 2009.
For further information
See the World
The Fred Hollows Foundation
Locked Bag 3100
Ph: (02) 8741 1900
Fax: (02) 9744 0839