On Country - Glen Helen

August 14, 2021

During the second week of the July 2021 school holidays, The Gap Youth and Community Centre After Hours program took nine young people on a cultural camp for 2 nights, 3 days with the Rodna Cultural Tours operated by Benji Kenny and his family.

Driving out 30km north west of Hermannsburg onto Benji’s country, 4 – wheel driving through dry river beds, red sandy and rocky tracks, the six boys and three girls were excited to arrive at the campsite. Once there, they set up their own swags around the fire, got into bed watching the fire as the sunset. The kids waited patiently for kangaroo tale, butter chicken and rice made on the fire by Benji’s family and sat all together eating and enjoying their dinner.

After Benji’s family went home, Benji joined us around the fire. As the kids cooked marshmallows on the fire, Benji told scary stories of Mama Coonga and stories of his country and the area.

After breakfast and the kids rolling up their swags, we jumped in the troopy, while the kids sang the whole time as we ventured deeper into the land and visited three different water holes. Along the track, two wild horses about 200 metres from the track we were driving along, galloped along beside us as we drove, the kids watched quietly admired the speed and strength of the horses.

Benji told stories about each waterhole before coming to our last stop. We got snacks, water and started a 4 km return hike to Glen Helen (the non touristy side, only accessible with Benji). We stopped at one gorge for a swim along the walk. One boy jumped into the water instantly. It took the other kids a long time to get the courage to dive into the icy water but soon after, they were running and jumping into the waterholes. The walk was hard for some of the kids, but everyone made it and we finished off the afternoon with swimming in a flourishing river, catching fish, playing and exploring for hours. We then got taken by Benji on a 4WD expedition higher up in the country to some beautiful lookouts. The kids got some action when the troopy almost got bogged!

When we returned to the campsite, the kids played football with other kids from Benji’s family and we shared dinner with them and shared marshmallows by the fire. A beautiful moment was when the Gap kids got into their swags and were singing like a choir, a song that Benji’s young people also knew, so they all sang together. When the other kids were leaving, both groups of young people yelled out “Thank you” and “Good night” too each other. Again, Benji told “scary” stories to the kids which they loved.

The next morning, with minimal prompting, the kids helped pack up their swags and got themselves ready for the day. We travelled out of Benji’s country and headed back to Hermannsberg, stopping at Albert Namatjira’s house where the kids played for an hour or so in the big river, digging for water, building with rocks and running around with the dogs that lived near by.

As we headed home to Alice Springs, some kids slept, others sang and created songs of their own. Once closer to Alice Springs we asked what were their favourite things about the camp? Many said, swimming!

The kids did really well all together, working together, talking together, playing together, supporting each other when needed. Still a week or so after the camp, they are still talking about getting bogged!

The video clip from our trip.