In the cliffs of Ubirr, in Kakadu National Park, we found an art gallery of the ancients. There the aborigines had painted sacred images of the animals that surrounded them and kept them fed - the wallaby, the long-necked turtle, the great fish barramundi. The figures lived on ceilings of high, jutting sandstone, which protected them from the elements and had preserved them for millenia. They were crudely stylized, stick-figured, skeletal, brimming with the rawness of the surrounding wilderness.
We hiked up further to the top of the enscarpment, where I looked out over all the Arnhemland, the wetland plain which still belonged to the aborigine. The land ran a gradient from yellow to deep green as it approached a sparkling blue billabong in the distance. The wind blew gently in my face, and two green parrots flew by, breaking the silence. This was a place of peace, a spiritual place - it was easy to understand why the aborigines chose it for their visions.
I remembered suddenly a scene from Survivor:The Australian Outback, that show's most brutal second season. Throughout it all was Colby, a ruggedly good-looking Texan who pulled his team to safety and then survived their slings and arrows by winning the last five immunity challenges. On the final day, Colby painted a wooden idol symbolic of his ordeal and carried it to the top of the highest cliff he could find. He wore a look of solemn indifference as he tossed his idol over the precipice, tossing away his experience even as it became a part of him, traversing from being the person he had been to the person he had now become.