There is something primal, raw, and powerful about standing in the mouth of the 3rd largest navigable river on earth that puts “all that is” in perspective.
One small human in the broad riverscape, I felt diminutive, and found it difficult to comprehend this place where the Southern Indian Ocean tides feed the mouth of Millewa “Big Water”.
I stood on the salt-water soaked sand, realizing she had just been there lapping against the dunes. Looking out toward where she had retreated and marveling at her strength and beauty, I felt trepidation growing inside me. There was nothing between me and her spare a narrow sand bar with a pod of playful Australian sea lions and a sand-dredger. Though I knew the tide was out, I did not know for how long and the only exit behind me was the sluice of land that funneled her mighty, salty fluid into the river.
Taking all this in, I stood mesmerized, thrilled to explore the mix of sensations: danger, fear, awe, vastness, smallness. I was giddy with the sheer joy of being witness, no, being in the raw energy of untamed creation!
My camera clicked and buzzed, attempting to record the moment. I wanted to memorize her sound and the feel of her vibration in my limbs as she pounded against the shoreline.
My feet began to sink deeper into the sand, getting wetter with each step and I recognized it was time to bid farewell. I thanked her for allowing me to be part of her
…and for bestowing her gifts upon me.
Once home in the U.S., the intensity of my Millewa experience lingered and urged me to learn more about this sacred place. I quickly realized that some of what I was feeling was the energies of an ancient Aboriginal culture dating back 40,000 years! More than 3000 of the Ngarrindjeri people ("the people who belong to this land") had lived at the mouth of the river, gathering fish and working the land.
In the 1990’s, a huge controversy erupted over the building of the bridge from Goolwa to the island.
Hindmarsh Island, on which I stood, was regarded by the Ngarrindjeri as a fertility site, as its shape and that of the surrounding wetlands resembled female reproductive anatomy when viewed from the air. Their name for the island, Kumarangk, was similar to the word for pregnancy, or woman and was used for sacred rituals.
They also believed that the waters of the Goolwa channel required uninterrupted views of the sky, particularly the Seven Sisters constellation, which features in several aboriginal dreaming stories.
Wow! Yes, the red dot is where I stood!!! No wonder…
More on the bridge controversy
How the Murray River was Made- Dreamtime Bangarang story
Aboriginals and the river