Tracks of the Hunter

An Aboriginal hunter takes an Emmy-winning cinematographer on a survival quest through Australia’s Arnhem Land armed with little more than a spear and ancient survival skills.

Produced by NHNZ

Heading off into the scorching, isolated Arnhem Land in the north east of Australia is a survival quest in itself. But doing this armed with little more than a spear and relying on the ancient survival skills of an Aboriginal hunter would be inconceivable for most of us.

Tracks of the Hunter is a gripping programme that follows awesome Yolngu huntsman, Peter Datjing, as he takes Larry Gray on an exciting adventure across Arnhem Land to his ancestral home of Mata Mata ¾ where his Gumatj clan has lived for more than 40,000 years.

Their quest begins on Elcho Island, where they must feed Datjing’s family before they depart. This is Larry’s first glimpse of what is to come as he watches Datjing skilfully spear a green turtle from the crystal clear waters.

Setting off in a canoe, decorated with Aboriginal paintings representing the crocodile spirit which will protect them on their journey, they are faced with their first obstacle ¾ raging rapids. Eventually reaching land, Larry and Datjing build a shelter for the night. The next day they undertake the deadly task of catching their breakfast. On the menu is stingray and Larry quickly learns the precise art of removing the sting using only his teeth and spear.

But spearing stingrays turns out to be the easy task. Throughout the quest, Larry learns how to walk through crocodile-infested waters to find and eat mangrove worms and how to catch a shark in murky waters. He even finds himself racing after Datjing bare-footed as he pursues a goanna through razor sharp bush, avoiding snakes as he leaps across the scorching rocks.

Larry is amazed by Datjing’s acute senses which help him to locate nearby prey, and his ability to recognise the vital signs of the presence of water, whether it’s through identifying the right native plants or cracking open turtle eggs.

Having reached Mata Mata, Datjing explains the spiritual significance of the land once inhabited by his ancestors. Nearby is a sacred area; nothing can be disturbed ¾ not even a twig can be broken ¾ because Yolngu people believe everything on the land is a sign left for them by their ancestors.

Their quest is complete. They have survived one of the most extreme environments on the planet with just two spears and Datjing’s incredible hunting skills.

This compelling programme takes viewers on a journey like no other, guided by the powerful beliefs and visions of one of the best Aboriginal hunters of today. It’s an exciting and exhilarating journey, but also a unique insight into the fascinating lives of Australia’s Aboriginal people.

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