« At that moment I just burst into tears. » Exploring Country with First Nations artist Rachael Sarra

« At that moment I just burst into tears. » Exploring Country with First Nations artist Rachael Sarra

Welcome to Community Conversations, an interview series featuring Intrepid travellers, creatives, and activists in our community. In every Q&A we ask an inspiring individual about their world view and their world adventures. Today, we’re sitting down with First Nations artist, Rachael Sarra.

Rachael Sarra is a mixed-race, First Nations contemporary artist and designer from Goreng Goreng Country in Queensland, Australia. She uses art as a powerful tool to explore society’s perception of Aboriginal art and identity. We sent Rachael on our Flinders Ranges Explorer trip – a seven-day journey from Adelaide, looping through Indigenous sites like Iga Warta, Arkaroola and Wilpena Pound. Here’s her take on the whole group-travel-in-your-own-country experience.

What do you love most about travel and travelling in general?

I love to explore new places. I am always so inspired by the food, the landscapes, and the buildings. It feels really freeing to be in different environments. 

Why do you enjoy travelling with Intrepid?

I have always been drawn to the itineraries that Intrepid offer, and I have a deep trust in their abilities to pick the best experiences, led by knowledgeable and fun guides.

What did it feel like joining an Intrepid tour again after being locked down for so long?

Funnily enough, I got home from my last Intrepid trip only two weeks before the first COVID lockdowns in Australia. This was my first holiday since early 2020. It felt like darkness was lifting and an excitement and hunger to see the world was finally shining in.

I do a lot of travel for work within Australia, but this was my first group tour here. I don’t think I would have been able to see these parts of Australia without being on a group tour. The long drives through the rugged South Australian outback on the Flinders Ranges Explorer trip were beautiful, but not something I would do myself.

I didn’t know a lot about the Flinders Rangers beforehand, but now that I’ve been to this part of Australia, I think it’s somewhere that everyone needs to explore.

What did visiting Iga Warta mean to you?   

Driving into Iga Warta, I felt a really weird energy shift. It was almost a sense of familiarity. Once we got into our destination, we were welcomed by song and a smoking ceremony with two uncles, Terry and Clarence. I said thank you to Uncle Clarry and he touched me on the shoulder with his clap sticks. When we had a spare moment, I introduced myself through my family, making note of my Dad, Grant Sarra, my Grandma, Norma Broome, my Pop, Michael Williams, and Pop’s brother, Willy McKenzie. As soon as I said this, Uncle Clarry said, “I knew you were family when I touched you with my clap sticks.”

I told him that I had felt a real energy shift driving in, and that a couple of months ago I had a dream about a place I had never been, but it felt familiar to me. Like I had been there. So, when I woke up I drew what I saw and how I felt in my dream. When we were over at Wilpena Pound, I realised; it was the place I had seen in my dream.

Uncle Clarry said, “You know how I said in our welcome that we are spirit? And when our casing dies, we come back in another way? Now you’re here and your spirit is returning home.”

And at that moment I burst out into tears. It was like a massive weight had been lifted. A surrender. Almost like everything that had been causing friction within me in the last few months had found its way home and settled. This was a serendipitous personal moment for me, but the cultural experience for anyone visiting the Flinders Rangers and Iga Warta is life changing and special.

What would you tell travellers who are sceptical about going on a small group adventure?

I got to experience this part of the world with an incredible group of people. Just do it, you won’t believe what it’s like until you’re there.

Where would you like to explore next with Intrepid?

I have my eye on a Western Australia trip and a Mexico trip. I’m also very tempted to do the first Canada Intrepid trip I did again, because I loved it so much. It was the Canadian Rockies and Northern Lights tour, and it was incredible.

To follow Rachael Sarra’s art, check out her Instagram channel, @sar.ra. And if you want to experience the Flinders Ranges for yourself, have a browse through our Flinders Ranges adventures.

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