Experience Gulaga, Mother Mountain

Rising up in the south west of Eurobodalla, the extinct volcano known as Gulaga (Mount Dromedary) is as magnificent as it is spiritual.

The place of ancestral origin for Yuin people, the region’s Aboriginal Custodians, the mountain symbolises a mother figure and has traditionally been an important women’s place. Look closely, and you can see Gulaga just as the Yuin people have for tens of thousands of years – as a pregnant woman lying down. Here’s how to experience the Mother Mountain respectfully.

Guided cultural experiences

As one of the most important Gulaga Creation stories goes, Mother Gulaga had two sons, Baranguba and Najanuga. One day the older brother Baranguba asked his mother for permission to set up his own camp. She allowed him to do so just offshore where she could keep an eye on him, and he became what is now known in English as Montague Island, off Narooma.

Wanting to follow in the footsteps of his big brother, Najanuga asked Gulaga if he could join Baranguba. But Gulaga, concerned he was too young to venture into the ocean, kept him closer to her in the form of Little Dromedary, the small peak in Gulaga’s foothills you can see today.

This is just one of the Aboriginal Creation stories you’ll learn by hiking Gulaga with a Yuin guide as part of the Yuin Retreat, an immersive, three-day cultural experience run by Aboriginal-owned and operated tour company Ngaran Ngaran Cultural Awareness. The retreat will also see you join a traditional-style ‘yarning circle’, learn about Aboriginal wellness, and more.

Insights into Gulaga’s significance to the Yuin people are also revealed on coastal walking tours hosted by Brinja-Yuin woman Patricia Ellis of Minga Cultural Experiences, who will also teach you about bush tucker, medicinal plants, and historical and cultural stories connected to the region.

More stories about Gulaga and its connection to Baranguba (Montague Island), which Yuin people have traditionally used as a men’s teaching place, are shared on walking tours of the island conducted by NSW national park rangers. Tours can be booked as part of island experiences run by Narooma-based operators licensed by NPWS.

Independent hiking

Gulaga’s Traditional Owners also permit visitors to hike the mountain independently. Forged by gold miners in 1884, the steep but scenic 14km-return track to the summit can be completed in four to five hours. The trailhead begins behind French-inspired cafe La Galette in Tilba Tilba, gently guiding you through verdant rainforest and past vibrant green moss-covered rocks towards the summit. Don’t forget to make plenty of stops to take in the views, as the vista from the summit is mostly obscured by the forest. Bring a picnic to enjoy at the saddle, which has a picnic table and a toilet.

For many people, the highlight of hiking Gulaga is visiting the string of magnificent granite tors found along a track near the saddle. It’s one of several sacred sites on Gulaga, best visited with a Yuin guide, who will reveal fascinating Dreaming stories connected to the unusual geological formations.

If you do venture here yourself, you can show respect by reading up on the site’s significance via the story board installed at the saddle, and being sensitive to the sacredness that Gulaga holds. Whether you visit with a guide or independently, the spirituality of the mountain is bound to linger long after you’ve hiked back down to Tilba Tilba.

For an easier walk in the foothills of Gulaga, follow the Bellbrook Farm Loop, a 2km mown track (with some stairs) which begins behind Central Tilba’s Dromedary Hotel, and makes a scenic circuit around the verdant rolling hills near the base of the mountain.