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Published: November 23rd 2011
Hello from the Northern Territory’s Red Centre!! What a magical place this is! The Red Centre is, as its name suggests, the centre of Australia; a HUGE area comprising several national parks, conservation reserves, mounts and lakes (most ‘usually dry’). You can drive for kilometres (we just drove 450 kms) and see nothing at all but what the Australians call the ‘Outback’, an endless savannah similar to the African desert in its vastness and plainness. We travelled quite a long way to spend 2 days at the World Heritage-listed National Park which houses the famous rock formations: ‘Uluru’ (Ayers Rock) and ‘Kata Tjuta’ (The Olgas). What we felt when we came face to face to Kata Tjuta, on our first day, is something that could have easily been a scene out of ‘Close encounters of the Third Kind’. It is a moment you will never forget. The day was cloudy and misty, a fact that made me inwardly complain, however once we got to the feet of these red giants it only took a second to take my breath away: I looked up and stared in utter wonder, for several minutes, at the MAGICAL and MYSTICAL vision of these huge rock domes, standing silently amongst the moving fog. Kata Tjuta means ‘Many Heads’ in the local language and they are sacred under the Anangu’s (Aborigene) law.
I can totally understand why this site is sacred to the Aboriginal people (who have lived in this area for 22,000 years). It’s an experience that one should have at least once in a lifetime! The 36 Kata Tjuta domes are as old as 500 million years. We started walking along the Walpa Gorge, literally between two of the biggest domes, and the closer we got, the more majestic and enormous they seemed. Red sand stone formations, the ‘Many Heads’ have been shaped by wind and water over the ages. As a sacred place, Aboriginal owners (who lease the land to the Government) prefer that no one climbs these formations, but people still do. Apparently around 35 tourists have died trying to get to the top. I wasn’t thinking of climbing but it was closed anyway, due to the recent rains. The original owners explain that since the ‘Tjukurpa’ (creation time and basis for all their knowledge), these rocks have not been climbed, as the ‘real thing’ about this place is to LISTEN – I will certainly never forget the moments of peace I experienced, listening to the birds and eagles, the sounds of the wind in between the rocks’ cracks and the movements of the clouds over our heads. It’s like a spiritual ritual, and the Aboriginal people want to share it with us.
Our second day was spent at Uluru, also known as Ayers Rock. Uluru is a 348 metres high sand stone monolith, considered one of the great natural wonders of the world. Like an iceberg, most of its bulk is below the surface, which is very impressive! Walking all around it took us approximately 3.5 hours (10.6 kms); that day I was grateful it wasn’t too sunny! Most parts in Uluru are sacred (some are ‘mens’ sites’ and others are ‘womens’ sites’ ) so photography and video is not allowed. Be careful or you risk an out-of-this-world fine! The walk around the dome is very beautiful; we were extremely lucky as there was almost NO ONE around! Only towards the end we encountered people. We enjoyed our privacy and an inspiring silence, only broken by birds’ songs and the sounds of water falling from the sides of Uluru. There are a few trees growing from in between the dome’s cracks and in the top; up there, all alone and with no vegetation, there is still hope for life.
Trees in the area have learned to adapt and survive. The desert oak or ‘Kurkara’ is not reliant on rainfall, as its root system is deep enough to reach the underground water table. Once it finds water, it stores it in its roots and branches. We did not come across any kangaroos, but we have seen several EMUS (giant!!) and on our way to Alice Springs (where we are at the moment) we had a surreal encounter with a snake.
We hadn’t seen a soul since stopping at a petrol station, that looked like something out of ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ (it was cool though!) when suddenly, we came across a 1.5 metre snake. M broke as hard as he could; we did not want to run it over! But just as we stopped, and looked out the window to check it was ok, the damn snake turned on us and attacked the car!! So much for trying to save the Australian fauna!!
More from Cairns, where it seems to be raining!
B & M xxx
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