Tuesday, March 18, 2008

1 March, 10:45, Connellan Airport, Ayers Rock

It seems that airports are the only place where I get a chance to write my blog these days. We’ve got an hour and a half before our flight, but I guess the laptop’s battery will give up the ghost before boarding time.

We’ve just spent 2 wonderful days in Ayers Rock, where we visited the Uluru/Kata Tjuta national park. Uluru is more than just a rock – it has deep spiritual meaning for the Anangu people. Some parts of it are so sacred to them that you are not allowed to photograph them. Although the climb is apparently a popular thing, it goes against the Anangu laws (or Tjukurpa). Not only is Uluru a sacred spot, but the other reason is that, as owners of the land, they feel responsible for the safety of all visitors. But strangely enough, they won’t stop you from climbing, they simply ask you not to. From my limited experience here, it strikes me that Aboriginals are not very forceful people. Why anyone would want to risk their life climbing Uluru is beyond me anyway. The climbing point is sheer smooth rock going up at an impossible angle – and if you manage to climb to the top, I really don’t know how you’d get back down safely. Apparently 35 people have lost their lives trying to climb it.

We chose to do the base walk, which took us over 4 hours, after a sunrise viewing (we got up at 5:30 in the last 2 days to get the best sunrise views). Being so close to Uluru was just wonderful – no pictures you’ve seen quite prepares you for how majestic and magical it is. The light changes constantly and the vegetation close to the base is a lot richer than you’d have thought – plenty of trees and grasses, and lots of birds, particularly near the waterholes. Mutitjulu is the only permanent waterhole in the area, and there are dozens of zebra finches swooshing around – the sound of their wings close to the cliff face was quite unreal.

The Cultural Centre was interesting, with plenty of gorgeous paintings, a movie about the Tjukurpa, with story telling, dancing and drawing in the sand illustrating it. Tjukurpa is a term the Anangu prefer people to use, rather than “dreamtime” or “dreaming” , as it is very real to them, not just mythology, religion and tradition, but actual law, code of conduct, and way of life. They say it’s not just the past, but also the present and the future. I read in the Cultural Centre that they don’t believe in laws written on paper, maybe a reason why they have such poor representation in government. Have a look at the Visitor Guide if you want to find out more about Aboriginal beliefs and way of life, and about the Park in general.

The Aboriginals see themselves as the custodians of the land in Australia– their role is to take care of the land, and they feel a close bond to it. Given the resources available in this land, you can understand why you need to take care of it. I read in the Lonely Planet guide that the soil in Australia is really ancient, that no new soil has been formed in a very long time, and that water seeping through it has been leaching it of all nutrients for 100 million years. On top of this poor soil, Australia is affected by the El Nino cycle of flood and drought. While the Aboriginals are taking care of the land, and only using the resources available from it, white Australians seem to be over-farming every bit that they can. You get the feeling that in another thousand years, there will be nothing more to farm, and that all “white fellas” will leave, leaving the land to the Aboriginals, as they’ll be the only ones who’ll be able to survive – maybe that’s why they don’t seem to push much for a place in Western society. It won't be there forever, so why fight it?

We took lots and lots of pictures, which I'll post shortly

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