Saturday, June 10, 2006

Uluru, Kata Tjuta and singing dingos

I’ve had a pretty busy couple of weeks and I’m totally exhausted. I shouldn’t complain because it’s mostly due to going to Alice Springs for work last weekend, staffing a bookstand at a conference. Travelling for work is a pretty cool experience, especially as I’m just an accounts clerk and I wouldn't normally get to travel. We also had time off — on Sunday arvo I hired a bike from the hotel and rode into town and wandered through the markets, then out to the Heavitree Gap which is a break in the McDonnell ranges, where you drive through to get to Alice Springs from the airport. The landscape is so different to anywhere else I’ve been, with the red dirt and the rocky ranges jutting up it’s a bit like being on Mars (except for, you know, the people, houses, trees…).

On Monday, which was a day off, I went on a bus out to Uluru and Kata Tjuta with one of my workmates and her husband. It was a very long day, the bus picked us up from the hotel at 5.50am and we got back there a bit before midnight. I have to admit I was almost regretting it at around 7.30am when we stopped for breakfast at Jim’s Place and while I was sitting bleary-eyed over my instant coffee and toasted sandwich Dinky the singing dingo jumped onto a piano and started tapping the keys with his paw and howling. Not that I have anything against dingoes, (or pianos for that matter — although I think they sound better played by someone with fingers and an opposable thumb), and Dinky’s owner Jim had a lot of interesting facts about dingoes and the central Australian area, but do I remember thinking something along the lines of ‘what the hell am I doing here?’.

I suppose the caffeine started to kick in, ’cause I ended up really enjoying most of the trip. Walking around the base of Uluru was really impressive, the intense colour of the rock outlined against the sky. And I loved Kata Tjuta, if I ever go back there I would love to spend more time there, do the Valley of the Winds walk, which does right through the centre of the domes. It’s easy to understand why the sites are so significant to the Indigenous people from the area.

I was disappointed to see how few people seemed to pay any attention to the signs asking people not to photograph particular areas which are sacred sites though, and I got very sick of the woman in the tour who kept making the funny funny jokes about how people better not photograph anything cause the Abos (her word not mine obviously) might suddenly decide it’s a sacred site. It didn’t seem to matter to her that vast tracks of land all over Australia are privately owned and she would be trespassing if she went to any of them, but an Aboriginal tribe fences off a few square metres of the land around Uluru because they have been considered sacred sites for generations and don’t want tourists tramping all over them — well that’s outrageous.

There was a big pile of rocks that had been returned by people who had taken bits of Uluru and now wanted them to go back where they belonged. Reading through the letters was quite interesting. They ranged from people who had taken bits of rock twenty or thirty years ago when there was much less explanation about the rock’s spiritual significance to the Anangu people, to very cross parents who had just finished scolding there children. There were also a few people who were insisting that taking bits of rock had caused them bad luck. Interestingly, at lunch today a workmate said she knew a woman who had worked at Uluru for a few months and reckoned a lot of the rocks that were returned weren’t even from Uluru, but were completely different types of rock.

I’m so glad I got the opportunity to go, although it’s been a tiring few days catching up with work back at the office. I guess my being tired hasn’t been helped by the other four people in my section being sick or on leave today. I spent the whole day slowly working my way through an overflowing inbox in a totally empty office.

Here's some photos I just got developed today: :)

Salt lake north of Mt Connor

Kata Tjuta



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