Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Uluru - The Red Rock

Uluru (Ayers Rock) is in the land of the nomadic Anang people who’ve inhabited this region for over 60,000 years. Uluru and the neighbouring Kata Tjuta (The Olgers) are extremely sacred sites to the Anang. Features in the rocks are remnants of Chalpra, creation moments in history that have shaped the landscape and the culture of the Anang.

The Anang were given back these lands in 1984 after years of talks and protests. They lease the land back to the National Park for 99 years, during which time the aim is to develop a local community that can take on running the park at the end of the lease.

Four Anang women and four Anang Men sit on the 12 strong Management Board, thereby having a majority. They are consulted on every aspect of the park’s operations and have expertise in different areas. Some places at Uluru and Kata Tjuta are designated as men’s areas or women’s areas only. Only the men or women will know the stories and significance of these sites which are passed down through the various lineages respectively.

The Board also manages the surrounding land. Aboriginal peoples across Australia have had a lasting impact on the environment through their use of fire. Fire is used to promote the growth of valued plants. The new shoots attract grazing animals, such as kangaroos, back to the area which improves hunting success. Fire was also used to push out animals to make hunting easier. We were told that the Anang instinctively knew when it was the right time to burn. The National Parks people respected this knowledge and said that they could not work out by science when was ‘the right’ time, but the Anangs wisdom was always correct.

The Anang ask people to not climb Uluru as the site is sacred. Despite this the park still allows people to make the climb if the conditions are fine however in the future it is hoped that the climb will be closed. This however is a very big political decision, as culturally it is considered for many Australians a right of passage to climb Uluru. About 40 climbers have not made it down alive.

We decided to heed the Anang’s request and instead took on the much longer base walk for 11 kilometres around this great outcrop. At the start of the walk we joined a tour with a Park Ranger, Steve, who spent two hours providing us with background on the park, the people, the geology and the Anang’s beliefs and stories associated with Uluru. We saw shady rock overhangs covered in paintings which had been used as classrooms for the older men to teach the young boys about hunting, how to track and find water through stories, songs and dances. We learnt how the Anang used oral traditions to pass on knowledge, and how such knowledge was their top commodity.

The route around Uluru, whilst not challenging, was very hot by the time we set out on our own. The faces and aspects of Uluru moulded and evolved into different shapes and forms as we encircled it.

It is a fine and uniform sandstone, laid down in a marine environment and later tilted to nearly 90 degrees. It extends some 6 thousand meters below the surface. The black lines on the rock are made of microscopic algae that exist on the rainwater drainage channels.

Finches drink from a pool formed by leaky tap

Punk pigeon

Uluru at sunset

A cloudy start to the day

The heavily worn trail ascending Uluru is a huge social, cultural and political issue in Australia

The Anang very politely ask you not to climb

The Anang histories tell that these rock formations were created by the Marsupial Mole Woman, who built this shelter as a windbreak. Marsupial moles are very secretive, spending much of their time underground, occasionally coming out after rain. They are blind, have soft golden fur and a pouch that faces backwards so as not to fill with soil as it burrows.

This rock waves has been created by wind erosion over millions of years of sand blasting

Striking flutings occur where slightly weaker layers have been eroded by water running off the top of Uluru

She looks different from every angle, a giant ancient sculpture that evolves as it revolves

A goana or monitor lizard, a perfect lunch!

As high as I dare climb, about 3 feet!

A small bushfire sweeps by about a kilometre from the rock

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