11 June 2010

Outback Australia

Outback Australia is a hauntingly beautiful place. I’ve just returned from an 8 day camping trip, travelling north from Adelaide into the heart of this country where aboriginal culture flourished until Europeans invaded over 200 years ago.

From Adelaide, the trip took me first through the bizarre opal mining town of Coober Pedy (the desert scenes in Mad Max were filmed here). Half the population lives underground. Next stop was Uluru (Ayers Rock) and Kata Tjuta (The Olgas), then Kings Canyon, Alice Springs, and out to the West McDonell ranges where we hiked and camped in the beautiful Ormiston Gorge.
Endless hours were spent on the road – at times covering distances of up to 700km a day – inevitable when traversing the vast endless landscape of central Australia. Flat straight roads stretch beyond vision to an end point somewhere off the horizon. To the left and right, arid landscapes and moonscapes hiding secrets known only to the indigenous people who now live in remote communities hidden far away from the roads and towns dotted over this unforgiving country.

Despite a genuine desire to understand and connect with the aboriginal culture, the journey revealed only a carefully controlled sliver of it – the Tjukurpa (Dreamtime) legends, bushfoods and bush medicines, invisible maps to waterholes, ceremonial and sacred sites imbued with ancestral spirits…many recorded in dot paintings and aboriginal artwork…it’s a timeless culture seamlessly interwoven with the land they have inhabited for 50,000 years.

The indigenous people guard the secrets of their culture from us now, revealing spiritual wisdom and knowledge only to the initiated. To understand you must have their blood, their genes, their ancestry.

I was just another tourist with white skin but their culture is also part of MY Australian heritage…I too feel the spirit in the earth beneath my feet, the bushes, trees, water, birds, wildlife, the stars and the sky that surrounds me. I share this land and its history with all who have lived here.

On the way home I had to make a stop at the Dingo Fence on the Stuart Highway just north of Coober Pedy, to weave some wool around it for an art student's project. The Dingo Fence runs over 5,500kms and was built during the 1880s to keep dingoes out of South East Australia.

The highlight of my trip was stumbling across a wild dingo one evening near Kings Canyon (north of the Dingo Fence of course) and snuggling deeper into my sleeping bag surrounded by their wailing and howling.
Oh, and I turned 50 somewhere out there under the stars one night.
That was the other highlight.

Images: Weaving wool around the Dingo Fence; Our tent at Yulara campsite near Uluru; Ormiston Gorge; Uluru's surrounding landscape; sign on one of the Uluru walks; Coober Pedy.

1 comment:

sarah said...

cultural stories, personal stories, all stories are like the wool you wove in the fence... fences keep us separate - yet your heart knows you are one with the people and the land. i believe this is the real and that separation is the unreal.

welcome to the 5th decade. happy emergence day! may you continue to find all that is within you.