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Monday, March 2: Day 315 – Walkaround

We planned a guided hike around the base of Uluru and started before the sun came up. It was cloudy so the temperature was great throughout the morning walk. You may have heard of a walkabout. Rob and I have dubbed this experience a walkaround. We walked around counterclockwise or anticlockwise as the Aussie says.

Our guide, John, made sure that we knew that the hike was a little over seven miles, and that they would not provide transportation for a return if you wanted to cut it short. Yesterday a group of young, entitled travelers was rude and cussed out the tour guide over the issue. She was rattled and didn’t deserve their rude behavior. It makes me sad when I hear of fellow travelers being disrespectful to the country in which they are guests.

The flies are beyond horrible. Nowhere in ANY travel information did we find this, but fly nets are sold everywhere. We don’t leave home without them.

Here is Rob as we started the walk.

You think that was bad, check out our guide, John.

Apparently, they don’t like light blue. Who knew?

Here is a video so you can get the full affect of being there and seeing the flies buzz. Go to the web version to access the video.

Uluru looks like a large loaf of bread and has a life of its own. The red color is because of iron. John took a magnet to the earth to give us physical evidence.

Some sites at Uluru are so sacred that they cannot be visited nor photographed. So don’t expect much. Here were the signs that we encountered.

Uluru attracts its own weather. Last night there was a good heavy rain. Rob was disappointed as we came here to see the stars. However, the temperature was very pleasant. This is the first walk since October that began below 70 degrees.

Parts around the base are under a rejuvenation process so we have to make a wider circle. Uluru is getting taller as erosion takes place at the base. Erosion at the top also takes place but not as fast.

During the winter, there are long queues to get into the park at sunrise. Not today.

Uluru is in the Great Central Desert and is rich in minerals. The land gets one foot of rain per year.

The indigenous people history is handed down by word of mouth. There were over 700 dialects of 250 languages before the arrival of Europeans. They were as different and distinct from each other as English is to Russian and Chinese.

Many of these dialects are no longer used or under the threat of disappearing. It is estimated that 20-50 dialects are “healthy” as described that it is spoken and used by children.

The environment is very important to indigenous people. “If you don’t take care of the earth, it will come back and slap you in the face.” I think that we are all experiencing this as our planet is ill.

The roots of the mulga tree are home to the tjala sugar ants. They use the roots for protection. The female has a sac full of sweet liquid. The male workers will inject pollen into the sac. The Anangu women milk the ants by pricking them with a mulga needle. Women will dig into the nest and extract only half the only during replenishment stage.

The Anangu men don’t understand about work, money or taxes. Each day they built their homes and looked for food.

The United Nations determined that the Anangu are the world’s first environmentalists. This UNESCO distinction was for culture as well as protection of the cave paintings stories. The organization further distinguished the Anangu people as a living culture meaning that it hasn’t been polluted by other cultures. There are 300 Anangu at Uluru.

In their cave paintings, concentric circles represent a water hole. It resembles dropping a pebble in the water as if looking down from above to see the ripple effect. Joining those circles gives instruction from one to another. One circle means a dry water hole.

Buffel grass was introduced from South Africa in the late 1970’s to prevent erosion. This invasive species has taken over, and no animals eat it.

The Anangu don’t have a long list of numbers. It goes like this: 1,2,3, many. When going into battle, they would size up the enemy and decide if they had more. It was more qualitative than quantitative.

There was a cave dedicated to the women where they taught cooking skills. The grinding stone was passed on to the oldest daughter.

The initiation ceremony of bush boys involves cutting and burning. The main punishment for any one man is a spear in the thigh but must be followed with being nursed back to health in order to have learned. Today it is outlawed, but it still happens in remote places.

The story of the rainbow serpent is common to all indigenous people and is the first one ever told to children. There is not a word for “why”? Children are told stories that get more complex as they grow. I guess that it is on a need-to-know basis.

Anangu are semi-nomadic which means that they move around in a general area. They allow the land to regenerate and burn off the land as they leave in the winter.

Someone becomes an elder based on knowledge not necessarily because of age. However, the elderly are revered.

Frogs breed and feed after a rain but live most of their lives underground. They come to the surface when water reaches them. They can be underground up to seven years.

On the top of Uluru, a prehistoric looking creature exists. Hmmm.

Life on the Top

Climbing to the top of Uluru is very dangerous. There have been 35 deaths over the years with many more horrible injuries. It was closed for the following reasons: safety, pollution, and cultural respect. One can see the path that was used. Field trips used to hike to the top. John’s best friend fell and died when the wind blew off his hat and he reached for it.

Not only was Uluru closed for cultural sensitivity concerns, the environmental impact was huge, mainly human waste and batteries. There are thousands of batteries up there with lithium being especially bad since it renders the water unusable. They will take years to decompose.

There are many similarities between the animist indigenous beliefs and Christianity. One is that they both use stories and parables. Another is that their moral code is very similar to Christian. In fact, more First People claimed to be Christians than nonIndigenous people in Australia.

Aussie Slang

Speaking of word usage, I learned that Aboriginal is a bad word to use. Indigenous People or First People are preferred.

Today there is a lot of alcohol abuse and sniffing petrol among the indigenous people. Deadly Fun Run is promoting a healthy lifestyle by encouraging running. The culminating event takes place in a run around Uluru. Competitors from each community are invited to bring a message stick of significance to present to the Traditional Owners of the Mutitjulu community.

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