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Tuesday, March 3: Day 316 – Kata Tjuta

Today we got up before sunrise to explore the second “rock” in the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park with our excellent guide, Julia, originally from Italy.

If one wants to be a guide, they must attend Charles Darwin University. Accreditation is required and one must learn a foreign language. Indigenous people do not need to attend to become an accredited guide. The foreign languages requirement for a guide is waived.

Here is Kata Tjuta at sunrise.

It is windy and cold and someone forgot their jacket.

Normally, I find geology dull and hard to understand.

The nearby Petermann Range once was higher than Mt. Everest. The mountains are pictured on the left.

There was a geological event called the Petermann erogeny that levelled the mountains, and the large rocks came down.

Next the large rocks filled into the first depression.

Waters moved across both depressions and deposited sandstone.

The water subsided, and the depressions were filled and compressed. Kata Tjuta on the left is congomerate rock and sandstone, and Uluru on the right is sandstone.

Then there was the Alice Springs erogeny. This is where Kata Tjuta raised up at a 19° angle and Uluru turned and moved 90°. Erosion took place to reveal the rock with most of it remaining underground.

Since Uluru was turned on its side, the northeast corner is the oldest layer and the southwest corner is the youngest layer.

Here are the conglomerate rocks.

Pitjantjatjara is the language used inside the national park by the Anangu who are the traditional owners. This is one of four language groups in the area.

Here are invasive mammals that shouldn’t be here:

  • European house mouse
  • Cats
  • Dogs
  • Rabbits
  • Foxes
  • Camels

There are over a million feral camels in Australia. Their population doubles every seven years.

Camels negatively affect the native fauna here as well being as a danger to indigenous communities by damaging houses and downing fences looking for water. Droughts are a way of life.

They were given permission to shoot 5,000 camels but this hardly made a difference.

“We look after the land. The land looks after us.”

Kata Tjuta is much higher than Uluru and the 36 domes are made up of conglomerate rock and sandstone. Erosion has given way to natural fractures in the rock to create domes.

Kata Tjuta is not waterproof. The water works through the rocks. The water in the rock conglomeration freezes and makes holes and caves.

The black color is dried up algae.

The left side is riddled with holes because it does not get sun. The right side has few holes due to the drying and melting nature of the sun.

A eucalyptus tree is an indication of water. In fact, all vegetation indicates water.

The sticky hop bush was used to make beer, but it was no good. The branches were burned and the inhaled smoke could clear sinuses, assist the immune system, and aid discomfort during childbirth. Sounds like it can cure whatever ails ya.

The native mint could be cooked and mixed with emu fat to make a vapor rub.

The spearwood vine is lightweight and the limbs are long. It could be fashioned and shaped over the fire.

Bush medicine is still preferred by the indigenous people. A plant called dead finish can be used to treat warts. Insert spikes into the wart for a couple of hours.

The seeds from the waddle plant are used to make bread.

There are many sad stories concerning the indigenous people of Australia. There were stolen generations as well as stolen lands. Australia Day for them is Invasion Day.

The witchity plant serves as a host for the witchity grub. When it is toasted, it tastes like eggs. But don’t eat the head. One grub has 20 grams of protein.

There are only five quandong trees left in the park. There are no emus in the park.

Camels eat and destroy the seed of the guangdong tree. The digestive system of the emu allows the seed to pass through, and the seed then germinates. The camel completely digests the seeds.

The Desert Oak is meant to survive the fire. Its roots go down deep to about 60 feet. Juvenile desert oak trees can only grow when there is rain.

Dessert sweet myrtle trees release a chemical that stops fire. It is a natural fire brigade. They need more of these plants.

Julia prepared a great outback breakfast complete with toast!!

Indigenous tools

The Anangu used to wear a bun to carry their tools.

Most tools are made from the wood of the Mulga tree. The wood is very strong and durable.

Timber is hard and heavy, used for tips of Spears and other tools. They don’t cut down the whole tree. A branch is selected.

The yellow is the inner bark and the brown is the outer bark. Emu fat is rubbed onto the wood once in the summer and twice in the winter.

The Kali boomerang is slightly curved or shaped like a seven. The bush hunter either whistles or taps on a tree and the emus will flock together. Next the kali is launched into the crowd breaking the legs of one or two. It whistles when thrown. A skilled hunter can immobilize its prey with one throw. They call it a one-hit wonder.

Tjutinpa (pronounced choo-tin-pa) or nala nala is a man club and is long and sturdy. It is used to hit the back of the head once the animals legs are broken. A kangaroo can feed five people.

Kiti is a superglue made from beating the green spinifex grass after a rain until it releases crystals. These are then put in the fire until it bubbles and turns black. It is used to attach spear and axe heads. Arrowheads are attached with the tendon of the kangaroo that has been washed and stretched.

A woman’s tool is a digging stick or husband persuader. I wonder if she uses it a lot!! It is invaluable for digging up honey ants to pierce their sweet abdomens.

They also have shields called Kudagi to deflect. There are lines engraved into the shield which is an identification as to the indigenous community.

Kulara is a spear. It is one foot taller than the hunter’s height. Spearwood is put into the fire and fashioned by the heat and twirling in the sand to make it straight. Sometimes feathers are added for decoration.

I attended a dot painting class while Rob attended a lecture on astronomy.

An Anangu women named Cecilia was our teacher who had an interpreter. As in her culture, she does not use eye contact. She finds a lot of white people intimidating. She drew in the red dirt to show how to make symbols and what they represent.

A “U” represents a person. The tools beside the “U” define the gender.

Cecilia showed us a piti bowl. It is used for digging after the ground has been broken, for carrying things, rocking a baby, or providing support for the baby while breastfeeding. Designs burned into the wood from heated fencing wire are unique to the indigenous community.

The piti bowl can also be worn on top of the head. The ring called mulos for the headpiece is decorated with spinifex, hair and feathers.

Next we are to paint OUR story. Can you guess the meaning?

Here are some recommended readings about indigenous arts:

Pitjantjatjara Language Book: a Learner’s Guide is a recommended book to learn about the unique linguistics of this indigenous language.

Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe.

Welcome to Country by Marcia Langton.

Papunya is a book explaining the origin of dot painting which was introduced in the 1970’s. They were in danger of losing their stories to history because they could not be shared with outsiders. By applying the dots, they are able to obscure their meaning.

The Castle is a movie that was recommended by an Australian couple. It has Aussie humor.

Sunset at Uluru

Later in the day we went out to capture Uluru in the light of the sunset. It had been cloudy here for three days.

On the drive out the clouds broke slightly. It almost looks like snow when there is a direct hit of sunlight on Uluru.

Then the clouds closed in again, and the surface of Uluru looked dark and dull. Another break in the clouds lit the field only.

Finally, in the last few minutes before the sun went down, we were rewarded with a stunning view of Uluru bathed in the light of a sunset.

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