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Wednesday, March 4: Day 317 – Sunrise, Sunset

Most of the activities at Uluru are focused around the stunning colors at sunrise and sunset.

This morning came early as this would be the first night sky with no clouds. Rob brought us here specifically to look right into the Milky Way.

We woke up at 4:00am and walked to the local lookout. I wish that I had downloaded a time lapse phone app before this morning. I need some extra instruction. However, one can see pretty well using nightsight on the camera.

A young man came to the lookout and started to yell things at the sunrise in another language and throw dirt above his head. He soon left and so did we.

On our walk back, we noted how blue the sky was.

We went to a presentation about the native flora and fauna and their use in foods in the outback. They used wattleseed in a shortbread recipe…and it tasted like shortbread!!!

Bush tucker is food taken directly from this semi-arid land. At the base of bushes, there are snakes, marsupials, and tinkers who seek the shade. When a hunter hears rustling, he builds a fire at the base and allows the smoke to blow through. The animals go out the other side where the hunter is waiting.

A witchity grub is found at the base of the witchity bush. They are high in protein and can be eaten raw or cooked. Cooked ones taste like crunchy peanut butter with egg mixed in. These are indigenous French fries.

Old man saltbush is licked by grazing animals. This also served to tenderize the meat of the livestock.

The flag of the northern territory has the desert rose on the red ochre background.

There is a certain eucalyptus tree that drops its bark. This acts as a fire barrier. It only has leaves on the top.

We saw a great grandma desert oak. She was over 3,000 years old and provided a lot of shade. However, you may not want to seek shade here as you won’t be the only one. There are colonies of ants who also enjoy the shade beneath a desert oak.

The desert oak seeks water. If they are growing, there is a permanent water source. The roots go down to 40 feet. If they are around, there is no need to die of thirst. One can get water from their roots when cut on a 45-degree angle.

Forty percent of Australia is covered with spinifex. There are over 30 species. The Anangu make glue from this plant.

Bush plum is eaten by birds, but it is very sticky. The birds wipe their beaks on the trees. It is semi-parasitic. The fruit is sour so the sun-dried ones taste better. These can be soaked in water. Eating one or two has the same amount of vitamin C as a whole bag of oranges.

Gravillea has a red color. The flower has a honey or nectar. When dipped in water, it releases the sweet. The indigenous women put it back after a few minutes so that it will continue to produce. Children will sometimes pluck them off and treat it like a lollipop.

The native fig has waxy, leathery leaves. The fruit is the size of a marble. It grows in shady, rocky areas. This fig does not produce a flower. The pollen is inside the fruit. Birds eat it and disperse the seeds. Be careful if you eat one because there is often a wasp inside which is necessary to pollinate.

Quandong can be used for jewelry, and its oil can be used in hair products along with wattle seed. Both emus and camels love this fruit. Wild camels even eat the branches. When the constellation known as the Southern Cross is close to the horizon, the indigenous people know that the fruit is ripe and ready to be collected.

Even though camels are now a nuisance, central Australia was built on their backs. We went out to a camel farm to see descendants of the camel trains that carried provisions to early settlers.

Camels carried heavy railway sleepers for the construction of the Trans-Australia Railway. Camels contributed to all the great inland railways which eventually led to their redundancy.

The record for a bull camel standing with a load in Australia and probably anywhere in the world was at Herbert Springs, WA, in 1910. One huge candor bull camel stood with one and half tons (1,500 kgs) on his back. He carried 1½ tons three steps, collapsed, smashed his pelvis and had to be destroyed.

This land is very fragile. One is requested to stay on the path. It takes two weeks for a footprint to disappear. Look at all these tourist shoes…on the path.

Even though a fly net is a necessity, we decided that it would not deter us from swimming in the pool. It isn’t very sexy!

Tonight we have a dinner event entitled Sounds of Silence just outside the park with Uluru and Kata Tjuta as a backdrop.

Our gourmet dinner made of local ingredients was followed by a presentation of the stars that we see in the night sky.

There are 88 constellations. Twelve are familiar as zodiac symbols with only 6 visible at any one time in the night sky. They all follow the same line.

Constellations were determined about the same time that red wine was discovered which may explain a lot.

There are different stars in the southern skies than in the northern skies. Both use the stars for navigation.

The North Star makes it easy because its location is celestial north. In the south, it isn’t as easy because of rotation, but one can use the Southern Cross to locate celestial south.

The Field of Lights is an artistic display of 50,000 lights. From above and in the night sky, it looks like an indigenous dot painting. We walked through the circling paths throughout this brilliant installation.

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