Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Northern Territory Road Trip

Palya y'all!  When we last posted we were pretty low after getting the bad news regarding my shnoz and the cancellation of our Mt K. climb, but since then I have taken a metric tonne of antibiotics, rested up at Cor's parent's place and tackled a two-week tour of the Northern Territory.

When we flew into Darwin, Jetstar screwed us around as usual - a 3-hour delay resulted in us missing the first 3 days of our 9-day tour.  We are so pissed off with that airline.  They truly suck and will never form part of our travel plans ever again.  Adventure Tours did a decent job getting us onto a couple of day trips to Kakadu and Litchfield parks, but these brief trips only reinforced our desire to go back with a four-wheel drive and explore these marvellous places more thoroughly.


Once we joined our tour, we headed from Darwin to Alice Springs.  We were a bit disoriented to begin with - Katherine Gorge is called Nitmiluk, the Olgas are called Kata Tjuta, Ayers Rock is Uluru.  OK, the last we knew but the others were a surprise.  We had a really great group and did some sleeping in swags under the most stars you will have ever seen.


The area around Uluru wasn't the red desert we were expecting.  Instead, it was full of life, and there were so many animals, edible plants and even waterholes by the rock.  It is no wonder that it is such an important part of life for the indigenous peoples of the area.  It is culturally important too.  In a culture where their stories (tjukurpa) have physical manifestations (tjukurja), these are all over the rock.  There are areas for shelter, and areas for teaching young people how to hunt and gather.

The moon over Uluru
We didn't climb Uluru, and the Anangu people ask you not to.  There are a number of reasons which were explained to us by Rebecca, our Anangu guide.
1.  Uluru's water, food, stories and ability to teach is around the base, so why climb?
2.  The climb is a sacred path taken by two of their ancestors in their stories.
3.  The climbers have worn the oxidisation off the rock, leaving a white path to the top.
4.  The Anangu people feel responsible for people at Uluru.  35 people have died climbing the rock over the years, and the Anangu people feel their spirits can now never return home.


For these reasons we felt that climbing Uluru was not a necessary part of our trip, and I hope the new management plan that is pending removes that option.  Visitors will still come as they always have, and will learn so much more as a result.

One of the other cool things that we learned was that the Anangu people prefix edible plant names with "mai" or "food".  So the bush fig they call ili is "mai ili" so they know it is edible.  They do the same with medicine plants and the like - how cool is that??  Imagine if we had 50,000 years of trial and error and prefixed our plant names with what you could use them for, rather than just its Latin genus?  That would be awesome!  OK you would still need to know whether it needs cooking, or grinding or whatever, but it is still brilliant.

To finish off, we took the Ghan rail line, so named for the Afghan camel trains that were our first lines of communication and supplies through the red centre of Australia, from Alice Springs to Darwin.  What a great train trip.  Now that is the way to travel!


So now we are back in Ingham, North Queensland, to spend a couple of months with my parents doing some fishing, some beachcombing, and some general relaxing.  I will do a post at some point about our motivations for this trip and our plans for when it finishes..... until then there are pics on the links to the right as usual.

Palya!  (This is Anangu for hello, goodbye, OK and a whole host of other stuff - a really great word.)