Down Under: Uluru – Ayers Rock

Now that I’ve passed through the MacDonnell Ranges and Mereenie Loop, fully covered in red dust, it’s time to continue toward Uluru.


Kings Canyon

A relatively short drive after the Mereenie Loop is a drive through Watarrka National Park and Kings Canyon and I decided to have just a quick stop at Kings Canyon.

Kings Canyon


Kings Canyon is a valley carved by Kings Creek and has 300 meter [984 feet] high cliffs. It’s composed of Mereenie and Carmichael sandstones both deposited over 400 and 440 million years ago, respectively.


There are a few different walks available here. The two most popular are a walk along the base and a rim walk which can take four to five hours. There is an additional walk [Giles] which is 22 miles over a couple of days.

Given the time of day, temperature, what else I wanted to accomplish, and the fact this wasn’t on my ‘must do’ list, I decided to take the base walk, and lo and behold, part of the way through, it was closed without prior notice.


Here is a really interesting information sheet about Kings Canyon geology. Click here or copy and paste this URL into your browser:  https://nt.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0016/442015/watarrka-geology-kings-canyon.pdf.


Kings Creek is a special place for the Luritja Aboriginal custodians of Watarraka. It’s known as Watarraka Karru, ‘creek’, and a ceremony place on a native dreaming track. In the Dreaming, native cat men, called kuningka, travelled along the creek from the Southwest, and had important ceremonies at the foot of the waterfall.

Karrake

My goal for the day was to make it to an aboriginal tour, Karrake, which was recommended in a conversation while chatting with other travelers. It’s the first authentic and not too commercialized aboriginal tour I’ve seen so far.

Karakke turn off


As I continue my drive, I nearly missed the turn off and just made it for the last tour of the day.


Actually, I wouldn’t say it was a tour, more of an hour long educational session.


It’s run by an aboriginal family who live in a nearby community, also called an ‘outstation’, called Wanmarra with a population of under 20.


Their aim is to preserve their Southern Arrente language, Luritja and Pertame, and culture by educating others.


Karrake, in the Arrente language, is the name of the western Bowerbird.


The session included information on the tools and techniques used by the men for hunting, like the spear, shield, and boomerang. Did you know*:

  1. The largest boomerang was a little bit over 259 cm long [more than 8 feet].

  2. The longest time in the air for a boomerang is over 2 minutues.

  3. The oldest boomerang was found in Olazowa Cave in Poland. Made out of a Mammoth tusk, it is has been found to be about 30,000 years old.

*https://aboringinalweapons56.weebly.com/fun-facts.html


The tour also demonstrated how the women used to gather food, how bush medicine was found and used, how women used the stones for grinding, how color was made from natural resources, how paintings were made, and some meanings of the designs you see in aboriginal paintings.

Various gatherings women would collect for food


tools got hunting



We also learned about the witchetty grub, and had an opportunity to taste it. Witchetty grub has historically been an important part of the Aboriginal diet, high in protein. It is a large, white wood-eating larvae of several moths which feed on the witchetty bush.

witchetty grub


witchetty grub being cooked, the taste is better than you’d imagine


Interesting to note, that not only here, but traditionally, Aboriginals will not share all of their information, history, songlines, to outsiders, and even within their own society, it can take years for elders to share.

colors for artwork


demonstration of artwork


After leaving Karreke I realized there wasn’t enough time before sunset to make it to Uluru, so I drove half of the remaining distance and the other half the next morning.

Uluru

As you can imagine the views leading up to and around Uluru are stunning. What I didn’t know, is there is another formation called Kata Tjuta in the same vicinity and even more beautiful in my opinion. As I look around this flat, barren, vast area, I can’t help to wonder how these formations came to be in the middle of nowhere.

Uluru coming into view


Below, I’ve included an article I found on sacredsites.com which provides a bit of history including insight into Dreamtime and Songlines. It’s a good read. I’ve incorporated some of my photos throughout the text and took the liberty to space out the paragraphs for an easier read here [text unedited].


…Perhaps the oldest form of sacred geography, and one that has its genesis in mythology, is that of the aborigines of Australia. According to Aboriginal legends, in the mythic period of the beginning of the world known as Alcheringa – the Dreamtime – ancestral beings in the form of totemic animals and humans emerged from the interior of the Earth and began to wander over the land. As these Dreamtime ancestors roamed the Earth they created features of the landscape through such everyday actions as birth, play, singing, fishing, hunting, marriage, and death.

Views around Uluru – Aboriginal writings


At the end of the Dreamtime, these features hardened into stone, and the bodies of the ancestors turned into hills, boulders, caves, lakes, and other distinctive landforms.


These places, such as Uluru (Ayers Rock) and Kata Tjuta (the Olgas Mountains) became sacred sites. The paths the totemic ancestors had trod across the landscape became known as Dreaming Tracks, or Songlines, and they connected the sacred places of power.


The mythological wanderings of the ancestors thus gave to the aborigines a sacred geography, a pilgrimage tradition, and a nomadic way of life. For more than forty thousand years – making it the oldest continuing culture in the world – the Aborigines followed the Dreaming tracks of their ancestors.

Views around Uluru


During the course of the yearly cycle various Aboriginal tribes would make journeys, called walkabouts, along the songlines of various totemic spirits, returning year after year to the same traditional routes.


As people trod these ancient pilgrimage routes they sang songs that told the myths of the Dreamtime and gave travel directions across the vast deserts to other sacred places along the songlines.

Views around Uluru


At the totemic sacred sites, where dwelt the mythical beings of the Dreamtime, the aborigines performed various rituals to invoke the kurunba, or spirit power of the place. This power could be used for the benefit of the tribe, the totemic spirits of the tribe, and the health of the surrounding lands.


For the aborigines, walkabouts along the songlines of their sacred geography were a way to support and regenerate the spirits of the living Earth, and also a way to experience a living memory of their ancestral Dreamtime heritage.

Views around Uluru


Located in the center of Australia, the massive rock formations of Uluru (Ayers Rock) and Kata Tjuta (the Olgas) are the most prominent and well known sacred sites of the Aboriginal people. Rising 346 meters high, with a circumference of 9.4 kilometers and covering an area of 3.33 square kilometers, Uluru is the single largest rock outcropping all of Australia.


Uluru is often referred to as a monolith, and for many years was listed in record books as the world’s largest monolith. That description, however, is inaccurate, as Uluru is part of a much larger underground rock formation which includes Kata Tjuta.

Views around Uluru


The world’s largest monolith is actually Burringurrah (Mt Augustus) in Western Australia, which is more than 2.5 times the size of Uluru, stands 858 metres above the ground and covers and area of 48 square kilometers.


In various tourist guidebooks it is said that 2/3 of Ayers Rock is beneath the surrounding land but this is not the case according to the science of geology, which explains that Uluru is only the exposed tip of a much greater mass of rock extending far below the surrounding plain as an integral part of the earth’s crust.


Separated from one another by approximately 50 kilometers, Uluru and Kata Tjuta are situated along a straight line passing onto another holy peak known as Mount Conner.

Views around Uluru


Geologists disagree about the origins of Uluru and Kata Tjuta. The most widely held theory is that both rocks are the remnants of a vast sedimentary bed laid down some 600 million years ago.


Over eons of time the bed was raised and folded by movements of the earth’s crust, formed into a mountain range, and then slowly eroded leaving the towering rocks behind.

Views around Uluru – Aboriginal writings