Monday, July 9, 2018

Uluru National Park

Today, our priority was visiting Uluru, a name given by the local Aṉangu people. British surveyor William Gosse was the first European to "discover" the monolith in 1872, and named it Ayers Rock after the former chief secretary of South Australia, Sir Henry Ayers. Uluru rises 1,142 feet and reaches a height 2,831 feet above sea level. It's an oval-shaped monolith, measuring 2.2 miles long by 1.5 miles wide, with a circumference of 5.8 miles.

The surrounding areas are relatively flat - no hills or mountains - and it seemed to emerge from nowhere, beyond the trees and grasses.

A shuttle deposited us at the Mala carpark, was an easy walk to Kantju Gorge, which was formed long ago by a vertical crack in the rock face. We didn't walk all the way to the Gorge, mostly because we kept stopping to take pictures and admire the rocks and landscape and ran out of time before the shuttle returned.

For example, the holes in this part of the rock pictured below were tunneled by Itjaritjari - the marsupial moles. The legend associated here is that in the Tjukurpa (creation time), the ancestral Minyma Itjaritjari (marsupial mole woman) built this shelter and yuu (windbreak). The yuu is the large wedge-shaped stone at the opening to this cave. The Itjaritjari have lived here from the very beginning, before the Mala people arrived.

Below is the teaching cave. For many generations, Anangu elders taught nyiinka (bush boys) in this cave how to travel in the country and survive. Generations of grandfathers painted these pictures to teach nyiinka how to tack and hunt kaka (food animals. Nyiinka would then be taken into the bush to learn about country - whee the waterholes were, whee to find the animals, where to source materials fo their tools and weapons. In the very beginning, when the Mala ancestors arrived at Uluru, nyiinka camped here in this cave. A nyiinka is a boy at the important stage in life where he is ready to learn to become a kati (man). Nyiinka are taught by their grandfathers and separated from their rest of their families for this period. Traditionally, this age could last several years until a boy proved his hunting skills, self-reliance, and discipline. When they weren't out hunting, nyiinka stayed in this cave. 

The colors come from a variety of materials. Tutu (red ochre) and untanu (yellow ochre) are iron-stained clays that were very valuable and traded across the land. Burnt kurkara (desert oak) provides parka (black charcoal) and tjunpa/unu (white ash). The dry materials are placed on a flat stone, crushed and mixed with kapi (water).

This evening we went to the Field of Light art installation, consisting of more than 50,000 stems crowned with frosted-glass spheres, at Uluru. The artwork is made up of 300,000 individual components; over 235 miles of optical fiber is used. The installation weighs 15 tons and took over 2,000 hours to design and build in the U.K., and a further 3.900 hours to recreate on site. Six U.K-based art technicians, four Australian/U.S.-based art handlers, and 15 volunteers were involved in the installation over a period of five weeks. We watched the sun set over Uluru, then took a walk through the installation. 

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