I’m only just back from nearly a month away from home. Alice Springs, King’s Canyon, Uluru in NT, and SA’s Coober Pedy and Wilpena Pound.
I’d never been to Central Australia before, and it was amazing. Beautiful, and so profoundly different to where I live that as soon as I arrived in Alice I felt like I was in another country. Not just the landforms and rocks, the sky, the colour of the earth – the people. I was on Arrernte and Anangu country.
Though I have heard many Welcome to Country ceremonies, this was the first time I have ever heard Aboriginal people speaking in their own language in the shops, in the street, on a bench alongside the tourist track around Uluru. I suppose in truth wherever I am in Australia I am always standing on other people’s country – but I have never felt it with such force.
It was like a seismic shift, and though my understanding of the issues facing Indigenous people is probably as just as superficial as before, my support for the Voice referendum is more heartfelt. I can’t believe it’s so political.
Anyway, enough of that. It just makes me feel sad.
The trip was a trip. An indescribable wow.
Being at Uluru was like looking at a hundred cathedrals all at the same time. The dramatic red rock domes of Kata Tjuta against the blue of the sky were mind-blowingly sublime. The ‘supermoon’ over the Rock was awesome in the real sense of the word.
Sunsets lit up the red rocks and earth with a fire-like glow; I woke in the night to the sound of dingos howling in the distance under a sky full of stars. A steep gorge with rock holes full of water, trees and ancient cycads in the middle of Watarrka/King’s Canyon was hidden away like a secret or a surprise in the middle of a rocky and strenuous climb.
I was filled to overflowing with awe and wonder. I had been told that being at Uluru, the ranges, the desert could be a spiritual experience, and it was.
From the sublime to the slightly ridiculous.
I rode a camel, and I liked it!
We stopped at the Yellow-footed Rock Wallaby viewing area in Brachina Gorge in the Flinders Ranges and, right on cue, they popped up, in ones and twos, long striped tails becomingly arrayed, and posed for the camera.
I ate a quandong pie in Blinman and stayed in a dugout B&B in Coober Pedy and looked at Crocodile Harry’s underground lair full of 1980s porn mag pinups and trophy underwear and sculptured breasts.
I toured the Nocturnal House at the Desert Park with my sunglasses on, effectively seeing almost nothing. (“What’s the point of this?” I thought as vague animal shapes scuttled about behind the glass. “It’s dark!”)
Back at home, I am already dreaming up my next trip. In one of those serendipitous coincidences, I found Marcia Langton’s Welcome to Country in an Op Shop, so I’ll be better informed.