Saturday, January 29, 2011

Mystery Photo 3: Not Uluru but Kata Tjuta

     I received a couple of guesses on this place, on my Facebook account. As I warned you, you all might think it is a different place. You might think it is Uluru in the outback of Australia. Well, you are very close. It is in the outback of Australia about 16 miles east of Uluru. It is Kata Tjuta, also known as the Olgas. It is a group of large domed rock formations called bornhardts, like Uluru/Ayer's Rock). They are made of the same rock called a conglomerate which includes granite and basalt cobbles embedded in sandstone. All these cobbles are cemented together by this dramatic red sandstone. There are 36 separate domes in this formation unlike Uluru which is one megalith. The highest dome of the Olgas is 3,497 feet (1066 meters) above sea level, and about 1791 feet (546 m) above the surrounding plain. That height is 650 ft (198 m) higher than the neighboring Uluru. The tallest dome is called Mount Olga, name in 1872 by Ernest Giles in honor of Queen Olga of Wurttemberg. In 1993, a policy was adopted that allows both the traditional Aboriginal name and the English name to be used.

     Above are several views of the Olgas. There are several trails that intertwine among them. I wished we had had more time to hike among them. Below is a satellite photo of Kata Tjuta/ the Olgas showing how extensive these 36 domes are.

     Now of course I have a lot of photos of Uluru, 16 miles distant showing the effects of the various lighting on the monolith. Hit Read More below to see photos and read about Uluru, the better known of these sandstone monuments in the Australian outback near Alyce Springs.

     There is an interesting touristy tradition at Uluru which involves parking in one of the bays along the Ring Road around Uluru, and having champagne and canapes, or in some cases even a buffet supper while watching the sunset over the monolith. I tried to find where this custom came from but it no doubt came from a group of tourists that happened along, parked for sunset and decided to tip a few glasses. It certainly didn't come from the Aboriginal peoples. They have many restricted areas around Uluru and actually along with the Australian government put a ban on all alcohol products in the park in 2007. There was concern that many young girls had been sexually molested in some of the small Aboriginal villages around the base of Uluru. The blame was placed on tourists bringing alcohol into the area. For a while you could only drink alcohol if you were a member of a tour bus group in the special parking lot for buses. But apparently the Aboriginals backed down and attributed the sexual cases to a local who had since moved on and the government had to lighten up because tourism was being affected. At any rate, this custom is back in full swing. The only limitations now are that you are not allowed to just park along the road; you must pull into one of the 4 parking areas provided for this. And you are not allowed to walk off into the sand dunes or areas off the road. We did enjoy the sunset very much there. It must be one of the most rewarding views at that time of day in the world. The naturally red sandstone becomes unbelievable hues as the light changes. The following photos just give a hint of those vivid tones.

     The local tribe of Aboriginal people is called the Anangu. For them, Uluru and Kata Tjuta are very sacred places. There are many folk tales and creation stories that are told about especially Uluru. The shamans of the Anangu do not allow these stories to be told to outsiders. But sometimes they do get out. Since Australia has made an effort to allow the Anangu to decide what is allowed and what is not allowed these restrictions are usually abided by. Some areas are not to be photographed because they are exclusively for either women or men of the tribe and photos would allow the opposite sex to see the restricted area of the other sex. The Anangu who do not climb the sacred monolith,  have reluctantly allowed outsiders to climb Uluru, but only in this one area. The base of this trail is shown below.

Below are two photos that demonstrate how the color tones can change as the sun sets.

     There are many small canyons and caves along the periphery of Uluru. We tourists are allowed to enter this particular cave. It shows a good example of the cave painting that is present in many of these places. You will see examples in the next two photos. A sign at this site says: "A Home Becomes a Gallery. You are standing where parents have taught their children for 1000s of years. These abstract symbols illustrate stories in every day lives of each genereation of the Anangu. Every symbol has many different levels of meaning and can help illustrate different stories. However, the original purpose of a symbol was only known to the artist who painted it."
     The Anangu tribe and their ancestors have been living in this area for at least 5000 years, and some knowledgeable in study of the origins of peoples think they lived here almost as they do now 10,000 years ago. Many Western tourists visiting this cave ask from when the paintings date. The Anangu do not have the same relationship with time that we do. There are no doubt marks here that were made many hundreds and maybe thousands of years ago, but there are also marks that were made very recently. The Anangu just write on top of previously made marks. They do not feel the need to preserve the old marks without alteration that we feel.

     Our guide told us a story about the Aboriginal people that demonstrates the difference between their and our culture. An Australian farmer of European descent was out hand plowing his field one day. He was walking back and forth behind the plow and sweating and suffering the whole day. All of this time, an Aboriginal man was sitting under a tree at the edge of the field and just watching the farmer. The farmer came over the man and said, "If you come with me, I will teach you how to do this plowing. Then if you stick with it and plow this whole field, I will pay you some money that we agree on and you will be earning some money for your family. If you do a good job, you can come back to me tomorrow and all through the planting season and help me. You will earn a lot of money and you will be able to send you children to a better school. And you will be able to put aside money for later in your life. Then you can retire and just sit around doing nothing then."
     The Aboriginal man looked strangely at the farmer and said, "But that last is what I have already been doing all today. Didn't you see me? And I didn't have to work at all."
     This culture usually does not look to the future. They do what they can to get their food for that day, such as hunting and gathering, or perhaps working at an odd job for money for that day. Then when they have accomplished that they stop working and sit down to rest. Just as this story indicates, there is no thought to working for the future or to putting away money or even food for the future. That is one reason that the Western culture and the Aboriginal culture have such a hard time mixing.
      Above is a photo of the other side of Uluru. If looked at from the top, it is actually sort of a trigular shape. There seem to be fewer canyons and indentations on this side of the Rock.

      Below is another resident of this area. He posed very nicely for us. After searching on the Internet, I have decided this is one of the species of sand monitor or goanna lizards that are very common in the Australian outback. They are preditors, have sharp teeth and claws, and eat small mammals and bugs. They burrow to look for food, and to nest. They also frequently stand on their hind feet and even sometimes are seen to run only on their hind feet. They readily get used to people; hence this one posing calmly for us in this area of many tourists.

     Below is the Anangu Culture Center with some representations of their art, which is of distinctive style. It is often a very large pointillism which tells stories about daily life of the people here. For example the large circles of dots would each represent people. So this is likely the story of a trip with multiple people. The one below actually shows the footprints of the journeys of the people being represented. 

      Below is an Anangu artist displaying her work near the Visitor Center. We purchased the piece that the lady is holding with me along side. After taking her picture with the piece, we learned that she was just selling these; the artist was an Anangu man who was seen elsewhere among the displays but we did not get his photo. The piece that this lady is holding up tells the story of two women as evidenced by the boomerang and circle shapes. These women would be sitting on their haunches and these are roughly the indentations in the sand that their bodies would make. One long oblong is a knife and the other is a plate like recepticle. These two women have gone hunting for desert bananas as they are called. The central circle represents the banana vine and its branches. We now have this piece framed in our home representing to us and our visitors the art of this very interesting people and our visit to Kata Tjuta and Uluru.

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